What do we say to a suffering person? What wisdom might we impart or what gesture could we make to take away the pain that person is experiencing? What verse of scripture might we share to bring hope to someone that has lost hope?
Sermons have been preached and books have been written throughout the ages that help us as we wrestle with these questions. These questions become a bit more complicated when the person who is suffering is living with a mental illness.
Last night as I completed the book of 1 John I came across a verse I knew was in the Bible but didn’t have the address for! It is in chapter 5 verse 14 and is listed below from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition.
I John 5:14 And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us.
In verse 13 we are given assurance that we have eternal life and in verse 15 we are given assurance for answered prayer.
Ah, but in verse 14 we are given assurance that God listens to and hears our prayers and this is where I missed the boat for so long. I’m talking decades and it’s not easy to admit that being I’ve been a believer for 40 years.
Looking at the more familiar KJV we read
1 John:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, he heareth us:
This idea of praying for God’s will is included in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13. As it is a portion of a longer prayer I was not struck so much as I was in reading 1 John last night as it drove home an inconvenient truth. I was afraid to pray for God’s will to be done in my life.
For me those two words could have meant disaster. I had this idea that God’s will for me was to include suffering that would totally undo me and take me to depths of pain and fear I thought I might not survive.
I needed God to get with my plan. My plan didn’t include any pain but immediate freedom from something I didn’t deserve based on some sort of entitlement I thought was due to me.
Since I had my situation totally figured out I would wait for God to honor it. As time went on I created a god that didn’t exist which led to further suffering for me which then impacted those closest to me.
Sadly during those years my Bible often gathered dust as I began reading books that would show me how to find my healing. It was important these books included a recipe that I could follow and find healing. I then isolated myself for the most part seeking to trust in my reason to figure the whole mess out. As you can see I had it all backwards.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Furthermore my faith was in the wrong place. I needed to see and understand things which only made things worse. My faith demanded guarantees as I was terrified of the unknown. As my faith in myself grew it could only mean my faith in God would diminish.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Maybe you’re like me in needing evidence of things that are seen. It would make things so much easier or so we might think.
As believers sometimes we miss the fact of how much God loves us and how much we mean to Him. This can be true especially when we are in the midst of suffering, heartache, and pain.
If any of the above applies to you what do you do?
The first thing you do is seek help for whatever it is that has you in such pain. There is no shame in admitting we need help any more than it is for someone with cancer to seek help. Mental illness is just as real so never feel condemned for seeking help.
Depending on your personal circumstances the help you need could come in various forms. Having the freedom to share your heart with a close and trusted friend who will listen to you without judgment. Maybe it might be seeing your Pastor ( seeking to make sure he has a correct view of mental illness.) If your Pastor finds himself in over his head with you hopefully he knows professionals who are trained to help you.
Possibly a trained therapist might be able to help you navigate and unpack that which you need to verbalize.
Depending on your circumstances you may need to see a psychiatrist who could help you via medication.
Unfortunately there are those in the professional field who will place you on meds before the door closes behind you. Be aware of that.
Does the counselor or psychiatrist have to be a Christian? That would be my preference but there are times where the best help you will receive is from someone else. Not everyone has insurance or the money to pay for professionals. At this point you can research what is available for you in your area.
It’s crucial we know and believe that God’s will is the best for us. The fear for me was the unknown and this idea I had deep in my spirit God would hurt me in some terrible way.
The truth is we will need to take steps of faith where we need to place our hope in God alone. Baby steps are acceptable as that means we are moving forward!
These last five to six months I’ve been taking those baby steps and God has been good to me. I’ll soon be 62 and I’m finding it’s never too late for any of us. And yes I’ve had my moments along the way but here I am.
Don’t be slow to tell God anything. He already knows. I’ll close with a word from Romans. May God bless and keep you. Allan
Romans 8: 35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Filed under: Christian Counseling, Christianity, Depression, Mental Illness, Stigma | Leave a comment »