I am a woman who stands heavily on my faith to help manage my mental health issues. I have always wondered were people with mental illness in the Bible. Who dealt with mental illness in the Bible? I have not seen the words “mental health issues” and “mental health disorders” written in the Bible – unless otherwise indicated. A form of mental affliction is mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:28. That scripture says, “The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind.” This statement makes me think that mental illness was prevalent throughout Biblical times. Extremely prevalent just as they are in many people’s lives in this day of age. As a matter of fact, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
It pains me to say that with modern statistics like that, there is no way human beings of Biblical times could have possibly avoided symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. As I mentioned earlier, the Bible does not use the mental disorder terminology specifically. Yet there is some word usage within the scriptures. Usage that assures me that Bible characters with personality disorders were not few and far in between. The word usage includes but is not limited to, ‘troubled’, ‘discouraged’, ‘brokenhearted’, ‘dismayed’, and ‘anxious’. There are actually quite a few examples of mental illness in the Bible about how many of God’s people struggled through mentally dark times.
Stories of Mental Illness In The Bible
DAVID – A Man Chasing After God’s Own Heart
To Learn More About David’s Story Read 1 Samuel 16-30; 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-2:10
David is one of the most well-known Biblical figures who has a life story that transcends time. He was a man who saw God take him from the valleys with the sheep as a shepherd to the grandest palace as king over Israel. David received a special anointing as a Biblical figure. It’s truly amazing to think about his extensive resume of accomplishments that showed how courageous and powerful he was. Yet, he did have quite a number of shortcomings. Many which left him in a state of mental turmoil and instability. That makes him one of many people with mental illness in the Bible.
David experienced anxiety when he had to flee from King Saul who made it his goal to kill him. He wrote several songs about his mental distress in the book of Psalms. Psalms 59:4 (NIV) reads, “I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight.” After the Amalekites destroy Ziklag, David is overcome with sadness. 1 Samuel 30: 6 reads, “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him”.
King David struggled with intense depression when the prophet Nathan told him his son with Bathsheba would die. 2 Samuel 12:17 reads, ” The elders of the household stood beside him to get him up from the ground but he refused to eat and food with them.” This was a result of his greatest sin of conspiring to kill Bathsheba’s husband in the field of battle and then taking her as his wife and getting her pregnant.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR – A Man of Many Dreams
To Learn More About Nebuchadnezzar’s Story Read 2 Kings 24-25 & Daniel 2 – 5
Nebuchadnezzar is a prominent biblical King with a story that is oddly humbling. He was a king who set out on getting what he desired. It did no matter who or what got in his way (2 Kings 24-25). This was a man who would oftentimes let his emotions get the best of him when things did not go his way. Nebuchadnezzar would try to rain down his influence on the people he ridiculed and harmed with riches and positions of power. Even with all his power and might, he did not get away from situations presented to him in his dreams. These situations would gradually affect his mental well-being. He is in the list of people with mental illness in the Bible.
King Nebuchadnezzar had vivid yet troubling dreams that affected his ability to sleep. I personally believe that his lack of sleep caused him to experience feelings of anxiety. Daniel 2:1 reads, “In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.” As Daniel interpreted his dreams, they showed him in a position of authority and power. Yet he would often boast about considering himself to be a God. He wanted to be worshiped as an idol god.
His attitude would drastically change to where he would lash out at people in a manic rage if they chose not to worship him. According to the Bible in Daniel 3:13-15,19-23, his mannerisms sound similar to what may occur with bipolar disorder. As a result of his arrogant sin of deeming himself to be a god, he was stripped of his authority and sanity for seven years and lived like an animal (Daniel 5:20-21).
JOB – A Man Who Feared God And Shunned Evil
To Learn More About Job’s Story Read Job 1-42
Job is a prominent and wealthy Gentile in the Bible. He had everything he wanted in life, a family, riches, land, animals, and servants. In addition, he trusted God with his whole life. God further tested his trust by taking away the people and things he cherished the most. Of all the things he endured, he never cursed God but he did endure suffering that caused him mental distress. We can consider Job to be one of the many people with mental illness in the Bible.
Job was a prosperous man that had a series of tragic events occur to him. Because Satan questioned Job’s fear of God. Job 1: 9 reads “‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied.” Several messengers came to Job with news that his sons, daughters, sheep, servants, and camels were put to the sword, killed, and or taken off (Job 1:13-18). This shocking amount of news sent Job into a depressive mental state. In spite of the news, he maintained his integrity by not cursing God. To make matters worse, Satan went after him again for no reason at all by afflicting Job with sores from his head to his feet (Job 1:7). Therefore, Job was further sent into a depressed mood that caused him to not speak for seven days and seven nights (Job 1:13).
Job’s friends came to offer him comfort as a result of such extreme suffering. They could not console him enough with their words. Job literally cursed the day he was born. He also spoke words that exemplified his despair from all of the sudden events. In addition, he questioned why God would allow such things to happen to him. Job 6:2-3, Job 23:3-5, Job 29:2-6, are biblical scriptures that signify his level of depression, the magnitude of his grief, and his sudden anxiety about not being able to find God.
ELIJAH – A Man Who Was A Faithful Prophet of God
To Learn More About Elijah’s Story Read 1 Kings 17 – 19 & 2 Kings: 1 – 2
Elijah is a mighty man of God who is one of God’s most faithful prophets in the Bible. God highly favored Elijah. He received a specific mission to turn the children of Israel back to following God’s way. He was able to hear God’s voice numerous times and ensured he obeyed his commands. Moreso, Elijah was a prophet who performed miracles in God’s name which blessed him with provision. Yet, there was a time along his faithful journey when he suffered from mental health challenges. His suffering exemplifies him as one of the people with mental illness in the Bible.
Elijah was a true and faithful servant of God who faced mental adversity even though he was doing the work of God. After Elijah provided miraculous evidence that God was the one true God by praying to God that fire consume his offering (1 Kings 18:36-38), he had the false prophets of Baal seized and killed (1 Kings 18:40). Word of this got to Jezebel, who made it her goal to have him killed that same way the prophets of Baal were. This sent Elijah into a fearful state where he ran out into the wilderness. There he prayed death upon himself because he somehow felt defeated.
1 Kings 19:4 provides the details of Elijah’s struggle. It read, “ While he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” Elijah wanted to give up on the work God called him to do by asking the very man who asked him to do the work to end his life.
JESUS CHRIST- The Son of God
Read Jesus’ Story In Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, & Acts 1
Jesus is the pinnacle depiction of God and the Savior of the world. Let me just take a few minutes to share some of the world-renowned stories of the world’s Saviour. Jesus is the miracle child who was born to a virgin woman (Matthews 1:18-24). As a child, Jesus sat amongst the teachers in the temple of Jerusalem learning and understanding the word of God from the teachers (Luke 2: 45-47). He grew to become the teacher and leader of 12 disciples who received the power and authority to drive out demons and cure diseases (Luke 9:1-2).
Jesus performed miracles such as healing a man with leprosy (Matthew 8: 3), healing two blind men and a mute demon-possessed man (Matthew 9: 27-30, 32-33), raising the dead (Mark 5:35-42 and John 11: 38-44), ending a woman’s issue with blood (Luke 8:43-48), and walking on water (John 6:19-20). He was truly God in the flesh, he was without fault or flaws. Jesus endures moments of mental turmoil when his life bears the weight of mankind’s sin. Jesus is also one of the people with mental illness in the Bible.
The King of Kings
Christ Jesus was the highest servant of God who faced mental suffering because of the crucifixion he endured on the cross. I personally believe that Jesus was full of deep anguish and despair about the servant work that God had called upon him to rid the world of sin. Isaiah wrote about the suffering that Jesus would endure in Isaiah 53:3-5 reads, “‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Jesus made his feelings of depression evident when he went into the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. Matthew 26:37-38 reads, “‘He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Jesus calls out to God in the Garden to take away the calling that he was faced with in Matthew 26:39. I can say that Jesus’ mental struggles were further evident when Luke shared his account of how Jesus sweated droplets of blood in Luke 22: 43-44. Jesus was not without his dark mental moments as well.
What Do These Bible Figures Who Struggled With Mental Illness Have In Common?
David sang praise to the Lord in 2 Samuel 22 as well as Psalm 139. Nebuchadnezzar praises and exalts God in Daniel 4:34-37 when his mind restores. In the midst of situations that resulted in agony, Job chose to speak about the mighty works of God in Job 26:7-14. Elijah told God how passionate he was about leading people back to him despite their unsettling practices in 1 Kings 19:10. The Son of God himself asked God to stop the fate that was set out for him and calls for God’s plan to be done out all in the same breath in Mark 14: 36. God has all authority and power. That power was also within him. However, his only task was to please God in John 5: 16-30.
Despite the fact that each one of these Biblical figures dealt with mental illness both willingly or unwillingly, they all called on God for help or in praise through their turmoil. According to the Bible, all of the Biblical figures mentioned above, ended up calling out to God like never before and claimed him to be the true God over heaven and Earth. Due to their faithfulness to the Alpha and the Omega, God blessed them with more than they could have possibly imagined. Therefore, God was always with them in every high and low just as Psalms 34:18 reads.
What Does God Say About Mental Illness?
God doesn’t want any of his children to experience mental peril. It is God’s plan that we all experience his constant peace, love, and joy. That may have you asking, why does God allow mental illness and is mental illness a sin? However, even in the midst of discomfort and what seems like the worst pain of all, God wants us to glorify and exalt his name. As we choose to not let our circumstances push away from God and draw us closer to him, God will meet the needs of our lives. We can find promise for our needs in the word of God.
God will met our needs. According to his will and timing even in the midst of what we may see as suffering. The suffering that we believe we are experiencing can very well be a time of opportunity. It is an opportunity to build our faith and our trust in God. Most importantly we can show God that we will praise his name. A mustard seed of hope is in the suffering. “That all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 KJV).” The Word of God is alive, well, and helpful. It provides comforting and reassuring scriptures that will bring you out of the darkness of a mental illness and into his glorious truthful light.
What Does The Bible Say About Mental Health?
Can God heal mental illness? The Bible says that God will provide a way out of the things that trouble you. God is going to walk with you and talk to you through all you endure in every situation. Our Father God in Heaven is sovereign. He will pick us up time and time again after we fall. Our God is merciful. He will forgive us for our sins. Our Father is a redeemer.
He will use our pain to lift up his name and kingdom. The Bible and mental health as well as God and mental health go hand in hand. I encourage you to start mental health Bible study. By studying you will learn Bible verses about who had mental illness in the Bible. In addition, it is beneficial to study the bible to find comforting scriptures for mental illness. Always remember that God’s word will not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11)
Know that you are not alone in how you feel heavy laden. There are so many other Christian people who experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. People deal with the same mental illnesses differently. You are not alone just as the Bible stories of David, Nebuchadnezzar, Job, Elijah, and Jesus exemplified. The Holy Spirit that lived within them gave them the strength to call out to God for help. There is also professional help, treatment, and care available to help you or someone close to you overcome mental struggles.
Encouragement For People Struggling With Mental Illness
NOTE – If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts and tendencies, please call a friend or loved one. Ask them to help you get professional help. Do not try to work through your feelings on your own. If you are in immediate crisis, go to your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 at any time of day or night. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources. Ultimately, go online at https://988lifeline.org/ for further help and information.