Let’s talk about mental health! For those of you who have read this blog you’ll notice i’ve never shied away from being open and honest about mental health. For me, like many of us, 2020 was one of those years that we’d love to forget and erase altogether. From the news, to the government and crazy restrictions, mentally a lot of us took a hit. Yes, even us Christians!
In this blog post, I want to highlight 4 Myths that are widely believed in Christian circles and use the Bible show you why they are not true. Sound like something you want to read on about? Well then, you’re in the right place.
4 Myths Christians Believe about Mental Health
Myth 1: Mental Health Issues Are a Sign of Weak Faith or Sinfulness
Wrong. Mental health issues can affect anyone regardless of their faith or level of devotion. Throughout the Bible God has given us evidence of this in the raw, unfiltered stories and accounts of His faithful followers. Here are some of my favourite examples:
Elijah (Read 1 Kings 19-20)
Elijah was a prophet, a faithful servant, a man who saw God do impossible things and bring revival to Israel using him as the chosen vessel. How amazing is that? But right after an amazing display of God’s power, (I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what, go read the story!) he was threatened by the queen and fell into a state of depression. He even prayed that God would kill him.
What did God do? He met Elijah at his point of need. He sent an angel to minister to him and provide the basics. Then He reminded Elijah of who He was and strengthened him.
He Started off as a humble shepherd boy and ended up being the King of Israel. It’s no secret David made some mistakes along the way but we also see how David’s life was a constant battle. His success drove him to become a fugitive. He was called to the throne but it wasn’t an easy journey at all. Amidst the battles and victories we see David’s heart unfold in some of the Psalms. His raw, honest dialogue is refreshing and relatable. Honestly, just open up Psalms and have a read. Psalms 55 was one that really stood out to me.
What did God do? He was right there all along. You can see it in the way David amidst the brokenness and pain recalls the good things God has done in the past and his hope in God for the future.
If I am completely honest this is the myth I believed for most of my life. I felt ashamed to admit whenever I was struggling, I felt like God was punishing me for something i’d done. I often felt like I deserved to feel sad or low. What’s worse, in doing so, I actually created more damage than good. The thing that changed my mindset was a quote from a song:
Maybe it’s okay if i’m not okay because the one who holds the world is holding onto me. (Maybe It's Ok - We are Messengers)
Myth 2: Prayer Alone Can Always Cure Mental Health Conditions
Before anyone jumps to conclusions i’m not doubting or detracting from the power of prayer. I wholeheartedly believe that prayer is the most powerful tool that God gives us and we don’t use it as much as we should. In saying that, if you broke your leg today, would you hobble home and only pray about it? No. That would be silly. God has given us doctors and physicians who can treat our physical ailments and he has also given us counsellors who can help with our mental struggles.
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” III John 1:2
I am an advocate for counselling. It’s time we stop only prioritising our physical health and start prioritising our mental health. God wants us to prosper in all things, that includes our health. We need to normalise asking for help and getting that help.
Myth 3: Christians Should Always Be Happy
I remember being in church one Saturday afternoon having an open discussion about joy. There were some things said, that have stuck with me and changed my outlook on happiness.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” James 1:2
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
I was always confused when I read these verses, how can I be happy when I’m in the midst of distress? How can I rejoice in the Lord when all I want to do is cry?
Happiness and joy are not the same thing.
Happiness is a feeling. It’s usually linked to circumstances and as a result happiness is not something that we always feel. Joy on the other hand is something you choose. Like love. Love is not a feeling it’s an action.
If you look up joy in the dictionary, it just says ‘great happiness’. But there is so much more to joy than just being happy. These quotes say it better than I ever could:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” - Rick Warren
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” - Henri JM Nouwen
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
God knows we won’t always be happy but He wants us to choose joy because He knows that when we do we will be happier, holier and healthier.
Myth 4: Mental Health Issues Are Rare Among Christians
The truth is mental health issues are prominent among Christians but because we are all trying not to showcase our flaws, we rarely see them.
The Christian journey is not one of fake ideals and hidden agenda’s but raw authenticity. Jesus died for us knowing the ins and outs of our messy lives. He doesn’t see us for who we are but who we can be.
One thing i’m realising is, the more we pretend the less of God’s power others can see in our lives. How? If I live my life always giving others the impression of perfection, when a friend wants to get to know God, they may see my life and not be able to identify what God has done in my life. Whereas if I tell you that I have felt the pain of depression and I have, and still struggle with anxiety but where I was, is not where I am today because God is working on me, don’t you think that is more of what this world needs to see?
So there you have it, four myths Christians believe about mental health. This is just the beginning of the conversation. There is so much more to unpack and over the next few blog posts, you’ll get to see what i’m talking about. Also join the conversations on Instagram and comment below if you’d like to have your say, we’d love to hear from you.