Mental Health, Spirituality, and the Christian Faith

Mental Health is in the news these days. I know, some people struggle with the idea of speaking about subjective and psychological weaknesses. Some even think that it doesn’t have a place within Christianity. Nothing can be farther from the truth, however.

This attitude comes more from a spiritual weakness in which we use our Christianity as a mask to put forward an image of strength. And yet, St. Paul’s words are clear (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) that our strength is most clearly seen in our weakness. Theologically, Paul is pointing out that the strength we muster inside of ourselves based on our character or on cultural narratives is really an obstacle to our spiritual lives. Luther calls this phenomenon our ‘Old Adam’ where we try to salvage our own (self) image based on any number of factors – but always rooted in our broken and sinful self.

A quick read through Romans chapters 6-9 illustrates Paul’s insights into that dynamic – where our broken self tries its hardest to defend and protect it’s own interests – rather than letting go of them (letting them die with Christ in our Baptism) so that He (Jesus) can rebuild us from the inside out. After all, it is in Jesus that we find our ultimate fulfillment – it’s just that it is so hard for our self-built egos to let go.

I’m not suggesting here (in any way) that, when you struggle, that you shouldn’t reach out for help from mental health professionals. What I am getting at is that the Church has had a long tradition of wrestling through the inner movements of the soul in order to untangle the inner mess that we carry around within ourselves. And while, mental health professionals are slowly discovering these treasures and trying to adapt them for a ‘secular’ context – there is a wonderful richness that comes with reconnecting them to our ultimate anchor – Jesus Christ.

Yes, meditation (on Scripture) and prayer. These are fundamental ingredients within this movement of the Spiritual life. Participating in the Sacraments are important too – because it is there that Jesus actually snatches us up into the dying and rising that lies at the root of this ongoing process of spiritual warfare. But this is a dying and rising which is rooted in Christ – in His perfect death and resurrection – rather than in our own self-made solutions. Learning this is a process that takes time. It digs beneath the tangled web of our thoughts, feelings, and fantasies in order to open our hearts to rest in Jesus’ forgiveness and care.

It is far too easy for us to fall into the trap of settling for partial solutions – quick fix comforts – and yet, the Holy Spirit gently leads us and prompts us to go deeper – never to destroy us – but to lead us into a richer encounter with our Loving Saviour.

If you are struggling, talk to your pastor. He is there to be a support for you. And while, not every pastor has gone through the same things, they are all fellow-sojourners on this journey of learning to let go (of self) so that we can be lead by Jesus our Saviour (Matthew 16:24).

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