By Natalie Varrone, LPCC-S

The Bible can be a confusing book. It is complex, has many layers of meaning, and is very interconnected. There are places in the Bible that seem to contradict itself. Have you ever had these thoughts when reading? I believe that many of these apparent contradictions in the Bible point to balance.

As a counselor, I repeatedly see that almost every mental health issue is a problem of an extreme. Drink too much, you have an addiction. If your thoughts are overly negative, that’s depression or anxiety. Over-eat or under-eat and you have Binge Eating Disorder or Anorexia. Too much alone time and you’ll feel lonely. Too little alone time and you’ll feel exhausted.  We do not do well in extremes. We are healthiest and happiest when our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are balanced.

Jesus knew that, in many cases, extremes will be harmful to us. So, He gave us guidelines or boundaries to keep us from extreme living. How great is it that we have a God who teaches us how to set boundaries? For example, the Bible says that hard work brings a profit but to rest from hard work in keeping with the Sabbath (Proverbs 14:23; Exodus 31:15). That’s a boundary on how much to work. I do not interpret such passages as contradictions, I interpret them as Him pointing to the middle ground: don’t live in the “all or nothing”. Don’t stay in the extremes. If you follow what Jesus says, your life will be aimed at balance.

Cathedral arch keystone, artwork

Why are extremes so prevalent? Extremes are simpler to conceptualize than trying to figure out the nuances of life. It’s easier to think in terms of black and white. The grayness of the abstract is more complicated. We like quick and easy concepts. Additionally, we are often raised and modeled by extremes. Observing, or having behaviors modeled to us, is our strongest form of learning. We are simply imitating our parents’ or caregivers’ behaviors. Sometimes, Christians see extremes as being virtuous or exceptionally selfless. Other times, people get stuck in their beliefs and habits and don’t know how to live in a healthy balance.

From everything I read in the Bible, Jesus enjoyed a good meal. But He said don’t be a glutton (Proverbs 23:20). He drank wine but said don’t be a drunkard (Ephesians 5:18). He teaches us to focus on what we are thankful for but said to expect trials and tribulations (John 16:33). Jesus modeled solitude when He went away, alone, to pray but He could frequently be found in small and large crowds of people, teaching and healing (Luke 9:18).

If I were asked one of the top five ways to improve mental health, balance would undoubtedly make the list. Balance not only provides a cure to many things but serves as a preventative tool as well. Many times, Jesus describing balance sounds like contradictions. He doesn’t directly use the words “balance” or “boundaries”. But I believe it is a concept that He was repeatedly trying to teach us.

Brief Biography: Natalie Varrone, LPCC-S

I received by Bachelor’s in Psychology from Xavier University and my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from The Ohio State University. I currently work as a counselor and supervisor at a Christian-based private practice. I previously supervised a school-based counseling program for a non-profit agency. I specialize in treating trauma in women and teen girls.