Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1967
NUMBER 36, PAGE 3b,5b

Emotional Problems And Faith

Joyce Fling

Emotional problems and disturbances are increasingly in our modern society. It is the general view in psychiatric circles that one out of seven adults and one out of ten children in the United States have emotional-based problems of the depth to require professional attention. It appears that emotional illness is no respecter of persons regardless of age or background.

Even Christians are not immune. At least, I wasn't. And that is why I am writing this. I had a "nervous breakdown" and spent three bleak and bitter years swallowed up in a severe emotional illness. And what happened to me can happen to anyone, even one who considers himself a faithful Christian.

Some people mistakenly believe that mental illness is brought about by a sinful and profligate life. This was not so with me. I was baptized as a girl, was a faithful teenager, did not lead a "wild" life or commit the kind of sins for which I should have felt any deep, lingering remorse. I was spiritually-minded and eventually married a preacher, intending to share his life of preaching Christ and building up the church. But I became desperately sick anyway--emotionally.

Jesus warned that the "cares" of this life could cause a person to bring "no fruit to perfection." (Lk.8:14) Deep-seated emotional problems bring "cares" of a morbid sort, the kind that most certainly can result in a fruitless life, UNLESS SOMETHING IS DONE.

Abnormal emotional problems, I am fully confident, will eventually damage one's faith, if untreated. And yet, I read articles occasionally from preachers (who are well-meaning, I am sure) who discourage emotionally-disturbed Christians from seeking the services of a psychiatrist or psychologist. They tell them that psychiatrists try to undermine one's faith and may completely destroy it. In the course of my own illness, I was treated by 2 private physiatrists, 3 psychologists, plus 3 psychiatrists and a specialized team of psychiatric nurses in a mental hospital. Not once did any of them try to discredit the Bible, my personal faith, or God. But before I sought any of their help, MY FAITH WAS TAKING A BEATING FROM THE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS THEMSELVES. Deeply-rooted mental problems, untreated, will eat away at the soul just as surely as cancer will the body.

In fairness I must say that just as there may be surgeons who are evangelists for atheism or Adventism, so there may be psychiatrists or psychologists of this type. However, if such there be, they are incompetent and out of step with the goals of the profession.

I feel compelled to write these things because there are so many I have observed, in the church and out, that show symptoms of having rather deep-seated emotional problems. And either out or pride, embarrassment, ignorance, fear, or some other reason they will not get the help they so urgently need. Jesus advised, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matt. 9:12) The mind can get sick, too. And when symptoms appear, one should seek professional help immediately. To delay is to put one's faith in jeopardy.

1. It would be folly to deny the reality of mental sickness.

a. All medical authorities, surgeons, neurologists, internists, obstetricians, etc. , have acknowledged sickness based on emotional or mental disturbances. (My first visit to a psychiatrist was the result of an M.D.'s advice who, after a battery of lab tests, found nothing organic to cause my illness.)

b. That mental illness is a reality and not all illusion is proven beyond doubt by the effect of drugs of a chemical nature that are used to treat effectively these sicknesses.

2. To stubbornly refuse to get treatment when one knows he is ill, or suspicions it, is folly also.

a. Pride, especially in males, seemingly causes them to blind themselves to their emotional disturbances.

b. Fear of losing one's faith has hindered some from getting professional help when they suspected emotional problems.

c. Money problems hinder people from getting help. My husband panicked when the M.D. advised psychiatric treatment, especially when the doctor candidly stated that it might cost $2,000 to get me well. "I can't afford it!" he gasped. The doctor wisely asked, "Could you afford a new car when you need one? Which is more important--a healthy, happy wife or a car you'll have to replace in 3 or 4 years?" If you are sick, don't say you can't afford to get help. You can't afford NOT to.

Jesus said only the good and honest heart would allow the Word of God to grow freely. An honest heart is essential in this area, too, because (as it has already been pointed out) emotional problems will eventually damage one's faith. If you have strong suspicions regarding your own mental health or that of any member of your family, face them as honestly as you would if the doctor told you, you had some physical malady.

And I will say this final word: I firmly believe that a mentally healthy person can derive all the "therapy" he needs from God's word. Believing God and believing in His Word enough to practice the precepts therein will alleviate guilt, anxiety, and fear, the three major causes of mental disease. The mentally sick person, however, can no more turn to the Bible alone for cure any more than a man with a coronary problem can.

To live with emotional illness can be a miserable life and, spiritually, a fruitless one.

"They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."