By Debbie Butler
May is Mental Health Month, which touches on a subject near and dear to my heart. I am passionate about educating people with information regarding some simple things to help make mental illness no so scary to non-patients.
To show how common it is, look to your left or right and you will see either a person with a diagnosis of some sort of mental illness or someone whose life is affected by mental illness through a friend or family member. Approximately 20 to 25% of any congregation falls into this category.
One thing about illness in general is that we will ask for prayer, keep our friends and church family up to date on how things are going because somehow there is an acceptable legitimacy for “physical illness”. We tend to not offer a list of things that we feel will “cure you” but we do anything we can to help.
Mental illness is a different creature all together.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say we find out that Susie in our Bible Study suffers from depression. What might those ladies in her study feel or think?
- She is not at my table and I have no idea what that means so I really feel for her.
- I wonder what sin she has in her life that is causing her depression.
- I am going to give her this list of scriptures I know of that helps with depression. We have to stand on God’s Promises.
- I know of this healing prayer service I will tell her about and how she really needs to go.
- I am going to share Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 to remind Susie what God says.
- We are to live the Victorious Christian life with victories over powers and principalities!
Let me tell you first hand, these responses can be very hurtful. It took Susie a lot of courage to share about her illness, and Jesus tells us to carry out the second greatest commandment:
Master, which is the great commandment in the Law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 MKJV)
What kind of fears might Susie have had before she finally decided to share?
- Will they judge me or try to offer me some cure from God?
- Will the Pastor tell me I can’t keep doing my ministry job here at the church?
- Will people stop trusting me or not want to be around me?
These are just a small sample of the things that run through our heads when those with mental illness share such private information. We are afraid.
Now let’s take a moment to see what God’s Word says. Like any other illness God can heal, mental illness, there is no special reason why he decides whether he does or not other than He is God and His ways are not our ways.
Does God give people with mental illness spiritual gifts and use them like “normal” people? God has a purpose for everyone. Having mental illness may alter the course of a person’s life and managing it may come with limitations, but God does not say that this person’s life is no good anymore. It is quite the opposite.
Psalm 139 tells us quite beautifully how God has always paid attention to every detail of all of our lives, always. All means all.
Even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalms 139:12-17 RSV)
I have found that covering ourselves with God’s Love, making a decision on how much you would like to educate yourself in this area and remembering what it says in Romans 8:1 we will all end up on a good path, together.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ASV)