Biblical, Mental and Emotional Health
Let me first start this out by saying, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, a therapist, or anyone of the professions dedicated to bringing us good emotional or mental health. I have no formal training in any of this. Whenever necessary, I refer people to professionals for the help they need. Instead, I am in the salvation business. Yet I hesitate to call salvation a business, rather calling it a calling or a service. I enjoy preaching, teaching and sharing the gospel message with others. Yet, I have learned that the Bible has information to help us with anyone of a number of problems that arise in our life, on a daily basis.
Surprisingly, emotional health and spiritual health often go hand in hand. Sometimes we cannot receive, or feel we cannot receive spiritual help until we have achieved emotional help. At other times the spiritual has to be dealt with before the emotional can be tackled. I have even seen the physical aspect of peoples lives change as they begin to work on the spiritual and mental aspect of their life.
More often than not, the spiritual, mental and physical need to be worked on at the same time. I thank God that he has promised to be with each of us through each step of the way to better physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
But as I said at the beginning, this little study is not meant to be a substitute for professional health care. If you have thoughts of suicide, harming yourself or others, please seek professional help. Seeking professional help is not a cop out, does not mean you are weak. It is an admission that there are things in this life that are bigger than we are, which a good Christian therapist working in conjunction of the Holy Spirit can help us understand who we really are. So, let’s begin.
We have all had it happen to us, gone in for a medical procedure, an eye examination, the dentist or oral surgeon thinking that out insurance is going to cover it. Only to find out that they require payment in full before the procedure. “How does this work, when I already check with my insurance carrier and they assured me it was covered,” I asked?
Their response was, “You pay the bill and when your insurance pays its portion, we will send the overpayment back to you.”
Sounds a little ridiculous to me, especially since I was unprepared because I didn’t bring my check book. So reluctantly, I put it on a credit card, $1500.00 worth all in one shot. Luckily, I had card that had a high enough limit that allowed me to make such a payment because typically my wife and I rarely use credit cards.
I certainly didn’t want to argue with them, so I pulled the credit card out and handed it to her signed my life away and waited to be called back for the procedure.
After waiting for 20 minutes I looked at the receptionist who suddenly stated, “the Doctor was a little behind, and I would soon be seen.”
The clock continued to tick by and soon another twenty minutes had passed. Why was it so important to take the medicine exactly two hours before the procedure if they’re not going to start on time? What would they say to me if I showed up an hour late for an appointment? This tardiness shows no respect for the patient. I’m going to complain! I was becoming quite angry and frustrated. My heart was pounding, my jaw was clamped shut. And my fists were clenched. I had even begun preparing my scathing speech when my cell phone rang. A friend needed some information and so we started to chat and by the time I was called back for the procedure, well I didn’t feel like complaining even though they were running an hour late. I sent a prayer upward thanking Jesus for giving me the opportunity to regain my composer and to remain the calm and polite patient.
Emotions are the spice of life; for without them, life would be absolutely bland. Emotions help us enjoy people, places, and experiences. They enable us to be passionate about our beliefs and convictions. But they can also lead us to make mistakes, to hurt people, to feel awful, and to sin. In the Christian life, emotional experiences are a way to live the great controversy between good and evil. This is why it is of utmost importance for all believers to know their emotional strengths and weaknesses and to pray at the right times and with the right choice of thoughts and attitude to preclude negative emotions and promote positive ones.
Love, joy, trust, tenderness, empathy, happiness, and forgiveness are positive emotions. Sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, remorse, disgust, and hatred are negative emotions. Much of the therapy that takes place in the counseling room has to do with helping people to know and govern their emotions, to dispel their adverse feelings, and to harbor the positive ones in such a way to avoid psychological pain.
People can initiate soothing emotions through religious practices, and fervent prayer may be the most direct way. Reading the Bible, particularly proverbs, Psalms, and the promises scattered through scriptures, encourages peace, tranquility, and the flow of positive emotions. Searching for stories of Bible characters who used their emotions appropriately, especially the stories that feature Jesus, can help us learn to face our emotions well.
Bible Stores of Negative Emotions
The Bible contains several stories in which people follow their emotional impulses with bad results for themselves and those entangled in their lives. Let us look at the stories of two such biblical characters, Samson and Amnon.
Samson’s biography, found in chapters 13 thru 16 of the book of Judges, and is packed with strong emotions.
- Samson sees a young Philistine woman. Filled with infatuation, and before he knows even her name, he decides to marry her (Judges 14:1, 2).
- When Samson realizes that his wife has revealed the answer to his riddle, he kills thirty men to obtain what he needs to pay off his bet, and then goes to his father’s house ‘burning with anger” (14:19).
- Next Samson finds out that his wife has been given to another man, so he burns the entire grain crop of the Philistines. This results in the death of his wife and her father, as well as Samson’s slaughter of many more Philistines (15:1-7)
- Samson kills a thousand more Philistines when his own people are about to turn him over to them (15:15).
- He falls in love with Delilah, who, in turn, manipulates his feelings to obtain the secret of his strength, which God has forbidden him to reveal (16:15-17).
- Deprived of his strength, Samson is captured by his enemies, who destroy his eyes and his dignity. And the LORD also leaves him, which, we can imagine, drops him into the depths of despair (16:21).
- Brought to a feast in a pagan temple to entertain the celebrating Philistines, Samson manages to kill more of them in his suicidal death than he had killed through all the previous years of his life (16:30).
It is true that the Spirit of the LORD used Samson’s behavioral quicks to fulfill the divine plan for the Philistines. However, Samson’s reactions were full of hatred, revenge, sexual impulse, and the arrogant display of his strength. Had Samson been spiritually faithful, God would have found alternative ways of removing the enemy – ways that wouldn’t have wasted the life of someone who had been set apart for God from birth. Samson’s story teaches us that “the real greatness of the man is measured by the power of the feelings that he controls, not by those that control him.”
Another story packed with emotions wrongly handled is that of Ammon and Tamar (see II Samuel 13). There we find a son of David frustrated because of his desire to possess his half-sister Tamar. His frustration is so great that he becomes physically ill.
Amnon accepts a scheme proposed by his friend Jonadab, and full of passion, assaults and rapes her. But then he hates her even more intensely than he had desired her. Refusing to listen to her plea to resolve the situation, he calls his servant to driver her out of his palace by force and bolts the door after her.
Amnon may have felt not only hatred for Tamar, but also remorse for what he had done and fear because of what could happen to him. Of course, his deed also brought a great deal of emotional pain to Tamar, who was the truly innocent victim of the story; and it filled other family members with grief and hatred. Two years later, Absalom crafted a plan of revenge and had Amnon killed. David, who suffered throughout the whole sordid affair, had failed to bring Amnon to justice. He now had to endure the grief of losing his firstborn son by the hand of another of his sons.
Positive Emotions in the Bible
The Bible also contains many examples of people who experienced uplifting feelings and emotions. While Jesus’ disciples were talking about the crucifixion on the road to Emmaus, the LORD appeared to them and greeted them. Although at first, they were startled and frightened, they soon experienced joy and amazement at His presence.
The lives of the first Christians were also full of positive emotions in spite of the many adversities they suffered. Acts 2:46, 47 says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
A woman in her fifties who had recently embraced the Adventist message joined a small church in Spain. One day as she was participating in a prayer group, she told her conversion experience. Halfway through, she was moved emotionally and became teary and had difficulty speaking. At this a member of the group said to her, “Don’t worry, those emotions will go away when you’ve been in the church a while.
Not necessarily! Converted people can grow in their excitement about Jesus. Our Lord wants us to experience the highest level of positive emotions. He doesn’t want us to live with the unpleasant consequences of hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissension, and envy. Instead He offers us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:19-23).
Emotions can be utterly good or extremely bad. They are intimately related to mental and physical health. There is a long list of psychosomatic diseases – verifiable organic maladies that have their origin in emotional processes. They affect virtually every system, but most often the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems. Positive emotional states, such as compassion, kindness humility, gentleness, and patience bring about a sense of well-being, a positive outlook and an optimal relationship with God and neighbor.
Our next post will be at 7 AM Sunday Morning and will be on the emotions Jesus experienced while on earth.