Can God heal you from mental illness? Yes! Of course He can!
That’s the short answer. But the real-life answer is often much more complicated, more painful, more excruciating.
When Rick and Kay Warren (Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA) lost their son to suicide last year after a long battle with mental illness, it brought a new light to what some in the Christian church would rather not think about. Christians struggle with mental illness just like those who are not Christians.
That reality is nothing new. Those who know God have always had their share of emotional troubles. Job wished that he might never have been born. (Job 3:11) Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century London preacher, struggled with depression. Abraham Lincoln would today have likely been diagnosed with depression also.
So if emotional or mental illness is your burden, you are in good company.
Too many Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness. But if that’s the case, would anyone seriously contend that Charles Spurgeon was spiritually deficient?
Psychologists, preachers, psychiatrists, medical doctors, and those struggling with mental illness themselves all have their own ideas about causes and cures, about how much the one suffering is responsible for his or her own illness, and what roll God plays, if any, in recovery.
When it comes to mental illness, like with most other problems we humans face, God’s answer is almost always, “All of the above.”
Jesus never turned away any who were suffering, whether it was from physical pain, emotional distress, or spiritual bondage. And in fact almost every “illness” involves a combination of all three aspects.
Could God “zap” you and remove your anxiety, your depression, your fear, your PTSD, your bipolar disorder? Sure He could. And sometimes He does.
But more often it’s a process that involves you, Him, and others to help along the way.
I want to gently suggest these aspects to healing and recovery when it comes to mental illness. Jesus never blamed a sick person for his or her illness, and I am in no way blaming you for yours. But the people Jesus healed had a role to play in their own healing, and that is what I’m suggesting you consider.
- Consider your physical lifestyle. Proper sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet have a significant impact on brain function. Taking extra care of your physical body can make a real difference in your thoughts and emotions.
- Choose your thoughts. This is a rather controversial statement to make to one struggling with emotional or mental illness. I’m not pretending this is easy, or always 100% possible. But I am encouraging you to take ownership of your thinking!
- Get help when needed. Search for a mental health professional that respects and values your faith, and can help you incorporate that into your recovery.
- Use medication for what it can do, not what it can’t. I believe that for some, medication has its place. Don’t use it as a substitute for the physical, mental, and spiritual work of recovery: use it to help you function and stay alive while you’re doing the other things you need to do.
- Pay attention to your environment. Spending time around others who are serious about their recovery, and who are encouraging and faith-filled, can give you a lot of strength to keep going. So can spending time in prayer, and with the Bible.
- Don’t settle for too little. Like Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Lincoln, Job, and many others, mental illness may be the thing you have to work harder at, but you still can have a meaningful, successful life and make a wonderful difference in the world and for God’s kingdom.
- Do the spiritual work. Spiritual oppression is real. At some point you will need to consider whether this is a factor for you. The good news is that Jesus can set you free. There’s never been a case of bondage too hard for Him to break.
If Jesus met you today, He would treat you with kindness and understanding. And He would look for determination and faith from you in response. It’s OK to get weary sometimes: just don’t give up!
Remember the TV series Perception? Mental illness doesn’t have to be the most important thing about you. God has a plan for you. It’s worth holding on until you find out what that is.
Your Turn: What do you think about this view of mental illness and recovery? Leave a comment below.
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