A THRIVING MIND – we all need one, and I’m sure we all want one. But is it even possible amid the crazy world in which we live? Can we truly thrive mentally when the world around us seems to be falling apart?
I totally believe the answer to these two questions is a resounding YES! YES! YES!
Most professionals and organizations recognise that without mental health, there is really no health at all. We can have great physical health, but if we don’t have mental health too, life can be miserable. We can have great social health with a supportive community around us, but without mental health, life can be miserable. We can even have great financial health, but without our mental health, life can still be miserable.
Examining a biblical perspective on mental health
God designed us with emotions – even the unpleasant ones. In our modern culture, we try to rid ourselves of all unpleasant feelings. If it feels uncomfortable, we don’t want it. We try to squash it, criticise it, ignore it and can end up feeling guilty because of it. But we have a problem if we think like this. We need to take a step back and connect the dots of God’s design for emotions, and how to experience and express them appropriately. It is when we apply these dynamics, that we can experience the thriving mind.
Think about it for a moment – Jesus experienced emotions, too – from sadness to anger, from compassion to peace. If He hadn’t experienced the full gamut of human emotions, we could not believe the claims of the Bible, that Jesus was fully man.
I love Jesus’ example of how to handle emotions. He showed us that emotions, in and of themselves, are not bad. In fact, Jesus shows us that emotions are appropriate and a part of the human experience.
How are we different from Jesus in terms of emotions?
The difference between Jesus and the rest of the human race, is that He experienced emotions appropriately, just as God intended. Jesus didn’t become so swallowed up by an emotion that it caused Him to become dysfunctional. He didn’t become so entangled in an emotion that it caused inappropriate behaviour. He didn’t become so fused with an emotion that it caused Him to sin. Yet, we cannot deny that Jesus experienced human emotions.
Jesus used His human emotions to express God’s love; to express God’s justice; to express God’s strength; to express God’s compassion; to express God’s grace; to express God’s mercy. He used it to teach us how to live out our emotions in a healthy way.
As Dr Caroline Leaf says, “Emotions are data telling us what is important in our lives, not directives telling us what to do”. Yet, how often do our emotions control our behaviour, and even our lives?
It’s important to also remember that we have been made in God’s image. The emotions created in us are therefore an expression of His image. With this in mind, we can be sure that our emotions can also bring glory to God, just as Jesus’ emotions did – and yes, even the unpleasant ones!
I believe that emotions are a gift from God. They can help us navigate life more effectively if we listen to what they are telling us. They help us connect with others. They help us to know if we need to change direction. And most importantly, they help us connect with God.
With all this in mind, my desire for this column as we navigate each monthly theme, is that we will be able to draw closer to our almighty God, fall more in love with Jesus, and learn to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our emotions and our lives more effectively.
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.