Seven Beliefs for Mental Wellness
The Bible is the greatest book ever written for man, and the words of the Bible prove this fact over and over again. It has been said that it is the “owner’s manual” for life. Certainly it was written by the one who knows man best – his Creator. Just as we would look to the owner’s manual for our automobiles, appliances, and other items we possess to become more intimately acquainted with these things, so also we should look to the Bible to become more intimately acquainted with ourselves. Modern psychologists have nothing to boast greater than the principles set down in the Bible for mankind’s well being. No clearer example of this can be found than in the book of Philippians.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians to thank the brethren in Philippi for the monetary gift that they had sent Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus (1:4,5; 4:18). But Epaphroditus also brought some additional news to Paul regarding the church a Philippi. They had heard about Paul’s imprisonment and were worried about him (1:30). Paul comforts the church by letting them know that his situation resulted in the increase of the gospel (1:12). He also relates to them that he hopes to be released soon from his imprisonment, and will visit them again (1:25, 26). However, Paul wants them to know that whether he lives or dies all will be well (1:21). Their concern for Paul had evidently lead some anxiety. The rest of the letter addresses the concern that the church set their minds on matters over which they can control, not over matters that lead to worry and depression. This would bring them out of their “blue funk” and bring them back to greater service to the Lord.
The crux of the book of Philippians in this regard is found in chapter four. It is in this chapter that Paul discusses the action one can take to bring one’s self into the peace of God. First, they were to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). The “Lord” here is Jesus. He is the Christian’s identity, and it is in Him that he places his absolute faith. The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins defines our worth and proves that nothing is so important in this life as to be a cause for anxiety and depression. This means the Christian has everything for which to be thankful and nothing for which to be ungrateful leading to a perpetual spirit of joy in the presence of the Lord. Value and identity are indispensable principles of psychology. The Christian has his value and identity in Jesus, and that is everything! For this reason, he can rejoice!
Second, Paul says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (4:5). The Christian is not to be caught up in the extremes of the world. There is on the one hand the extreme of debauchery in all its forms and practices, and it was prevalent in the Philippian’s society as well as ours today. On the other hand, there is the extreme of asceticism. This is the concept that one must cut himself off from everyone and everything that gives any bodily pleasure. Both of these are extreme choices. The Christian must exercise moderation in living a life that includes interaction with society, but does not participate in its sinfulness. Balance is certain one of the fundamental principles of psychology and it is clearly stated in God’s word.
Third, Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand” (4.5). The expression, “The Lord is at hand” indicates to the Christian that God will always be there for him, even in times of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Hebrews 13:5 states, “for He hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’” It is a great comfort to recognize that God is always by our side and is not going to leave us as long as we don’t leave Him (Romans 8:31-39). With God, there is no problem, trouble, worry, or fear that can’t be overcome, for all things are possible with Him (Philippians 4:13). The Christian is never alone. He has a “self-help group” the likes of which this world cannot boast!
Fourth, we read, “Be anxious in nothing” (4:6). Anxiety for the things of this life can become a big problem for the Christian. Jesus taught us to understand that God knows the things of which we have need, and He will supply those things if we seek Him and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:25-34). When we start to dwell on the worries and anxieties of this life, let our minds and our actions turn to things of the kingdom. What can we think and do to further the cause of our Lord upon the earth? We can study the word. We can visit the sick. We can help the poor. We can evangelize the lost. There is no shortage of activity. Get involved with other people. Being involved in something goes a long way toward eliminating anxiety that crops up as a result of eating the bread of idleness.
Fifth, Paul states, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). Prayer unburdens the Christian from the ceaseless parade of events about which he is concerned, but has no direct control. Prayer provides a means whereby the Christian may exercise a heart of thankfulness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. Prayer provides opportunity for the Christian to divest himself of wrong choices made in the course of the day’s events. Prayer motivates the Christian to act in ways that will improve his relationship with his God and his fellow man. There is much blessing in prayer. Modern psychology acknowledges these activities as being therapeutic and helpful to an individual’s mental state. If we as Christians, would only acknowledge the power of prayer in times of trouble how great burdens would be removed from our weary shoulders and what great relief would be obtained from the troubles of life.
The conclusion of enacting these first five exercises in one’s life is this: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is a certain peace that comes through understanding and applying these five principles in one’s life. The peace that God gives “surpasses all understanding;” one’s abilities alone cannot provide the type of peace that God provides. God’s peace defies the human intellect because ultimate peace in God depends upon one’s faith in God that comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is always presupposed for having a healthy mind. Without faith, nothing avails to bring peace to our souls. The heart and mind of the Christian will only be guarded through Christ Jesus.
Sixth, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8). One must love God with his mind! (Matthew 22:37). The exhortation is not to just let one’s mind randomly drift upon anything that comes along, but to deliberately concentrate upon good things. What happens between someone’s two ears is under his control! All of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions! One must take responsibility by confessing his own sinful thoughts such as envy, hatred, vengeance, and malice. Only by taking ownership through repentance can He then give them to God and experience forgiveness. Worry, anxiety, depression, and despair are emotions fueled by sinful thinking. When one accepts responsibility, takes control of his thinking, and fills himself with these good thoughts, there will be no more room for the sinful. It is a fight and struggle to battle these things, but one must bring his focus back upon the true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous. One of the great failures of modern psychology is that while it can help someone understand what he is thinking and bring him to a greater awareness of his thoughts, it cannot provide ultimate content for thought. Only the gospel provides the content – Christ Jesus! We must focus our minds upon Him, His life, His love, His humility, His sacrifice. In so doing, we can fill our life with the good things that God created for us.
Seventh, Paul has this to say, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (4:9). When we have done everything that we need to do mentally to prepare ourselves for Christian service, we must make application. Paul says that his teaching and example constitute an example for us as well. If we are looking for ways to behave, let us look to the example that Paul left as he followed Christ in his life (1 Corinthians 11:1). We have half the book of Acts to let us know how Paul behaved as well as many of his epistles in which we find great teaching regarding how to live the Christian life. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Again, while modern psychology can suggest a course of behavior, it cannot suggest a lifestyle that will so thoroughly meet our needs as that which we find within the gospel of Christ (2 Peter 1:3).
The grand conclusion to these seven steps of mental health is found in the words, “and the God of peace shall be with you.” This is yet in addition to the previous promise. Not only do we have the assurance of the peace of God being with us, but also we have the assurance of the God of peace being with us. Greater blessing can no Christian have than to know that the very God who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves will provide a life that is filled with contentment and peace as well as provide the companionship that we need to finish such a life in His service. May we ever seek to apply these seven steps in our time of need.