Is mental illness a spiritual problem

I have read numerous articles written by people with mental illness claiming that Christians cannot help them.  They claim that Christians say that the problem is spiritual and the cure is to have more faith and pray harder.  As a Christian who has permanently overcome mental illness, I believe I am uniquely qualified to bridge this gap.

First off, I would have to agree with Christians by saying that most forms of mental illness are spiritual in nature.  However, the cliché advice “to have more faith and to pray harder” is really not much help at all.  In fact, what Christians who told me that advice may have been surprised to find out is that my faith was strong and my prayer life was rich.  I was told to have more faith and pray harder over and over again.  It just didn’t work, and it was frustrating. 

I also personally had no clear life-dominating sins that I knew about from which I could repent.  In fact, my “spiritual problem” was completely invisible to everyone, including myself!  I knew that my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ loved me and wanted to help.  I just don’t think they understood what was going on in my life.  In all honesty, I probably did not completely understand what was going on in my life at all either at the time.

So How Do Christians Help? 

Christians need to go back to the beginning.  If the person struggling with mental illness is not a believer in Jesus, then this is a good time for evangelism.  If they are a believer, then you can help them renew their mind.  They must boldly give every aspect of their life over to God and reject all other beliefs and philosophies.  The Bibles says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” (Romans 12:1-2).

Every believer needs to fully renew their mind: especially people who have been diagnosed with mental illness.  You see, I believed a lot of lies when I became a Christian.  I was conformed to the world, and I believed lies about myself and the world that the enemy planted in my mind.  The worse part is that these lies were hidden to both me and those around me.  They were deeply ingrained and dominated many aspects of my life.  These lies or bad ways of thinking were part of my old self.  The Bible says, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness,” (Ephesians 4: 22-24).

As believers, we can minister to Christians with mental illness by helping them first put off their old way of thinking, then help them to renew their mind with Biblical truth, and finally put on the new man.  For one particular example, I once thought that I could rely on my feelings when making a decision.  I had to put off that old, incorrect way of thinking.  This was actually a lie.  You see, I believed that my feelings were “me.”  I believed that my feelings or emotions were my real self: they were “who I am.”   Therefore, I believed that my feelings would always be my major factor in making life decisions.  In contrast, the Bible clearly teaches that truth should guide every decision no matter how hard the truth is to face.  As surprising as this may sound, this simple biblical concept was completely foreign to me.  Nobody could detect this biblical “untruth” until they took the time to get deeply into my life with me.     

Then, simply, I renewed my mind.  Sometimes the truth to replace the lie or emotion seemed far-fetched for me to believe, so I had to believe it in faith.  I replaced the lie with this: truth must always dictate my actions.  God was quick to help me with this entire process, both revealing when my emotions dictated my decisions and how to live instead according to truth. 

Lastly, I put on the new man and applied the truth to my life.  I would find whatever way necessary to live it out.  A simple example of this emotion-based decision making was the classic, “I do not feel like working today.”  Working within my own business (as I do now instead of reporting to a job) can make this emotional decision dangerously easy for me.  I daily do not let my feelings drive my actions.  I plan out how I will work and then go to work each day.

Ministering to Christians struggling with mental illness is not as complicated as you think.  I think the most important thing you can do is to help them identify lies that they believe.  That was the most difficult part for me, but my husband was more than willing to help me.  Ministering can actually turn into an adventure of overcoming and applying truth, and it can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  Teaching someone how to transform their lives into conformance with all of Jesus’ teaching can be a powerful life changing event.  Do not lose heart.  The Holy Spirit will empower you and the person to whom you are ministering to and make things better.  Then, both of you can grow in a deeper relationship with God and become greater servants for Christ’s Kingdom.

I really enjoy hearing from my readers; especially readers that meet up with me to learn more about God’s truths.   Please contact me if you have encountered similar experiences.