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Storkersen: Does mental illness imply a lack of faith in God?

Toward the end of my senior year was when I was diagnosed with chronic depression, and months after that was when I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety. I distinctly remember one car ride where my friend and I were heading over to hang out with a bunch of people where I informed my friend of what my psychiatrist had told me.

Braeden Storkersen

Braeden Storkersen

The guy that I was telling this to was one of my closest friends, so I wanted him to be one of the first to know, and his reaction absolutely astonishes me to this very day. He looked me in the eye and asked the question, “Is clinical depression really biblical? Isn’t depression just a result of a lack of faith in God?”

To this day, when I hear someone speak of mental illness and imply that it is a result of God punishing them for their sin or because they are not relying on God enough, it sends a shiver down my spine. Part of me becomes extremely offended because I strive to love God as much as I possibly can, yet I still struggle with crippling depression and anxiety.

On the other hand, it is a very common misconception, so I want to try to answer it by approaching it from the biblical perspective.

While I am biased because of my mental illness, I truly believe the Bible is the word of God. Therefore, if the Bible clearly stated that my mental illness was present due to the reasons many people claim, then I would be the first to admit that I have some secret sin rather than rationalize it.

The reality is that there is no such statement condemning those with mental illness in the Bible. Please walk with me as I try to unpack what we can learn from scripture on this issue.

The entirety of scripture points to the fact that our essence as human beings is made up of physical and spiritual components. From the beginning when God creates man, it is made clear that we are spiritual beings because of how God made us:

“So God created man in His own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female He created them.”

Genesis 1:27

There is a repetitious poetic form that the scripture uses here to make it clear that God created all of humanity, both male and female, to be like Him. Not in a physical sense, because we are all different in so many ways, but in a spiritual sense.

We all have emotions, morals, the desire to be close to one another, etc. While we are like God in these ways, we are different in that we have a physical body. God Himself does not have a physical body, but a spiritual one:

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Genesis 1:2

Simply in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we can see that men and women are both spiritual beings and physical beings. The reason that I bring this up is that this means we have both spiritual needs and physical needs.

Consider the passage of scripture where the devil tries to tempt Jesus. The interesting thing with Jesus is that while God does not have a physical body, He chose to come in carnal form so that we could know Him and relate to Him. So while Jesus was on earth, He too had spiritual needs and physical needs like us. Look at what the Bible says:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”

Matthew 4:1-2

 

Satan chose to tempt Jesus when he was hungry because Jesus’ physical body was weak, which then made Him open to spiritual attack! You might be asking, “well what does that mean to mental illness?” Well, it means that those who are physically weak can become spiritually weak as a result! There’s no denying that mental illnesses are real! Science has proven it, and there is no verse that objects to it. There is a reality that there is a physical side to mental illness. At the same time, there is also a spiritual side.

 We are both spiritual and physical beings, so we should never over-spiritualize or under-spiritualize what we are going through! Due to the essence of our being as people, when we are going through something difficult, we will sometimes need physical healing and in other cases spiritual healing.

If a man cracked his head open and needed stitches, it would be absurd to declare that he needs to pray and have more faith to receive healing. It is purely physical damage to his body and therefore needs the help of doctors in order to receive physical healing.

If a man has experienced extreme trauma growing up in his household, then he would need the help of a pastor to counsel him and pray for him in order to receive spiritual healing.

The same principles apply to mental illnesses. If someone simply has a chemical imbalance that causes depression, anxiety, or some other form of mental illness, then they need a physical means, like psychiatric medicine, to set the chemicals in their brain back in order.

On the other hand, I do not want to decrease the importance of spiritual healing when it comes to mental illness. As I said earlier, even Jesus was prone to spiritual attack when his physical being was weak. Many people have received a lot of spiritual damage and carry a lot of baggage as a result of their clinical issues, so in the majority of cases, that person needs both physical and spiritual healing.

The truth of the matter is that, while sometimes necessary, psychiatric medicine is not the solution to all of the pain in someone’s life. Healing is not found in a pill, but in the God of healing that is known through Jesus Christ.

1 Comment on Storkersen: Does mental illness imply a lack of faith in God?

  1. To say that any illness is a punishment from God is just idiotic. The Bible clearly states that illness and death are both a result of the Fall. Although I agree with you that God’s healing through Christ is above all; I also think our knowledge of medicine is also a gift from God. To refuse medical treatment (as some sects do) is to refuse one of God’s gifts.

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