The Lifter of your Head

The church and mental health


In Jesus’ day, only certain people were allowed to participate in temple life. Those with diseases such as leprosy had to stay away. They weren’t welcome. They were considered infectious and untouchable.

But Jesus was not afraid to touch the untouchables.

He went to where they were and “infected” them with his love and healing power.

When we cultivate the attitude that church is a place for perfect people with perfect hair and perfect smiles, we marginalize those who are going through hard times.

“You’ve got to be walking in victory every day.”

What if you’re not? What if you can’t get out of bed because you’re bound with anxiety and fear? What then?

People suffering with mental illness and emotional instability can be made to feel like the lepers of old. This happens when they hear things like, “Depression is a sin,” and, “If you read your Bible every day, you will never get depressed.”

This is poisonous logic. It suggests the mentally unwell are sinners. They are the unclean who don’t belong in our meetings. They can come as long as they wear a plastic smile and leave their problems at home.

Jesus would disagree.

Jesus had a thing for lepers. He healed so many!

He did this to show us that his heart is always for the broken and hurting and those outside the camp. His heart is for those who can’t get out of bed and whose medicine cabinets are full of Zoloft and Prozac.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3, AMP)

Source: Stuff Jesus Never Said


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38 Comments on The Lifter of your Head

  1. Wayne Liermann // September 8, 2016 at 1:00 am // Reply

    Good encouragement

  2. Deborah Kean // September 8, 2016 at 1:13 am // Reply

    Thank you for that! I suffer a lot from what I call “my anxieties” and cannot convey them in church. My best friend there gets very impatient with me!

    • Hi Deborah, I’ll bet you’ve heard a lot of “encouraging” scriptures about how to deal with these from well-meaning people. I certainly do not wish to add my voice to those offering pat answers, especially since I have battled similar things myself. But one small suggestion – don’t take ownership of these things. Don’t call them my anxieties. I consider every affliction an enemy. When anxiety rears it’s head inside your head, speak to it in the same way Jesus spoke to the storm. Don’t accommodate it. I don’t say this to belittle your struggle in any way. I’m just sharing something that has helped me. Be blessed!

      • Deborah Kean // September 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm //

        Thank you Paul! Your words brought tears to my eyes which I read years ago is a sign of grace! 🙂
        I shall follow your advice and I am reminded of another thing I read (I don’t remember where ) that said “I have my fears but they don’t have me”.

      • I really like your comment here, Paul. The same thing holds true for addictions and bondages. When we constantly say and think that if we could only stop doing this one thing then God could really start blessing me. Contrary to popular religious thinking this is when we have fallen from grace. Not when we fall into sin, but when we think that our sin breaks fellowship with God. God does not impute sin to the believer and he has sworn that he will never be angry with us. The more we exalt our problem over what Jesus has done on the cross the easier it is for the enemy to keep us in sin and convince us that we are isolated from God.

      • I love it Paul, I am thanking God for your life. Stay blessed!

  3. Definitely on target Paul!! I appreciate you and your writings. God’s richest blessing upon you my Friend!!

  4. Paul, Thank you. It’s been a year since I’ve found your website and your words have changed my life. I thank God for using you as a vessel.

  5. Irene Maxwell // September 8, 2016 at 3:57 am // Reply

    Thank you for this refreshing excerpt from your book ! It is a “breath of fresh air” to read your articles.

  6. I want to say that I am soooooo very heartened to hear (and read) you raise this subject. I had a tough time as a teenager and young man starting my escape from a religion that could be justifiably described as a cult. It left me with severe fear and anxiety issues that I battle to varying degrees till this day. And yes I know all the scriptures and all His words about not being anxious (Mat 6) and I take great solace too in His words that “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). But at the end of the day, it is the message of love that makes the biggest inroad to mitigating these weaknesses (for me at least) such as Ephesians 3:19 (NKJV Strong’s,) “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”. The more I meditate I on that promise the easier it becomes, but it’s still a battle I struggle to let go of. The “happy clappy” projection of Christianity really does, as you say, marginalize those who are going through hard times. Again, thank you for this article!!! 🙂

  7. Glory

  8. Ugh! Yes there is even a child training resource book that I was looking into until I saw that it taught that depression was a sinful character flaw rooted in selfish thinking. So many people in church seem to think depression is just the blues and anxiety is an untamed case of worry.

  9. Thank you Paul for your post. I would like to reblog it on my site. My family has had to deal with depression and anxiety to varying degrees. My son died from suicide seven years ago. While my faith has helped me through, it has been religion in general that has complicated the healing process from this tragedy. Sadly, there are too many well-meaning “friends of Job” who do the most harm. Far too long the church has perpetuated the medieval thinking that depression/suicide is a sin. There is an overwhelming guilt that goes along with this kind of illness….as if the illness itself wasn’t enough.

    • Indeed there is. The church has a great opportunity to build ramps for the mentally ill.

    • Personally I think that the reason why suicide was made into a ‘sin’ by the established church is so that they exercise absolute control. I’m talking here about in mediaeval times, but its legacy persists today.

      Because in those days (and today too) the Church exercised absolute control over people’s lives, they could allow no escape from that. And so they wouldn’t even ‘let’ people commit suicide, so as to prevent them being able to get out from their clutches. Hate life in Church? No escape, mate, because if you commit suicide you’re going to hell (another control mechanism). So they had you where they wanted you.

      Cynical? Maybe. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true!

      • Tony, you are right about how the church, especially the Catholic Church, before the reformation, ruled over its subjects. Sadly, an ‘order of sins’ was implemented to invoke fear and obedience. Redemption came in the form of money for any and every sin known to man and God! It was a sick society of ole…and still in these modern times you will hear the judgment of an unforgiving society against mental illness and its all too often end result.

  10. Berris-Dale Joseph // September 8, 2016 at 8:14 am // Reply

    Jesus is indeed meek and lowly. And these kind traits are seen in His works in healing the sick and raising the dead. Mankind has demonstrated a dangerous strain of pride in our works of healing/helping each other, by also, blaming the victim. This blaming attitude associated with our good works in an attempt to help ends up poisoning the little good we are doing for our suffering ones, so making it ineffective and unacceptable to the needy. This is why God loves cheerfulness in our giving. Yes, the needy person(s) may still accept the external good works because they need the physical relief they afford; but they internally reject the foul spirit and negative attitude associated with the good deed. This unkind distraction rob the needy of the full benefits of the good works done. It happens in all circles including marriage relationships, not only in the church. This prideful wickedness is presently causing divorce and separation in marriages and families. This pride is a subtle enemy of all mankind. May we cling to Jesus’ wounded side as He lifts our heads with His wonderful love, and heal our wounded broken spirits, by His stripes.

    And by that powerful grace of God through Jesus Christ, may we who have been treated thus poorly by others, not perpetuate the same negative manner of treatment; but may we offer the same kindness and dignity we crave in our own needy souls.

  11. I’ve heard and read so many heartbreaking examples of people being abused in church. It is such a misrepresentation of the nature of our graceful, loving Father. I’ve often wanted to say, “leave that church”, but I don’t think I ever have. Having experienced this in church myself, I still wonder why we would allow ourselves to be mistreated in an environment that should be one of valuing people and building them up. One reason for me was knowing I would lose some close friends, but I think a more common reason may be the need we feel to be in a church. Many communities do not have a grace based church and do not offer a better choice. I believe your Father wants you to know it’s ok to leave that church. He does not expect you or want you to remain in an abusive environment. While it is important to be part of a body of believers, He would prefer for you not to be in a church than to see you regularly being treated in a way that is inconsistent with being His beloved child. Like any good Father, His main concern is what is best for you. One alternative that I know of is a grace based web church called Dynamic Love Web Church (I’m not a representative, just offering a suggestion). Please seek your Father’s wisdom on this matter and may you experience His love like never before. Blessings

  12. i have been suffering from depression …this post has given me good hope.thank you

  13. Emmanuel Obi-yeboah // September 8, 2016 at 11:14 pm // Reply

    Wow that is great pastor paul.thank you.

  14. How long will this book be available?

  15. Thanks for this. I needed the encouragement. I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts for years. And by intrusive, I mean horrible awful thoughts that cause nothing but distress. Not too many people understand anxiety, depression, or OCD. Anyway, a few months ago I came across a site where this guy was asking this pastor/Dr if intrusive thoughts were a sin. And the pastor asked what did they mean by intrusive thoughts and the person said unwanted thoughts. And he responded that it yes it was a sin and that the person needed to get control of the thoughts or it could become dangerous or some nonsense like that. I was so upset when I read that to the point where my eyes were burning with tears even more so when I saw another person had responded sadly with an ‘I knew it’ comment. One of the main things that a person with intrusive thought struggles with is fear that they’re turning into a monster. It’s a continuous cycle of anxiety/doubt and guilt.

    • A… I know and have trodden the road you describe yourself as being on. Looking back, I now know that I was being lied to in the same way you are being lied to. You have already been forgiven and your thoughts – sinful or not – have been paid for with Christ’s blood. ISA 55:7 – 9 certainly shows the sinfulness of “thoughts” for the unrighteous man. BUT YOU ARE NOT THE UNRIGHTEOUS MAN. You have been made righteous. You have the legal right to stop trying to fight your thoughts with thoughts (a battle you’ll never win) and start shouting out your victory which is “Christ in you the hope of glory”. You are a free man being kept in a prison in your mind alone. Christ has utterly destroyed the prison and you are already free from anxiety and guilt. So how do you benefit from what Christ has done for you? Isa 55: 8, 9 & 10 basically describes that you can take Christ’s thoughts (the good, wholesome promises written in scripture… your Bible.. ) and declare them over yourself. This doesn’t mean fighting your thoughts with thoughts. It means declaring The Word of God and seeking His help to believe what HE has said about you by repeating His Word over and over and over again… Over time your ‘thought life’ will change because Christ takes over and your thoughts are replaced by His. He does the work, not you. He’s already written the promises down for you to read. He has already promised that he’ll help you capture what He’s already provided. Strange as this may sound A, but you are already the victor… you simply need to capture what He’s already provided. Don’t worry or struggle with your thoughts… just start speaking His Word (which are after all… His Thoughts). YOU CAN DO THIS! I PROMISE YOU IT WORKS!!! Just don’t give up… that’s all God is asking. Everything else has already been done for you.

  16. Berris-Dale Joseph // September 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm // Reply

    The Devil, I’m sure you know, A, is the monster behind such kind of thoughts. This was one of his wicked aims when he worked so hard to misrepresent the pure, simple peace Gospel of Jesus Christ. He commission his demons, who also engage human beings to poison the children’s BREAD with the terrible and most wicked philosophy of Salvation by Works. Once Satan sells this dangerous philosophy on pain of FEAR, he has also paved the way for intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts is based on superstition. Superstition is a stupid lie from hell, that targets idle minds of children, to groom them as they grow to adulthood…

    Now, we must exercise our weakened minds in right thinking now that we are undeceived. And the best way to start this wonderful process is to draw near to God, which is FAITH. And as we do so in His word in Ephesians 2:8-10 we dare to believe that we are saved by GRACE alone. For this wonderful grace leads to GOOD works according to verse 10. But notice in the same text that if works take the place of GRACE instead of resulting from GRACE, it is BAD works. If we believe that we are being saved by God’s gift of GRACE then we are outside the dangerous arena of BAD WORKS. And we are in on the arena of GOOD WORKS which can only come from the sweet grace of God by which we have been saved.

  17. Berris-Dale Joseph // September 10, 2016 at 7:16 am // Reply

    Dear Doctor and Pastor Paul Ellis:
    I understand that there must be a limit on the words in subscribers” messages because it would be overwhelming to read everything. From morning I am sort of a prolific writer. And I will at times manage to adhere to word limits. But there are times I exceed the limits because the thoughts have not been completed satisfactorily. I feel disappointed when my submission does not go through because of this. Could you not raise the number to accommodate those writers who are not exactly brief writers, say to something above 250? There are those, as myself who appreciate writing, in addition to writing something urgently important. I suspect that my last submission was not received due to going over board. The reason for the disappointment is that precious writing time and material are felt to have been wasted. Thank you for your consideration, whatever is possible.

    • The word limit is for the benefit of readers and is enforced. Believe me, if it wasn’t these threads would quickly become unreadable mush! Good writing is succinct. If you wish to write more than 250 words I encourage you to start a blog. Alternatively, you may comment on E2R’s Facebook page. Thanks.

  18. Berris-Dale Joseph // September 10, 2016 at 2:05 pm // Reply

    Ok. Thanks. And welcome.

  19. Thanks for the great post, Paul. It’s right on! I have suffered from mental illness in the past (it ran in the family), and I used to be plagued by intense fear. Anyway, I was attending this church and was starting to become friends with the Pastoral Trainee/Assistant (I actually liked the guy as more than a friend) Well, one day I decided to open up with him about my struggles, so I told him that I had a problem with fear, and you should have seen his face. He shot me a look of utter disgust (like I was demon possessed and not even human), pulled away from me, and exclaimed, “Just kick it out!” That was the great help I got. After that, he would subsequently question me as to my progress and reiterate his advice to “kick it [the evil spirit, I presume] out.” I felt thoroughly humiliated. Needless to say, I lost total interest in dating him and left the church. Last I heard he got married and is pastoring a church in Northern California.

  20. Enlightening truth. Revealing the heart of GOD. Awesome!

  21. Quite true. it’s sad how people have cunningly substituted God’s word with the traditions of men. MARK 7:8; 13.

  22. This is quite true, yet somewhere I found logical case to say we don’t have to be depressed. The trouble is or might be what to replace it with if it’s not so simple. I just wanted to mention the title by Bob George of Classic Christianity, “Victory Over Depression.”. It’s been a help when I didn’t know what else to mention, I’m sure if I read it I would have a lot more to say. I gave my copy to a friend.

  23. It’s been said that we are all only one car crash and one major illness away from homelessness. I’ve found much truth in this. My life completely collapsed, and it was too great an effort to try to stay alive. The emotional pain was excruciating, and I developed PTSD to cope with the things that it is beyond my human abilities to process and cope with. My mind and heart were shattered. I’ve found Jesus walking with me through the valley of the shadow of death, the valley where I want to die, and His unflinching support and strength and constant words of love and encouragement at all hours of the day and night…. well I’m still here, and writing this.

    He is unflinching in the face of horror, terror, and things that cause me to despair. He can deal with the tsunami of anger I feel at the violation, injustice and torture at the hands of a surgeon in Australia that brought me to this point in my life. He can deal with all the loss and grief that have been the corollary effects of the surgeon’s selfish behaviour (there was NO consent).

    Thank you for this site, and the articles. They are life-giving, and encouraging. I’m now speaking to the mountain of injustice, and standing in faith that the Lord is at work in my circumstances.

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