Mental illness has existed long before we had a context for these diseases. Those who lived during the time of the Bible experienced some of the same mental health challenges that we do today, but they didn’t have the same understanding that we do about how and why these disorders occur. People who struggle with mental illness today may feel isolated, especially if the church is not acknowledging these challenges. However, there are many examples of mental health challenges in the Bible, and these can provide much-needed support to those who struggle today.
Mental Illness Today vs. in Biblical Times
The examples that we see in scripture regarding mental illness may look different than our current definitions of these disorders. Because we are looking at moments in time for these people, they may not look exactly like diagnoses today. However, the glimpses we see recorded in the Bible give enough insight to indicate that many people struggled with mental health issues during that time. Today, we have a more comprehensive view of these disorders, and we can apply some of this understanding to instances in the past.
Examples of Mental Health Issues in Scripture
A majority of the mental illnesses we can observe in the Bible are either depressive or anxiety-related disorders. That’s not to say that other diagnoses didn’t exist at that time, but those would be more challenging to attempt to identify retrospectively.
David is known for his expression throughout the Psalms. He wrote beautiful poems and songs praising God and giving thanks for the good things in life. However, he also had many challenging moments.
“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Psalm 6:6 (ESV)
Today, we would classify this as a depressive disorder due to his persistent sadness. Some may argue that David exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder, but this is more difficult to prove due to the timeline necessary to make this diagnosis.
The story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament is often referenced in the context of prioritizing rest in Jesus. When Jesus comes to visit these sisters, Martha spends her time cleaning and serving while Mary sits and listens to Jesus. While this is a great lesson on how busyness can distract us, it’s also an example of how anxiety can affect our lives.
“But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:40-42 (ESV)
Jesus directly points out Martha’s anxiety in these verses and how it manifests in her concern about getting things done in the home.
God put Job through a series of tests in the Old Testament, resulting in him losing his family and home among other things. Naturally, Job was distressed as a result. In multiple instances, he cried out to God due to his sadness.
“…so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” Job 7:15-16 (ESV)
At this moment, Job was experiencing such severe symptoms of depression that he would rather have died than continue on.
Why Is This Important?
These examples are not of unimportant people in the Bible. They are people that God wanted to use and continued to use. The mental health challenges they faced did not disqualify them from being part of God’s plan. Rather, He used their struggles to bring them closer to Him and strengthen their faith. These moments were only part of their stories, and each of these people went on to do great things for God.
Healing From Mental Illness and Addiction
Mental health issues and substance use disorders often occur at the same time, but your struggles do not define you. If you’re looking for addiction treatment founded in Christ, Celebrate Hope can help. We work with our residents to develop skills for sobriety with a focus on faith. We also treat dual diagnoses, meaning we can help you manage a substance use disorder alongside a mental illness. Just like these examples in scripture, your struggles do not determine whether you can be used by God. In fact, your challenges may be exactly what He wants to use to help others. If you’re ready to take the next step in your recovery, contact our treatment team today.