The Altar and the Couch

Kristin Hemingway
June 17th, 2019

Hi, my name is Kristin and I believe in Jesus. I believe that He is my Savior and Lord, and the lover of my soul. He is my redeemer, my rock, my sustainer, and my friend. At this point in my life HE IS my absolute everything. I believe in prayer and the power of it. I talk to the Lord every day, multiple times I day. I take my joys, my hurts, my problems, and my triumphs to him in brief conversations and long journal entries. Over the years I have cultivated a true relationship with God and it is a constant force of peace and grace in my sometimes chaotic life. And with all of that, I STILL believe in the power and the necessity of therapy. 

I think all of us know, on some level, that living life gets hard at times. As we age and experience hard truths, scary transitions, deep pain, suffering and loss, both personally and in the lives of those around us, we get to a point where life can be overwhelming. And it is in those moments where I believe that many Christians extend their suffering far past where it needs to be because they take advantage of prayer and prayer alone. Pray is a must, but God has given us so many additional resources to help us move through this life and the challenges that come. 

It’s interesting to me. Many of us won’t hesitate to go to the doctor when we are experiencing physical pain. No one begrudges anyone their annual checkups with their primary care provider or any specialist that may have become a part of their normal health routine. We believe that bi-annual dental visits are a necessity, so much so, that many insurance providers cover the full cost of them. We know that long term physical health is improved by ongoing wellness checks and immediately dealing with any health issues that pop up in our lives. We say that preventative care is the best care. But for some strange reason, that doesn’t seem to transfer over when we talk about our mental and emotional health. 

Seriously, I have never come across anyone that has seen my regular doctor’s visits as a contradiction to my faith or a sign that my prayer life was lacking. However, I have experienced push back when I’ve talked about scheduling regular sessions with a licensed clinical therapist. People have assumed and said all kinds of things about my faith life because I have taken advantage of the fact that I have access to quality mental health professionals. People have questioned the soundness of my judgement because I have recommended and highly championed the value of therapy to both the families of children. It has always perplexed me. 

No one questioned my faith when I went to the doctor for my mind numbing back pain, but people questioned the soundness of my theology when I wanted to go to the therapist to bringing healing to the mental and emotional trauma that living life and experiencing loss had caused. A doctor’s appointment was necessary and wise, but a counseling session was a waste of time and money because Jesus was always available. 

After several of these conversations, I began questioning my own faith. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough. Maybe I didn’t believe the way that I should and that was the answer to why I was suffering internally. Jesus was there and He IS a healer, so why wasn’t I experiencing the healing that I so deeply desired and desperately needed? I mean, living life does get hard at times, but it’s nothing that Jesus can’t handle, right? All of these thoughts floated through my brain for months on end. Unfortunately, I dealt with the pain of mental and emotional trauma for far longer than I should have because I was trying to prove my faith to people. People that didn’t have to live with my pain.  So I sat there, trying to cope and failing miserably. The pain grew deeper and stronger with each passing day. Finally, as suicidal ideations danced through my head, I gave up on trying to prove anything to anyone and set about being made well. For me, that included professional counseling. Over several months of hard conversations, tears, and lots of prayers, my heart began to mend. My soul became whole and I was indeed made well. This season of suffering and sadness verified a truth. Just as God gave us quality medical professionals, he also gave us qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health counselors to help us find wholeness when living life leaves us broken.

Everyone that Jesus healed in the Gospels was not made well by prayer alone. There was an action step that followed their prayers and beliefs that brought wholeness to their life. The leper had to stretch out his hand. The woman with the issue of blood had to fight to touch the hem of his cloak. The blind man had to wash his eyes out. EVERYONE HAD TO DO SOMETHING and the same is true for us. It was the faith of their prayers combined with the work of their actions that brought them to the place of being made well. Jesus not only loved their souls, he loved their bodies AND their minds enough to make them whole again. 

It is why we need the altar and the couch. Taking care of our mental and emotional health is just as much of a priority as taking care of our physical bodies and our spiritual being. We cannot do the heavy spiritual lifting, if we are not well enough to lift ourselves.

Kristin Hemingway

Kristin D. Hemingway is a 16-year youth advocate and ministry veteran that hails from Detroit, MI. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she is a nonprofit professional, youth leader, and highly sought after curriculum developer, trainer, and speaker.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.