This is an article I wrote for From The Ashes in July of 2007. There are some minor changes from what I originally wrote.
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
As Christians, we all should desire to live the abundant life. This is not a life that is marked by material possessions, but rather one that is marked by the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, 5:23 meekness, self-control…….
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, shared this portion of Scripture with which we are all familiar.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
4:8 Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.
As Christians, we understand that in this world we will have trials and tribulations. Jesus said that very thing to His disciples.
John 16:33 I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace IN ME. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, preparing them for what lay ahead. At the same time, we as believers today experience our own trials. They come in various forms and quite often we can’t say why. We as Christians are living pretty predictable lives and then one day or maybe over a period of time we find ourselves in an emotional place we never saw coming. Since we are familiar with the Scripture verses above, quite often we become confused and even scared. We are totally familiar with them. We have maybe memorized one or more. We may have even shared them with another when they were struggling. But for some reason they aren’t helping us. This was never in the script!
As the depression becomes worse or our anxiety spirals out of control we re-read these Scriptures and we pray to God asking for His help and healing touch. Yet in many instances, it seems the connection we have with God has been severed.
In my case, when I was afflicted with panic attacks, I was scared to death. Panic Attacks are something you wouldn’t wish on anyone, and those who have never been there can’t begin to relate. I was praying like never before. I was confessing every sin I could think of and yet my panic remained. And when you are at this low point, the enemy shows up and tells you what a failure you are and you begin to believe it. Sadly, some in the church tell you the same thing in so many words.
There are those today who would tell us we can walk in perfect health and that physical healing was part of the atonement. Therefore if you aren’t walking in perfect health, well then you need to basically get squared away with God. Fortunately, that line of reasoning has been shown to not be a true representation of the will of God for His children. Christians get sick. Some are sick for years and some will die from their illness. Others God will heal, either through medicine or supernaturally.
We see the body come together in our churches when a member of the body is ill, in the hospital, or has learned they are facing a serious illness. The body will rally around that person and that person’s family and God’s Spirit moves. Unconditional love is shown to the one who is ill. In these instances, outcomes can range from a miraculous healing to the person going home to be with the Lord. In all of these instances we see the body coming together in one accord towards a common goal. May that become a reality for those in the church who are suffering mentally.
Jesus identified with those who suffered. Isaiah 53 paints a picture of our suffering Messiah. We see how He agonized in the garden as He faced the cross. He went to the cross and died a terrible and humiliating death for each of us. He stepped out of eternity to suffer the penalty for our sins so that we might have eternal life. He is our High Priest making intercession for us before the Father. Jesus will never condemn us.
Yet we have in our midst, people we rub shoulders with in church, who are quietly suffering and they need the Body of Christ to rally around them just as they would for a cancer victim. Unfortunately, many, if not most of these people, for one reason or the other won’t seek help. They live in the shadows, suffering in silence, wondering if there is any help for them at all. Why are they so quiet about something so painful? A huge reason is they can’t endure being told that they are the problem when that isn’t the case at all.
These believers love God. They desire to serve Him. They aren’t in sin. Many are serving Him very publicly. Yet they are quite often afraid to go to the very people who are closest to them to ask for help. That is to our shame. Mental illness is not a respecter of persons.
I am sure some believers that are hurting mentally may simply need to feel safe and pour their heart out to a person(s) who will listen and counsel them through the Scriptures. Many times God works through this process. Being able to share honestly and without the fear of being judged is a powerful thing in and of itself.
There are others who need more than Pastoral or peer counsel. These Christians who are suffering with severe depression, panic disorder, OCD, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia very often need professional counseling and possibly a Psychiatrist who can pinpoint what is happening and provide the appropriate medication. All of these Christians need to be secure in the fact that they can come out of the shadows and be embraced and loved unconditionally so they might receive help.
How might this take place? What might give Christians the courage to step out of the shadows and seek help? Possibly one idea might be for Pastor’s to take the time and speak candidly to the body that God has entrusted to them and in so doing, create an atmosphere where hurting believers can come out of the shadows and get the help they need. Maybe it might be having somebody come as a guest speaker and sharing about these things? I’m not sure how practical that might be, but it is a thought. God willing, maybe this site and others like it might be a tool to reach our brothers and sisters who are living lives of desperation.
At the same time we have to be realistic by stating there are leaders in the church who see things quite differently than what is shared here. They see mental illness as fruit of a life not trusting in the promises of God or having been or currently in a state of sin. They don’t believe these things are real illnesses, so they respond and teach accordingly. And the hurting retreat further into the shadows. As a result some will seek to relieve their pain through drugs or alcohol. Some fall out of fellowship, totally discouraged and without hope.
How often have the emotionally hurting heard in one fashion or other to fellowship more, serve more, be in prayer and in the Word more? I have found that people who understand the most are those who have been there. They can relate. Their heart breaks. They won’t make you feel like a Judas if you need medication. They understand that there exists such a thing as Godly, professional counseling that isn’t going to compromise your faith and ruin you. There are Godly, Spirit filled people who have been trained to deal with the person who wakes up screaming at night after a tragic event. They understand why some believers are afraid they might hurt their own child. They can help walk a person through the maze of depression. They can help a person who has panic attacks see the world as a safe place and help them think correctly. They can help that person with OCD learn to leave home, not worrying they left the stove on.
In a nutshell God can work through them and do mighty things.
It would not be right if I didn’t address another reality. It is valid to point out that there are Psychiatrists who pass out strong medication without a second thought. You walk into their office, present your symptoms, and you now have a long term supply of medication that was never necessary. Some Psychiatrists don’t take the time to properly evaluate you and may give you the wrong medication. Along with the above, Christian Psychology isn’t always quite Christian. You end up hearing things that don’t align with your faith and may even contradict it. But because the above exists, you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
There are verses in the book of James we cite for those who are sick.
James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Something I would love to suggest and one day soon hope to see is for those who are suffering to do what is stated in James. Phone your church and ask for prayer. Maybe God will supernaturally touch you. Maybe not. But there may be real freedom in taking that step of faith. Sadly, this might not be an option for some because their church views their illness as something that needs to be overcome and defeated.
Those of us who are afflicted with mental illness quite often start believing the lies of the enemy as he tells us we are failures, second rate, carnal, or in sin. And quite possibly the biggest lie is he tells us there is no hope. As Christians go about their lives with these “secrets” years can go by and slowly these lies become our truth. That cycle must stop!
When there is a need, the Body of Christ is capable of so much. If the need isn’t known, how can they act? But how will they know if people are afraid to ask because of the stigma attached to mental illness? The stigma needs to be shattered and many in the body need to be open to the fact they are wrong.
The promises of God are not for a select few. They are for all of us. He has the hairs on our head counted. He created the entire universe. He loves each of us so much.
This site is dedicated to those among us who have or are currently suffering with mental illness, as well as their loved ones who are trying to help. By the grace of God this will be a safe place to discuss mental illness. We are not here to argue about the validity of a Christian Psychologist. We are not here to debate the idea mental illness springs out of some character defect or lack of Christian discipline. We aren’t here to debate the idea medication is wrong for the mentally ill. We are here with the hope that God would see fit to allow just one person to find hope for their life, to understand how very much God loves them, and to realize His promises are not for everyone else. And if He chooses to do more, then we will direct all praise and thanksgiving to Him.
Using myself as an example, we all need to be open to the fact sin may be involved in our lives. Through the course of my anxiety I became angry, bitter, and unforgiving towards those I thought had hurt me for no good reason. Dwelling on the unfairness of it all, I only made my anxiety worse. Looking back, I pretty much told God I couldn’t trust Him. I would pray and go for a drive and have a panic attack. When these attacks were especially bad, I felt abandoned and helpless. I thought God had forgotten about me. So I decided to take care of myself, to ensure that I would experience as little panic as possible. I was a man destined to learn the hard way.
That’s exactly what happened as my life eventually spiraled out of control. Thank God He reached down and pulled me out of the miry clay. I saw that my sense of entitlement was not correct. And I learned that God would help me as I took small steps in trusting Him. That began with repenting of my sins in this area and seeking forgiveness from those I had harbored so much ill will against. He allowed me to see that the promises in His Word applied to me. And step by step, He is allowing me to face my fears. I’m not “healed” but I am content in my circumstances. As hard and unfair as it may seem, we all need to be open to the fact that maybe their is sin God would have us recognize and then deal with. This does not apply to everyone, but I ask that we all start by being open to this possibility. I say this because the sin issue was real for me. In no way am I telling you that is your truth. If it is, I pray God would reveal that to you.
My hope for this blog is to provide as many resources as possible that we can draw from. And quite frankly, one of the most important resources we have is one another. A person who may feel like the biggest failure in the world might find that as they share their heart they will give another person the courage to do the same. And you might be surprised how much your honesty will impact others. You may find you aren’t as alone as you thought you were.
In conclusion, if you are one of those who is in the shadows, our hope is that you will find safety here. And by the grace of God, you will find healing in whatever way our loving God chooses to offer it.
I am a lay person and speak from my years of suffering with Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder and what I have observed along the way.