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Mental Health (2nd of 3)

How can anyone determine whether mental and emotional problems are rooted in spiritual or physical causes?

In many counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

When pastors are called upon in such crises, they can feel overwhelmed. Many realize their limitations, but feel compelled by their congregations or other leaders to act as if the Bible, prayer, and fellowship are the only God-honoring ways to deal with emotional and mental problems.

The tension between what we think of as biblical solutions and secular resources is understandable. As followers of Christ, we don’t want to make the mistake of treating a spiritual condition as a physical or mental illness. Nor can we afford to treat a physical or mental illness as a spiritual condition.

In pursuit of answers

Together we agree that our dependency needs to be on God alone. But within what boundaries does the God of the Bible provide for His people? Don’t we thank Him every day for our daily bread even though it comes to us through the efforts of farmers, manufacturers, and retailers, many of whom never darken the door of a church?

In a similar way, haven’t many of us also thanked God for the help of health professionals and social workers who have walked with us through medical problems, mental illness, addictions, and the trauma of war, rape, or poverty?

If our intent is to find help that reflects the wisdom of God, what do we lose if we ask a doctor to look for organic factors that might be clouding our minds? Or what part of our faith suffers if we ask professional specialists to help us explore our thoughts, emotions, and choices?

No pastor, troubled individual, or family should have to bear alone the weight of spiritual problems complicated by the possibility of real mental, emotional, and physical illness. Nor can we safely assume that our desire to trust God needs to be kept separate from the combined counsel of pastoral and health professionals.

Once again, let me ask you what are you thinking?

Do you agree or disagree that no pastor, troubled person, or family should have to bear alone problems complicated by the possibility of real mental, emotional and physical illness?

Do you think church elders or pastors risk anything by encouraging a troubled person to get professional help for problems that do not respond to prayer and spiritual counsel?

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11 Responses to “Mental Health (2nd of 3)”

  1. vyh51 says:

    I am a saved person who suffers from severe depression. and I take medication. If I didn’t I would have taken my life by now. I do not ask my Pastor for prayer, it is not that I don’t believe in deliverance or healing. I know the depths of my despair at times, and I know how dangerous it can be.

    I am new in this walk with the Lord, and I have much to learn, and total belief and faith is new to me. Sometimes I still operate in the flesh. My medication has saved me. Now God is filling me and hopefully he will heal me.

    So, no, I believe God gave us doctors, lawyers, etc. to aid us. He works through these professionals. Let Him do his stuff, how he chooses to do it. No, I don’t think anything is risked by encouraging a troubled person to seek help.

  2. jreams10 says:

    I think most Pastors haven’t the training to take on the counseling of persons with physical problems and might unintentionally do more harm than good by trying. It would be good for all Pastors to know of qualified counselors and medical professionals who they could refer needy people to.

  3. dmarchando says:

    I agree also. I have been there myself and I feel all the help you can get is good. I also feel if the pastor, elder or members can’t seem to get anywhere that it is really their obligation to help get professional service for that person. We can only suggest a path to take but we should never leave a person in need floundering on their own.

  4. Mac says:

    I would have to agree with Dr John MacArthur
    that there’s no such thing as an emotional problem apart from spiritual or physical. I grapple with depression and discouragement as well, but take it to the Lord. Prayer and Bible reading/study are not simply trite religious activities – they’re our avenues to get a hold of our all powerful God. He has promised that all things are provided for life and godliness – II Pet.1:3
    Actually, the Word is the only thing that can penetrate our soul/spirit. Heb.4:13.
    The late great preacher C.H. Spurgeon also grappled with depression and his solution? Not pills or potions – he got a lone with God and praised Him out loud! He sang and praised!! Whose children are we anyway? If there’s a physical problem – doctors can treat it to a point. But a spiritual problem requires spiritual attention.

  5. Mike says:

    If it’s a spiritual problem, it requires a spiritual solution; and if it’s a physiological problem it requires a medical solution or divine healing. Spiritual problems, espcially guilt from unconfessed sin, can wreak all kinds of havoc on one’s emotional and psychological health, wouldn’t you agree? But just who is qualified to make that kind of discernment? I think pastors and counselors can go a long way toward helping a person come to the proper conclusions about the possible causes of some mental illnesses. I think a good pastor and counselor will know their own limitations in “diagnosing” the cause. Certainly, if I seek counsel from a pastor, and I am honest with him/her then he/she will be able to deduce whether or not my problems are a result of sin in my life or not. And if not, then they should recommend I see someone who is more qualified to diagnose a chemical imbalance or other physiological cause to my illness. I know I don’t sound like I’m speaking with much conviction either way, but I’m trying to strike a balance between what a pastor or counselor can handle and what they can’t and the importance of knowing one’s limitations.

  6. drkennyg says:

    A good Pastor (such as mine) would know his limitations and would help all he could but would not fear seeking medical assistance. For example, we have a Celebrate Recovery ministry dealing with addictions of all sorts. Obviously some of these at times require medical attention yet there is no doubt that the ultimate solution always is with Christ our Savoir.

  7. Mart De Haan says:

    I appreciate so much these comments and that together we are struggling to find some kind of balance in recognizing the spiritual and physical influences on our thoughts and emotions. This is such a misunderstood area where we need so much humility and wisdom. When Solomon, even in a wayward period of his life, recognizes “there is a time for all things” (Ecc 3), I’m thinking this can be applied in mental health issues as well. There is a time for medical help (whether through ancient herbs or modern medications)just as there is a time to honestly look at whether we are turning toward or away from our Lord. The problem seems to come when either spiritual or medical counselors don’t respect the role of the other.

  8. eski39 says:

    As an old man that has little knowledge in everything; I must say that my first choice when in trouble is to ask The Lord God first, not to ran to the first doctor or pastor or any other human.

    I have suffered depression for years and because I was not a follower of Christ; I tried to take my life.
    I am not trying to insult anybody; but if you do not ask God first, you are making a mistake that will cost you dearly. No matter what you need, what is your problem or situation: God is the only help and He will lead you to the right person to solve the problem.


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