How discipleship helps you overcome this negative coping mechanism …
Jesus commanded and commissioned His church to go into the world and make disciples, knowing that discipleship is the God-created route for human beings to become whole persons and spiritually “grow up” to become like Christ.
You wouldn’t guess that from a lot of the preaching happening in churches today.
In fact, preachers who act more like motivational speakers often ignorantly teach behaviors and habits that negatively psychologically inhibit people rather than help them.
Take, for example, the common coping mechanism called “repression.” Repression is the act of pushing unhappy or painful thoughts into the unconscious mind. The “rah-rah” cheerleader preacher, who preaches a secular philosophy of positive thinking, tells his audiences to forget about their harrowing experiences and anything that happened yesterday, and just “name and claim” their blessings today.
But you usually cannot grow past real, negative, impacting life experiences without first addressing them directly. Pretending your marriage isn’t falling apart when it really is doesn’t help fix your marriage, it actually harms it. Pretending you still don’t hurt from years (even decades) old abuse doesn’t bring healing, it leaves the wounds open and allows them to continue to fester.
Jesus didn’t teach a lot of what is taught from pulpits today. Instead, He understood that human beings are fragile, broken, lost, and often hurting. His intent was to heal them, and to make them whole by transforming them, changing their thinking and their hearts, and so their desires and behaviors would also change.
But that first requires seeing the truth of their condition, not repressing it.
King David provides multiple examples of this for us in the Psalms. First, he goes into great detail about the harm his enemies intend — he first paints a picture of an ugly reality. THEN he describes a greater truth, which is the omnipotence of his God! David first faced reality, and then submitted that to God.
One of the greatest things you can do for someone’s mental health is teach them the Word of God so they have the opportunity to learn and embrace genuine truth and be able to think rationally rather than continue to try to navigate life with an irrational mind and deceitful heart. True liberation in life comes from being transformed, not from our own efforts to redirect our thinking. And such transformation requires a loving God who has both the power and desire to heal all that is broken about us.
So stop telling people to just forget the harm that has befallen them, and instead enable them to address (rather than repress) and overcome all life’s issues through the truth that is found in Christ.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.
The act of discipleship — first making a disciple, then discipling them — is the way to transform a life. Anything less is putting band-aids on a dead person. So if you really want to help someone, stick with teaching the Word rather than preaching platitudes and pop psychology.