Sermon Q&A, Part 1 – Mental Illness
Sermons are designed to provoke questions because sermons are designed to challenge us with the truth of God’s Word. One example of a sermon preached in the New Testament is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. That sermon ended with the listeners asking, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Yesterday’s sermon at Desert Hills provoked many good and significant questions after the services. Because many people might have similar questions, I want to raise them here and give some answers to help us think biblically about the topics addressed as we discuss the message with one another throughout the week.
There are three key questions that have been discussed, so I will answer one question each day today through Thursday. Make sure you check the blog throughout the week as I post answers to a new question prompted by Sunday’s sermon.
Question 1: Should people who have a mental illness due to physical trauma to the brain receive medical care as well as spiritual help, or is all mental illness strictly a spiritual problem?
This question is significant because it will guide how we help those who are hurting both physically and mentally, and answering it poorly will create unnecessary suffering. We have to recognize that some people struggle in their minds because of physical trauma to their brains. Often this happens through no fault of their own. Babies who are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or whose mothers used drugs, people who are in traumatic accidents that cause brain damage, people with genetic issues that create abnormalities in the brain, and people who struggle with other neurological issues all face the challenge not only of renewing their minds but caring for their brains, and these two issues can be linked because of how God created us as both physical and spiritual creatures.
People who have medical issues with their brains should treat those issues medically. To use an example that is not neurological but is medical nonetheless, someone with diabetes should take insulin as medically necessary. We know that managing blood sugar poorly not only results in physical problems but makes it difficult to manifest the fruit of the Spirit, such as love and patience. Just because the medical problem left untreated can create a spiritual problem does not mean that the medical problem should be ignored and only the spiritual needs addressed. It also does not mean that the spiritual problem is only spiritual. Physical elements are affecting the spiritual life, and we must recognize the inter-connected nature we experience as human beings to show compassion that helps those suffering with physical and, consequently, spiritual issues. Whenever we have physical problems with our bodies, we should do what we can within biblical parameters to address those physical problems, knowing that doing so can sometimes have a beneficial spiritual impact as well.
At times we might not know whether we are grappling with a problem that is spiritual or a problem that is more complex because it is both physical and spiritual. To go back to our example of a diabetic, that person might not realize his difficulty showing patience is connected to a blood sugar problem until he learns that he is diabetic. If you are struggling with a recurring spiritual issue, you should seek biblical counsel from a pastor or other spiritually mature person who can discuss it with you. If it seems that your struggle could be connected to a physical/medical problem, you should also see a physician, especially one with a biblical worldview. A qualified medical professional can help treat whatever physical ailments you might be battling.
To sum it up, we should use a both/and approach to physical/spiritual problems, not an either/or. We treat the whole person with love and care. We seek to remedy or mitigate the physical ailment, and we lovingly disciple the person so they can honor Christ within the challenges they face physically.