7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I’ve been battling depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder for years. When I was 17 I had a massive panic attack. It woke me up out of a dead sleep and I seriously thought I was dying. My mom told me she placed her hand on my chest and said my heart was racing so fast you would have thought I had just finished a marathon. My hands seized into fist and my mom could not unpry them.
What was happening to me?
Why was this happening?
Morning finally came and my mom took me to my doctor who diagnosed me as having had a panic attack. He prescribed me an antianxiety medication and sent me on my way after recommending I see a psychiatrist.
However as I began the medication, the overwhelming sense of terror continued to engulf me. It felt like the medication was making me worse!
I found a psychiatrist who placed me on an antidepressant. I was diagnosed with being clinically depressed and having a panic disorder.
I was a senior in high school. This was supposed to be the best year of my life!
But I let the depression and anxiety take over and I experienced a horrible senior year. I wanted to die. I stopped eating and lost a ton of weight. My jeans sagged on me. I hated life. My moods were up and down, I was hospitalized for wanting to end my life. I had started cutting.
At the time, I thought I was a Christian, having been baptized as a child and praying the “prayer” but later I would come to realize I never truly placed my faith in Him. It wasn’t until 2 years later than I became a believer.
Its Not a Lack of Faith Issue
I was told by someone once that my faith was not strong enough and that’s why I was suffering. I’ll never forget that.
But it’s not a faith issue. What if what I had was physical? Diabetes, or cancer? We don’t question those illnesses so why is mental illness any different? According to Ed Stetzer,
We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.
Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It shouldn’t be treated any differently from a physical illness.
My Thorn in the Flesh
Can God heal mental illness? Absolutely! He can do anything! For me, personally, I find my mental illness to be my “thorn in the flesh.” I have actually grown closer to the Lord these past several years. And I believe the verse that says, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9)
Mental Health and the Church
Mental illness does NOT discriminate. It can strike anyone at any given time. Christian or not. Pastor or parishioner.
It’s time that the church step up and help deal with this mental illness crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 43.8 million people experience mental illness in a given year. That’s 1 in 5 adults.
I believe that the reason the church doesn’t reach out is because they just don’t know how to handle it. But it’s time to change that. It’s time to start having meaningful discussions about the seriousness of mental illness.
There is a stigma surrounding mental health. It’s time to erase that stigma. Mental illness is REAL folks. Let’s stop pretending it doesn’t exist.