Wednesday 25 April 2012


God’s prescription for mental health

Many take a pill before they go to bed to calm their frazzled nerves. In the morning, they would pop a pep pill to help them through the day. If only there was a magic bullet to relieve all our anxieties, we would gladly give anything for it.

Yet, many do not recognise God’s prescription found in the Bible. It is efficacious, free and without side-effects. It is so unbelievably simple. Isn’t this the reason why Jesus says unless you come to me like little children, you cannot know me? We need child-like faith to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of His laws.

With time, as we embrace His laws, we become mature individuals. We feel good about ourselves, are able to get along with others as well as cope with stress and disappointments in life. Furthermore, we are able to balance the various areas in life – the spiritual, intellectual, physical and social (2 Peter 1:3, Luke 2:52).


“I am not good at it, just so so.” We often depreciate ourselves instead of learning to acknowledge a compliment. Instead we ought to have said, “Thank God, He has given me this gift or talent.”

Having the right estimate of ourselves is so important – too high an estimate smacks of pride whereas too low an estimate is detrimental to our self-image.

Undoubtedly, believers are to emulate Christ as an example of humility (Philippians 2: 8). But this is not to be equated to low self-esteem. Many make the tragic mistake in not recognising the difference between self-esteem which is positive and pride which is negative.

Such confusion is addressed in Romans 12:3: “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Paul then goes on to show that we should recognise the specific gifts that God has given us and use them (Romans 12:6).

Gideon had a poor self-image. He saw himself as coming from the weakest clan and as the least among his family members (Judges 6: 15). But the angel of God gave him a boost for his morale when he said, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valour" (Judges 6:12). He then went on to lead an army to defeat his enemies.

If believers embrace a healthy self-image, the church will have no lack of people serving in various ministries, be it worship, teaching or administration. The caveat is that they remain humble and have a servant’s heart.

Loving ourselves, loving others

When our neighbour is away, do we volunteer to feed his pet or water his plants? These are simple acts of love which will be much appreciated.

But before we can love others, we need to love ourselves. If we hate ourselves or have a poor self-image, we won’t even think of making friends, let alone reach out to others in need. Indeed if our emotional tank is empty, how can we love others? It’s just basic psychology.

Similarly, the Bible tells us we are to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22: 39). Research has shown that people who give of themselves to others live longer, and lead healthier, happier lives. Here is where following God’s precepts reaps temporal benefits as well.

A giving, altruistic nature helps us in many ways. According to Stephen Post and Jill Neimark, authors of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, those who help others have healthier hearts, are happier, have higher self-esteem, and are generally more successful.

Depressed people who participate in occupational therapy feel better when they stop looking inwards and perform simple tasks for the benefit of others. They tend to gripe less when they realise there are others who are more unfortunate than them.

Coping skills

A person’s ability to cope with adversity is dependent on his genetic makeup, nurturing and childhood experiences. But attitude and dependence on God also play an important role.
Those who know how to wait on God in solitude and to tap into the Living Springs know what it is like to be refreshed spiritually (Isaiah 40:31).

Despite having insulin-dependent diabetes and being treated for cancer, Susan taught the poor English. She had the inner joy to serve in a faraway land where the students could not possibly repay her. Lesser souls would have curled up in self-pity and, in remonstration, cry out to God, “Why me? Why are you so unfair to me when I have been so faithful towards you?”

We can know the inner strength of a person by his response to adversity. As they say, the true worth of a tea-bag is uncovered only when it is hot water. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10). Conversely, those who find strength in God have the tenacity and resilience to face crisis.


If we knew the damaging effects of anger on our body, then we will realise how appropriate is Paul’s admonition: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).

Each episode of anger sets off a physiological response in your body, causing your heart to beat faster, your blood pressure to rise and your coronary arteries to narrow.

Dr. Leo Maddow of the University of Pennsylvania observed that brain hemorrhages are usually caused by a combination of hypertension and cerebral arteriosclerosis. He found that anger elevates blood pressure which may cause the diseased cerebral artery to rupture, resulting in a stroke. "Someone who stays angry long after the particular incident that caused the anger may be committing slow suicide,” he says.

So while you may not be able to avoid becoming angry, you should keep short accounts with God, forgive the one who made feel angry, and hence do yourself a favour.


Man’s propensity for worry is a sign of the times we are living in, what with the financial crisis, flu pandemic and natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis. Just like the millions of hypnotic tablets that are being consumed nightly worldwide, vertical frown lines between the eyebrows are tell-tale signs of the stressful times we are living in.

Paul enjoins believers to commit their cares to God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

If Jesus is sleeping in our “boat”, we need not fret. We can sail through the storms of life. He may appear as sleeping amid the storms in our lives but in reality He cares. Just, by faith, commit our fears to Him.

If indeed He is the One who created the universe, including the storms and waves, what are our petty problems to Him? The trouble is we often magnify our problems and hold a small view of God.

In Your God Is Too Small, author J. B. Phillips explains that the trouble with many today is that, while our life experiences and intellect have grown significantly, our concept of God has not changed significantly since our Sunday School days. We tend to “put God in a box”, so definitely He is not going to be big enough for our modern needs.

The psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). Once this revelation hits us, we will sleep like a baby without hypnotics.

Blessings of obedience

It’s no accident that, by keeping God’s precepts, we enjoy the blessings of a healthy psyche. It’s all hardwired in God’s plan that blessings will follow obedience (Deuteronomy 28). 

However, it will be simplistic and far-fetched to say that counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists no longer have any role to play. After all, Jesus did say, "Healthy people don't need a physician, but sick ones do” (Mark 2:17).

The Prince of Peace brings a message of comfort: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).

The Gospel is “God’s pill” for our psyche. Far more than “a pie in the sky”, it brings tangible earthly benefits today.

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, December 2009, issue 41.6.


Does it mean that, if we are more spiritual, we will be able to overcome anxiety, depression and so on?

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