Ever heard that? Or worse, ever had it said to you?
“If you are a follower of Jesus, you cannot have ‘mental health problems’ You just can’t. You need to pray and ask God to help you have more faith. If you struggle with depression, you are not trusting in God and you need to repent from whatever is holding you back…”
I wanted to respond with, “So does that go for other health problems, too? Can Christians not have cancer? Or migraines? Alzheimers? Common colds? Learning disabilities? Physical disabilities? I could go on…” But I didn’t say any of that. I didn’t say anything. I was stunned.
This person standing in front of me believed it was a sin to struggle with depression and anxiety.
“Those things are not from God. You cannot have struggles in your mind if the Holy Spirit resides in your heart.”
I walked away because I was angry and didn’t want to say anything in that anger. I wanted to question them. Have you not read the Psalms? Job? There is an entire book called Lamentations!!
I am not suggesting that Mental Illness is okay and from God. Mental illness was never part of God’s plan for humanity. But neither were cancer or migraines or Alzheimers or the common cold! If we treated people struggling with mental illness like we do anyone else who has parts of their physical body that are sick, things would look a whole lot different. Our churches would look a whole lot different. Instead of being ashamed and hiding in the shadows, maybe people would be seeking help in the arms of our Savior and comfort amongst those that claim to be His people!
I think the biggest part of the problem is that so many do not understand what mental illness is. When your body is not working properly, when there is a malfunction of a system, that is an illness. When your brain is not working properly, that is an illness. When you experience trauma and it affects your ability to cope with stress and life, that causes an illness. Things like chemical and hormonal imbalances are not sin. Struggling to deal with past trauma is not sin. We have come so far in the understanding of how the brain works, but we still have so far to go.
This topic stirs up so many feelings in me. I have been on the receiving end of judgment and criticism for the struggles I deal with. I have been on the receiving end of love and acceptance, as well. Unfortunately, the judgment and criticism stays with me well beyond what it should. I should focus on the love and acceptance, but they get drowned out by the negative.
I can tell you for a fact that my brain chemistry malfunctioning or struggling to cope with stress, anxiety or past trauma is NOT a reflection of my faith and trust in the Lord. My struggle with getting up and out of bed because my anxiety is raging is not a lack of faith. Not being able to make a phone call or making my husband order something for me because I struggle with social anxiety is not a lack of faith. Sobbing for hating who I am as a person because my jacked up brain is telling me that I am worth nothing and am just a burden might happen because I am not looking to God in that moment, but it does not negate the fact that I know Jesus loves me and died for me. As a matter of fact, I don’t know that I would trust and rely on Him the way I do if it were not for my struggles with mental illness. When I have been at the end of my rope, literally staring into the face of wanting to die at my own hand, He was there. He held me when I was at my lowest and kept me from breaking. I have loved ones who have lost their battle with depression. I still do not believe that it was a lack of faith that led them to end their own lives. Being that broken is exhausting and devastating and unless you have been there, truly been there, you have to no idea what that feels like. You have no idea what it feels like to not want to exist. If you do, my heart breaks with you because I do know how that feels and no one should ever have to go through that.
These struggles are not from God. His heart breaks when His children hurt. When anyone suffers for any reason- even in the event that our own decisions caused consequences and now we are dealing with the fallout- that we have here in our earthly, imperfect, temporary bodies, our Father’s heart hurts for us. He has the answers… but I don’t believe that we always get to experience them in the here and now. Just like with cancer, MS, diabetes, etc., the resolution of our pain may not happen in this lifetime. Good thing we have hope in the resurrection.
Even Paul struggled. Paul. Sold out to God, giving up his life for Him.One of the greatest missionaries… ever. Check it:
“Three times I pleased with the Lord about this (thorn in the flesh from Satan), that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
There is such controversy, and often discrimination towards those who struggle with mental illness in our society. From ‘gun control’ to the stigma of medication, everyone has an opinion.. everyone thinks they have a solution. But until we find an actual solution, we will have a problem. I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know what to do about the legitimate epidemic we have… I just know something has to change.
So if anyone ever tells you, “You can’t be a Christian and have mental illness!”, send them to me. I’ll fight them for you. I will straight up fight anyone who says this to anyone. It is not helpful. It is hurtful. Do not believe them.