BY RICHARD D. DOBBINS
Today the pressures of living in our unhealthy society leave many Christians feeling stressed, anxious and depressed much of the time. This emotional distress is taking a terrible toll on marriage and
family life. Twenty-five percent of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages, and nearly 70 percent of third marriages fail. This means that one out of every two marriages in the U.S. is failing today.
Less than 25 percent of students graduating from high school in Ohio in the early ’90s registered the same parents’ names they did when they entered kindergarten. This means that these children had seen
their parents through at least one divorce.
The emotional impact this is having on our children is seen in the average age for onset of major depression. For girls this is 15, for boys it’s in the early 20s. For life to become that difficult for
people this young is a tragic commentary on what’s happening to marriage and family life in our country.
All of this sounds like the world Paul warns of: “There will be terrible times in the last days People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God ” (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NIV).
This helps to explain why Christians today may need counseling more than Christians of the previous generation. Some people mistakenly assume that good Christians (those who read their Bibles and pray
enough) will never have serious emotional problems.
It wasn’t until my first wife experienced postpartum depression following the birth of our first child that I began to understand how people who read the Bible and pray a lot could still have emotional problems. We looked for help in the church and in the medical community. But, we couldn’t find a preacher who understood our mental health problem and we couldn’t find a doctor who understood our faith.
That was years ago–how much more do Christians find themselves in need of mental health ministry today.
We need to encourage transparency and trust among members of our churches. Just having someone to whom you can pour out your heart and trust with your confidences could make the difference between mental health and mental illness at times in your life.
Thank God, many are beginning to understand that faith and emotions are intertwined. A sick faith can worsen your mental health. On the other hand, a healthy faith can enhance your mental health.
There’s a big difference between a sick Christian faith and a healthy Christian faith. It’s the difference between going to heaven and enjoying the trip. God wants you to have a healthy relationship with Jesus. He not only wants you to go to heaven, He wants you to enjoy the trip!
I once worked with a woman I’ll call Dorothy who had developed some obsessions. Her sick faith worsened her condition. She was spending hours daily in prayer, making her 10 and 8-year-old sons join her. She was neglecting her home. She refused to have sexual relations with her husband because God had now called her to be a celibate prayer warrior. Her religious behavior became less and less like that of a healthy spiritual faith and more and more resembled the troubling manifestations of a very serious mental illness.
Her husband had to threaten to take the children out of her custody before she would agree to get help. However, after a period of counseling and with the care of a devoted Christian psychiatrist who
treated her with proper medication and a healthy understanding of her faith, Dorothy made a full recovery. She now has a vibrant Christian faith and a happy, healthy Christian family.
God has given us guidelines for healthy living in the Word of God. He will help you apply these guidelines so you can be spared the confusion of an unhealthy faith while enjoying the benefits and
blessings of a healthy one.
The first guideline in determining the difference between the two is this: A healthy faith is affirmed in fellowship. Jesus will bring you close to people, not isolate you from people.
Another guideline of a healthy faith fosters self worth. This is not a feeling of pride– turns God against us and is condemned in Scripture (1 Peter 5:5,6). Self-worth recognizes that God has invested tremendous worth in us. That doesn’t mean that I am a person who is worthy of God’s love. I am unworthy, but I am not worthless. God considered us so valuable to Him that He gave His only begotten Son to answer the sin problem in life and reconcile us to himself.
At times, you may feel like a worthless person, but once you come to realize what your salvation cost God, you will understand that you are not worthless. You are a person of great value to God.
You may not even be serving the Lord, but God still cares for you. God’s love is not limited to His children. The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).
So a healthy faith reminds you of your worth. It helps you come to God and walk with Him as He wills His very best for you!
A healthy faith will not shield you from the storms of life, but it will help you through them. Some people have a kind of magical faith. They believe if they do and say the right things God will protect them from illness and tragedy. These people believe sickness and tragedy only happen because of a weakness in one’s faith. The danger of this kind of hyper-faith is seen in parents who pray for seriously sick children but refuse to get them needed medical attention for fear this would be seen as a sign of weak faith.
Belief in divine healing can put churches in a difficult position. We must remember that our job is to follow God’s Word regarding prayer for the sick. It isn’t our job to dictate who is healed and who is not healed. Remember, God has many ways of bringing healing–one of them being through the medical community.
So it’s my responsibility to pray for the sick; it’s in the hands of God to heal.
A healthy faith gives us the inner courage and strength to deal with the realities of life. We don’t have to deny that we’re sick in the name of faith. We don’t have to deny that we’re going through stressful times in our marriage and our family in the name of a healthy family. No one is exempt from the storms of life! Jesus made that very clear in His parable of the wise and foolish builders (see Matthew 7:24-28)– the life built on the rock of a healthy faith can stand the storms of life.
When trying to discern what God wants you to do about a problem and understand what only He can do, the following filter may be helpful.
FOUR TIPS FOR PUTTING FAITH INTO ACTION
1. Can ANYTHING be done about it? There are problems that we may never solve–ridding the world of cancer, eradicating world hunger or worldwide poverty. In these cases, be as helpful and compassionate as you can-but don’t let the enemy steal your peace and joy with burdensome guilt for not being able to do what ONLY GOD can do.
2. Can I PERSONALLY do anything about it? If there is a problem that can be solved, ask yourself if you have a role in solving it.
3. WHAT CAN I do about the problem? Ask yourself exactly how you can put your faith into action to help with the problem.
4. Can I do anything about the problem NOW? If you can, then get busy and do it now–if you can’t, mark your calendar and do it when you can.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE MEDIA MINISTRIES OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, VOL. 1., NO. 16. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.