We all want to be considered “mentally healthy people,” but what does that mean? What does that look like? I recently talked with Stacey McDonald about how to be mentally healthy people on an episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast [How To Be Mentally Healthy – Episode 217]. Stacey grew up in a Christian home, and from the outside looking in, no one would know the pain she endured at the hands of a loved one who struggled with mental illness. She has offered forgiveness, found healing, and now comforts others out of the comfort God gave her. So I asked Stacey to share more of her wisdom and insight with us here.
Be sure to read to the end for a book giveaway!
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
Face Your Pain for Healing
By Stacey McDonald
Many of us have annual physicals and mammograms and go to dentist appointments once or twice per year. And yet, to take intentional steps toward healing from hurt, pain and loss seems to be an elusive ever moving goal. We may busy ourselves with anything that helps us avoid even thinking about our emotional wounds of grief, loss, estranged relationships, or trauma.
Ignoring emotional pain won’t make it disappear
We may attempt to shout over emotional pain. Dance over it. Speak in tongues over it. Have sex over it. Drink and smoke over it. Work extra hours over it. Hang around crowds to muffle the pain or earn degrees to ignore it. But pain is always a signal that something needs to be addressed.
Thankfully, the signal will not stop emitting simply because we are pretending it’s not there. Just as if you were dealing with an untreated broken leg, emotional pain will stay right there and take a seat in your office, lay in your bed, sit with you during praise and worship, and take a seat at your dinner table to ensure that the place you’re hurting is healed. An untreated broken leg gives us a great visual of how painful and foolish it would be to attempt to ignore the pain and continue to function as if nothing is wrong, especially when help is readily available.
Perhaps one reason we avoid discussions about mental and emotional pain is because we feel like it makes us less spiritual to acknowledge the pain, anxiety, or depression. If I do not always have feelings of victory, perhaps that means I’m not as holy? If I named it and claimed it but there has been no relief, does that mean my Holy Spirit ran out of batteries? If I fasted and prayed and after all that I’m still living with or dealing with a loved one with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, depression and so on, does that mean my salvation is broken? I personally believe erroneous fears such as these are a stumbling block to mental wellness.
The truth of the matter is, one of the fruits of the spirit is long-suffering. All the rest of the fruit tastes good, except that one! Not everything will be an Acts 2 “suddenly.” Some things will require the grace of long-suffering! We want God to give us all the love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Everything but long-suffering. Truly, I have never heard a song title with the word longsuffering in it because nobody would want to listen to it!
What King David understood about pain
Yet, David, the man after God’s own heart, did not silence his emotional pain in an effort to be super holy, a super king or a superhuman. He allowed pain to show him what places needed healing in his life. Pain caused David to cry out to God saying, “I’m languishing” (Ps. 6:2), “My bones are troubled” (Ps. 6:2), “I’m weary from my groaning” (Ps. 6:6), “I flood my bed with tears” (Ps. 6:6), “There’s sorrow in my heart all day” (Ps. 13:2) and “I’m lonely” (Ps. 25:16).
David understood that when you allow yourself to acknowledge mental health struggles you can receive the help your soul, mind, and body are longing for. Had David been too ashamed to feel, he would have never been able to heal. When we have a healthy perspective of pain, we’ll learn its purpose and maybe even gain purpose.
Let’s look to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. Rather than pretend he was not concerned about what was to come, Jesus expressed how he felt in the garden of Gethsemane. What Jesus did not express in words, but his body expressed on his behalf as “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) This phenomenon of bloody sweat, or hematidrosis, is the result of extreme emotional anxiety. Jesus knows your pain!
Jesus actually empathizes with our pain (Hebrews 4: 15). Jesus was and is the visible image of the invisible God, his acknowledgement of pain did not make Jesus any less God. The physical and emotional pain of Jesus was necessary to show us that regardless of how anointed you are, if you refuse to acknowledge your own pain, you cannot feel the pain of others, and if you cannot feel you cannot help anyone else to heal.
Facing our pain
If we are to prevail, we must face our pain. There is no get out of jail free card. Your breakout will come from breakthrough. And there is no breakthrough without acknowledging, facing, touching, and dealing with whatever it is I desire to break through. Today, be intentional about attending to any emotional pain you’ve been avoiding. Talk it out. Write it out. Process it through therapy.
Do not allow another day to pass without doing the work of mental and emotional healing. Remember, faith without works is dead (James 2:17). In the meantime, I am praying for you. What’s better is Jesus is praying for you (Hebrews 7:25) because he knows just what you are going through.
What has been helpful for you as you have endeavored to become mentally healthy or face your pain? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
Stacey McDonald, Ed.S.
Speaker | Author | School Psychologist
About Stacey McDonald
Stacey McDonald is an evangelist, practicing school psychologist, author, public speaker, and former lead pastor of ten years. She has trained ministers for leadership, equipping them for ministerial success in and out of the pulpit and provided biblical counseling to families, couples, and youth resulting in healthy minds and healthy homes. She provides mental health workshops and seminars for businesses, schools and places of worship and hosts weekly live streamed mental health empowerment sessions on leading social media platforms. The infinite potential born from pain is nothing short of miraculous, and to be a midwife to such encouraged her writing of The Gospel of Mental Health: From Mental Hell to Mental Wellness with an accompanying journal and workbook.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Stacey is giving away a free copy of her book The Gospel of Mental Health: From Mental Hell to Mental Wellness.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about facing your emotional pain and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Wednesday, June 21, 2023. Continental United States only.