My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. — Psalm 73:26 NIV
In This Weekly Devotional:
- Understanding Mental Illnesses and Mental Health
- Reminders for Christians Battling With Mental Illness and Mental Health
- How the Church Can Love Those With Mental Illness
Understanding Mental Illnesses and Mental Health
In some Christian communities, there can be a stigma around having a mental illness or struggling with mental health issues.1 Unfortunately, this can make it even more difficult for Christians facing mental illness to seek the help and resources they need. It is important that as believers we understand the facts about mental health and do not disregard the prevalence of mental illness.
What Is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a term used to encompass many different mental disorders. For example, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD are some types of mental illnesses. Having a mental illness is relatively common with one-fifth of Americans experiencing mental illness each year.2 Over one-half of adults are diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder or illness during their lifetime.2
There are many different factors that contribute to mental illness, but there is no one cause. Biological factors, trauma, medical conditions, chemical imbalances, drugs, alcohol and loneliness can all play a part.2 Family history of mental illnesses and high stress situations are also risk factors.3
Fortunately for those struggling with mental illness, there is hope and help. Many symptoms of mental illness are manageable with the right resources, and people diagnosed with mental illness may live fulfilling lives. Talking with a doctor or therapist and forming healthy habits, such as getting adequate sleep, can help with the symptoms of mental illness.3
Do Christians Experience Mental Illness?
Yes, Christians do experience mental illness. Christian faith and mental health struggles can both be present for believers. Just as a Christian may face a physical illness or injury, so they may also face a mental one. After Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis and the Fall, hardship, pain and struggle has been a part of the world for both believers and non-believers alike.
Experiencing a mental illness does not mean that someone is spiritually immature or that they are living a punishment for their actions or that they do not pray enough. Even in the Bible, we can see the struggle with mental health issues. For example, many people believe that the prophet Elijah may have battled with depression in 1 Kings 19:4-14. There are also other figures who are believed to have suffered from mental illness, including David and Jonah.4
A recent Lifeway Research study found that 26% of U.S. protestant pastors struggle with a mental illness personally.5 Even faith leaders are not immune from mental health problems. This helps show that mental illness is not a reflection of the person or their actions. Rather, just a reminder of the state of the imperfect world we live in.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Mental health relates to emotional, psychological and social well-being.1 A person may experience poor mental health without being diagnosed with a mental illness. For example, different situations and outside pressures may result in someone going through a period of poor mental health. Similarly, someone with a mental illness may experience periods of positive well-being and good mental health.2
How Do I Take Care of My Mental Health?
Taking care of your mental health may look different at different points in life. Perhaps, some people take care of their mental health by ensuring a consistent bedtime and wake up time. For others, it could be eating three fulfilling meals a day.
For some, it could be spending quiet time in God’s Word away from busyness and distractions. At times, it could be getting together with friends and family members. It could also mean talking with a mental health professional or attending a support group.
Reminders for Christians Struggling With Mental Illness and Mental Health
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Whether you’ve struggled with mental illness for a long time, or you have recently seen a decline in your mental health, there is hope. Here are some encouraging reminders for Christians struggling with mental illness:
You Are Loved
We love because he first loved us. — 1 John 4:19 NIV
You are loved, in the midst of the good times and the bad times. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). God is love and his love is not conditional. He created us and values us.
God also puts people in our lives who love us. He called us as believers to love one another and care about one another. However, no earthly love could ever compare to the love he has for us and we can cling to that in the midst of our struggles.
You Are Not Alone
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. — Matthew 28:20 NIV
When we become Christians, we are adopted into his family. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, ” (John 1:12). We have brothers and sisters in Christ who also are going through similar experiences. It is important to remember even in the hardest times, we are never alone and there are many other people who are also learning how to live with their mental health situations.
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs 18:24). Even when we are at our loneliest and feel we have hit rock bottom emotionally, God has not abandoned us.
He is with us each and every day. Mental illness can make us feel lonely and isolated. However, even when our emotions are strong and the loneliness feels at its worst, we are not alone.
You Are Not a “Bad Christian”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. — Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
There are a lot of stigmas surrounding Christianity and mental health and sometimes it can lead to Christians feeling like they are not good enough or are failing due to a mental illness. However, having a mental illness is not a sin and in no way means you are weak. Facing a mental illness takes strength and courage each day.
It is also important to remember that nothing we do saves us, whether we have a mental illness or not. It is God’s grace and gift of salvation for us that we can truly have confidence in.
There Is Hope and Help
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. — Romans 12:12 NIV
If you are struggling with a mental illness, remember there is hope and help. There are mental health professionals who are equipped with tools to help reduce the symptoms of mental illness as well as help connect you with resources that can benefit you.
Although not all churches have mental health resources, some do offer Christian counseling opportunities as well as other outreach ministry for those recovering from mental health struggles.
Ultimately, our hope comes from God and his promises. He is the one with power and authority in our lives. However, we should take advantage of the knowledgeable people he has put in our lives.
How the Church Can Love Those With Mental Illness
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. — Ephesians 4:2 NIV
For those in the church who have not personally experienced mental illness, it can be hard to relate or understand the struggles of those who have. Here are some ways you can love and care for those struggling with mental illness:
- Avoid stigmatizing and stereotyping: For those struggling with mental illness, there is enough pain and fear without the worry of being judged or stereotyped for their mental illness. Avoid using phrases or making comments that could make someone feel isolated or ostracized.
- Don’t offer false “cures” or “solutions” to pain: It may be tempting to tell someone with a mental illness to “pray more” or “just trust God” when they are explaining their struggles. This is not helpful and can make the person feel worse. Mental illness is not just a matter of praying more.
- Listen and understand it’s hard: Be willing to listen to those struggling with mental illness. They have unique insights and have firsthand experience dealing with the effects of mental illness. Show empathy for those who have a mental illness and understand that their mental health journey is not easy.
- Pray: No matter what someone is going through, whether it be life changes, a physical sickness or injury or mental health struggles, prayer is a power tool. Prayer should not be viewed as a magic cure to mental health issues, but it is a way to bring it to God and hand it over to him.
- Show genuine love and care: Showing love for those with mental illness can mean a lot. Even simple actions that show you care can go a long way to someone who is struggling.
- Check in and offer support: If you have the time to listen, send a text or schedule a meet up just to spend time with the person. Time is valuable but showing up and being there is an encouraging example of love.
- Encourage professional help: Encourage those with mental illness to seek professional help. Sometimes taking the first step to getting help can be daunting, so encouragement and support during the process is valuable. Being there for them after they begin seeking treatment is a way to show you care for their well-being and value them.
Are you interested in learning more about faith and mental health? Consider exploring psychology and counseling degree programs at Grand Canyon University (GCU), such as the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Christian Counseling. These degrees are designed to teach you how to serve others within your community. For more information on GCU’s Christian mission, fill out the form on this page.
1 Robertson, G. (2021, October 15). How I Dealt With Mental Health Discrimination in the Church. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved on June 1, 2023.
2CDC. (2021, June 28). About Mental Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April, 18, 2023.
3Mayo Clinic Staff (2022, Dec. 13). Mental Illness. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
4McDaniel, D. (2021, Mar. 21). 7 Bible Figures Who Struggled with Depression. Crosswalk. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
5Earls, A. (2022, Aug. 2). Pastors Have Congregational and, for Some, Personal Experience With Mental Illness. Lifeway Research. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on June 1, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.