There has been considerable debate for centuries about the correlation between spirituality and health. One of the most interesting findings recently is how much of a difference your view of God can make in your health, especially your mental health.
I was preparing for a radio program recently with a good friend Evelyn Davison. She mentioned the tragic reality that people too often relate to God with either an entitlement mentality or a punishment mentality. They see God as either being out to get you, or He’s there to give you whatever you want. Of course neither perspective is true of the God we know from the Bible as a whole.
Research also demonstrates how much your view of God can impact your health. Over the past few years Baylor University has conducted several surveys on religion among American adults, and a considerable number of scholarly articles have been published from this data. The most recent survey included some fascinating results on the connection between one’s view of God and mental health.
We could describe people’s views of God as falling into three broad categories:
- Deistic God. God is real, but He is not significantly involved in what happens on this Earth or in one’s daily life.
- Punitive God. God is angered by sin, is looking to punish sinners, and one has little hope of meeting His high demands.
- Benevolent God. God is good. He is closely involved in the world and in one’s daily life, and His involvement results in good things.
The Baylor University data showed how powerfully one’s view of God can predict the presence of psychiatric symptoms. Belief in a punitive God means more anxiety, paranoia, and other symptoms. Belief in a benevolent God is associated with fewer such psychiatric symptoms.
This effect holds true even in prayer. If one is unsure of one’s connection with God, or trying to avoid Him (possibly out of fear), prayer only results in more anxiety. If one’s connection with God is secure, prayer decreases anxiety and related symptoms.
There’s much Biblical support for this understanding. Seeing God primarily as harsh and punishing leads to fear and inactivity. (Matthew 25:24-30) Believing that God is good and that He is on your side provides tremendous encouragement, motivation, and strength. (Psalm 27:13-14, Romans 8:31-37) Your view of God makes a difference!
The Biblical View of God
What the Bible has to say about God is too big a topic for this post. It’s the kind of question theologians spend their whole careers studying. But for your own sake think about what you know the Bible says about God. What is He like? What does He care about? How does He relate to you?
God is much too all-encompassing to be reduced to one or more of the three categories mentioned above. And when you see what He is really like, neither an entitlement mentality nor a punishment mentality in relation to God makes sense. Here are just a few points about God and you from the Bible:
- God’s bigger than you or I, but He cares about you. Yes, the Creator of the universe sees, knows, and cares about YOU. (Psalm 8:3-4)
- God does not want you to be hurt – now or eternally. (2 Peter 3:9)
- God wants to transform you to be like Jesus. He won’t do it against your will, but He’ll keep working on you as long as you will let Him. (Romans 8:29)
- God rejoices when He thinks about you. He looks forward to being with you. You make Him happy. “He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Is that the kind of God you know?
If not, there’s no better time than now to get to know Him. He would like that.
Your Turn: How would you characterize your view of God? How do you think your view of God affects your mental health? Leave a comment below.
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- Seeing God as punishing harms your mental health. Seeing God as good improves your mental health. Tweet that.
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