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Spiritual Health and Mental Health

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close here at LCS, we want to continue to play a part in reducing the stigma around mental health. For this week’s blog post, I want to highlight the importance of being able to talk about mental health in spiritual settings and why having this conversation is so significant.

Before we begin, I think it could be helpful to address the “elephant in the room” – namely, a hesitancy that I sense exists when it comes to having concurrent conversations about spiritual and mental health. At its core, I believe this hesitancy is rooted in fear, as the thought of intermingling the sacred and secular can make us uncomfortable. Maybe we believe that the spiritual and the psychological have too many conflicting beliefs for them to coexist? And if we are bringing mental health conversations into the spiritual area of life, does that imply that we find something lacking in God’s wisdom, truth, and perspective?

To these concerns I would simply say this: I think that just as much as God has created us to be spiritual beings, He has created us in much more complex and nuanced ways as well! We are intellectual beings, physical beings, social beings, and certainly emotional beings. If this is true (and I believe that it is), then I would argue that God wants us to fully live out of every aspect of who He has created us to be. I believe God is honored when we are experiencing health in each of these areas. I also believe that God is honored when health in one area of our life is influencing and bringing forth health in another area. In short then, I believe we glorify God best when our lives are whole and healthy (rather than fractured and fragmented).

Why is the conversation about mental health in spiritual settings so important? It really comes back to God’s purposes in creating us. We were made to (and for) worship, to bear His image and also to find satisfaction in fulfilling His call on our lives. But what happens when we experience barriers to living out our God-ordained design? Some of these barriers are spiritual in nature and are helped by spiritual means – whether it is the Word of God bringing truth to us, the Spirit of God empowering us or God’s Church (His people) challenging us. All of these things have a supernatural ability to release us from the sin that so easily entangles us so that we might be freed up to worship wholeheartedly, the One true God.

But what if these barriers are more emotional or mental in nature and need to be aided and cared for in a different way? Sometimes, before Jesus can take up preeminence in a person’s life, there is a significant awakening and realization that must take place – namely, that the ways one has attempted to make life “work” are not only insufficient but failing. And it is within these failings that unspoken strategies tend to reveal themselves – strategies used to cope with life as well as the vows made that led to their origin. And as the driving forces for such strategies are teased out, it is often where the deepest wounds are found - where trauma has happened, where hurts took place in one’s family of origin and when life for us became irrevocably fractured.

For a follower of Jesus then, I believe that these hurts must sometimes be worked through for Christ to reign supreme in their life. Until the letting go of this faulty way of doing life takes place, I think many will struggle to truly see Jesus as the better way. Some will never come to know God until they can receive the healing they desperately need for the deepest wounds in their heart and in their story. As mental health professionals then, we have an incredible privilege (and a high calling!) to co-labor with people in tending the “soil of the soul” - rooting out idols and softening the terrain so that there is sweet space in one’s heart for a faith and trust in Jesus that not only can take root but can flourish.