If I told you that you probably did not need to persist with the chemotherapy, or that you did not need to see a surgeon to get your broken bone reset, you just needed to pray and repent of your sin, how would you respond?
Not only would you recognise this as ridiculously nuts but you would also identify it as full on heresy. You’d rightly associate it with the false gospel of prosperity teaching. The idea is that if I just have enough faith and formulate it in the right words, then I can be free from sickness and poverty.
Yet, in the very circles that would be quick to jump on such a ridiculous and at the same time terrible thing to say, the following type of statement is still doing the rounds.
You see, it is quite okay to say those sorts of things when we are talking about mental health. We know that most people don’t just get better from cancer, heart disease or road accidents eithout appropriate medical care. Yet with mental health it is permissible to say such things.
In effect, we allow the prosperity gospel to have access into this part of life. Our mental health can be sorted out with the right prayers said in the right way.
Can sin be a factor in mental health? Yes of course it can. I’ve written about this elsewhere. Sin can be a factor in mental illness in the same way that it can for other health conditions. Sin can be a factor in cancer if the cancer is a result of wrong decisions I’ve made about diet and drugs. Sin can be a factor with a physical injury if it was my recklessness that led to the accident. And, so yes, sin can be a factor in my mental health if I’ve failed to take time to rest as well as work or I’ve allowed bitterness to consume me.
But depression can be caused by a whole host of factors and there may be times when we just don’t seem to be able to find a reason at all. So, if the first thing you say in response to depression is “well it’s probably your sin” then that shows a lack of wisdom, a lack of pastoral insight, a lack of awareness of basic medical practice and fundamentally, a complete disregard for what God’s word says.
I would urge Pastor Gabe to rethink his posting of this tweet. I would also encourage anyone suffering with depression or other mental illnesses to receive appropriate medical care and treatment as well as the loving prayerful support of your church family and friends.