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THE CURE OF TENSION
Is there a cure for tension? If so, how can a Christian in a state of mental tension be cured? Is it enough to take a course of tranquillising drugs in the hope that the relaxation they produce will, in itself, affect a cure? Will a change of occupation or perhaps a good holiday be sufficient?
These and other questions arise in the minds of those who have discovered themselves to be suffering from mental tension, or of those who long to help Christian friends who are suffering in this way.
The first question, as to whether there is a cure for tension can be answered easily and positively. One who is suffering from tension can be perfectly healed. There are many Christians who have suffered from varying degrees and types of mental tension, who have found the cure and are now enjoying mental and physical health. The very fact that God promises His children peace and rest of heart and mind must carry with it the assurance that there is a way of passing from stress to rest.
Perhaps it is necessary to say a little more by way of clarification. We all know cases of tension who do not seem to have been healed but that does not necessarily mean that they COULD not have been healed. Then there are those who are healed but are very conscious that the ‘scars remain’, and may also be more conscious of weakness than they were before. Maybe they are so conscious of the scars and the weakness that they feel they have not really been healed, yet scars and weakness are not the same as active disease, and they can be used of God for His glory and to produce a greater dependence on Him. The positive and glorious fact is that God has given to His children His Holy Spirit, who is able to do a deep work of healing which reaches even to the sub-conscious depths of the personality. I have seen this demonstrated, and therefore I view every case with hope. Real mental illness is right outside the scope of this little book, but as regards that, I simply have to accept that there are many cases which will never be healed in this life, just as I accept the same fact in many cases of physical deformities and some chronic physical illnesses. The problems which arise in the minds of some Christians regarding incurable cases is also outside the scope of this book.
The second question as to how that healing is brought about is not so easy to answer. Every case is different, every personality is different, and therefore details of treatment are bound to be different in each case. It is possible, however, to give some general principles which can be adapted to each individual case.
The condition itself is usually discovered in one of two ways. Either there are symptoms which lead to a visit to the doctor, who makes the diagnosis after careful examination and consideration of the case; or else the one concerned begins to suspect that the cause of certain symptoms is mental tension. In the latter case it is always wise to go to the doctor for a thorough examination, remembering that symptoms which the patient thinks are due to mental tension may be discovered to have a physical basis.
The diagnosis of mental tension having been confirmed and accepted, the first and most essential principle, if there is to be a cure, is that the case be fully and trustingly committed into the Hand of the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. There are several reasons why, in these cases, it is not sufficient for the Christian to rely primarily on the wisdom of his doctor or even on the best of Christian psychiatrists. One reason is that if there is to be a cure, the cause of the mental tension must be discovered. The psychiatrist, or doctor, or even the Christian friend, can do much to help uncover the underlying causes of tension, but it is the Lord alone Who fully knows us and Who is able to uncover our deepest problems, and Who alone can straighten out our personalities in a way so tender that no further harm is done to us in the process. He may use the psychiatrist or others less experienced, but in the final analysis it is He Who must do the work of restoring peace and order to the personality. Psalm l39 is a wonderful affirmation and prayer for any Christian suffering from mental tension. Hebrews 4 v12-13 also remind us of God’s power to lay bare the depths of our personalities which are hidden to all human gaze.
Another reason why it is so essential to commit the case into the Hands of the Lord Jesus, is that in a special way Satan opposes the discovery of the cause, and the cure, of mental tension in a Christian. The Lord Jesus has won a full and final victory over Satan on the Cross, and He is experienced in bringing that victory into effect in the lives of His children. The Christian who is seeking to be cured from mental tension may expect a real battle with the powers of darkness, and needs to be in the closest communication with the mighty Victor, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
The next principle in the cure of mental tension is, I believe, a willingness to be healed. Strangely enough, that is not always as easy as it sounds. There is no doubt that fallen human nature is so deeply self-centred that there is a certain enjoyment in anything which draws attention to ourselves, even if it is only our own attention which is being drawn, and this may produce a peculiar reluctance to let go of our problems.
There is also a consciousness in the one suffering from tension, that the discovery of the cause may mean painful probing into things of which the sufferer is both afraid and ashamed, and for that reason there is an instinctive resistance to, rather than a willingness for, the healing process. Are we not all ashamed of our Fears, our Frustrations, and our Resentments? Are we not naturally unwilling to have them exposed?
Probably the greatest power to change any unwillingness to willingness, comes from the conviction that peace and rest of mind are God’s will for the Christian. God, in His grace, has given us the Holy Spirit, Whose whole desire is to bring about the will of God in our lives. Therefore, when God’s will is revealed to a true Christian, there is that within him which responds with a willingness to have that will brought about, and which leads on to a quiet determination to enter into all God’s promises.
The case having been handed over fully to the Lord, with a real willingness and desire for healing, the Christian who is suffering from mental tension must give the fullest co-operation to the Lord in the discovering of the basic cause of the tension. It is possible for the Lord Himself to lay bare the conflict which is at the root of the trouble, without any human intervention. In many cases He uses a human instrument, and in this He will guide the one who is genuinely desirous of being healed. He may use a psychiatrist or a doctor (if Christian ones are available obviously you would choose them). He may use a minister, or some Christian friend with no special qualifications. Whether the patient is dealing directly with the Lord or with some human instrument he must be really honest. Here again we need to realize that shame instinctively hides, and it is difficult for one suffering from tension to be really honest with himself, with the Lord and with others. I have known someone suffering from mental tension to submit himself to several doctors and to a psychiatrist, and yet to keep hidden the one thing that really mattered.
In some cases healing follows the discovery of the cause without anything else being done. In other cases healing does not immediately follow, and in these cases the next principle is that the cause must be faced. Here again, particularly if the cause is fear, the instinctive reaction is to avoid facing the fear, and to do anything to manoeuvre circumstances so that the fear will not have to be faced. To face the cause and to continue facing it until it is overcome and healing is established, may take time and courage and persistent faith. In some cases the cause is so bound up with the patient’s emotions that there needs to be much patient help given and much prayer, before deliverance comes.
All through this pathway which leads to cure there is need for patience. Patience with oneself and patient waiting upon God, with confidence that He is faithful and that He can and will give full restoration. There is also need for a continuous attitude of resistance to Satan, and of claiming from the Lord His victory over all Satan’s wiles and lies.
Almost certainly at some stage in the treatment, the Christian suffering from mental tension will be advised to take tranquillizing drugs, or will be told that what he needs is a holiday or a change of environment. None of these things are wrong in themselves, and may give temporary relief and help to produce a state of mind which is more capable of facing the real cause of the trouble, but they will not in themselves affect a cure.
Having been healed of mental tension, great care should be taken in the prevention of future tension, particularly in the specific sphere which caused the tension; this can be done along the lines suggested in the previous chapter.
Cases of mental tension are sufficiently common to make it probable that all of us who are Christians will meet such cases amongst fellow-Christians, and will desire to help in their cure. We may feel that lack of experience, or of a knowledge of psychology, makes us quite inadequate to take any part in helping another, but I believe that any Christian can be of great service to another who is suffering from mental tension, provided he or she will follow some simple principles. It is important that we should all be equipped to help others in this way, because there are many Christians suffering from various degrees of mental tension, who will never be able to consult a Christian psychiatrist or even a Christian doctor, and who greatly need the sympathetic help of a fellow-believer.
Let us think then of some of the principles which will help us to play a part in the cure of mental tension when we meet it in others.
First and foremost there is a need for a really sympathetic attitude towards the sufferer. Unfortunately, owing to misunderstanding of the condition, there is often a far from sympathetic attitude towards one who is suffering from tension. I have heard such expressions as, ‘His pain is just imagination,’ or in a rather scornful tone, ‘She’s just neurotic.’ With these expressions we can unmeaningly be very cruel, for we are failing to realize that the symptoms of mental tension are not imaginary but real, in fact the distress of mental tension is usually greater than that associated with physical illness; and the pain, where pain is a symptom, is often more acute. We need to realize that the one suffering from mental tension is ill, and needs treating with even more sympathy than the one who is physically ill.
Even should the underlying cause of the tension be something which we consider to be the person’s own fault we would do well to take heed to the description of a true priest, taken from among men, which is given in Hebrews 5 v2 ‘Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity’. A realization that even those of us who are not suffering from tension, are yet, ‘compassed with infirmity’, will give us sympathetic and compassionate hearts towards those who are so affected.
In seeking to help in the cure of a case of tension, we must remember that we are dealing with two persons, not just one. We are dealing with the patient and with Satan. Satan strongly opposes the cure of mental tension in Christians, and we shall find ourselves in conflict with him as we put ourselves into the Lord’s Hands to be instruments in such cures. Ephesians 6 vll-l8 reminds us of the armour which we need to take if we are to gain the victory in this conflict, and of the fact that the place where the victory is gained is the place of prayer. We need to be constantly in prayer that Satan be defeated, that discernment is given, that the truth be brought to the light and that full cure be the result.
In many cases this all-important prayer ministry will be the only part which we can take in the cure. Added strength will be given to the prayer ministry if it is possible to join with one other in real agreed prayer, and as a result we shall see the Lord doing wonderful things according to His Promise in Matthew l8 vl9, ‘If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.’
In some cases we may be called into personal dealings with the patient, and in this case we shall need the capacity to listen patiently and repeatedly, while we seek to uncover the basic cause of the condition. It is very seldom that the truth will come out in one talk, and we shall need to go away, and talk over all that has been said with the Lord, constantly casting ourselves upon Him, that His Spirit may give discernment and that we may be able to make a helpful and truthful contribution to the patient’s own thinking. It is of vital important that we do not impress our own opinion upon the patient, but that he himself comes to a clear, reasoned understanding of the cause of his trouble.
After the cause is found there is further need of prayer for, and with, the one who is seeking healing, that he may find the way of release. The patient needs much encouragement at this stage, and the one who is seeking to help will constantly need a wisdom beyond his own. That wisdom, God is always ready and willing to give to the one who asks Him for it. James 1 v5, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’
It is a wonderful privilege to have any share in helping one who is suffering from tension, and a tremendous joy to see release and rest of mind restored to one of God’s children. In this particular ministry, if it is ever given to us, we are absolutely dependent on the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. It is also a great encouragement to realize that, because the Holy Spirit is the One Who can pierce to the very depths of the human personality, and bring to the light, and to the memory, things hidden and forgotten, a humble Christian filled with the Spirit and absolutely dependent on the Spirit, may be used to bring healing to a suffering fellow-Christian, in spite of very little knowledge of medicine or psychology.
I think a special warning needs to be given to those who are seeking to help others. We need to recognise signs or symptoms of real mental and emotional illness and of physical illness so that we do not continue to try to help one who really needs to be passed on to an expert. To recognise physical illness is not very difficult, and I have already said that if there are any physical symptoms a doctor should be consulted. There are certain things which point to real mental or emotional illness and it would be wise to bear these in mind. The most important are delusions (abnormalities of thought, e.g. the man who thinks he is the king of England, or the man who thinks that all his friends are spying on him), hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), any suicidal tendency (even the threat of doing it), violence, deep or long lasting depression and what is called escapism (e.g. the patient who, when pressure of circumstances becomes too great, goes to sleep at any time or in any place!). Any one suffering from any of these things should be passed on to a doctor at once, who will in all probability pass the patient on to a specialist.