Pastor Marc Likins
Mental health awareness is a popular conversation topic today. The world has come up with its remedies of medicating and psychologizing, and often Christians are found wondering about the Bible’s response to this discussion. But God was aware of this idea before it became mainstream, and the Bible presents emotional health as critical, complex, and controllable.
Emotional health is critical.
Proverbs 18:14 - The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
See the contrast? Even through a physical trial, one can find stability if the internal is strong, however, who can bear a wounded spirit? Maintaining our inward health is so critical that Proverbs says it is more important than maintaining our outward health. The strongest person can be debilitated by emotional turmoil. Mental health concerns are at an all-time high, especially following the past eighteen months, and it’s been reported that one in five people have clinical-level concerns. Everyone can relate to being emotionally thin or having pockets of anxiety and depression. The Bible places a lot of weight on the importance of emotional health.
Emotional health is complex.
Why? First off, our emotions are mingled.
Proverbs 14:13 - Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
Understanding the truth of this statement is paramount. Joy is often felt with a tinge of sadness behind it, and even the saddest times have the silver lining of God’s promises. There are certain sorrows that will never be remedied with laughter, even if the laughter is genuine. Remember when the only perfect man to ever live wept?
This is why versions of Christianity that promote the “always joyful” response to life are at times problematic. That is a simpleton’s response to reality. It’s not only possible, it’s a sure reality that our emotions mingle.
Second, our emotions are also multidimensional.
Proverbs 14:30 - A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 - A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
We like to keep the immaterial and material separated. Physicians can only treat the body. Pastors can only speak to the spiritual. And we leave the mental to the psychologists. But the Bible combines these ideas and treats them holistically. It recognizes that there is a physical aspect that requires rest and food and maybe medicine, there is a relational aspect that requires friends and support, and there is a spiritual aspect that requires truth and worship. And all of these mingle together and affect each other. Christianity’s view of emotions is not reductionistic but the most nuanced and multidimensional that I have ever found.
Emotional health is controllable.
Controllable does not equal a magical treatment to your emotional health. There is no way to subdue and manage all your emotions. But there is a way to prevent them from completely ruling your life. You are complex, and your emotions are complex, but there are ways to respond to these complexities that allow you to manage your emotional health.
1. Relationships = Relational
Proverbs 12:25 - Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
Proverbs 15:30 - The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.
Let me put those two verses to you this way: good words and someone with light in their eyes can help your emotions. Joy can be found in receiving encouraging words from friends and enriching our relationships. This is part of the reason that we assemble for church—to find encouragement in worshipping and rejoicing together.
2. Realistic Expectations = Mental
Proverbs 13:12 - Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
At the core of the human heart are not just emotions but hopes, longings, and desires. When something we long for is deferred or delayed, we become heartsick. What do you long for, hope for, and desire? And are you setting yourself up for failure by desiring what is out of your reach? Do you feel obligated to keep up with what culture tells you to desire? Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself and become discontent with the station that God has given you.
3. Righteousness = Spiritual
Proverbs 29:6 - In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.
Sin and despair are still prevalent in our lives and world. In fact, it is only in eternity that sin receives its full retribution and goodness its complete reward. Yet, anyone leading a wise life, regardless of the inevitable difficulties, will have times of joy and laughter. The righteous doth sing and rejoice.