What Does the Bible Say About Mental Illness?

5 Mins read

Millions of Americans struggle with at least form of mental illness. For many people, the holiday season is a season filled with joy and love. Unfortunately, the season also brings about greater stress and other issues which cause those struggling with their own mental health to fall even further into a place of despair.

Does the Bible talk about mental health? Yes, it does. Learning more about the Scriptural approach to your own mental wellbeing can help you navigate a time of year that is difficult for those struggling with their own mental health.

For Christians, the Bible is our go-to source for everything that we need. Written thousands of years ago by more than three dozen different authors, the Bible serves as our roadmap as we try to navigate life in a world that tries its best to pull us off the path that God has set us on.

Obviously, the world has changed a lot since the Bible was written. Surely, when Paul was writing to Timothy about the importance of studying Scripture, he had no idea that there would come a day when we could access the Bible through an electronic device that we carry with us every day.

When David talked about seeking God’s will for his life every day, he never could have imagined that there would be apps that allow you to choose a daily devotional so you could spend some time reflecting on God’s Word regarding a certain topic. The world has most definitely changed since the Bible was written.

Thankfully, we live in a world that is (albeit slowly) destigmatizing mental health. While there never should have been a time where discussing mental health struggles should have been considered “taboo,” the fact remains that people struggled in silence for hundreds of years. This was partly due to a lack of understanding concerning mental health, and also in part to the fact that society used to believe that everyone should just “figure it out.”

While the authors of the Bible didn’t live in a time that was very similar to our own society, God did inspire many of them to tackle the topic of mental health. While some of the terms that they used may not bet he same words that we use regarding the topic today, the truths contained in Scripture concerning mental health are an invaluable resource for those of us who often struggle today.

The holiday season can often amplify feelings of anxiety and depression, which is horrible news for people who struggle with their own mental wellbeing on a daily basis. As we find ourselves moving ever closer to Christmas, it’s easy to start feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or any other number of emotions. If you’re facing those feelings, you may be wondering if the Bible speaks about mental health. Take heart, friend. Scripture provides multiple insights into how we can deal with our own mental struggles all year round.

Attacking Anxiety Before the Anxiety Attack

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the United States. More than 46 million Americans are currently diagnosed with some form of anxiety disorder, and many experts in the field believe that there are no fewer than 50 million more who simply deal with their anxiety on their own, never receiving a diagnosis or professional help.

Anxiety, while currently a hot-button topic in our society, is anything but new. There are countless examples in the Bible of men and women of God who dealt with anxiety in some form or another. Paul, who is widely considered the second most prominent character in the New Testament (behind only Christ) obviously knew something about dealing with anxiety.

After all, Paul had gone through multiple crises by the time he wrote his letter to the Philippians. In fact, history teaches us that he was incarcerated at the time of this writing. In addition to the imprisonment he was facing, Paul had already been arrested multiple times, beaten, stoned, and had undergone any number of other traumatic events. If anyone in the Bible knew about anxiety, it was Paul.

That’s why he was able to give a clear path for us to attack anxiety before the anxiety can attack us. Anxiety attacks are often crippling and mirror many symptoms of heart attacks. Paul’s encouragement to approach everything with “prayer and petition” doesn’t mean that you will never experience anxiety again, but it does give us a roadmap on how we can better keep our anxiety in check. When you fill your heart and mind with prayer and thanksgiving, you can better experience the peace of God that protects your heart and your mind.

Dealing with Depression

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

In most Bible translations that we have access to, the word “depression” doesn’t come up. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t speak about the topic at all. In this passage from Joshua, God encouraged Joshua during a particularly hard time in his life. Yes, he was about to take on a leadership role over the nation of Israel, but Moses had just died. Joshua was Moses’ “right hand man” during the exodus experience. Undoubtedly, Joshua was depressed about the death of Moses.

One of the most dangerous aspects of depression is that it leaves us feeling isolated. We often feel like no one cares and we are completely alone when feelings of depression grow stronger. In those moments, it’s important to understand that God is with us in every season, both good and bad.

Suicidal Ideations

1 Kings 19:3-4 (NIV)
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Finally, the Bible tells a story about a man who asked God to let him die. Elijah was scared for his life after Jezebel, a wicked Queen, had vowed to kill him within 24 hours. While Elijah didn’t take any steps to take his own life, he was certainly scared to keep living. In this moment, Elijah believed that he would be better off dead.

Tragically, more than 1.2 million Americans attempt to take their own lives every year. More than 45,000 of them are successful. Those numbers are heartbreaking. When Elijah wanted to die, an Angel of the Lord came and stood by him and encouraged him to not give up.

Heed that message today, friend. Don’t give up. The same God who called you is keeping you. Most of all, He will sustain you just like He did for Elijah.

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health issues, please, seek professional medical care. While Scripture provides wonderful resources for improving mental health, it is important to rely on the men and women in the healthcare field that God has blessed us with.

A Closing Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to overcome the mental health struggles that I am dealing with every day. I know that You have a beautiful future planned for me, but there are times where I can’t see that far down the road because I am blinded by the pain that I’m feeling in the moment. Help me to look past my circumstances and how I’m feeling so I can better stand on what I know about You from Your Word. Give me the strength to bring every petition to You and trust You to do what is best for me. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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