The Church and Mental Health

Posted: January 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

mentalhealthSomeone once asked Jesus, what is the greatest commandment? He said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37) Part of what this reminds us of is that as human beings, created in the image of God, we are more than just a collection of cells. Rather, we are made mind, body and soul, intricately woven together by God. (Psalm 139) Meaning that when it comes to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, we must acknowledge that there is no simple solution.

Dr. Bob Kellemen, a licensed clinical professional counsellor in the state of Maryland and member of the Biblical Counselling Coalition, asks two very important questions:

1. How do we speak compassionately and comprehensively about mental illness and about the complex interaction of the brain/body/mind/soul?

2. How do we address any concerns about root causes of life struggles without being heard to say that we are ignoring the whole person or lacking empathy for social factors and physiological issues?

Today is the annual Bell Let’s Talk awareness campaign which is aimed at “opening the national conversation about mental illness.” To be sure, this is something we in the church can certainly learn from. There is a need for us to talk openly and compassionately about this topic. And so, how do we do this? How do we open the conversation and as a church model Christ-centred biblical counselling to one another both formally and informally?

Here, in part, is how Dr. Kellemen answers this…

Biblical Counseling Must Be Founded in Love    

We believe that Christ’s incarnation is not just the basis for care, but also the model for how we care (Hebrews 4:14-16; John 13:34-35). We seek to enter into a person’s story, listening well, expressing thoughtful love, and engaging the person with compassion (1 Thessalonians 2:8). The wise and loving personal ministry of the Word takes many appropriate forms, from caring comfort to loving rebuke, from careful listening to relevant scriptural exploration, all while building trusting, authentic relationships (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; 1 John 4:7-21).

Wise counseling takes into account all that people experience (desires, thoughts, goals, actions, words, emotions, struggles, situational pressure, physical suffering, abuse, injustice, etc.) All of human experience is the context for understanding how God’s Word relates to life. Such awareness not only shapes the content of counseling, but also shapes the way counselors interact so that everything said is constructive, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to the hearer (Ephesians 4:29).

Biblical Counseling Must Be Comprehensive in Understanding

We believe that biblical counseling should focus on the full range of human nature created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). A comprehensive biblical understanding sees human beings as relational (spiritual and social), rational, volitional, emotional, and physical. Wise counseling takes the whole person seriously in his or her whole life context. It helps people to embrace all of life face-to-face with Christ so they become more like Christ in their relationships, thoughts, motivations, behaviors, and emotions.

We recognize the complexity of the relationship between the body and soul (Genesis 2:7). Because of this, we seek to remain sensitive to physical factors and organic issues that affect people’s lives. In our desire to help people comprehensively, we seek to apply God’s Word to people’s lives amid bodily strengths and weaknesses. We encourage a thorough assessment and sound treatment for any suspected physical problems.

We recognize the complexity of the connection between people and their social environment. Thus we seek to remain sensitive to the impact of suffering and of the great variety of significant social-cultural factors (1 Peter 3:8-22). In our desire to help people comprehensively, we seek to apply God’s Word to people’s lives amid both positive and negative social experiences. We encourage people to seek appropriate practical aid when their problems have a component that involves education, work life, finances, legal matters, criminality (either as a victim or a perpetrator), and other social matters.

Biblical Counseling Must Be Thorough in Care

We believe that God’s Word is profitable for dealing thoroughly with the evils we suffer as well as with the sins we commit. Since struggling people usually experience some combination of besetting sin and personal suffering, wise counselors seek to discern the differences and connections between sin and suffering, and to minister appropriately to both (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Biblical counseling addresses suffering and engages sufferers in many compassionate ways. It offers God’s encouragement, comfort, and hope for the hurting (Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-8). It encourages mercy ministry (Acts 6:1-7) and seeks to promote justice. Biblical counseling addresses sin and engages sinners in numerous caring ways. It offers God’s confrontation of sins, encourages repentance of sins, presents God’s gracious forgiveness in Christ, and shares God’s powerful path for progressive victory over sin (1 John 1:8-2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; Colossians 3:1-17; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

These are the “lenses” through which we need to address the vital issue of mental illness and the church. Let’s carefully and compassionately define what we mean by mental illness from a comprehensive biblical perspective that includes wise assessment of valid scientific research. Then let’s biblically and lovingly interact about what it looks like for the church to minister well and wisely.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 ESV)

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