"Evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians (48 percent) agree prayer and Scripture study alone can overcome mental illness. Only 27 percent of other Americans agree." (Emphasis mine.) Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, which is the company that conducted this study, shared this disturbing information in an article he wrote for Christianity Today on September 17, 2013.
Big 'ole sigh. These statistics shocked even me.
Please, please hear me. I am a firm believer in God, the power of prayer, and the healing balm of the Bible. I believe that ALL failing of the human body is a spiritual issue, whether it be physical or emotional. I also believe that though God is able to instantaneously heal anything He so chooses to, it seems that very often He allows human interventions to play a part in physical and emotional healing.
When sharing about my struggles with anxiety, I have in the past (but not in my present church family-thank goodness!), heard, "Read your Bible more, pray more, etc. . ." I've never heard that when sharing about a physical issue. Never.
My recent diagnosis of anemia is a perfect example. I told several friends and ministry co-workers about it. Not one of them said anything to me about my failure to pray enough or read my Bible enough. In fact, I heard things like, "Oh, I hope the doctor can figure out your fatigue issues, or, I hope the iron pills work, etc." I heard offers of prayer for me, but nothing was said about my possible "spiritual failings" as the cause of my troubles. Ironically, I eat a pretty crummy diet, so in reality, I should definitely take part of the blame for my physical issues.
So . . . why does society view an illness of the brain so much differently than an illness of the body? One type of illness engenders compassion and sympathy; the other, scorn.
I love what Stetzer says in the article. "Medicine is not the answer to everything, and we live in an overmedicated world, but we need to treat character problems like character problems-and illnesses like illness." Amen to that.
Here is my anemia recovery plan: I'm going to pray about my anemia, I will read Bible verses that pertain to physical suffering in order to receive comfort (and wisdom) from my Lord, AND I will *try* to eat a healthier diet, take my iron pills, and proceed with any follow up treatment recommended by my family physician. Sounds like a pretty well rounded treatment plan to me.
Mental illness is not a character flaw. It's time we stop treating it as such.