Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
No doubt some psychologists and theologians alike are spitting teeth now over the title of this post. It is assumed to some degree on both sides that “Bible” and “psychology” are mutually exclusive. I do not believe that is correct, and here’s why.
My life as a Christian, a Jesus-follower, a born-again believer, or whatever one may wish to use to describe my faith, began at age 15. I was an angry child, mouthy, rebellious, and violent, a runaway who loosely held to a quasi-self-designed code of ethics. Adults would regularly comment I was trouble, lazy, and not living up to my potential.
At home, school, and church, the message was “you are not good enough because you don’t try hard enough.” Then I met my Savior. Only a few of the less healthy behaviors changed overnight. That is because my core belief system did not make room for grace.
Fast forward thirty-four years. I’d been a student of the Bible for decades and had developed some of my own conclusions. To me, God felt near and I wanted to honor him more than anything else. Nonetheless, my knowledge and experience in the faith could not hold back repeated waves of severe depression. All the “right” answers fell short of ending my mood disorder. During one harsh episode, I attempted suicide.
Enter psychology. What was introduced to me as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) became the framework around which everything began to make sense. Uncovering the past and hidden false beliefs was central to recovery. Finding out my needs matter led to getting them met. Challenging negative automatic thoughts illuminated the beauty of truth.
By practicing day-to-day exercises statistically proven to improve people’s lives, eventually my values trumped emotions (self-control). Learning of my right to be me raised my self-esteem. God’s love and purpose lost their ambiguity (trust). Education on how to think removed the shadow from certain scriptures (application). Knowledgable support led to letting go of the past (freedom!).
It’s not that the Bible does not instruct us in these matters. It does! However, how is one to “take thoughts captive” when she has no idea what her hidden core beliefs are? I was not taught healthy messages and how to think as a child. Many broken people can say the same.
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior. The Bible is such a study. From Job’s experience with loss, to David’s depression, to the mob mentality of the crowd at Jesus’s trial, analyzing Biblical accounts and characters reveals human nature at its best and worse.
The Bible offers solutions we can either choose or ignore. It deals directly with trust issues, the value of each person, relationships, motives, and thought distortions. It does not always explain outright how to apply specifics.
To insist psychology and the Bible are in opposition is to dismiss all the knowledge on either side that supports the other.
Psychology is the lifeline God threw to prevent this daughter from drowning.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.