May is Mental Health Awareness month. Being a Christian does not mean we are immune from mental health disorders any more than physical illness. It’s comforting to know He sees us as “wonderfully made” and there is no type of health issue that would change that. He would never discourage us from seeking medical help or professional counseling for any illness. And as Christians, we have advantages the secular world lacks. He has prepared His Word to be full of encouragement, healing, and guidance when our mental health is suffering!
We’ve all probably struggled with our mental health. Have you, or someone who is dear to you, struggled with anxiety, depression, anger issues, the agony of loss, a broken heart, feeling like a failure, hopelessness….The list goes on…
The Bible and Mental Health
We won’t find the term “mental health” in the Bible. The scientific study of the mind has brought us an understanding that didn’t exist in Biblical times. They did, however, understand the meaning of heart, soul, mind, and our inner being.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.
Strictly speaking, mental health is a brain function that includes our emotional, social, and spiritual health. It affects our daily lives through ways we think, feel, act, handle stresses, and make choices.
Genetics or off-kilter brain chemicals can cause mental health issues. Traumatic brain injuries, chronic illness, and severe stress can cause our mental health to suffer. Financial issues, relationship issues, and traumatic experiences are also causes.
While we can’t prevent many of these causes, we can pay attention to our mental health and take steps to control what we can, get help when we need it, and use Biblical truths and guidelines to achieve and maintain good mental health.
He created our whole being and wants us healthy- mind, body, and spirit!
What Does the Bible Say about the Mind
Our minds are complicated processors! And it can take only one word from the enemy to start us down a path of doubts and fears. God’s desire is for us to live content and at peace. He asks us to trust in Him to help us control our minds. Then He gives us ways to make it a reality.
Paul tells the Philippians to use prayer as an antidote to an anxious heart so that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.
Guarding our hearts and minds protects us from anything that tries to steal our peace, deceive us, and intrude on our relationship with God. How comforting to know that His peace protects our minds!
Paul tells us in Romans 8:5 that our minds are also like a spiritual battleground between good and evil:
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
The Holy Spirit lives within us to guide, convict, and lead us to healthy mindsets.
Maintaining mental health involves making daily choices to center our lives on God’s truth and love and following His desires for our lives.
What Does the Bible Say about Thoughts?
God packed His Word with information on what steps to keep our thought life healthy. Paul continues his instructions on our thought life:
He tells us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8)
He knew what we put into our minds determines what comes out as words, actions, and feelings.
We find another guideline that leads to mental and emotional health in Romans 12:2-
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
We are called to live differently than the world, but Paul says we must go deeper than just refusing to conform to worldly morals. Our thinking needs to go through a radical shift (in Greek; a metamorphosis). The word Paul uses for “transformed” is the same word he used to describe Jesus at His transfiguration! That’s quite a change!
We can do it. ♥ We are not in this process alone; we have the Holy Spirit within us. Studying God’s word changes our way of thinking and helps us achieve and enjoy good mental health.
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What Does the Bible Say about Feelings?
However– many times, we revert to living by how we feel. We’re naturally inundated with God-given feelings all day long. The unfortunate part is that sometimes they can be deceiving.
I’ve had a child call me more than once with some catastrophic (to them) event that can send me into a vortex of “what ifs” and irrational fears.
I’ve lost sleep and thought worst-case scenarios only to find out the next day that all is well.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
Emotions of Jesus
Our feelings aren’t wrong- even Jesus showed feelings! Was Jesus sad? Did Jesus ever cry? Yes, He showed many emotions. He cried when Lazarus died (John 11:32-26) and over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42) Matthew tells us he was “sorrowful and troubled” when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He also showed anger (without sinning) towards the religious elite who made a mockery of His Father’s house by cheating and overcharging those who came to make sacrifices at the temple.
Do the demands of your life leave you exhausted? Remember that Jesus, too, faced exhaustion from the overwhelming demands of His ministry.
No one else can fully understand your situation or what you are going through, but Jesus knows. He knows everything about you, down to the number of hairs on your head!
Jesus helps us maintain our mental health by modeling how He handled His emotions on the night He was betrayed:
“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” Matthew 26:37-39.
Jesus and Grief
Jesus was sorrowful, troubled, and overwhelmed to the point of death. The Greek words used here meant “great distress, depressed, a feeling of heaviness, grief, and overcome with sorrow so much as to cause one’s death.”¹
Jesus used specific ways to fight His way through these heavy feelings.
•He brought His closest friends to be with Him,
•Asked them to help by staying close,
•Named the emotions He was struggling with,
•Went to His Father in heartfelt prayer. Did you notice He wasn’t afraid to pray boldly for the impossible? He put forth His desires but agreed to His sovereign Father’s plans and wisdom.
•Jesus didn’t deny His feelings, ignore them, or erupt in anger. He named what He was feeling. Too often, we go right into panic mode and react in negative ways.
Tending to our mental health involves these same steps Jesus used.
Faith Over Feelings
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.
Faith is living each day with the trust that Jesus is who He says He is. His teachings are true, and because of His great love, He died on the cross for us. Jesus gave the disciples these words of comfort:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me.” John 14:1
•Fixing our eyes on Jesus and not on our feelings brings us joy and comfort. It is a conscious choice, but one which we often forget. We default to fear, panic, or other unhealthy choices.
•Stress, challenges, and painful experiences are inevitable. The healthiest way to walk through these experiences is to ask God what He wants you to learn from these times. Accept that He is with us through the peaks and valleys of our lives. He will never leave us.
•Only He can use our suffering to strengthen us, and show us new ways to live, think, work, and serve. Nothing goes to waste with Him.
Bible Stories for Depression
We are also given plenty of stories about Bible characters that struggled with depression. The lives of David, Job, and Jeremiah (he wrote Lamentations)- and more- illustrate that we are not alone and show how God cares for us. One I want to elaborate on briefly is a story about Elijah.
God performed many miracles through Elijah. Elijah was thoroughly committed to doing whatever God asked of him. When God worked through Elijah to defeat Queen Jezebel’s prophets of Baal, she threatened to kill Elijah. In fear, he ran for his life into the desert. He was so distraught; he prayed to die. As he was sleeping, an angel came twice to awaken him with food and drink. Strengthened by rest and food, he could go on.
•I do love this quote. ♥ We can forget to take care of our basic needs when we are stressed. We can’t let our negative feelings override the need to take care of our physical self. Jesus will come to you, just as He did with Elijah, with compassion and guidance. He understands all our pain and hurt and wants us healed, whole, and restored.
Bible Verses on Mental Health
The Bible offers us so much help and hope when we are struggling with mental health issues. His Word offers us “spiritual solutions” that work alone or in tandem with medical solutions. Jesus is our Great Physician who heals and makes us whole. I’ve compiled specific Scriptures for mental health healing and comfort. Just click on the image below to access them in my Resource Page.
Nurturing Mental Health
- Studying God’s Word brings us the encouragement, comfort, and direction to respond to life’s trials.
- Be aware of your emotions and feelings. Notice what makes you angry, sad, frustrated, etc. Does lack of sleep, illness, stress etc. trigger these emotions?
- Use bold and heartfelt prayer as Jesus did to release your feelings into His hands. Be honest and tell Him everything. Ask for what you need. Listen for His guidance.
- Remain confident in His love, care, and deliverance and hold fast to His truth.
- Practice gratitude daily. Using a Gratitude Journal to write out specifics you are thankful for is a proven way to generate a positive mental attitude.
- Don’t hide or stuff your pain, fear, brokenness, or anxiety- talk to someone- a family member, friend, or church counselor/pastor. Do not be scared or ashamed to seek professional counseling if needed.
I find it amazing that God always knows what is best for us and recorded His wisdom and guidance so we would have everything we need to care for our mental health. He envisions an abundant life for us! He knew there would be difficult paths on our journey, but promises to be right by our side, guiding us in each step.
Would you like more Resources? I’ve added 4 Prayers for Mental Health and 7 Biblical Habits for Improving Mental Health to my Resource Page as well- click on the image to access.
All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
Photo Credit: Canva, Deposit Photos
2 thoughts on “Mental Health in the Bible”
Thanks, Ann. Mental Health is certainly an important subject. I think many Christians feel like they shouldn’t be vulnerable to mental health issues because we have the Lord. It’s good to be open and honest. Love The CS Lewis quote! Thanks for all the resources.
I couldn’t agree more! We can pray and trust and still struggle! I was really astounded with the amount of verses that attend to our mental health! I had to just pick a few that stood out to me. Thanks for reading and the encouraging comments 🙂