Is Emotional Health a Spiritual Issue?
I learned the hard way. Just because I was raised in the church and was a passionate follower of Christ, that didn’t mean I was whole on the inside. In reality, I was an emotional wreck.
I was demanding and critical of myself. I was obsessed with winning other’s approval. I was terrified of rejection. I had a hard time listening to criticism. I felt it impossible to say no to other’s demands. I could never speak my thoughts and feelings and I did my very best to avoid any conflict that came my way.
For so many years, I sat in church and listened to amazing sermons by profoundly gifted pastors. Yet somewhere in the deepest shadows of me, what I could believe for so many others, I could not believe for myself. Other people could be whole, but that must not be for me. No amount of study, prayer, or faith ever seemed to glue together what was terribly broken inside.
In the church, we tend to feel that if we believe enough, pray enough, and read enough, we will be healed. So many times I heard the phrase, “If you just (fill in the blank), God will heal you.” If I just laid it at the altar, if I just gave it to Jesus, if I just got into the Word for two weeks, I would be healed. But no amount of spiritual healing provided emotional relief for my wounds.
My healing came in an altogether different way. God’s greatest gift to me was the gift of emotional healing. He brought me to a place where my emotional wounds could be safely exposed, understood, healed. My emotional healing did not detract from my faith, my emotional healing increased my faith.
God created us as multi-dimensional beings – we are physical, spiritual and emotional beings. God designed us for peace. “Peace” in Hebrew refers to wholeness, completeness, safety, soundness, and fullness. God wants us to be whole —physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NLT) states, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.”
According to a study by Jocelyn Rebisz, there is a significant correlation between emotional health and spiritual maturity. Rather than pulling us away from our faith, it appears the more healthy we become emotionally, the more healthy and mature we become spiritually.
Instead of focusing on one aspect of our beings to the exclusion of others, as we create an environment where all aspects of our healing can be addressed, encouraged and pursued, we as the body of Christ can experience the wholeness for which we were created.
There are three reasons that emotional health is a spiritual issue.
1. God wants His children to be whole. God’s purpose for us is to be continually “transformed into His image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV). He wants us to be spiritually holy (set apart and pure), as well as emotionally whole (complete). If we ignore the emotional aspect of our lives, we can never experience the peace and abundance we desire. We are left to carry with us the emotional scars from our past. We are left merely limping through life. That is not God’s plan. James 1:2-4 encourages us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
2. God wants His church to function properly. How can we be the hands and feet of Christ when we come to church on Sunday and feel so isolated, so veneered, so incredibly invulnerable? We smile the appropriate smile, we say the appropriate prayer, yet we never feel safe enough to get real. We rarely let anyone know what’s really going on. We raise our hands and celebrate God’s victory and yet we walk into the rest of our week feeling depressed, anxious and anything but victorious.
The truth is, the church can be uncomfortable with broken things. We don’t typically like things that are messy. We like our ministries and our committees and our outreach programs that keep us safely distanced from the struggles and heartbreaks of life. Yet Jesus always found Himself in the messy. He was quite at home with the brokenhearted, with the diseased, with the downtrodden. He didn’t need them to fix themselves up for Him. He, rather, drew a picture of a church as a hospital, a triage, a place where the broken could feel comfortable exposing their wounds, where they could be invited in and welcomed to bring their bruised and bothered selves to experience a fellowship of compassion, and grace, and healing from God’s people.
3. God wants His light to shine into the world. He wants the light of His love and healing to shine radiantly through our lives. He wants us to be “set-apart,” to be different, and to make a difference in our sphere of influence, whatever and wherever that may be. We cannot accomplish His purpose, we cannot be powerful ambassadors if we are just hanging by a thread. Emotional abundance not only empowers our faith, it fills us with a reservoir of strength, of stability, of peace in Christ that overflows into our relationships with others.
We live in a broken world, in hurting communities made up of dysfunctional relationships between wounded individuals. They need Jesus. They need to see Jesus in us. They need to experience the hope of Jesus through us.
Is emotional health a spiritual issue? Absolutely.
God longs for His children to be whole.
God waits for His church to be whole.
God desires for the world to be whole.
 Rebisz, Jocelyn B D, "The Emotional Well-being and Spiritual Maturity Connection: A Study on the Relationship between Emotional Health and Spirituality " (2007). Counselor Education Master's Theses. Paper 87.