What Does the Bible Say About Mental Illness? And How to Overcome Mental Illness
“Where does mental illness come from?” “Is it a random occurrence or is there a reason that it’s there?” “Is it possible to defeat mental illness?” These are all important questions to search out and to understand. As believers, it’s essential that we search in the right place for these answers. The world might have lots of ideas about mental illness but the most important question that we can ask is, “What does the Bible say about mental illness?” If God is our creator and knows everything about us, including our thoughts, better than we do ourselves (Psalm 139) don’t you think He might have some insight into what is going on?
Did you know that the Bible specifically addresses mental illness on many occasions? In fact, it provides real solutions that, if addressed and followed out of a humble heart before God, can lead to complete recovery from every form of mental illness.
The first thing that I want to establish is that mental illness is not a physical issue. Therefore, we need to look beyond physiology and look at what is going on spiritually. The root causes of mental illness is the torment that results from agreeing with something that is contrary to how God thinks, speaks, and acts.
Where does mental illness come from?
The Bible clearly addresses where mental illness comes from in Deuteronomy.
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. Deuteronomy 28:15 KJV
The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart. Deuteronomy 28:28 KJV
Let’s do a word study on that word “madness.”
Using the Strong’s Concordance alongside the King James Version of the Bible we can dig right down to the root of the original Hebrew word:
Shigga`own from Strong’s number H7696 meaning: craziness: – furiously, madness.
How God deals with us
I want to interject something that is very important in understanding the nature of God and how He deals with us. Because the type of terminology in this verse and others in the old testament that states that the Lord will smite us with certain consequences is often used to accuse God.
In the Old Testament times there wasn’t the wholeness of understanding of how God operates. Jesus had not yet come to reveal the wholeness of His Father’s and His own character to us. According to the harmony of scripture, we understand that God is very slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8 KJV
God does His part, the choice is ours
As evidenced by the books of the prophets, He routinely gives His people correction and guidance. He did this to lead them away from the things that they are pursuing that will lead to destruction in their lives. He also gives them a measure of time to get it right, his patience far exceeds our understanding. He tries restoring us by His loving-kindness and tender-mercies. However, if we don’t respond to His goodness, there is a time when He turns us over to our desires and affections.
This is when we’ve chosen to follow, on a continual basis, ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that are not His ways. This is when we find ourselves immersed in the enemy’s influence and find torment in that area of our lives.
God’s nature vs. the enemy’s nature
If God’s nature represents everything that is described in Galatians 5:22, then the enemy’s nature describes everything that is opposed to this.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 KJV
We know the enemy has a stronghold in our life when we find ourselves in a state of overwhelming fear, torment, self-conflict, hopelessness, oppression, heaviness, selfishness, anger, bitterness, and so on. We get to choose which side we are on, just by choosing which thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we agree with!
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV
An open door in Job’s life
The book of Job is a great example of the enemy having access to us by permission, yet also God’s restrictions on the power of the enemy in our lives. At the beginning of the book, God and Satan are talking about Job. Job is upright in all he does but Satan sees a weakness and accuses Job to God saying that Job is only faithful to God because everything has come easily for him.
The weakness that Satan thinks he can exploit is Job’s fear about the unrighteousness of his children and his obsessive efforts to cover them in their sin. Job 1:5 says he did this continually – this was an ongoing fear issue for him. So with His heart and actions Job served God but there was an open door to the enemy’s kingdom in his life which was fear.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. Job 1:5 KJV
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:9-12 KJV
Permission with restrictions
So God gave Satan permission to bring destruction but He also put restrictions on the power that He allowed Satan to have. Notice that it was Satan and not God that smote Job. This lines up with the New Testament scripture that says that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. Even in times of temptation, God is merciful and puts restriction on how much power the enemy can have in our lives.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV
God shows Job his ways and gives him the keys to recovering himself
What is powerful about Job’s story is that God himself visits Job and his friends. He helps them to understand the ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that were not based on truth and understanding of who God is. He showed Job where he had lifted himself up in pride in his heart to accuse God of unrighteousness and to make himself more righteous than God. He then gives Job the keys to recover himself and to be restored. As a result of Job’s humility, repentance, and trust in God, God restored everything the enemy had destroyed times two. We need to take notes from this story because the principles still remain true today.
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, [and] he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Psalm 107:8-14 KJV
Applying this to our lives
So we can see from Job’s example, the enemy represents, division and subtraction, – loss, destruction, harm but God represents addition and multiplication- renewal, blessings, and restoration.
We can use this as a measuring stick in our own lives. If we see a trail of debris behind us and around us, if we see, destruction, disease, loss, broken relationships, we can recognize that the enemy must have an open door in our lives to be allowed to bring that upon us. But when we seek God’s heart and His ways and recover ourselves to His image, He can fully reverse those effects and restore to us all that was taken away and more.
King Saul and mental illness
There is a powerful example of mental illness in the Bible and that is the story of King Saul.
Through the course of his reign, King Saul routinely chose to listen to the people rather than to the instructions from God. In addition to this, he was not repentant. Saul even went as far as asking the prophet, Samuel, to pardon him and to worship the Lord his (Samuel’s) God with him. This shows that he had no interest at all in pursuing a personal relationship with God. He wanted the consequences of his choices – the influence of the enemy in his life removed, but he was unwilling to follow God and His ways with all of his heart.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments… 1 Samuel 15:10-11 KJV
And Samuel said (to Saul), Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams… For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 22-23 KJV
Saul’s open door to mental illness
As a result, God removed the kingdom from Saul and His Holy Spirit left Saul, giving place to an evil, tormenting spirit. Take note that the following scripture is another place where it says that an evil spirit from the LORD troubled Saul. But we know that evil cannot come from God according to James 1:13.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. James 1:13 KJV
So we know that the evil tormenting spirit that joined Saul came from the enemy, by permission, because of Saul’s rebellion against God.
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD [is] with him. …
And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer… And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. 1 Samuel 16:14-18, 21-23 KJV
The power of worshiping God
This scripture reveals something amazing about the power of worshiping God in order to defeat the works of evil spirits in our lives and the effects of mental illness. When David played the harp, the evil spirit could not stand in the presence of adoration and worship towards God. But as soon as he stopped, the tormenting spirit could return and be at peace.
Why didn’t it leave altogether? Because Saul remained unrepentant, he still refused to turn his heart back towards God. He was content with a temporary fix but not interested in the real solution to his problem.
Recovering ourselves from mental illness
Now that we understand what the root issue is behind mental illness, and have a Biblical understanding of where mental illness comes from, let’s move on to how we can be recovered.
Even from the Old Testament, the prophet, Isaiah, spoke of the hope for recovery that Jesus would bring to us.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3 KJV
Recognizing old ways and replacing them with God’s ways
When we begin to recognize the old ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s ways and keeping us in bondage we need to start to realign our thoughts up with how God thinks. Here are some scriptures to stand on as a reminder of God’s ways of peace. When we abide in His love, fear and every other tormentor has to leave us because we have chosen who we are going to serve.
4 Scriptures for renewing your mind and defeating mental illness:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
If you want to overcome mental illness, God is ready to give you the benefits that come out of relationship and fellowship with the Godhead. The power being the Holy Spirit, the Love coming from relationship with the Father, and the sound mind coming out of renewing our minds with the washing of the water of the Word of God.
Let God lead you through hard times
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4 KJV
Even when we walk through hard times, if we follow Him as our shepherd, we have no reason to fear. He will under-gird us with His power, love, and sound mind. But we have to choose to follow Him and to trust Him, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
Cast your cares before God and pick up thanksgiving
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 KJV
When we learn to cast every single care on God, when we learn to stop being careful, or fearful, but to boldly come to the throne of grace to find mercy and help in the time of need (Hebrews 4:16), we will begin to have clarity of thought and peace of mind.
An attitude adjustment
This comes with an attitude change, note where it says, “with thanksgiving.” If we are wallowing in self-pity or agreeing with a spirit of victimization that makes us believe that our circumstances and how people treat us defines who we are, we are rejecting God’s truth and faithfulness for our lives. When we turn our heart and ask Him to develop thankfulness and gratefulness and to give us His perspective on our lives, hope will spring forth, and joy will come. Oppression and heaviness will lose it’s power with this attitude of gratitude.
This verse also tells us to rejoice in the Lord always just as I noted in the case of King Saul where praising God broke the power of the evil spirit. This verse reminds us of the power of praising God and reestablishing His goodness and faithfulness and power in our lives through worship.
Think on God things
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. Philippians 4:8 KJV
The exchange from unrighteousness to righteousness brings freedom.
Evil spirits that bring torment and thus the manifestations of mental illness have access by permission- by our permission. When a person comes out of agreement with them and into righteousness they will walk right into freedom.
God is not expecting perfection, but when we are confronted with the dead works of evil in our lives will we turn, and repent, and allow Him to bring healing to our hearts?
All of us are called by Him to this place of love and son-ship, but few choose to be a son of God and to line their ways up with His ways.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15 KJV
Come to the Father
Now is the time to open your heart up to Father God. Ask Him to show you the things in your heart that you have agreed with that are not from Him. Repent for those things and renounce them. Defeat them by worshiping God and commanding those things to leave in Jesus’ name. You do not have to be a servant of sin, you are a beloved, chosen, child of God. Remind yourself of that and choose to believe it and act on it! Don’t let fear, guilt, or shame pull you backwards into bondage but move forward into relationship with God and into His healing and freedom.
Walk in your God-given identity
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. John 1:12 KJV
He has already given us the power to become the sons and daughters of God but we need to appropriate it and walk in it. We need to believe Him with all of our hearts, and to line our hearts and actions up with His once again. In God alone is wholeness and sanity, you will not find it anywhere else. Why? Because as I quoted earlier, perfect love casts out fear. Only God’s love is perfect, so only in Him can we defeat the works of the enemy in our lives.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 KJV
Don’t you want rest and peace for your spirit today? Let God join you in your journey as an overcomer. Allow Him to begin His good work in your life and to bring healing to your heart.
Be blessed and renewed in your mind,
Pastor Benny Parish
This is only a small fraction of the Scriptural insights and discussion about mental illness and how to overcome it in your life. We are excited to present a full, one-day conference entitled, “God is Greater Than Mental Illness.” It will be held on Saturday, December 14th from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST.
Join Teacher and elder of Hope of the Generations Church, David Levitt, for a day that is sure to shed light on an otherwise greatly misunderstood topic. Find real solutions for your life and Biblical insights to help you regain your life, hope, and freedom. This discussion is not just for those who are struggling with mental illness. If you have a desire to understand mental illness further and to help others be recovered from it, you won’t want to miss this conference! Find out more HERE!
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