How Should A Christian Approach Mental Health? What About Suicide?
by Pastor John Roselle | March 31
Preface: For all those joining in outside of TSM, this blog is adapted from our current Wednesday night series called Life's Difficult Questions, where I encourage our students to anonymously submit questions they are struggling with. With this switch to online, I am having our students read this and then join in on an Instagram live stream to discuss. Students, I will see you all on Instagram Wednesday night at 8 pm. Everyone else, I hope this blog is an encouragement to you...
I have to admit, I am actually super excited that one of you asked a question about mental health. No, not because I love talking about the issue or because it’s a simple topic to discuss, but I am excited because of the significance of the topic in the world we live in today. When the topic of mental health comes up, our minds instantly jump to the major illnesses. We think of schizophrenia or some other intense psychosis, but what we seem to forget is that anxiety, depression, or even feelings of self-harm are major issues of mental health in their own right. In fact, what we see is these issues are much more prevalent than those “major illnesses” we typically think of. On top of that, I can’t help but feel that this Corona-infested world of socially distant people is just going to make dealing with mental health that much more difficult. As you spend more time at home, unable to run to that typical source of comfort or have that source come to you, deterioration of mental health is only inevitable unless we create new methods of self care. So, for this new treatment, let’s look at what the Bible has to say on the issue of mental health!
What Causes Mental Illness?
Read Psalm 38:4 and Romans 8:18-22.
Mental Illness is a physical response to a spiritual problem. Yupp, that’s right! I’m starting with the answer this time. Not my typical move, but I think this works best for today. So what do I mean by that answer? Well to start off, if you read those verses, you should be able to pick out two different sources of mental illness.
- From Psalm 38:4, we see that mental illness can be caused from direct sin in your life. As this verse points out, sin weighs heavy on the mind. If you are dealing with a lot of sin, are constantly worried about being exposed in that sin, or are repeatedly feeling guilt as a result of not being able to overcome it, then those emotions are going to manifest themselves as anxiety, depression, anger, or even feelings of self-harm. In this case, the spiritual problem is your own action and the physical response are these emotions.
- So, maybe you are thinking, “Well John, I don’t have any deep unrepented sins weighing heaving on my mind and yet I still feel these negative emotions, or even have a diagnosable mental illness. What’s the cause of that?” In Romans 8:18-22, we see the negative effects of sin in general on creation as a whole. Since Adam’s first sin, we see that creation itself has been put under the bondage of corruption. I mean, just look at the world right now, dealing with a virus trying to wipe out humanity. Do you think God’s original intention was to have different viruses and illnesses around tearing down our mental status? Do you think He wanted for there to be toxic people and situations thrown at us beating on us constantly? Of course not. Sin though entered in giving way to such things. So, even though your own actions may not be the root cause of your mental state, sin is still at the heart of the issue.
How can we improve our Mental Health?
Read 1 John 4:18, Philippians 4:6-7, and Romans 5:18-21.
Notice the overarching theme behind these verses…The best method of improving our mental health, scripturally speaking, is by constantly and consistently setting and resetting our mind on the only One capable of overcoming sin and its effect in our lives. Through faith in Christ and the workings of God in this world, we have the power to overcome the effect sin has had on our minds. With the sin we are personally committing, bringing shame, anxiety, depression and anger, we have the ability to overcome that sin through the new creation we are made into through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ. We are no longer a slave to sin in Christ. Through reliance on His strength we can beat it. When we do, the weight of that sin will begin to lift and you’ll notice that when you’ve created distance from it, your mental health will improve. Now, with mental health issues caused by a source beyond your control, either from a situation you are in, a particularly unavoidable person in your life, or through a general mental issue in your mind uncaused by your own actions, the main recipe for improving your mental state is the same. We need to rely on Christ and His power to overcome. When we turn over our fears, anxiety, and depression to Christ with love, prayer, and thankfulness for all He has accomplished, the power those negative situations or persons have in our lives begin to dwindle. Christ has already delivered victory over sin’s power to death in our lives. Sometimes we just need to claim that power in order to overcome its perceived strength that lingers beyond salvation. With either of these causes for your decreased mental state, let me remind you that you have a network of strong leaders and a youth pastor who are ready to go at bat with you in defeating these negative emotions and their weight on your mind. You just need to ask for help!
Why should our response never be Self-Harm?
Read James 1:17-18, Isaiah 43:13, Romans 8:38-39, John 10:28, and Philippians 1:19-26.
In the case of severe depression, anxiety, or anger, oftentimes the natural response is the desire to harm yourself in order to feel something other than that pain or even to leave this world altogether in order to put an end to the pain entirely. This topic of self-harm is a difficult one and honestly, I could write an entire blog on the subject, but since I am including it within this blog on mental health, let me just stick to a few key points.
- Firstly, is self-harm and suicide a sin? Yes, it is. As James 1:17-18 shows us, every single life is a unique creation of God, created for a unique purpose, and to harm or cut short that life is a total disregard for that gift from God.
- Second, is it possible for a believer commit suicide? The answer to this is yes. Do you know what is similar to the stories of Moses, Job, Elijah, Jonah, and Paul? These are all great men of faith in the Bible who at some point in their ministry expressed a desire to cut their ministry short. Now, if these great men in the faith had this desire, who is to say that a believer today cannot experience that desire and harm themselves.
- Third, if a believer does commit suicide, do they lose their salvation? I believe Isaiah 43:13, Romans 8:38-39, and John 10:28 all point to the fact that nothing, even self-harm, could separate a believer from the eternal salvation that God has delivered in the life of that person.
- Fourth and finally, why should our response never be self-harm? Well, as stated earlier, we have the ability to overcome even the lowest of mental states through Jesus and to harm ourselves without allowing Him to work in our lives goes against the unique purpose in our life that God has created us for. I love what Paul wrote about His desire to depart and be with Christ in Philippians 1. Paul knew that when he left this life, he would be with Jesus in a world without pain or difficulty. Paul also knew that his life had purpose and that His “remaining” was best for everyone he would minister to in his life. The same is true for every believer! We have been fearfully and wonderfully made and in even the lowest of lows, we need to trust in the divine purpose behind our “remaining!”
Before I wrap this up, let me just say this, the student who asked this question specifically noted that they were just genuinely curious about the topic and had no interest in self-harm, but if there is anyone who has thoughts of hurting themselves, please reach out to me or someone else you trust immediately! Mental health has a strong influence on how we think and act in this life, but I am so thankful that we have a God stronger than anything this life has to throw at us!