Romans 12: 2a Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
As a young athlete, I heard much about physical health and injuries, but rarely, if ever, discussion of mental health or illness. The word “mental” was used to deride someone for being weak. People with “mental conditions” needed to be in a special hospital wing. It certainly didn’t apply to healthy athletes. Fortunately, there is increased discussion and understanding today that “mental health” is every bit as important to discuss with athletes as is “physical health”. “A student-athlete’s ‘mental health’ might be viewed as secondary to physical health; however, it is every bit as important. It makes little sense to try to separate the ‘mind’ and the ‘body’.” https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2007_managing_mental_health_0.pdf.
I think the church is guilty of the same oversight for failing to discuss the topics of mental health. I grew up believing that Christians didn’t suffer from mental illness – certainly not mature Christians.
My wife and I recently attended a mental health conference (www.drgrantmullen.com) held at our home church. It was crucial in continuing to take me down a path to understanding the importance of mental health. God has taken me a long way from where I once was, a place where I believed dealing with mental health issues involved just getting into your Bible more or praying more, to a place where I understand that there may be a need for counseling, medical doctors and even medicine. I have learned to remove the stigma that, we as Christians, not God, have attached to mental health and mental illness.
One of the most impactful moments in the conference was where a pastor shared his recent struggles with anxiety and depression. He recognized that he had been suffering from both for decades but the church had not really been there for him. He said that most Christians wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor for medication or a physiotherapist for rehabilitation, but if you are suffering from some sort of mental challenge, that is something you need to overcome with prayer. He also said that mental illness can take years to unpack and heal, but the church generally has little or no patience for it. He asked us to imagine a cancer patient who was going through treatments for years. Could you imagine telling them to suck it up when they vomited for days after chemo therapy or deriding them for losing their hair. He said that is the equivalent of being impatient with those in the church working through mental health issues.
When you study the Bible, you see it doesn’t ignore the mind, but rather it places high importance on its maintenance. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom.12:2a). “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor.10:5). “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3). Are you struggling with your mental health? Don’t struggle alone. There are resources you can turn to. Just as a coach is needed for physical training you may need a counselor or doctor on your road to mental wellness.