Why will psychotherapy and medicine fail to solve today’s epidemic of emotional disorders? Because they fail to acknowledge what is actually broken and the only solution to fix it.
Man observes what he can see and touch. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Psychology, the scientific study of mental functions and behavior, was birthed by a secular Jew. Freud was a scientist of his generation, which meant that he studied life divorced from God. Medicine says, “Man is flesh. When something in man’s flesh is broken, the cause is something fleshly. Something that can be studied, touched and tested.” A mental doctor, or psychologist, also believes his patient’s body is broken. Emotional pain and destructive behavior are caused by a malfunction of the brain or hormones. Bad feelings equals bad brain.
Mental health medicine and especially pharmaceutical medicine has grown up with this philosophy, and now there is a pill or physical diagnosis for every troubling feeling we experience. And folks, not only are unbelievers popping these pills, but you or a person sitting in your aisle at church might be medicated for some sort of emotional distress.
It may work for a while, but it is not fixing the problem.
God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
God, who dwells in the unseen other dimension, connects with the part of you that touches with His world. We call it the spiritual self or your soul. The Bible calls it your heart. It is this vital, eternal part of you that the psychologist ignores. And it is in this mysterious center of our existence that our problem lies.
Jesus tells us that every bad behavior is rooted in our heart. Every desire and thought is birthed in this spiritual organ, not in our brains. And the reason we behave badly and have painful feelings and thoughts is not because our chemicals are out of balance, but because our heart is wicked. Jeremiah says we are so steeped in this wickedness, we aren’t even aware of it.
But is God, who can see this spiritual mess, a silent spectator? Of course not! He speaks up and diagnoses our emotional and behavior problems in the Bible. He reached through time and space to sacrifice His dearest child to mend our broken hearts. This is gospel. This is what will order your disorders and cure your diagnosis.
The cure for mental and behavior disorders is found in changing the diagnosis.
If you believe that our mental and behavior problems are rooted in the heart not the brain, it is important to re-label your problem based on God’s Word. Why? Because then you can apply His cure and have hope to change! Let me explain what this can look like.
Carol is a mother of three. She struggles with anxiety and depression. She doesn’t sleep well and has a hard time getting out of the house for days on end. If Carol visited a doctor for these troubling symptoms, she would probably undergo a series of tests to check chemical balances, be diagnosed with a disorder, and walk out with a prescription in hand for something to make her feel better. This may or may not work right away, and over time begin to work less and less, accompanied by unwelcome side effects.
Now if Carol decided to ask God for answers instead, and turned to the pages of her Bible with careful study, it would reveal that her heart was failing her. Carol’s heart longed to be a successful, model mother. This desire superseded her desire to glorify God. She longed for this more than she wanted to love those around her. This is what made her get up in the morning and what she dreamed about in her restless sleep at night. She wanted other people to look at her and think she was super-mom. Her thoughts swirled around how she could accomplish her heart’s desire until they became second nature and she didn’t even hear what she was thinking.
When Carol’s children didn’t model what she thought was a good reflection of her mothering skills, she got angry and yelled. And a yelling mother wasn’t her ideal of mothering! So then the guilt set in. Instead of confessing to God and her children her sin and seeking their forgiveness, she began to worry if her kids hated her and if others thought she was a bad mom. A lot. Worry is sin. Carol began to fear what people thought about her more than she feared what God thought about her. Fearing what others think is sin. Instead of confessing her anxiety, she tried to alleviate it by over-indulging her kids to insure their love. Then she had a whole new set of worries because her children were acting spoiled! Then Carol began to feel sorry for herself. Self-pity is our modern label for ingratitude. Thanklessness is sin. Of course Carol feels terrible! The combination of guilt, worry, and self-pity is a deadly, painful cycle.
Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a good mom, but when Carol wanted to be a good mom more than she wanted to do what is right, then this desire became sin. Not a disorder that she can’t control, but something she will be held accountable for.
As Carol begins to see that her desires, thoughts and behaviors are sinful and they are causing her emotions, and even her body, to react painfully, she does what Christians should do as second-nature, she confesses her idolatry, fear and worry and finds forgiveness. Now, she can begin to work on changing the sinful habits she has grown accustomed to by replacing them with Christ-like actions. And Carol CAN change, because she has the Holy Spirit empowering her to do the hard work.
The Christian struggling with troubled emotions and behaviors will find hope and change by applying the life-transforming truths God has given us in the ancient words of the Bible.
Need to read more?
Blame it on the Brain by Dr. Ed Welch
Will medicine stop the Pain? Finding God’s healing for Depression, Anxiety and other troubling emotions. by Laura Hendrickson and Elyse Fitzpatrick