Faith in the World of Behavioral Health
05/31/2016 04:27PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez
Wherever you go in the world, people are hurting. Physical and psychological pain is rapidly approaching epidemic proportions. And it has no discriminate policy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, brown or white, rich or poor; pain has no gender, religion or socioeconomic status. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Bangor, Maine or Mainland China—every human being experiences some form of emotional pain. What does matter is how we attempt to alleviate the pain.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In spite of all the ways God “blesses” America, unprecedented numbers of people struggle with anxiety and feelings of emptiness. So they flood psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health offices hoping that someone can give them something to stop the pain. How many of us know that pills don’t heal? They might help temporarily, but for true healing and wholeness, we must make our way to the Chief Physician—Jesus Christ.
While serving on active duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as an Army Social Work Officer, I saw the different ways Service Members tried to handle emotional pain. One of my most rewarding experiences involved a Soldier about age 25. The unthinkable had happened. An IED exploded while he was out on patrol in Iraq. Somewhere between Landstuhl, Germany, and Walter Reed, doctors determined that a double amputation above the knees was the only way to save the Soldier’s life.
The first time I met him, he was lying on a bed at Walter Reed with his face to the wall. He was angry, hurt and ashamed. He refused to turn his face from the wall and talk with me. But I pulled up a chair anyway. I sat there for about 15 minutes without saying a word. I was praying, but he didn’t know that. This road was not a familiar one. I knew I needed the Lord’s help. He didn’t fail me.
The first words I said were, “I bet you are pretty angry. I know I would be.” That seemed to break the ice and over the next two hours, we talked. He cried. I kept praying. He cried because he felt like he wasn’t a man anymore. “How can I be a husband and father?” he lamented. “After all, I can’t even stand on my own two feet. They’re gone!”
His was a long journey. But, after about seven months of various types of intensive therapy, it was time for discharge. The day before he left, the Soldier stopped by my office—beaming. He was wearing his new prosthetics. He was standing tall. He became tearful as he thanked me for just being there, listening and not allowing him to lose hope. I let him know that it was only because of my faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s ironic that while pharmaceuticals have excelled at developing improved ways to relieve physical pain, man’s goal to eradicate emotional pain remains elusive. Rather than looking at emotional pain from God’s perspective, we look to everyone and everything except the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Too often counselors encourage their patients to look within for answers. Look within? I’m the one who’s confused. Instead, we must look up to the one who created us. Look to the one who has all the answers. God is the only one of whom it can be said, “He’s a real know-it-all.”
“At the heart of every problem is a problem of the heart.” We’re told in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” It’s a heart thing! But that’s not the message most individuals seeking mental health counseling receive. They’re not told that bitterness and anger or unforgiveness, guilt and shame cannot be treated with a pill. Rarely do counselors help their patients connect the dots between violating God’s spiritual laws and the myriad of problems occurring in their lives. As a Christian, I understand the power embedded in these principles. So, why doesn’t the world understand them? It’s because “The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.” Faith is irrational to anyone who doesn’t know God. But for those of us who do, we know without a doubt, Faith Works!