Faith and Mental Health
This is an exclusive column for The World And Everything In It. It’s available as an audio commentary here.
“If only we could recognize mental health issues before something tragic happens!” That’s the common refrain from those who think the world has remedies for the soul. The problem isn’t identifying mental illness. Too often, the problem is glorifying it. A me-centered worldview hates a Christ-centered one.
The book of Romans contrasts life in our sinful nature versus life in the Spirit. So many needlessly live in a circular pattern: sin, suffer, forget, repeat. Romans 8:5-7 declares: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.”
The world often downplays and demonizes true faith, yet it’s the key to better health, mentally and spiritually.
According to Psychology Today, some “religious belief and practice is associated with better mental health.” A Mayo Clinic study on religion and mental health reported: “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide.”
In this case, Science reinforces biblical truths.
We have the power to choose life or death. For a long time, I chose the latter. Instead of holding every thought captive, I allowed my thoughts to hold me captive. On the outside, I was Ryan the business entrepreneur, youth leader/mentor, lead singer in a group on the verge of being signed, the one who “had it all together”. On the inside, I was Ryan, the wounded, who was broken, angry at God, in tatters, and unable to see the reality about me. I was allowing my sinful nature to lead me to, and over, the edge of self-destruction. I was holding on by a badly frayed thread of faith.
Tragically, we often don’t believe the pain in our heads and hearts is temporal and healable. I allowed deception about my worth to diminish what I knew to be true. I was obeying my negative thoughts instead of, as 2 Corinthians 10:5 puts it, making my thoughts obey Christ. Before I knew it, I was so consumed that constant darkness felt normal.
I’ll never forget crying out to God one night on a drive home from work. It set me free — instantly — after a decade of struggle. I know faith doesn’t always bring immediate healing this side of Heaven. There are many factors in mental health, including “thorns in the flesh” that God allows to show His strength in our weakness.
But for me, faith was the key that opened the prison door of despair. I haven’t suffered from depression a day of my life since that moment I chose the Truth over a lie.
I’m Ryan Bomberger.