God wants His children to be healthy in every area of their lives — emotionally, spiritually, and physically — says Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren who lists three ways people can safeguard their mental health.
In a devotional posted earlier this month, Warren, who's also the author of the book Purpose Driven Church, said that in order to be mentally healthy, one must focus their mind on the right things, adding: “Your mind is your greatest asset and the greatest battleground.”
The pastor then shared three things Christians should focus on to increase their mental health, the first being Jesus.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘You become what you think about most,’” he said. “If you want to become more like Jesus, you have to fill your thoughts with him.”
Second, he advised Christians to think about others, pointing to Philippians 2:4, “Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing” (TLB).
“Do you realize how countercultural that is?” he asked. “Our world teaches you to think about yourself and nobody else. But Jesus was countercultural, and when you think about Him, you’ll more naturally think of others.”
Finally, the pastor recommended thinking about eternity, citing 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
“When you start focusing on truths like that, all of your problems seem inferior compared to the glory, the joy, and the pleasure of the things awaiting us in eternity,” he said. “Ask God to help you make the choice every day to feed on God’s Word, free your mind of destructive thoughts, and fill your mind with Jesus, others, and eternity. Then you’ll have won the battle.”
Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, who in 2013 lost their 27-year-old son Matthew to suicide, frequently address the importance of mental health and regularly organize conferences on the issue, urging more Christian engagement.
Recently, Rick Warren encouraged Christians to view mental illness like any medical illness: "If a bird has a broken wing, you could say just believe you could fly, but it isn't going to fly," he said. "If your neurons aren't working right, then you go get help, and actually mental, physical spiritual and relational illness often all go together. You got to [work on] all four."
"If my heart isn't working, and I take a pill, nobody thinks anything of it. [Same with the liver]. But if my brain doesn't work right and I take a pill, I'm supposed to be ashamed of that? What's wrong with that?" the pastor continued.
In 2017, Kay Warren revealed that she had a prophetic vision of churchgoers not long after her son's death.
"In my mind's eye, I pictured the Worship Center at Saddleback full of people who are living with a mental illness — depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia — or any other mental illness that was making life challenging," Warren described at the time.
"Everyone in the room was reaching out to God without having to pretend that life felt OK — some people were crying, others wrapped themselves around a large wooden cross, some were praying, some were offering hugs to others — but all felt safe to bring their pain and their sorrow to God," she added.
"Then I saw laughter — the kind of laughter that comes when others walking a similar life-path talk about the shared, common ups as well as downs, the moments of absurdity and humor in living with a mental illness. In my vision, hope began to rise."