A Balanced View of Mental Health
There is no doubt a greater awareness of mental health in our church circles, as well as in the world around us, than in the past. We have made strides towards a better recognition of not only the physicality and fallibility of our brains but also the resiliency and capabilities to heal. This is a good thing and may we continue to grow in our understanding and appreciation for what God is doing in this area.
Having said that, where there is correction in a course, there is always the risk of overcorrection. Where there is awareness, there is the risk of hyperawareness and oversensitivity. Following are a couple of points of concern in this area.
The Devil in the Ditch
Once upon a time professional counseling and therapies were anathema in our culture. This had some positive aspects and likely had its place in a particular era facing particular circumstances. The bad in this perhaps outweighed the good as people were told, in general, that their mental or emotional problems were spiritual in nature. This approach was quite narrow-minded and seems to have leaned towards one ditch with the unfortunate result that people did not find help for their authentic and organic mental health problems.
Today there is much more awareness of and resultant compassion for mental and emotional illness. There is a deeper understanding of what makes us tick, what role our environment and upbringing play in our lives, and how we can be affected in all areas of our lives by the things that happened in the past.
The concern is this: The devil would like to take us over to the other ditch now. He would like us to look at every oppression, trial, wound, and abuse we face from purely a humanistic and psychological standpoint. He would like nothing better than for us to seek solace instead of surrender, endless counseling instead of repentance, and a steady cycle of therapies instead of true healing through the Father God.
I don’t believe we have altogether gone over into the other ditch. Rather this is a concern and a warning. Many individuals among us have become interested in the mental health field and some have taken classes and courses. People are educating themselves. This has powerful potential. However, we must keep a healthy perspective and a God-centered approach to the challenges we face in this area. Like most everything, truth is usually found somewhere in the middle of road.
Along with the thought of the ditches comes this idea of true or authentic healing. In many cases, especially where there is an adoption involved, an abuse situation, or a mental illness of some kind, professional help is encouraged and can be very effective. God uses many ways and means and some of those ways are through professionals. These professionals, trained to work with and understand the brain and mind, are able to help people better understand themselves and, most of the time, even better understand God.
There have been those individuals who have received much help from therapies such as EMDR and brain retraining, for example. There have also been positive steps towards healing through addiction centers, retreats, and intensives. Journaling, mindfulness practices, and learning to understand our emotions are all important factors that can lead to growth. But these things must all be done together with God. Ultimately He is the healer. This is substantiated time and again in the Holy Writ. He created us, He moves within us, He wants us to be whole and experience the joy He has for us. He sent Jesus to heal the brokenhearted (past wounds) and set the captive free (addictions).
Why wouldn’t we want our Creator to be involved in our healing and growth? The only real and sustainable change comes through Him. Let’s not lose track of that.
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