Surprise! The Bible and Psychology Can Be Compatible

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2016 Nancy Virden

photo-24751599-vector-of-businesswoman-with-question-mark-board.No doubt some psychologists and theologians alike are spitting teeth now over the title of this post. It is assumed to some degree on both sides that “Bible” and “psychology” are mutually exclusive. I do not believe that is correct, and here’s why.

My life as a Christian, a Jesus-follower, a born-again believer, or whatever one may wish to use to describe my faith, began at age 15. I was an angry child, mouthy, rebellious, and violent, a runaway who loosely held to a quasi-self-designed code of ethics. Adults would regularly comment I was trouble, lazy, and not living up to my potential. At home, school, and church, the message was “you are not good enough because you don’t try hard enough.”

Then I met my Savior. Only a few of the less healthy behaviors changed overnight. That is because my core belief system did not leave room for grace.

Fast forward thirty-four years. I’d been a student of the Bible for decades and had developed some of my own conclusions. To me, God felt near and I wanted to honor him more than anything else. Nonetheless, my knowledge and experience in the faith could not hold back repeated waves of severe depression. All the “right” answers fell short of ending my mood disorder.  I even attempted suicide.

Enter psychology. What was introduced to me as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) became the framework around which everything began to make sense. Uncovering the past and hidden false beliefs was central to recovery. Finding out that my needs matter led to learning how to get them met. Challenging negative automatic thoughts loosed chains keeping me from freedom.

By practicing day-to-day exercises statistically proven to improve people’s lives, eventually living by my values trumped reacting to emotions.  Learning of my God-given right to be who he made me to be raised my self-esteem. God’s love and purpose lost their ambiguity.  Renewal of my mind removed the shadows that had half-hid scripture’s light. Knowledgable support led to hope of true change.

Both psychology and the Bible are studies of the human mind and behavior. From Job’s experience with loss to King David’s depression to the mob mentality of the crowd at Jesus’s trial, analyzing Biblical accounts and characters reveals human nature at its best and worse.

The Bible offers solutions we can either choose or ignore. It deals directly with trust issues. For one example out of countless examples, we learn that mothers and fathers are supposed to treat children kindly and with respect. If we have not received that from our parents, and somehow believe we are at fault, doesn’t this teaching change everything?  More insights into individual value, relationships, motives, and thought distortions can lead us along the path of wisdom.

While the Bible instructs us in these matters,  my understanding fell short due to those false, negative core beliefs.  How is one to “take thoughts captive” when she has no idea what her hidden core beliefs are?  Every perception including scripture ran through a filter I did not know was there. photo-25776157-bible-against-vintage-background

It was talk therapy based in CBT that God used to expose what I had been missing. To insist psychology and the Bible are always in opposition is to dismiss all the knowledge on either side that supports the other.  

Not everything from a secular worldview will be godly,  of course. However, under the guidance of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and with an attitude of obedience to God, what is true in psychology is the lifeline the Heavenly Father threw to save this daughter from death.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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