What Does God Say About Mental Illnesses?
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What Does God Say About Mental Illnesses?

Mental illness is a complex subject that affects millions of people worldwide. As Christians, it’s important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about mental health so we can better care for those struggling with mental illnesses. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore what God says about mental illness and how we as believers should respond.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mental illness is a real medical condition, not a spiritual weakness or demonic possession.
  • The Bible offers compassion, not condemnation, for those with mental illnesses.
  • Jesus healed people struggling with mental disturbances, showing God’s desire to restore wholeness.
  • Christians should reject stigma and care for the mentally ill as fellow image-bearers of God.
  • The church should provide spiritual and practical support for individuals and families affected by mental illness.
  • While mental illness is real, our hope is ultimately in the complete healing and restoration Christ will bring.

Mental Illness is a Genuine Medical Condition

Mental illnesses are real medical conditions that affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are diagnosable conditions caused by complex interactions between genetics, brain chemistry, environment, and life experiences.

Mental illness is common – approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness in a given year.^1^ For Christians, it’s important we recognize mental illnesses as genuine medical conditions and not the result of personal sin, lack of faith, or demonic activity.

Unfortunately, mental illness is often stigmatized in the church. Some assume mental illness stems from spiritual causes like demon possession, generational curses, or unconfessed sin. But the Bible does not support this view. Mental illness is never described as a sickness of the spirit, but an affliction of the mind and body – just like any other medical illness.

The Apostle Paul recognized that our outward spirit is affected by our physical brain and body:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV)

Our mind, emotions, and behaviors have a biological basis just like the rest of our physical body. While spiritual factors can influence mental health, the brain is the organ primarily responsible for mental illnesses like clinical depression or schizophrenia.

Christian counselor Ed Welch notes:

Mental illness is a physical reality. It is a brain disease.^2^

Viewing mental illness as a medical condition removes the inappropriate stigma, guilt, and shame often experienced by those living with mental health challenges.

The Bible Offers Compassion for the Mentally Ill

While Jesus had compassion for all who suffered, the gospel accounts portray Him as having a specific tender-heartedness for those afflicted mentally and emotionally. In contrast to stigmatizing the mentally ill as sinful or demon-possessed, Jesus extended mercy, healed them, and restored their dignity as beloved children of God.

Consider the account in Matthew 4:23-25:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (ESV)

The text specifically distinguishes between physical diseases, demon oppression, and mental afflictions like seizures. Jesus healed them all – making no distinction between physical and mental needs. He rejected the notion that mental disturbances were caused by personal sin or demonic activity. We as Christians should exhibit this same grace and compassion to those struggling with mental illness today.

Jesus Healed Those Struggling with Mental Disturbances

In Mark 5, Jesus casts a legion of demons into 2,000 pigs, delivering a tormented man known as the “Demoniac of Gerasenes.” But even in this dramatic deliverance narrative, a careful reading shows the man struggled with mental disturbances separate from demonic oppression.

Prior to the deliverance, Mark 5:5 notes, “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones” (ESV). The man’s self-harming behavior and social isolation aligned with symptoms of mental disorders. And verse 15 notes after deliverance “in his right mind” the man sought fellowship and wore clothes – basic social norms he struggled with while mentally distressed.

This account shows Jesus cared deeply about those afflicted mentally both before and after healing them of any spiritual oppression. The Bible portrays demonic oppression and mental illness as separate issues. Mental disturbances were not automatically attributed to the demonic realm.

In Matthew 17, Jesus healed a young boy whom Scripture described as a “lunatic” and “epileptic.” In healing him, Jesus rebuked the demon that afflicted the child. Yet, the boy’s symptoms aligned with a neurological seizure disorder and were not solely the result of demonic activity. Jesus exercised compassion and healed the child completely – addressing both medical and spiritual needs.

Through His healing of the mentally disturbed, Jesus demonstrated that mental and physical afflictions grieve the heart of God. Christ’s ministry was one of removing suffering, restoring dignity, and renewing the mind and body.

Christians Should Reject Stigma and Care for the Mentally Ill

While some mental disturbances do have spiritual roots, the complexity of the mind and emotions means mental illnesses can stem from myriad factors. Lack of compassion, simplistic explanations, and stigmatization have no place in the church.

Pastor Rick Warren, who tragically lost his son to suicide after a long mental health battle, writes:

Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character.^3^

As Christians, we should reject any stigma and instead care for and defend the dignity of those with mental illnesses as fellow image-bearers of God. We can acknowledge mental illness as a genuine disorder without blaming or shaming those who live with it.

The Bible calls us to “be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24) and care for the vulnerable and suffering (Matthew 25:34-40). It is not loving to simplify mental illnesses as merely spiritual problems or demonic activity. We should avoidplatitudes and have compassion, “weeping with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

While mental illness is complex, our role is simple – offer humble understanding and grace. We represent Christ by loving others as God loves them.

The Church Should Provide Spiritual and Practical Support

Like Jesus, the church should be a source of healing, comfort, and practical support for those struggling with mental illness and their families. While professional mental health treatment is essential, the church has a unique role to play.

We can start by fostering communities where people feel safe to share their struggles without fear of judgment. The church should be a refuge where people can be authentic about mental health challenges and receive spiritual and emotional support.

James 5:13-16 notes:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (ESV)

God desires our physical, mental and spiritual needs to be met through His church. Christians should be open about their struggles and pray earnestly for healing, deliverance and restored health – whether physical or mental.

The church can also provide mental health resources, counselors, support groups, and education to reduce stigma. Christians living with mental illness need practical help as well – with meals, childcare and spiritual support. By offering compassion rather than ostracization, the church can become a sanctuary for the brokenhearted.

Complete Healing and Restoration in Christ

While Christians affirm the devastating realities of mental illness now, we also have a unique hope. Followers of Jesus find comfort in God’s promise of ultimate healing and restoration in Christ (Revelation 21:4). The Bible assures us that a day is coming when:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

The darkest seasons of mental illness will not last forever. In Christ, our minds and bodies will be made completely whole. What seems unsolvable to us is possible for God.

Until that day, may the church embrace its call to comfort the hurting and faithfully represent the heart of Jesus to those living with mental illness. May we strive to offer hope, healing, and dignified care to those suffering in darkness. For we are all fellow heirs of the grace of God.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Mental Illness
  2. Welch, E.T. (1997). Blame it on the Brain? Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience. New Jersey: P&R Publishing.
  3. Warren, R. (2013). The Purpose Driven Life. Michigan: Zondervan.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.