“Jesus & Therapy” is a new, popular, and I would argue even beneficial phrase that is trending and very popular among many young Christians today. It basically supports the notion that one can be a strong Christian and not be afraid or ashamed of going to therapy. For the most part I am 100% on board with this and I think there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to help one deal with their mental health problems as they walk in faith with Jesus. I agree fully with this just as I would affirm the idea that Christ uses doctors to fix bones and do surgeries along with other medical procedures. Therapy is a psychological medical procedure that when done in the right way glorifies God. I believe most of my readers would agree with me about these things. For those who do not, I want to write this piece to challenge them theologically, to reassess their view on the topic and to show a healthy framework for this topic. mindset can greatly benefit a believer. To be fair, I think a good amount of my readers would agree with this but I am writing this to encourage those who are on the fence about this issue to really examine their theology and their faith. Today, I am writing this to share my own experience with the relationship between faith and therapy, and I hope to provide my reader with a biblical mindset for why this topic matters.
I find this article necessary to write because without proper theological believes I suffered greatly as I battled to process and live with my various mental health issues. I am writing this now as someone who has matured and who now has a stronger grasp of biblical theology that helps me live better. In this mindset, I write not for the applause of those around me but instead to honor God and to show others how things like therapy can honor God and help your faith. I hope that I can share this and help others who suffer from mental illness know that the Gospel can give them everlasting hope and that going to therapy does not discredit this hope nor show that you are without it.
Before I type anything else I want to state what I consider a healthy lifestyle for a believer. Christian believers are called to be made more like Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2) by the Holy Spirit who convicts and guides us to live according to the Bible (John 16:8). The Bible tells us to live in community where we are held accountable by others, as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. (Colossians 3:12-17) As a believer we must start growing in community and we must start this process of growth knowing, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7a). With these ideas stated as fundamentals in the life of a believer, we can explore a healthy roadmap of the concept of Jesus & Therapy.
I want to start by sharing a bit of my personal past experience regarding my faith and therapy. I was raised outside the church and I was saved (became a Christian) by the grace of God when I was in 9th grade. The church I was saved at, in my opinion, was not a biblically-based church which led to many unhealthy beliefs. When I first was saved, I was going through a whole lot of emotional distress which laid the seed into what would eventually turn into my mental health issues. Many of the things they said to help me were well-meaning, but not biblical, which led to even more pain and suffering in my life. I do not wish to simply blast this church because I am thankful that it was in a real sense a shelter in a storm for me for my first few years as a believer and I praise God that he used that church to save and sustain me.
However, there were two things that church told me as I opened up about my depression. First, that my depression was the devil was attacking me and that I needed to stand firm in my faith and not show weakness. That I needed to quote the Bible at him and defend myself. Second, and related, I was told to that when I was feeling depressed that I had to “fake it until I made it” because as a Christian it was always important to display joy so that others would see Christianity as joyful. To address the present reality of my suffering was to “speak negatively into my life”, and that I needed to instead “speak the word over my life”.
These beliefs mixed with my own personal fears combined to create a toxic mindset that led me to wear a mask of joy especially in front of those who were not believers so that they would want to become believers too. If I failed to look happy, I felt as if I would be responsible for a soul potentially rejecting God and winding up in Hell. This only worked to make me feel more anxious and more powerless against the devil. It also made me feel like my mental health was an attack from the enemy and not just part of corrupted creation.
Today I know that this is not a biblical mindset and that it is based on many bad theological views. As a believer, I will not deny that we all do wrestle with demonic forces. (Ephesians 6:12). However, it is important that we realize that our main enemy is our own sin. (Matthew 15: 18-20, Romans 7:15-21, Galatians 5:16-26). We are broken from our sin and each one of us is in desperate need of a savior as our sin corrupts nature and it consumes our hearts and minds. (Romans 3:23). My sin leads me to not trust God and it leads me to depressive thoughts and anxiety-ridden episodes. Depression and Anxiety, along with every other broken this thing in this world, is the result of sin. This is terrifying to consider until you realize that Jesus came and died to liberate us from sins power. (Romans 6:3-11)
When I left my first church I met many believers in college who rooted me in this truth: Once we receive the free gift of salvation from Jesus we are made right by his work on the cross. (Roman’s 3:21-26, Ephesians 2:8-9) We receive the Holy Spirit who guides and protects us as we become more like Christ who will not let us fall. Jesus has full power and authority over demons so as believers we do not need to fear the enemy. We need to instead focus on walking in the Spirit to battle our own sin and preaching the Gospel.(Matthew 28:18-20)
I also learned that God is sovereign over all things and that he always accomplishes his will. (Proverbs 19:21). He saves his people no matter what and it is our privilege to be part of the process, which means that publicly grieving can not stop his plan to save a soul. Furthermore, as believers we are called to trust God in our sufferings and to display our hope as others see us suffer. We will often fall and struggle but we must glorify God in these times and trust in him. Letting our suffering remind us of the one who suffered for us on the Cross! (1 Peter 3:15, 1 Peter 4:12-16, 1 Peter 5:7-11) Our Savior suffered to free us from our hopeless depravity as shared in Romans 5: 1-5.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5: 1-5
What does this mean? It means that it is not only okay to lament our suffering, but that lamenting, and grieving can glorify God and display the Gospel. We can rest in God’s promise, “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). His definition of what is Good is perfect and ours is not. We can rest knowing that whatever he puts us through is for our betterment and that he will never abandon nor leave us. We can honestly lament, and confess our sins and struggles trusting in God.
If a Christian refuses to show people that they are broken than they refuse the very Gospel itself. (1 John 1:8-10). We do not “speak negativity over ourselves” when we confess our brokenness, and our confessions can not change reality. Only God creates and controls nature with words. We must be honest about our brokenness and we must not fear those who tell us we should hide it. David did not hide his pain when he wrote many Psalms and Jesus did not hide his suffering as he died in agony on the Cross to save us. We have to remember that Jesus and David lamented their pain within the context of them trusting God. (Psalm 120 & Psalm 121)
As stated above I learned a lot of this in college. I would like to thank a few people and organizations. I would like to thank two campus ministries, Cru and Ratio Christi, both matured me in my faith and provided me with a great community. When I got to college, I attended The Bridge Church for roughly 3 years and it was instrumental in teaching me many of these things while also providing me an amazing community. Though that church has imperfect people (like myself), I was able to go there and share my burdens and receive love from my weekly church community Group. I also started getting discipled by one of the Cru staff leader Julian Carter who was very supportive of me when I told him I wanted to try going to therapy. I would also like to shout out Rachel Kantor who personally walked me to the on-campus therapist because I was afraid to go by myself.
In my Junior year of college, a lot was going well, and I was growing a lot in my faith. I had a lot of biblical community and seemed to be in the right place in my life. However, at this point, I started falling into intense mental health issues. I started going through regular anxiety fits, losing focus in classes, and dreading trying to go to sleep at night where I tossed and turned in fits of anxiousness. I was doing so much right, but I still needed help, which is why I started going to therapy. Seeing a therapist, a phenomenal blessing to my wellbeing.
A therapist is trained to see patterns and process what you tell them in ways that many others cannot. It had taken a few months to see results, but I cannot emphasize how happy I was that I stuck with it. The therapist was able to identify key themes in my fears and she was able to help show me how to process them. Her medical expertise allowed me to see things that I could not see, I learned many things about myself that have helped me be a better Christian today.
Closing Opinions about Jesus and Therapy:
Now that I have shared with you my journey through my mental health issues, I want to share a couple of ideas about how to view therapy in a way that honors God.
Jesus and Therapy must include Jesus:
I can’t emphasize enough that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7). As a Christian, you must take this to heart. Regardless of whether your therapist is a believer, all their advice must be run through the lens of scripture. I do not think my therapist was Christian, and this was not a problem at all. As a matter of fact, she was encouraged by my faith and how it helped me process things in therapy and with how It gave me an anchor of hope throughout the whole process. God was glorified in me brininging my struggles to a therapist because I showed I could trust in him and still seek professional medical help. Still, a therapist may give you advice that goes against a core conviction of the Gospel so it is wise to always exercise discernment. But do not use the excuse of not knowing if something is biblical to reject knowledge you know is in line with the Bible. Your therapist most likely will show you things about yourself you want to deny, do not reject wisdom and instruction.
Therapy is a Gift from God
As a Christian, I serve a Triune God. That means that I serve one essence of God that exists in 3 persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a lot to explain and if you want a video explanation of it, go here. God being triune shows us that God is a God of community which means he is loving and relational. He encourages us to live the same way, in community. As Christians we see things such as discipleship (mentorship), accountability, community groups, and bible studies as unique tools God will use to sanctify us through community. When done in a biblical mindset, therapy can be as well. My friends, my community group, and my discipler all encouraged me to pursue therapy because they knew I needed professional help dealing with my depression. They didn’t see me as someone lacking general community in general but as someone who could benefit from a specific type of community given the stage of life I was in.
This brings me to my last point: we are called to all be in community. This always looks like active engagement within Christian community and can sometimes looks like therapy. If you have continual mental health issues then you should really should consider therapy. My main point is that therapy is a gift from God, but it can not and should not replace more traditional forms of Christian community.
I am painting in very broad strokes here. I am not an expert. I am sharing opinions and not intending to condemn anyone. I ask that you do not read your fears into what I am saying and that you give me the benefit of the doubt anytime you think I am saying something close-minded. I have written this article for the benefit of both Christians and non-Christians alike but I will state that I fully believe God’s existence to be an absolute truth and that at the end of the day all healing can only come by the will of God and that all will be made fully new and restored when he returns one day.