On Faith and Church Problems: The Role of Mental Health

Because of who I am and the things I've written, people often come or write to me about all sorts of faith problems and church problems. People are having trouble believing in God. People are having trouble finding a good church. Can I help?

I try to help, but it's hard. Our histories, personalities, and circumstances are so different. There's a particular chemistry that happens with one person that can't be replicated in another. The ingredients are just different, leading to a different chemical reaction.

But here's something I've noticed over the years, something that is rarely talked about.

Basically, a lot of faith and church problems are really mental health problems.

For example, someone is sharing their story with me about drifting away from God and/or the church. And as the person describes their life--thought processes, behaviors, mood, etc.--a realization comes to me: This person is describing a faith crisis, but what I'm hearing is depression. Another person describes having troubling finding a church, but what I'm hearing are symptoms of social anxiety.

I also know so many people who report having a "faith crisis" but who actually have a drinking problem. Or they are going through a divorce, or some other huge life crisis. 

My point in bringing this up isn't to blame the person. I'm just trying to point out that a lot of our faith problems aren't really faith problems, so working the problem at that level isn't going to change anything. We're just psychologically in a really bad place, and that affects how we see and feel about everything. God and church included. If you're depressed, for example, even a warm, healthy church is going to leave you cold.

Often, the best thing you can do for your relationship with God and the church is to spend some time getting well.

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