Mental health. It’s something we all think about and hear about, whether directly or indirectly. Some will talk about it, others shy away from it. God has a lot to say about our minds, so we, as Christians, should definitely talk about it! God created us uniquely, beautifully, and intricately. Psalm 139:13-14 describe us as being beautifully and wonderfully made and “wonderfully complex” (NLT). Do you hear that, friend? You are wonderfully complex. That means all the intricacies and quirks that make you you were purposefully made for His glory! He intricately connected our body, mind, soul, and spirit together; you cannot separate one from the other.
The mind is incredible! It is beautiful, but it can be tricky also. The Oxford Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2021) defines mental health as: a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. That is relatively broad, so let’s get a bit more specific. “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging” (Medline Plus, 2021). If we break it down, mental health is essentially how we function internally, in life, and with others. So when it comes to mental health, what does “healthy” look like? Here are a few things to consider:
What is our mind directed or governed by? Romans 8:6 informs us that our mind is either governed by the flesh (our human desires and tendencies) or by the Holy Spirit. If our mind is governed by the flesh, it leads to death. That might sound dramatic, but consider this: have you ever found yourself worrying or frustrated about one thing, which then leads to another similar thought, and a few more after that? This spiral doesn’t lead to peaceful, encouraging, hopeful thoughts; it leads to the death of something that was meant to be alive. God wants us to have healthy thoughts, good decision making, and clarity; He wants us to invite His Spirit to help us with our mind so that we will experience life and peace. This is so important because what we think pours into our emotions and actions.
So, if we are trying to allow the Spirit to govern our mind, what exactly are we to think on? Colossians 3:2 urges us to set our mind on things that are above or eternal, and not on things that are right in front of us. It is easy to fixate on the immediate state and stress of our personal lives like finances, relationships, careers, loss, heartache, trauma. These are all absolutely real and important, and not to be ignored, but we also aren’t meant to be consumed by them. Jesus wants us to grieve, process, heal, and repent, but He doesn’t want us stuck there. He wants to be part of these things. He wants our full attention so He can help us navigate through them.
“If we break it down, mental health is essentially how we function internally, in life, and with others.”
How do we know if we’re actually setting our minds on things above? I will ask myself, Is that thought actually true? Is it noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? (Philippians 4:8) This is such a good plumb line for our thoughts. I have to check myself all the time. This verse helps me to see more clearly what thoughts are good and worthy of my attention, as well as those that need to be stopped in their path or further investigated. For example, if you’ve found yourself in a “spiral,” try to re-trace it back to the start. What was the initiating thought, feeling, or situation? Pray and ask the Lord to unveil any key things. It isn’t easy, and sometimes we need a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor to help us, especially when anxiety, worry, or fear drags us down.
These types of struggles are real to many of us, if not all of us, and if they go unchecked, they will become barriers and battles for us. I want to address another aspect that is all too often skirted
around – mental illness. It is within mental health, but is its own beast. Mental illness “refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders and health conditions. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving significant changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities” (American Psychiatric Association, 2018). Mental health is how we function on the inside and with those around us; mental illness is when negative mental health affects you so much that problems arise in being able to function in your daily life. I want to say this loud and clear and with a whole lot of love: If this definition resonates with you, please reach out and get help. Don’t sit in silence; that’s not what God intended for you. He has life and peace for you, and there is no shame in going to a doctor, counselor, or reaching out to a pastor. “Mending the Soul” and other similar Bible-based groups whose focus is on restoration from trauma, recovery, and mental health, might also be helpful. There can be so many other factors at play like hormonal or chemical imbalances, genetics, or deep trauma. Let’s all agree to take any shame or embarrassment out of owning where we are so we can move toward a whole and healthy place. It is here we can see that we are beautifully made and wonderfully complex.