Mental health, like physical health, is on a continuum. When someone totally loses it, and is obviously “mad” enough to be sectioned, we say they’ve lost touch with reality.
But how few of us see reality as it really is. With a God’s eye view. As Jesus taught us to see it.
If we could train ourselves to see and think the way Jesus taught us to, what splendid mental health we’d have!!
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Jesus’s teaching was strikingly positive. And here are a few ways I am trying to train myself to think the way Jesus taught us to. And better mental health will be a fringe benefit of this.
1 He taught us not to be afraid.
“Do not be afraid,” echoes through the Gospels. Most of our fears never come to pass. And even when our anxious minds help produce the very thing we most dread, God’s help is available to help us deal with it.
There is a difference between prudence (adjusting one’s actions because an adverse outcome is very probable), and fear: irrational dread!
2 Jesus told us not to worry about anything at all.
What a splendid recipe for mental health, freeing us from circular and literally sickening worry. Worry is particularly unproductive, because most of our worries (like most of our fears) don’t come to pass, and, again, God’s help is available in our worst case scenarios.
3 Jesus advises us not to judge.
Judging is like deciding on 360 degrees of someone’s personality based on 10 degrees of information. It leads to a shrivelling of the heart, of emotional intelligence, and of our life-experience because of the habit of rapidly writing people off.
And when in obedience to Jesus, we refuse to judge, but instead remain open, we learn, we learn, we learn!
4 Another startling bit of advice Jesus gives is forgiving if you have aught against any. How sweeping.
When specific grievances surface in my conscious mind, I attempt to dissolve them by thanking God for the good things about the person, by praying for the person as whole-heartedly as I can, and by praying for grace to turn the acid and claws of my feelings towards that person into sweetness.
Any hatred–towards nations, for instance–is as harmful to our mental and emotional health as hated of individuals. I recently talked to a Christian man who was consumed, to the point of mild insanity, with his hatred of the US and the harm its foreign policy has done. Releasing aught against any would require him to release his hatred of the US—not for the sake of the US, but for his own sake.
I similarly know two American Christian men who are consumed by their hatred and dislike of Barack Obama. Gosh, I have never witnessed such hatred towards a politician as many American Christian nurture towards Obama. If I hated Obama as much as these two friends of mine appear to, I would need to “forgive” him before I stood praying to keep the waterfall of grace between me and God flowing and unclogged.
Far-fetched? I remember Catherine Marshall saying she had to forgive Henry VIII for his desecration of monasteries as part of her releasing aught against any.
5 Another instruction of Jesus which is greatly conducive to mental health is “Do not let your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid. Trust in the Father, trust also in me.”
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So many of Paul’s precepts are about following Christ in the secret place of the thoughts.
Rejoice always; in everything give thanks. Believe everything works out for good.
Paul’s life was full of extreme pressures—both glorious preaching, miracles and influence, and imprisonment, solitary confinement, floggings, slander, and disgrace.
The mental health and strength he cultivated in the secret places of his heart kept him sane, productive and creative in the very direst places of his life, such as the dreadful Mamertine Dungeon from which he wrote his most joyful and inspiring letters.
Ah, obeying what Jesus taught us as literally as we can! Mental health flows from it, and creativity too!