Paige Harkey
Student Writer

minds matter

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Suicide, the eighth-leading cause of death for all Americans, is the second-leading cause of death for college-age individuals. Mental illness, in general, is experienced by one-fifth of college students. Suicide is just one act of evidence of how difficult mental illness can be, and how hopeless the state of it may seem. College-age individuals, between the late teens or early twenties, also encounter a time where much growth happens in a student’s life – academically, mentally, and spiritually.

As students of Messiah College, and more importantly followers of Christ, we should look at Scripture to find encouragement through mental illness; but more importantly, we should also strive to look at mental illness through a scriptural lens. With the juxtaposition between mental illness diagnosis and spiritual intellect, it is only reasonable to look at mental health from a biblical point of view.

With all of the research, statistics, and knowledge about the biological component of mental illness, it is fairly easy to look past the central issue – sin. Though the fault of one’s specific mental illness may not lay on his/her own shoulders, the imperfection that resides in the complexity of the brain falls short due to the only explanation that we live in a fallen world full of sinful corruption. The correlation of mental and spiritual health should be closely looked at because the state of our sinful world impedes on our minds with spiritual and mental warfare.

Paul says in his letter to Rome that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds, that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). The confusion that comes with mental illness is a convoluting agitation and distraction that is almost impossible to explain to someone who does not suffer from mental illness. However, there is a promise made in this passage that says if our minds are to be transformed, that by testing, we will have the ability to discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect. We will be able to discern whether if what we are telling ourselves are words of truth or of lies, what we are thinking is good or is harmful, what we should or should not have control over, and we will be able to discern if the things mental illness causes us to think about are acceptable or destructive. Folks, this kind of clarity is something that is only given to us by the grace of God; not only is it irresistibly received despite the fact that we are not worthy of it, but it is promised to be furthered as a fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.

Symptoms of mental illness can be relieved through therapy, counseling, and even prescribed medication. However, the healing of the heart can only be done through our Lord Jesus Christ. The confusion in our minds, and the unexplained pain that we feel in our hearts, are consequences from the fall of man; but pain in our trials, minds, and hearts serve as living and beating proof that we were made for something greater. We were “darkened in [our] understanding and separated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in [us] due to the hardening of [our] hearts” (Ephesians 4:18 ESV). The prophet Jeremiah explains how our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately sick – who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV). What Jeremiah was describing is the confusion in human beings and the revolting state of our dead hearts. Because we have drifted so far from God, our own hardened hearts and ignorance that we’ve gathered actually gives strength to lies and to sin. So the only way to fight this sin and mental illness thoroughly is to confront it with the Truth that God literally gives us through His Word.

Mental illness, at its root, is mostly an assemblage of spiritual issues. For example, let’s look at depression. Edward Welch explains in his book Blame It On The Brain? that when we read the “technical description of depression, there are a few symptoms that are most likely spiritual problems. ‘Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt’ is the most obvious. Guilt is not a sin in itself, but it is a signpost pointing to a spiritual problem. Guilt is clearly an expression of the heart and conscious.” (In his book, Welch goes deeper into explaining the difference between mind and soul, and the distinction between chemical imbalances and disobedience.)

Mental illness is an extremely difficult battle to fight, and is not something that can be overcome by only relieving the symptoms. It is not something that should be ignored or judged by others. Everyone is fighting their own battle, unique to the way that God is working in his or her life. However, all and any of these issues can be addressed through God’s Word, regardless of what the impasse seems to be. This world that we live in was created by God, so the truth that He speaks into the Word also seeps through all of His creation, what inhabits it, and the process of both common and saving grace. The Word of God is then relevant to every aspect of our lives, such as marriage, education, sociology, biology, and even psychology; it is all perfectly spoken for our sinful souls to receive and be healed by truthfully and irresistibly. How great is the love of Christ that He not only rescues us from this body of death, but He also uses pain in our minds, hearts, and lives as a way of sanctification!

Please enjoy my weekly columns to come, where I will continue to look at the comparison between spiritual and mental health.

Paige Harkey is a member of Messiah’s Minds Matter organization.

 

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