Is admission of vulnerability and need for help in an area of life a confession of doubt in God’s word?
The subject of ‘therapy or no therapy’ is a hotly debated issue that many times polarizes opinions within the body of Christ. Once asked to write on this, I immediately thought to myself how close to home it really hit as I had once considered therapy myself as a Christian.
I struggled a lot with the idea at the time: is it right? is it needed? would I be seen as weak and unbelieving of God’s word? To avoid spiraling into a 5000-word blog post (lol ) I will not center my story.
I will, however, make references here and there.
Please note that I am not a mental health professional. However, I will, to the best of my ability, explain with the authority of God’s word as a base and then expound from there. I acknowledge that there are medically diagnosed mental illnesses requiring treatment, drugs, and even surgery but for the purpose of this conversation, I will focus solely on psychotherapy i.e., meeting with a therapist for the purpose of resolving problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings without the use of drugs or surgery.
Man is a spirit that has a soul and lives in a body. For the Christian, your spirit is the ‘you’ that receives the life of God when saved, your soul is the seat of your mind, will, thoughts and emotions and your body is the ‘case’ that houses you. It is important to say that though the born-again man is made a new man in his spirit when he believes in Jesus, his mind does not undergo an automatic factory reset. We were born into families, raised in environments, may have experienced trauma and have forged relationships which have all contributed to the belief systems, values, and thought processes that we currently have; some severely limiting, some, maybe even great.
Let’s lay a foundation.
We are encouraged from the scriptures to seek alignment between our spirits and souls through a process called the renewal of the mind Rom 12:1-2. This is an ever-on-going process that requires responsibility and intentionality on the part of the believer. This consecration of mind and body will come through prayer, fellowship and study of God’s word. The more we see who we are in the light of God’s word, the more we express that same image.We are encouraged from the scriptures to seek alignment between our spirits and souls through the renewal of the mind. This is an ever-on-going process that requires responsibility and intentionality on the part of the believer. Click To Tweet
Do I believe in the efficacy of God’s word to transform our minds and align it with the truth in our spirits? Emphatically, yes. Do I believe that this process will often answer a lot of questions that we seek in therapy? Yes. Does this mean that therapy is diametrically opposed to this process? No.
You see, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. It’s much like how believing unequivocally in the power of God to heal my body does not equate to discouraging the use of drugs or undergoing surgery.Faith and Therapy do not have to be mutually exclusive. It’s much like how believing unequivocally in the power of God to heal my body does not equate to discouraging the use of drugs or undergoing surgery. Click To Tweet
Therapists will often tell you that most of what they do is to ‘unpack’ the issues and guide you down a journey of awareness and healing. Nobody can wave a wand and ‘abracadabra’ your mental health challenges away. Professionals will often tell their patients that healing is impossible without their willingness and cooperation. As I said, it is a journey of awareness and healing BUT if we are able to do this in the light of God’s word, we will be so much better for it.
I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for years. I would wake up most mornings tossing and turning in my bed with fear of the most mundane things like completing a work task or having a difficult conversation. I would occasionally experience these dreaded attacks where my heart will thump inside my chest, I will break into sweat and countless tears, everything would black out and all that I would be conscious of was this crippling fear. I thought my root problem was fear and this made me ashamed because I thought to myself “How can I be so lacking in faith and spiritual stamina to the point where fear so overwhelms me. I am always afraid!” Now I had two problems to deal with: fear and shame. Omo It was a time of intense struggle. O pooor
While I seriously considered it and had begun searching for one, I never saw a licensed therapist, but I once sat across someone who I greatly respect and recounted my experiences. His reply to me was simple:
“Deb, the root of what you’re experiencing is condemnation from your past. You haven’t yet let go and accepted the forgiveness of God concerning this matter and it’s eating you up. This is being manifested as fear and panic”
Before this day, I could have assured you that I was fully convinced I had received the forgiveness of God and was walking in this consciousness. We can say that fear is a spirit and is a work of the devil and I would completely agree. However, that work was possible because of a loophole that I wasn’t aware of and therefore hadn’t covered. Upon a lot of reflection and introspection I realized it was true. The solution: I had to spend a considerable amount of time reminding myself of God’s love for me in the word, listening to messages in this line, meditating on the righteousness that I have received and staying accountable; this would go on to make my prayer life better too.
I can say that a good therapist would likely have unpacked a similar issue after I recounted my history and so at the time, seeing one wouldn’t have been out of place. However, an understanding of God’s word concerning the issue gave me incredible context and a surefire solution to the problem.
This is where wisdom is essential. Any prescription or advice that does not line up with God’s word should be thrown in the trash can along with semovita and other such travesties. This is why the believer must understand that we are not ‘everybody’ and as such cannot be guided by ‘everybody’.Any prescription or advice that does not line up with God’s word should be thrown in the trash can along with semovita and other such travesties. The believer must understand that he cannot be guided by ‘everybody’. Click To Tweet
You can be treated in the hospital by a doctor who doesn’t believe in Christ and all will be well and good but with the mind, we must remember that everything we take in has the potential to affect how we express the life of God in us. The Bible instructs us to guard our minds and be careful what we let into it. The word of God is where we begin and where we end; we must always give precedence to it.
To the person who may be struggling, please see a therapist if you need one, but if you can find one who also believes in the efficacy of God’s word, even better. Remember, God’s word is not what we examine only on Sundays but is indeed the very foundation of our lives and has the ability to transform us. God desires that you are whole and of a sound of mind. You can bank on this.
Deborah Aiyegbusi is an associate pastor and music minister at Oikia Christian Centre. She’s passionate about the gospel of Jesus and is committed to preaching the same in word and in song. When she’s not doing ministry, she works as a product lead at a venture capital firm in Lagos