Is it possible to overcome serious illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia by prayer and Bible study, alone?
Some say 'yea' and some say 'nay' according to LifeWay Research.
Here is the question and the percentages among those self-identified as "born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians."
By comparison, the views of all Americans are markedly different. Far less of the general population believes that prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness. Do they know more than us or do we know better than them? I'd go with the former.
The recent suicides of the son of leading SBC pastor Rick Warren and the daughter of the SBC's day-to-day CEO Frank Page has raised the profile of mental illness among Southern Baptists, a good thing, since we need an informed and educated clergy in this area.
While I think LifeWay's question is not as precise in getting to the answers as it could be, the results should be sobering. About half among SBC clergy and church members think that when a person has a serious mental illness, the cure might be just praying and studying one's Bible.
It is the pretty sorry, inept, uninformed, headstrong SBC pastor who would counsel someone who shows the signs and history of serious mental illness to get alone with God and their Bible and see if they cannot just snap out of it. Presumably our Bible college and seminary educated clergy are exposed to the broader knowledge of mental illness, its dangers and possible treatments.
What I fear is that my clergy colleagues secretly believe that it is an affront to God to seek medical attention and treatment for an emotional or mental illness. Some of the best counseling, some of the most effective counseling that I have done in several decades as a pastor is done in one sentence: "You need to go to the doctor with this."
Mental illness, especially depression, has been a regular blogging interest of mine, partly because I've been around a few suicides, including clergy suicides. The latter should not surprise us if we understand that some research reports that clergy have rates of depression nearly twice that of the national average.
And yet when I read or participate in discussion of mental illness and depression on blogs by Christians and Christian forums it always happens that some commenter asserts the sufficiency of prayer and Bible study and not only eschews medical treatment but vigorously opposes it. That's a possible recipe for suicide.
Next Monday is, you know, Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, a completely bogus concept invented as part of some advertising program. How about taking your pastor out to lunch that day and sound him out on mental illness. Has he ever mentioned it in a sermon? There are plenty of texts that are perfect for a topical sermon on depression. Recommend a few to him. Pay for his lunch. He will feel better, since every Monday is sometimes Blue Monday to a pastor.
If you are seriously ill, if you break your leg, if you have crushing chest pains, if you have agonizing abdominal pain, or if you exhibit the symptoms of a mental illness: Hie thee to the doctor.