Mental Health and Spirituality: Why Therapy and Prayer are Equally Important

      Growing up as a Christian can mean a lot of things, mostly good things. You grow up—in most cases—in a family that cares about you, that teaches you right from wrong and that makes the Bible the focus of family life. Growing up as a missionary kid includes a lot of the same wonderful values, but at the end of the day there’s also an additional set of rules and expectations thrust upon you. You must always represent Jesus and Christianity in the best light; you must never make public mistakes for fear of besmirching the name of your church, and you must always be ‘spiritual’.

      At least, in the church I grew up in, that was what it meant to live on the forefront of the ministry. While there were many issues with this way of thinking and the church I was attending, one of the biggest problems was their belief that, as a Christian, especially a Christian heavily involved in the ministry, one must never struggle with mental health. If you had any sort of metal health issues it was, at best, a sign that you were not trusting in Jesus as much as you should, and, at worst, a sign of demon possession. This became increasingly difficult to grapple with as I watched my mother deal with her increasing depression and anxiety.

      For a long time, we were told that, as Christians, we must always be joyful and happy because Jesus gives us the “ultimate joy”. While this is true, it is hard to match these party lines to the reality of having a medical condition that affects the way you see the world. Such was my mother’s case. She spent a long time struggling with the idea that she could have depression and still be a Christian. It made her feel that she was not as spiritual as a missionary’s wife should be and, in the long run, made her condition worse than if she had sought help immediately. Finally, she sought Christian counseling and was placed on medication.

      My mother’s story proves that being a Christian alone is not enough to prevent mental health disorders. The joy that Jesus promises is not a perpetual happiness, but rather a knowing that He is always there for us as a “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” So even when depression tells you that you are alone and anxiety tells you that you are not enough, Jesus is there to remind you that He is with you and that you are valued beyond measure in His kingdom. God never gives us a challenge we cannot face, or throws us into a fight unequipped. God guided man in the scientific study of psychology so that man could develop medications to help our brains function properly. Therefore, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that, for those struggling with mental health, the tools God has provided for their struggle are prayer and clinical therapy and medication. After all, you cannot be an effective servant for Christ if your mental health is prohibiting you from serving Him.

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