An unfortunate but undeniable cultural stigma surrounds the topic of mental illness. Add decades of myths and flawed biblical teaching from the church to the mix and the shame only grows.
May is mental health awareness month. With the goal of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, activists work hard to raise general awareness and educate the public about mental health.
Mental illness affects all of us in one way or another. It affects our families, our friends, and our churches.
Mental health can be an overwhelming and confusing topic to approach, but it is so important for us to have a grasp on understanding it as best as we can. It is especially important to strive to understand mental illness as a believer in Christ.
If you are a Christian, you are part of the global church and hopefully a local body of believers. This network is a family of brothers and sisters aiming to know God and make Him known by showing the love of Christ to both believers and unbelievers. As a believer, you are called to be an encourager. While you will never fully understand the experiences of other people, you will find it much harder to encourage your brothers and sisters if you have no idea what they are going through.
Understanding mental illness is not a simple task. It would be easy to drown in resources with varying levels of practicality, helpfulness, and truthfulness. I want to make the confusion a little simpler for you.
Below are six of my favorite short resources that have helped me understand the realities of mental illness from a Christian perspective. I won’t claim to agree with every word of every article, but I can assure you that these are biblically sound and scientifically accurate articles. I have found them to be very helpful in my personal journey to better understand mental illnesses.
1. Why Christian Love Matters in Depression| Kathryn Butler
This article is a skillfully written, informative presentation of what depression is, how it can manifest in a believer’s life, and how the church should respond in love. If you were only going to read one of these articles, I would encourage you to read this one.
2. 5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety| Brandon W. Peach
This article is an easy read full of gracious yet powerful truth. If you are pressed for time and have trouble getting through more scientific writing, I would encourage you to start here.
3. Still Saints: Caring for Christians with Personality Disorders| Eric Johnson and Warren Watson
This is a transcript of a conversation (which you can also listen to the audio of) that I found very helpful in understanding personality disorders. It’s very long, scientific, and a little hard to get through, but if you have the time, you’ll find that the knowledge shared is practical and helpful.
4.Is Anxiety a Sin?| Joe Carter
This concise article is a super helpful guide to different kinds of anxieties that people experience. It’s a good place to start if you are hoping to understand the difference between sinful worries and anxiety disorders.
5. Scrambling for the Light: Christian Depression and the Use of Medication| Kathryn Butler
This is the most helpful resource I have found regarding medication and depression. The article is kind of long, but it touches on many important aspects of a topic that have been long debated among Christian therapists and counselors. I appreciate the author’s dedication to gospel hope while also explaining and accepting the realities of major depression.
6. When the Darkness Will Not Lift| John Piper
This short book is a good introduction and overview of spiritual depression. In just 73 pages, John Piper sheds light on the complexities of the spiritual darkness that sometimes coexists with depression. You can download a PDF copy of the book for free. This is the only resource on the list that specifically speaks to spiritual depression as opposed to clinical depression. While the two are closely related for any believer, I believe there is wisdom in separating the two for the sake of clarity.
I hope these resources help you better understand the complexities and realities of mental illness. I want to encourage you; don’t stop here! Don’t let fear or misunderstanding keep you away from learning more about mental health.
Too many people are standing on the sidelines with their eyes closed when it comes to mental illness. In order to steward our own mental health and encourage others effectively, we must keep our eyes open.