In today’s times vast numbers of people struggle with mental health issues. Whether it is depression, anxiety, uncontrolled anger, or a host of other psychological diagnoses, these numbers are growing quickly, especially in children. Likewise, the number of people on mood altering medications has skyrocketed and nobody seems to have an answer as to why mental illness is at epidemic levels. This leads some people to ask, “Does the Bible say anything about mental health?”
We live in a world that is moving so fast that we often cannot keep up. It seems like no matter what we do, we never have time for the things that really matter. We want stronger marriages, deeper friendships, and lives that are more meaningful. Meanwhile, talk show hosts, self-help books, Internet sites, friends, family, and even expensive counselors tell us they have the answers to our problems.
So, we invest the time, the effort, and the expense to try their answers only to discover that either they do not work or they work for a short while and we find ourselves right back where we started. Before long, we conclude that there are no answers for our life issues and we sink into despair.
Sadly, many people feel this way. The answers they so desperately need to solve their problems are never offered or found. This is because the answers that work have been abandoned in search for “better ways.” Unfortunately, these “better ways” have produced dismal results and the answers that work have been forgotten by nearly everyone.
The answers we are talking about come from the Bible. While many people think of the Bible as one of many “religious books,” what they do not realize is that the Bible is full of practical teaching that addresses all of life’s issues. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (Emphasis added)
Jesus spoke about this truth when he said in John 10:10, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.” By these words, Jesus spoke of the answers to life’s issues that produce real, lasting change to our lives.
With this in mind, many of us have heard ministers preach or teach about “finding peace” or “turning to God” for peace of mind. However, in the vast majority of cases, these same ministers never give specifics about what the Bible says about how to turn to God or find peace.
Likewise, just about all religions give the same piece of mind advice to their followers. Unfortunately, most usually tell their followers that the path to peace is all about finding Nirvana, the emptying of their minds of all physical reality through meditation, or they will tell them to practice Yoga. Yoga is taught to individuals and to children in government schools under the guise of healthy living. Yoga masters tell us that it is “the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman.” On a side note, considering the true nature of Yoga, it is amazing that there are not lawyers lined up around the block ready to sue when Yoga is taught to schoolchildren, but let one of those kids hand out Bible tracts and all Hell breaks loose.
For those practicing eastern meditation or Yoga everything works fine until the physical realities of life get in the way. When that happens, another trip to the Yoga studio or meditation room is in order. Thankfully, the God of the Bible does not live in buildings or studios that we have to go to when we are struggling with mental health issues. He lives within the believer (John 14:17-20) and we can have His peace of mind no matter where we are, even after business hours.
So, what does the Bible say about mental health? In 2 Timothy 1:7 the Bible tells us four things about mental health: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” While it is the “sound mind” that so many people are lacking, we also know that that Bible does not have a Nike commercial, “Just do It” mentality when it comes to how to have victory in your life. The Bible has very specific things that it teaches about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of mental illness.
The first thing mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7 the that “God hath not given us the Spirit of fear.” If fear does not come from God, where does it come from? To answer that question, you first have to ask what is fear. According to Websters 1828 dictionary, fear is defined in the following excerpt:
FEAR, n. [See the Verb.]
1. A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger. Fear expresses less apprehension than dread, and dread less than terror and fright. The force of this passion, beginning with the most moderate degree, may be thus expressed, fear, dread, terror, fright. Fear is accompanied with a desire to avoid or ward off the expected evil. Fear is an uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of future evil likely to befall us. Fear is the passion of our nature which excites us to provide for our security, on the approach of evil.
2. Anxiety; solicitude.
FEAR, v.t. [L. vereor.]
1. To feel a painful apprehension of some impending evil; to be afraid of; to consider or expect with emotions of alarm or solicitude. We fear the approach of an enemy or of a storm. We have reason to fear the punishment of our sins.
FEAR, v.i. To be in apprehension of evil; to be afraid; to feel anxiety on account of some expected evil.
As we can see, fear is associated with evil, danger, uneasiness of mind, and anxiety amongst other things. When someone is not in right standing with God as an unbeliever, they can fear both what their fate may be when they stand before God on judgement day at the Great White Throne of Judgement (Revelation 20:11-15; Psalms 33:8) and they can fear what can befall them as they live their lives (Psalms 31:12-13; Psalms 53:4-5; Proverbs 1:24-32).
As unbelievers, many people do not fear God while they are living their lives (Psalms 36:1-4; Romans 3:11-18). They fear other things such as loss of job, divorce, crime, health problems, etc.. This is because their thinking is occupied on things of the world, which is not of God (1 John 2:15-16). When there is an encounter with danger, life threatening illness, or anything else that brings to mind what will happen to them in eternity, then they experience the fear of death and the hereafter. This is because they have no assurance of what will happen and if there is a God who will approve of how they lived their life. Unfortunately, if the have not trusted Christ as their Saviour the outcome will not be good (Proverbs 17:15; Matthew 12:36-37; John 3:16-21).
As believers, if God has not given us the Spirit of fear, then what do we do when we have fear? The first thing is to recognize that the solution for fear in the believer and the non-believer is to trust what God says to us in His Word (Exodus 14:13-14). The foundation of overcoming fear as well as mental illness is trusting in the promise of salvation to those who trust Jesus Christ as their Saviour (Psalms 27:1-3; Isaiah 35:4; Hebrews 11:7; Jude 1:21-24). Upon this foundation we then build our lives without the harmful effects of an unsound mind (1 Corinthians 3:11-14).
When we trust Christ as our Saviour and live our lives based on the knowledge of the foundation we have in Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear. This is because He promises us that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6), no one can pluck us out of His hands (John 10:27-29), and He watches over us and protects us (Psalms 37:39-40; Psalms 41:1-2; Galatians 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:18).
If we have fear as believers, it is because we are allowing our minds to be seduced into believing that what God has promised is not true (Titus 1:1-2; Hebrews 6:17-19; James 1:13-15) and we are trusting in things other than God (Deuteronomy 30:16-18; Psalms 56:4; Proverbs 29:25).
Therefore, if God has not given us the Spirit of fear, we can overcome fear by trusting Christ as our Saviour, communicating regularly with God, giving thanks without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18); submitting our requests to Him, and thinking on His promises. God tells about this as follows:
(Philippians 4:6-9 KJV) “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (9) Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Emphasis added)
Notice we are told be “careful” for nothing. This word careful means the same thing as our modern word anxious. In other words, God is telling us that not to be anxious about anything. If we are anxious, the solution to our anxiety is to let God know our concerns and to allow Him to mold our thinking in a way that will keep, or guard, our hearts and minds. In addition, He wants us to meditate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, etc., so that our minds are not empty, but filled with reassuring thoughts that are virtuous and praiseworthy (See also Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:26-31).
In addition to changing our thinking, we are to follow the Biblical counsel of faithful teachers (2 Timothy 2:2) whom God has called to model and teach the example of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21-23) in handling adversity. When we do what we have been taught by these teachers, then the “God of peace” will be with us.
The next thing we see in 2 Timothy 1:7 is that not only has God not given us the spirit of fear, he has given us power, love, and sound mind.
Beginning with power, we get power to overcome the issues of life from the Holy Spirit that God puts in us when we trust Christ as our Saviour (Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 4:30). It is the Holy Spirit that gives us eternal life (Romans 1:16; Romans 8:10-11) and the ability to do all the things that God has called us to do and to live a victorious life (Philippians 4:13). It is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to make Jesus the Lord of our life (1 Corinthians 12:3).
When we learn to depend on God’s Holy Spirit, we find the strength to overcome the issues in life because the Holy Spirit that lives in us is stronger than anything else there is (1 John 4:4). Likewise, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:7-9) and bears witness of the testimony of Jesus Christ (1 John 5:7-9; 1 Corinthians 1:18). He, the Holy Spirit, also gives us the ability to understand the deep things of God and the teachings of the Bible (John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16).
Finally, when it comes to power, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us hope (Romans 15:13) and empowers us to share the Gospel with others (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). It is His power that strengthens us and takes away our fears (Psalms 27:1).
The next thing we see that God gives us in the ability to love unconditionally. In 1 Corinthians 13 the King James Bible uses the word charity for love. Charity is the word for love that is unconditional (Greek: agape) and comes from the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in the root “chari”, which is the same root for the word charismatic.
It is so appropriate that the King James translators used the word charity for love in 1 Corinthians 13 as well as Colossians 3:14 and 1 Timothy 1:5. Using the word charity denotes a type of love that motivates us to place the needs, or esteem, others above ourselves (Philippians 2:1-3). It is this love that the deeds listed in 1 Corinthians 13 are able to be accomplish and are worth anything in God’s eyes as follows:
(1 Corinthians 13:1-8 KJV) “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (4) Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, (5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; (7) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (8) Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”
We are taught in 1 Corinthians 13 that charity, or unconditional, Holy Spirit, empowered love must be the motivation for all that we do or it means nothing. It also gives us the motivation to be patient, kind, not envy, not be prideful, behave properly, not be selfish, not be provoked, think of no evil, not rejoice in evil, and rejoice in the truth. In addition, charity enables us to bear things that are difficult, believe that God has our best intentions at heart, and endure all things.
Like power, charity or unconditional love gives us hope that never fails. It never fails because God is love (1 John 4:7-8); and God never fails (Psalms 73:26). Since God is love and He never fails, He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us (John 3:16). Because of His ultimate act of love that He did for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), He enabled us to love Him out of appreciation for what He did (1 John 4:19). In doing so, then the love He gives us enables us to cast out fear from our minds (1 John 4:18).
Finally, we see in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God gives us a sound mind. As we learned, when we recognize that God protects and guards our hearts and minds, He casts out fear and gives us hope through His power and love. We maintain our hope by keeping or staying our thoughts on Him (Isaiah 26:3-4). We overcome those things that trouble our minds by engrafting or inserting His Word into every situation (James 1:21-26) so that we are not drawn away of our own lusts into self defeating behaviors (James 1:12-15).
Having a sound mind means that God will protect us from all forms of mental unsoundness. Although the limited space of this article limits the ability to address specific mental health issues, it is easy to see mention of them in Scripture. The following are a few examples:
(James 1:2-8 KJV) “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
(Psalms 31:9-10 KJV) “Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. (10) For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.”
(1 Samuel 16:14-23 KJV) “But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. (15) And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. (16) Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. (17) And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. (18) Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him. (19) Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep. (20) And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul. (21) And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. (22) And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. (23) And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”
(Psalms 102:1-11 KJV) “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. (2) Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. (3) For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. (4) My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. (5) By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. (6) I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. (7) I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top. (8) Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me. (9) For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, (10) Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down. (11) My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.”
As we can see, not only does God protect our minds. He gives us examples of those who suffered from what we would call mental illnesses. He also gives us specific examples of how those who suffered the same were able to overcome their issues and he tells us in specific ways how to deal with the same.
In conclusion, does the Bible say anything about mental health? The answer is yes, and then some.