“Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?”: The Church & Mental Health

“I’m praying for you.”

“You just need some more Jesus.”

“Praise your way through it!”

“You just need more faith!”

“Shouldn’t you be over that by now?”

These are common clichés in the church world. While they are all true and have some merit in their respective places, they have been used for years as Band-Aids to mask deeper and darker issues of the soul. We’re taught early on to cover up and mask issues in the church with sayings like, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” (Well, maybe that’s your problem. You have on a mask and you can’t get help for what you’re going through!)

For years, the church as an institution has convinced its constituents that their mental health is not important. The institution has taught people that they lack faith or a certain level of spirituality because they desire to seek counseling or other forms of mental health services. We have focused on the spirit, but forgotten about the soul. We preach and prophesy to (or at) people Sunday after Sunday, but their soul is still in need of major repair.

This is not a statement of condescension, but rather a statement of experience and concern: In my 7 years of working in mental health, I’ve never seen so many undiagnosed mental health issues. Issues that plague our ranks, from the pulpit to the choir stand, from the pew to the parking lot, include depression (situational and organic/clinical), anxiety, psychotic disorders, bipolar and other emotional and mood disorders, death, grief and loss, thoughts of suicide, personality disorders and the like. Somewhere in the last few years, “we” have figured out that being saved, sanctified, full of the Holy Ghost and even “anointed and appointed” does not disqualify one from having a mental health problem, no matter the level of severity. (Mental health problems are “graded” on a continuum. There is more to mental health than “hearing voices”…)

The old mindset is still in full effect in some sectors of Christianity. If you are having problems in any of these areas, you either lack faith or you’re demon possessed in need of “deliverance”. This erroneous teaching and ideology has been passed down from generation to generation and it presents itself as diametrically opposed to our present reality. We have people sitting in our pews—and in our pulpits—who need real help, not for their spirit, but for their soul.

What do I do when I am saved (spiritually prosperous); physically healthy (good health); yet insolvent in my soul? Jesus asked an important question in the Gospels: “What does it profit a man to gain the world, but lose His soul?” We often equate this Scripture only to the initial work of Salvation from sin, however let’s take a deeper look.

Man is a triune being: body, soul and spirit. When God formed man according to Genesis 2:7, He formed him from the dust of the ground. This was his physical body. According to 1 Corinthians 15:46, he was made first natural, then spiritual. He then breathed a part of Himself into man (spirit) and then man became a living soul. The Hebrew word “soul” there is ‘Nephesh’.

The soul or the ‘nephesh’ is the will, appetite, desires, beliefs, personality and emotions of a man. It is man’s personality. It is his mind; the way he thinks. We are a spirit, we live in a body and we have a soul. The soul is also the seat of the heart and the mind—not the brain! When mankind fell in the Garden of Eden, it was the soul of man that became damaged because our souls desired sin.

When we get to the New Testament, we switch to a Greek transliteration of the Bible. The Greek word for soul is “psuche”, which is where we get the word “psychology”, which is literally the study of the soul.

This puts Jesus’ words in an entirely new context. What does it profit or benefit a man (or a woman) to gain the entire world, but lose his or her soul (‘psuche’)—mind, soul! I have found that many people in the church have gained things. We have gained titles, we have gained positions, we have gained big churches and large followings, we have gained money, we have gained fame (both inside and outside of the church), we have gained relationships and connections, and we have gained great success. However, what profit is it if we have all of these things but our souls—the essence of who we are—is not healthy. It’s a cover up.

Those things that we have gained then become likened to the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed for themselves in the Garden. They became aware of their nakedness and their vulnerabilities—their frailty, so they attempted to cover themselves. How many people use superficial coverings in a weak attempt to cover deep wounds of the soul?

This is why 3 John 1:2 (NKJV) admonishes us: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Since we are triune beings, it’s not enough to have good physical health and good spiritual health and not be emotionally healthy. That creates a false balance, which is an abomination.

I believe that there is a paradigm shift taking place in the Body of Christ. Many people are coming to the realization that we can no longer “have church” over soul issues. We can no longer dance, shout, speak in tongues, have praise breaks and pour oil over deep-seated soul issues. People need healing and they need wholeness and the only way to get it is to help walk people through these issues. We cannot heal what we continue to ignore.

To tell someone that they “just need prayer” is spiritually irresponsible. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. Yes, I am going to pray for you and then I’m going to counsel you! Even Proverbs 11:14 tells us that there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Many times people are praying and “casting out demons” and don’t even know what they’re praying for or against. Everything is not a demon and everything doesn’t need to be “casted out”. Some things are psychological and they need to be dealt with as such. Some people just need to be processed through the hurt, guilt and shame of their past which has caused them to live in a low place of negative core belief systems even though God has called them to sit in Heavenly places with Christ Jesus. Woe unto the church if we don’t at least get training in this area, if we so lack discernment to be able to tell the difference!

My assignment to the Body of Christ has been made even clearer over the past two years. I don’t just preach and prophesy. As one who is educated, credentialed, trained and experienced in the mental health field in the secular marketplace, God has graced me to use my expertise to reach out to pastors, leaders and lay members alike who desire to see significant change. Many pastors have come to terms with the fact that their churches need licensed, certified and trained therapists and counselors on staff to properly deal with some of these issues that “pastoral” or spiritual counseling alone cannot address.

For so long we have looked at psychology and theology as polar opposites, however there are too many Scriptures that support just the opposite. The marriage of theology and psychology is quite beautiful when joined correctly and responsibly. God desires that His people be whole and I am committed to doing my part to help the body of Christ come into a place of not only awareness and change, but healing and wholeness.

“Church folks” need professional counseling and therapy too. We can no longer fight or ignore this. We have a SOUL problem in our camp and what we’ve been doing has not been working. It’s time to dig deep and heal the soul. It’s time to stop having all of these major conferences (leadership conferences, men’s and women’s conferences, singles conferences, marriage conferences, etc.) and not having ANY component on mental health. People are suffering in silence while we’re “having church” and raising offerings. [Did I just say that?]

What more has to happen before we take mental health seriously in the church? Does another pastor have to commit suicide? Do more marriages have to break up? Do more sinful lifestyles have to be exposed for the entire world to see? Our approach has been reactive when it should be proactive. We are in a vicious cycle.

Yes, we need to pray. Yes, we need to fast and seek God. However, you can pray all day and fast until you become anorexic. If you don’t challenge and change the way you think (Proverbs 23:7, Romans 12:2) and come into a place of introspection, you’re wasting your time. The mind must be renewed!

I am not alone. There are plenty of saved, Holy Ghost filled, anointed therapist and psychologists on the scene now. No more masks, no more clichés, no more fig leaves. The question is not if help, healing and wholeness is available. You can’t recover until you uncover! The question is, “Wilt thou be made whole?”

~Selah

For counseling, consultation or speaking opportunities for Joshua, e-mail info@thejoshuasmith.com!

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