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Wait! Mental Health Issues in the Church?!?

Yes! Too often Christians hold a false belief that faith is incompatible with mental health struggles. I've heard people say that those who struggle are immature, have little faith, don't pray enough, or are lacking in some other way that blames them for their own mental health concern.

We would never think that medical concerns like diabetes, high blood pressure, pneumonia, or cancer are due to a lack of faith, nor would we offer a simple spiritual solution like "Just pray more!" Of course prayer is important, but we all know that seeking medical help is also important. Why then do we approach mental health issues differently? Just like medical ailments, mental health concerns arise from genetic predispositions, temperament, biology, life experiences, trauma, stress, and other factors; they can affect anyone, anywhere, with any level of faith.

The root of both medical and mental illness lies in our original sin brokenness. In the creation story after the Fall, we see immediate emotional consequences to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Immediately after eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they became aware of their nakedness - and the inappropriateness of that nakedness - which led to shame. Their response? To cover themselves. This covering is what we all do when we we feel shame, vulnerability, and danger. Later they hear God walking in the garden and become anxious about how He might respond; anxiety is future-focused worry about what might go badly. Then when God does approach them and is present with them, they are afraid; fear is present-focused worry about a perceived danger. While all of these emotions are God-given and adaptive, sin distorts them just as it does everything else.

We'll talk more about sin, our responsibility, and mental health issues in our next post.

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