I truly feel for those who face mental illness without God. I mean, I have a family that loves me and friends who want to help me and that still wasn’t enough without Him. We need an ever-present someone who can comfort us when we’re lying awake in the middle of the night anxious about what tomorrow will bring. We need a solid, unwavering reason to keep pushing ourselves to go on day after day when we’re so depressed that it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. And in my case—like some of you—I needed a deeply meaningful way to believe I was a precious human being with a purpose so I could stop cutting myself on a regular basis.
Many mistake Christianity for just another religion; and I suppose our church services and the moral framework we strive to live by might make it look like other religions in some ways. However, the unique relational component between God and a person makes it distinct. This is not a one-way relationship in either direction where people commune with a nebulous force that does not communicate back or a “vending machine” deity that keeps giving us things without asking anything of us. The relationship is a connection prized by both the believer and God in which they lovingly reach out to each other not because they have to but because they want to. Yes, I do ask Him for things many times but more often than that, I pray because I enjoy being extra conscious of His presence. It is a source of encouragement to me in my struggles. I believe the most powerful thing God gives us every day beyond guidance and reprieve from suffering is Himself, which fills the cracks in our souls that lead to a search for meaning and purpose in damaging, unfulfilling places.
God meets us at the heart of our weaknesses with the desire to take us to a healthier state and an infinite amount of patience to escort us there. A lot of people believe that God likes to sit in a cloud and judge us from afar or that He’s completely uninvolved in our lives. I think those are ideas we have about God when we haven’t experienced the richer interpersonal aspect of a relationship with Him. To that end, I would like to outline some of what I consider to be the most practically helpful ways God can help us in regard to mental illness.
1.) God gives us a reason to live. Each of us were intentionally designed to carry out a purpose. Our being here is neither a mistake nor an accident that suicide can correct. The strengths we possess—creativity, encouragement, selflessness, etc.—are abilities He gave us wishing that we would use them to make the world a bit of a better place. True goodness and God have the same likeness, so in spreading goodness throughout the world, we make it easier for others to recognize His work in it and come to know and love Him the same way we have.
2.) The promise of Heaven gives us hope that things will get better in the next life if not in this one. Through this perspective, we recognize that suffering is ultimately temporary for believers. Even if our lives are riddled with it now, we can always look forward to things eventually getting better for us. When we’re so consumed by depression that our perspective on life becomes so bleak, He offers us a way to see light beyond our dark circumstances. And when we think about it, our suffering is actually quite small against the backdrop of eternal joy that will be ours. This lets us take heart when dealing with our own circumstances in the present.
3.) God is in control so we don’t have to be. All that anxiety we feel about situations that slip from our grasp and don’t work the way we want them to can be laid to rest in the knowledge that the direction our lives take answers to Him. He has control over it and sometimes allows things to play out differently than we would choose because He wants to teach us something that will make us a better person in the long run who is strong enough to overcome more difficult obstacles in the future. If He wasn’t presiding over it all, painful events that happen in our lives truly would be senseless and no good could come from them. It’s because of His mercy that He forges good things from the bad so that we actually benefit from them instead of being left devastated by them and never having anything to show for it. Whatever happens, it’s accounted for in God’s plan for our good.
4.) God loves us so much that He sees us as treasures worth dying for. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself for us because He had to…He wanted to. He would rather go through all that pain on our behalf than spend eternity without us. Wow. That’s a lot of love. Something about that just splits low self-esteem in half and makes you glow with the awareness that someone relishes you to a depth and intensity of the soul that not even you can see in yourself. If you hate yourself inside and out, then you’re not seeing what the all-knowing God sees is there. Whose opinion is more accurate?