Do you ever wonder if you’re OK mentally? With all the stress and struggle our modern world affords, who wouldn’t get upset, anxious, or depressed? How are you supposed to know if you’re responding normally or not?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness asserts that one in four of us experiences a mental illness in any given year. So it’s no wonder that over 20% are taking some kind of antidepressant medication. Right now we are entering Domestic Violence Awareness Month – certainly a significant source of mental/emotional distress and illness. We hear a lot about PTSD these days; God knows we have plenty of trauma in our world, and the after-affects are not surprising.
Think of the billions of dollars spent and entire industries built around people trying to get mentally healthy. It’s only in the last several decades that much of this has come to be. Come to think of it, what did people do before self-help groups, Prozac, and hotlines?
I’m being a little facetious. There is much of value in the products, services, and industries to help people experience a better life. But what are we really after? If some magic potion could make you instantly “mentally healthy,” would you recognize yourself? Would you know it when you got there?
“If you aim at nothing, you are sure to reach it every time.” While God never shows us every detail of the future He has for us, He shows us enough to make us hungry for it. He calls us to a life that is more challenging, meaningful, and abundant than anything we could ask for or achieve on our own.
This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Fully Alive Mentally/Emotionally
God cares about your mind and emotions. Rather than fear, He promised “power, … love, and … a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) He sets out to transform and renew your mind as you continue walking with Him. (1 Peter 1:13, Romans 12:2)
Much of the challenges you and I face in this world come through our thoughts and emotions. Remember, Jesus experienced fatigue, loneliness, and sadness. (Matthew 26:37-40, Mark 4:38) We will continue to have negative feelings at times as long as we live in this world, but we don’t have to be controlled by them. You can have a sound mind.
Mental/emotional health looks like:
- Able to experience the full range of human emotions. That includes sadness, grief, pain, joy, love, hope, etc. Jesus experienced them all: we will also. Simply feeling bad is not an indicator of mental illness. An ability to appropriately feel both “good” and “bad” emotions is a sign of mental and emotional resiliency and health.
- Not stuck in a state of destructive emotions. While negative emotions including bitterness, anger, sadness, or anxiety are almost certain to come, feeling that way all the time, for a long time, is unhealthy. At some point, healthy people are able to move past the negative and experience the positive again as well.
- Not only focused on yourself. Continuous navel-gazing is decidedly unhealthy. Mental health includes an honest assessment of your own feelings. But it also includes an ability to rise above your own feelings and notice, interact with, and truly minister to others.
- Not stuck in victimization or entitlement. Stuff happens to all of us, much of it bad. And a period of feeling like a victim may be pretty normal. But don’t stay stuck there. Mental health means growing to a place where you can initiate positive action, and take responsibility for doing so.
- Able to fulfill the purpose God has for you. God can and does use anyone who will allow Him to do so. Your usefulness to Him, however, is improved when you are healthy. If you sense any inner strength and courage to do something God has asked you to do, it’s one indicator you have a degree of mental/emotional health.
- Mental clarity in discerning and interpreting God’s voice. God’s voice is precious. And it can be counterfeited – by God’s enemy, other people, and even our own distorted thoughts. Mental health for the Christian includes being sensitive to God’s voice, and also sensitively testing the “message” to be sure it is coming from Him.
God promises you can have a mind like Jesus. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) That’s not some nebulous spiritual idea: it’s the result of His renewing of your mind.
I do not believe that prayer alone is a complete answer to mental illness. Prayer is an absolutely essential ingredient in mental/emotional healing. But often other modalities of help are needed along with spiritual support. If you are struggling with mental/emotional pain or illness, please, pray AND get the help you need.
And if you’re wondering about your mental health, feel reassured that struggles are common. News flash: you and I are only human! Even God knows that. (Psalm 103:14)
Your Turn: What do you think “mentally healthy” includes? Have I left out anything? Leave a comment below.
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