Relational Discipleship and Mental Health

Relational Discipleship and Mental Health 

Since Genesis 3, we have experienced the shockwaves of a fallen world. The God of order, peace and perfection has been uninvited, and so the universe is “cracked.” What fills in those cracks are the result from the cosmic rupture in the fall. Through no fault of our own, many of us are born with various maladies or disorders. 

Do I understand how all this works? No. Do I know what God is doing to unwind it? Yes and no. Romans 8.28 “All things work together for the good of those called according to his purpose.” Important to keep this in mind. God is not the cause of our various health issues—this can be traced back to the fall.

So, we are all dealt different hands, with different talents, and struggles. While we are quick to acknowledge and respect visible struggles such as someone walking with a cane or walker after an injury or old age—we tend to disregard the unseen struggles that happen in the mind.

This is not becoming of a people who are concerned primarily with unseen things! Christianity is to regard the “whole person” of our neighbor, including mind, body and spirit with great care and concern. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12.31) This is to the ultimate end of helping them enter or deepen a relationship with Christ.

While the primary mission of the church is not to be a therapist’s office—how we deal with each person’s personal struggles will say a lot about the love we have for them. Can you ever imagine Jesus instructing someone to “just toughen up” or “just get over” their depression, anxiety or addiction in a dismissive way? Certainly not. 

So, our charge is to the best of our ability help people work through their various struggles to the ultimate end of helping them know and experience the love of Jesus. This is relational discipleship. If this is your lifestyle, then eventually you will meet other Christ-followers or would-be disciples with mental health issues. How should we handle these issues?

  1. Acknowledge that we are not judges. We are not meant to judge, evaluate our measure people by their struggles. Matthew 7.1-2 instructs us to judge people the way that we would like to be judged, fairly, with great measures of mercy. No one wants to be made a caricature based on a struggle. Make yourself a safe person to talk to about mental health struggles.
  2. Refer to resources. Counselors, especially Christians who are well-trained in handling complex neurological conditions and trauma are a good resource to refer someone to if they are struggling with mental health. Medicine, natural and man-made are also blessings from God when used with biblical wisdom. 
  3. Wonderful Counselor. Jesus himself is described as a counselor. Our relationship with him is healing in many capacities. His promises gives us hope for a day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes. (Revelation 21.4)

Pat Reeder

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