What Does God say about Mental Health?

I’ll never forget my first panic attack.

Years ago, we were cleaning out one of the old Student Ministry storage rooms at the church when, suddenly, my chest began to grow tighter and tighter until I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what was happening because, moments ago, my co-workers and I were laughing and having a great time. I sat down, praying it would pass — and eventually, it did. It was one of the worst feelings I had ever had.

Little did I know this would become a recurring battle in my life.

At the peak of my struggle with anxiety attacks, I often found myself asking God why. Why is this happening? Why do I feel this way? Maybe you can relate. You wonder where God is during it all and why it seems as if He doesn’t care. These questions led me to wonder, what does God say about mental health? Is it something talked about in the Bible? And, if so, how can the words of God comfort me in my times of struggle?

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

A quick Google search will show you that the Bible doesn’t explicitly speak on the topic of mental health, as in the words “mental health” don’t appear in Scripture. However, the Bible does say a ton about the heart, renewal of your mind, spiritual brokenness, and the condition of the soul[1] — all of which contribute to our mental well-being. In essence, mental health in Scripture is so much more than the mind; it encompasses our heart, mind, and soul [Matt. 22:37].

Let’s briefly explore a few things that will help us understand what God says about mental health.

1️⃣ Jesus can turn your pain into glory — for Him and you!

To fully understand what God, or the Bible, says about mental health, we need to go back to the beginning to understand the human condition. In Genesis 3, we see sin enter the world, which causes creation to long for restoration [Romans 8:22]. When sin entered the world, there were physical effects on the body and soul. And just like our physical health is not guaranteed, neither is our mental health. The mind, like the body, can become ill.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways.”[2]

Many of us, Christian or not, have found ourselves in the bottomless pit of the mind that Spurgeon mentions above. Almost as if we are drowning in a sea of despair. And in those moments, we need to remind ourselves that mental illness is a result of the fall; your pain is not necessarily your fault. Consider the dialogue between Jesus and His disciples recorded in John 9:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” –John 9:1–3

Here, Jesus illumes something important for you and me to know: God allowed this blind man to suffer not as punishment for wrongdoing, but so His works might be displayed. This person’s affliction, which caused him years of hardship and shame, ultimately led to Jesus’ power on display and the man’s own salvation — the eternal healing of his soul. It was for his good. He was born blind and now will see glory for eternity. So, when you suffer under the weight of mental illness, remember how the Apostle Paul pleads with God in 2 Corinthians 12 to remove the thorn from his side, but God teaches him, “my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2️⃣ We’re going to struggle, but God heals and provides.

Scripture is clear that sin spreads the infection of darkness[2], meaning it can worsen mental illness. In our darkest hours, we must fix our eyes on Christ, the Light, because light overcomes the darkness [John 1]. Scripture also tells us that in those dark moments, God does not abandon us. He sees us. He is with us, working in and through our lives, helping us in the battles. We see this all throughout the narrative of the Bible.

Another way we see mental health being discussed in the Bible is through the stories of people. Our “heroes of the Bible” face moments of struggle directly related to their mental health. We see moments where their mental health suffered as they battled through things like exhaustion or moments of despair. The Psalms also are filled with heartache and broken spirit cries to God. But time and time again, we see God restoring, encouraging, and renewing the hearts and minds of His people.

We can look at Elijah, whose mental health suffered during his conflict with Queen Jezebel. Up until this point, Elijah was relatively isolated [like so many of us this past year] for three years prior to his conflict with the queen. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah flee to the wilderness where he literally wished to die. But the story doesn’t end there. In the wilderness, God met him and took care of him, meeting his needs. He fed him, gave him rest, then God encouraged him, sending him out with purpose [verses 15–18]. It is a powerful picture of God giving us the strength we need to take the journey to meet him and find healing. If you have a moment, take time to read this story in 1 Kings to see God show up in the small voice whispering into Elijah’s ear.

3️⃣ You’re not alone.

Friends, God does not leave us alone to fight this battle. We know that God renews our mind and our soul [Romans 12:2, Psalm 23:3]. He gives us peace and strength [John 14:27, Isaiah 41:10], and in Him, we can find rest [Matthew 11:28]. He works all things together for us, and He is near to those who are struggling [Romans 8:28, Psalms 34:18]. He has gifted individuals with the knowledge and skillset to care for our mental health, walk alongside us, and help us.

While mental illness can be something so often swept under the rug or stigmatized, we see God revealing to us throughout Scripture truths that can encourage us, help us, restore us in our battle of the mind.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to us. Part of knowing you are not alone is being a part of the body of Christ, the church. Our Campus Pastors will meet with you, get you plugged into a community that will love and care for you, and help connect you with trained professionals to help you in your healing. You can connect with us at woodsidebible.org/connect.