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Recovery from Mental Illness Involves Spirit, Soul, and Body

Celebrate Recovery is unashamedly Christ-centered. There is no recovery without our Higher Power, Jesus Christ. But it’s not a matter of “just” praying and reading the Bible, because we’re not “just” spiritual. We’re spirit, soul, and body. (I Thess. 5:23)

And none of these areas exist in a vacuum. They are all deeply and intricately connected.

My brain is a physical organ. Chemical imbalances and inflammation affect the areas of the brain that control emotions and rational thought. In order to improve my mental health, I need to improve the physical health of my brain. I don’t have a chance at a healthy mind if my brain is sick.

At that the same time, the mind has the power to change the brain. The more we think about something, the more connections between neurons are strengthened. If I spend a lot of time thinking about negative things, the neural connections of fear and worry get stronger. If I rarely think about good things in life, the positive neural connections get weak and decay.

And my spirit is connected to it all. The human spirit exists independent of the mind; but the spirit expresses itself through both the mind and the brain. When my mind and brain are ill, my spirit is limited in how it can express itself. My spirit can’t get sick, because it is sealed in the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13) But it can be rendered ineffective if my mind and body are sick.

Reading God’s Word feeds my spirit and builds my faith. (Rom. 10:17) It reminds me that I have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16) and that my body was bought at a price (I Cor. 6:20). It strengthens me to make the choices I need to make to get better mentally and physically.

Through reading God’s Word, I learn the sound of His voice. I learn that He loves me and wants to give me good things. (Matt. 7:9) I need this knowledge to fill my mind so that when the lies of mental illness attack, I can identify them as lies. Because those lies sound so real. When they were all I heard, I believed them. It wasn’t until I started studying the truth of God’s Word that I was able to tell the difference.

So, yes, reading the Bible does help me in my recovery from mental illness.

But in my life, when I started focusing on God’s Word, He led me to change my diet. I didn’t understand it at the time, but He knew that I needed to address the physical health of my brain if I was going to make progress in my recovery. I was already taking medication, and He told me to keep taking it. Later, after the dietary changes helped my brain get stronger, I was able to work with my doctor to cut back on some of the medications. But I still take others, because my recovery is still in progress.

Working the CR steps and principles, especially through step studies, has helped me make choices that have benefited my soul – mind, will, and emotions. I’m making progress through accepting responsibility for my actions, forgiving others, and making amends. And this has been building positive neural pathways in my brain, making it even healthier.

Of course, we can choose to improve our physical health without ever involving our spirit. God built us that way and it works – to a degree. But what about those people whose physical illness is beyond human capacity to heal?

And we can choose to improve our mental health without ever addressing our spirit. But again, there are those whose mental illness is resistant to treatment.

We humans are finite. Our minds and bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), but they are also fallen and corrupted by sin. (Rom. 3:23) Mental and physical health are limited. Spiritual health is not.

Praying and reading God’s Word are absolutely necessary in any kind of recovery. They’re the first steps that give us hope and strength to take the next steps. But they are not the only steps. Recovery from mental illness requires addressing the body and soul as well as the spirit.

How have prayer and God’s Word led you to better mental or physical health?

Maria Johnson, CR Mental Health Champion

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