The Battlefield For The Soul
When we speak about a person’s mental health, what are we referring to? A person’s mental health is his/her condition with regard to his/her psychological and emotional well-being. Mental health disorders are a disruption of normal mental functions. They can affect your thinking, mood, and influence your behavior. Do some people refuse to correct sinful behavior in their lives and instead fall back on the excuse of a mental disorder? Certainly. The names of some conditions that are labeled as mental disorders seem to indicate that excuses are being made for sinful choices. Does that mean that people do not genuinely experience temporary or even long-term mental disorders or afflictions? Certainly not. Our bodies are subject to the effects of a suffering and groaning creation, and our minds are no exception. Couple that with the fact that we have an enemy that is able to influence our minds with suggestions and temptations, and we understand why the “mind” is considered to be the battlefield of the soul.
People experience a wide range of mental difficulties, such as PTSD, depression, bipolarism, dementia, cognitive distortions, scrupulosity, obsessive compulsive disorder, and false memories, to name a few. Some of these are the result of traumatic or highly stressful incidents such as battlefield experiences, assaults, or the overlapping of separate but similar stressful events. Some, such as scrupulosity, are the result of the mind perceiving unwanted junk thoughts or intrusive thoughts as if they might somehow be an indicator that a person desires to engage in inappropriate behavior. It is also true that people can experience attacks on their minds from the powers of darkness, such as Paul did when the messenger of Satan was sent to perpetually buffet him. Christians from time past, such as Martin Luther and John Bunyan wrote about the pain they experienced due to thoughts they had that were deeply troubling. They did not choose to give in to the suggestions of their minds, but the mind is so complex, it can be difficult at times to determine what our thoughts mean. It is important to remember that mere thoughts are not sinful, nor are temptations sinful, only the decision of the will to partake in the unholy suggestion is sinful. A person can certainly sin with his or her mind, but it would require dwelling on the thought itself for sinful gratification, rather than merely having the thought and feeling it’s tempting pull. We can also find ourselves having certain thought patterns, where the very things we do not want to think continue to pop up into our minds, causing us despair. To use the word my wife uses after studying the concept, we can create “ruts” in our minds that our thought waves constantly fall into. Not because we want to think negative or inappropriate thoughts, but because of the very fact we do not want to think those thoughts, and because such strong emotions are attached to those thoughts, our brains constantly remind us of the thoughts because they have been deemed “important” by the brain’s fight, flight, or freeze response. When you are afraid of seeing monsters in the shadows, as you walk along, the thought of monsters are ever present. The good thing is, according to something known as neuroplasticity, the mind can be trained to fill in the negative ruts, and a person can truly think on that which is lovely and of good report and create good ruts. A definition of neuroplasticity from the web is: “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.” Though it is geared toward mothers specifically, we recommend a book called “Create a Better Brain through Neuroplasticity” by Debi Pearl.
There are other examples that can be provided when it comes to genuine mental afflictions, but the point is, when people are experiencing mental difficulties, it is a narrow minded response to simply state that the person needs to “get right with God.” It is true, there may be something in a person’s life he or she needs to repent of, but mental difficulties are not all necessarily the result of sin in someone’s life. People are hurting in our world and they need help. Rather than assuming someone just “needs to get right with God”, we would do well to seek understanding in these areas. Sometimes people need a helping hand to get through their mental struggles. There are Christian psychologists that are trained to help people in these areas. In my opinion, pastors should seek training in this area, or include those with this kind of training in their counseling sessions with others when it is warranted. Some pastors might lack the humility to say that some situations are beyond their scope of knowledge, but the truth is: there are situations that are beyond their scope of knowledge. We have people in the body of Christ that have been educated and trained on how to deal with certain matters, and the hurting people in our churches (and society) should be able to benefit from their knowledge, skills, and abilities as they utilize them in accordance with God’s principles.