I have, for a long time, struggled with the almost invisible clash between modern medicine and religion. There are some who go to extremes on way or the other. Being the subject I advocate against, Mental Health, seems to be one of the hardest clashes against religion. Being a pronounced follower of Jesus the Christ, I sometimes have a hard time myself trying to reconcile how all of it works. What is spiritual, what is physical, or is everything a combination of the in between? For answers I look to two places but still I find a hard time finding an intersect. Should I give up everything I know of mental illness or do I abandon my faith for lack of understanding? I think both are an extreme but I do have so many questions left unanswered.
The topic was brought up today as I met with my old roommate from the Mission School. As we enjoyed raspberry iced tea and created with watercolor, we were able to discusse life, work, friends, and of course God. Through our conversation I felt as if I was playing devils advocate. For every statement she made I had a question to counter. It made for great conversation and even knowing the amazing nature of our friendship, it was ultimately the best time I’ve ever spent with her.
We discussed mental illness and both agreed that there is undeniable evidence that it is indeed physical. The issue however came in when we started discussing spiritual aspects. She asked me if I have forgiven myself for suicide attempts and wanted to know how I was feeling about an unfortunate circumstance surrounding my time at the School. That’s when I started to question things. If my illness is purely physical, should I be repentant of something that I had no control over? Or did I have some control and just made a wrong decision? We talked about spiritual warefare and though I don’t deny it’s existence, I have a hard time believing it plays a role in mental health. We did say it was physical after all. Do prayers help more than medication? How could medication be a cure to a spiritual problem? None of it fits together.
Through my studies of psychology and philosophy, I have learned a lot about the state of human existence. The brain is complex and masterfully created -by The Creator. However, when studying the bible I learn to “lean not my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). So if I can’t trust my perception of reality, how can I even believe in God at all. Of course, the great philosopher Rene Descartes built his entire belief in a higher power upon the phrase, “I think, therefore I am”. But how can I believe anything if I can’t even trust my own understanding. Does the brain contain the soul? Is the soul a separate entity entirely? Are the two entertwined while on this earth?
Realizing that got away from mental health some, I believe it is relevant to the conversation. I believe and trust my understanding of modern medicine, specifically psychology and psychiatry. I also see how my understanding aligns with what I’ve witnessed in my own life and with others. But does this disprove the existence of God? I don’t believe so. I have seen so much evidence for the existence of the God of Moses, to say he’s not real would be ignorant. Somehow these two things exist together and I just can’t wrap my mind around it. That’s okay though. I don’t think I have to. It is something I would like to know more about. I’d love to speak with psychologists and theologians and learn as much as I can. I do believe that those of us with mental illnesses in Christian communities need a voice and I hope to be that.
I think the best way to end this post filled with questions is with some truth. I am alive because God created me. I am alive because modern medicine continues to save my life daily. God created medicine for us to utilize. God loves me. I have bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. God could take those away from me. He could choose to allow medication to manage my symptoms for the rest of my life. No matter what, God is for me. He is for you. I am for you too.
Thoughts and feedback would be great! If you know a lot about the topics discussed please contact me and let’s have a conversation.