How Should Christians View Mental Illness in Themselves?

Coping with Mental Illness as a Christian

Some Christian communities may understand mental illness as the result of spiritual causes, such as sin, demons, or a lack of faith. Such perceptions will likely influence how Christian individuals view and experience their mental and spiritual health.

Not raised a Christian, I found faith in Christ in my early 20s through a dramatic conversion experience. Therefore, I had not learned how Christians should live or their values. However, Christian living is something I learnt along my faith journey. Reading the Bible regularly, I gradually realised what it meant to follow Christ and found it was far more than soaking oneself in a mere religious belief.

To follow Christ was to live a different life, and to live that different life, one being/ heart much go through a transformation. This transformation is outlined in the Gospel of John chapter 3 – click here to view it.

To adopt new values is to live differently, which is impossible unless we are transformed by renewing our minds- click here to view scripture.

I was Not Believed

As a teenager, I was hospitalised twice with intense nerve pain throughout my body. Both times doctors told my parents that nothing was wrong with me. As I writhed on the hospital bed, I insisted I felt pain. After a series of tests, the diagnosis was given as psychosomatic pain; its other words, it was all in my head. The doctor told my parents in my presence that I was making it up for attention.

I was not offered any support, counselling or sympathy but instead told that something was wrong with me mentally and I needed to get over it – I was not believed, so guilt and shame flooded my being. I felt guilty as I put my parents in great worry, embarrassment and inconvenience, which resulted in me never going to my parents again about any problems that I had, fearing again that I would be not believed.

Looking back, I realise that at that time, I was under tremendous stress due to my abusive boyfriend’s fiancé trying to hold down an apprenticeship working six days a week which I hated.

How should we view mental illness as Christians?

No one asked me about my circumstances, how I felt or what I thought was happening. As a result, I became more introverted and would deal with my problems independently. Sadly, this led to bouts of depression and profound loneliness.

When I came to faith in Christ, I suddenly had a sense of acceptance, purpose and meaning that I didn’t process previously. I realised that my life is an eternal journey, and every step counts towards what God put me on this earth for. However, I still battled depression occasionally, exacerbated by post-natal depression with my third child and continued for years. At that time, my husband began to be abusive toward the children and me. 

If I had faith, would things be different? But is this normal for a Christian?

Below is a wise and down to earthly excerpt from Daily Bread, which explains how Christians should view mental illness. By mental health issues, we do not mean just the usual feeling blue, forgetfulness or other emotional and mental factors. Instead, we use it to mean issues that affect the mind, which end up debilitating to the extent that they can change and harm our lifestyles. As the dictionary puts it, “a condition which causes serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking.”

Some Christians have particular difficulty with experiencing and dealing with mental health illness. They don’t recognise it as an illness. Although they would accept that Christians can get physically sick, they seem to think Christians should not get mentally ill. But they seem to forget that since the fall, all human beings have lived in a broken world, with decaying bodies, trapped wills and disturbed minds. There is no more reason for a Christian to think they will never experience mental illness than there is to think that we will never get sick. See the full article here https://ourdailybread.org/christians-and-mental-illness/

Mental Illness & the Christian 

So how should we view mental illness as a Christian? Over the last 40 years, I’ve sat listening to sermons and read Christian books that claim that any mental illness is always from the devil and one needs deliverance. The other sermons claim that depressed people are in sin, bringing sickness upon themselves. Yet another is ‘you have faith you will never have a mental illness or any other type of illness. All these scenarios, and more that I can’t outline here now, lay the blame squarely on you- there’s something wrong with you, they say, and it needs to be put right. I once did, but I no longer prescribe these explanations because they shame the person and do not uphold them in love as Jesus would.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Sometimes people blame others, parents, teachers, and co-workers, for causing the illness due to how they have been treated. The blame game does not work. Stuff happens. Life happens. A circumstance may have triggered how you feel, but to carry on blaming and even shaming others or rejecting them is not part of Christian values. Christian values are about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that you must reconcile physically, but you must reconcile in your heart and hold no bitterness or hate and do no harm.

If You Need Support

You may be experiencing mental illness of some kind. As a Christian, you want to keep it secret as I did, in fear of being judged. If you are struggling to find non-judgmental advice or support, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you for visiting me here; I hope this post was helpful. 

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Remember to live life on purpose, in Hope. Faith and Love 

Paula Rose Parish💕 

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Lessons from the Book of Job 

Prince William, Catherin, and Harry founded a mental health charity after figures showed the number of female suicides rose sharply in 2015.

The number of women who killed themselves rose sharply last year as the number of suicides for England and Wales reached a 20-year high. According to figures released from the Ministry of Justice, there were 3,899 rulings of suicide in coroners’ courts in 2015. This was more than for any 12 months since 1995 when the data series began.

While the number of men who killed themselves fell to 2,997, 23 fewer than in 2014, the statistics for women increased by 70 to 902. The fewest suicides were in 2007 when 3,007 such verdicts were recorded, and the number has risen consistently since then.

What is it that causes a person to take their own life? The easy answer is to say its’ mental illness, shrug our shoulders and move on. But who assesses what mental illness is? By what measuring rod does one assess if a person is mentally ill or not?

I have ministered to perfectly healthy people who outwardly seem successful, and happy but have experienced an acute amount of stress that caused them to despair for their very life. However, these people were not mentally ill. 

I really believe that some people will not admit they feel suicidal for fear of being labeled mentally ill. However, wanting to die in the face of acute stress, illness or circumstances is not so unusual. 

For example, in the book of Job, we read how he wanted to die and cursed the day he was born. The Bible did not label Job as mentally ill, but we see a very human reaction through Jobs’ despair when there seems to be no hope. 

Lessons from Job 

Job can be a difficult book to understand, however, it can help us in our everyday life. I am studying Job in my personal daily quiet time and found it a wonderful insight into the human condition. None of us need to feel ashamed by having such thoughts, even if an attempt to die has been made. Like Job, we are human, and we are weak at times and may feel there’s is no way out of our circumstances expect to die. 

That’s why, just like Job, we need to be in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gives us hope and strength to live each day. Read John chapter 3 & 1 Corinthians as the whole 13th chapter.  

You have Meaning & Purpose.

We were born for a purpose, and that purpose is to love. To be loved by God and love God back and love other human beings. Each of us is unique and very important and much loved by God. We may want to end our life, but God wants us to live life to the full.

 If you haven’t already, give your life to Christ and wait on Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit, and you will have the passion to live out God’s purpose for your life. You will find true meaning and happiness and courage to face the most difficult of circumstances. 

Every day you will be living in God’s strength and not your own. 

Also, if you know someone who is struggling with life, pass this article to them, and pray for them. Be light in someone’s darkness today.

The real problem arises when we don’t know what to do with our troubles. We wonder how on earth do we get through this! And how do we survive this phase of mourning and not allow it to immobilize us in some way? How can we make sense of what is happening?

 This is where the 23rd Psalm helps us. As you read on, I pray that the Holy Spirit of God will minister to you and heal you in this time of grief. Psalm 23 is found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

It is important to understand who God is. If really difficult to receive healing from someone you know little about. So, let’s take a brief look at the character of God.

So, who is God? There is no name for God as we understand the term to be. God is not a John or an Eric or even a Fred, for example. But what we believe are names for God are actually descriptions of God’s nature, characters, and actions.

For instance, Jehovah-Raah, which means The Lord, my Shepherd. Jehovah is translated as “The Existing One” or “Lord.” It also suggests “to become” or specifically “to become known. This denotes a God who always discloses who He is. A shepherd is the one who feeds or leads his flock to pasture (Ezekiel 34:11-15). An extended translation is “friend” or “companion.” This indicates the intimacy God desires between Himself and His people and can be understood as “The Lord, my Friend.” 

 GOD HAS NO GENDER

I refer to God as Father a lot however it does not indicate that God is a man. To be able to accept help from God. we need to trust who God is and will do what he promised us. Therefore, understanding God will benefit our faith greatly. So here we will briefly discuss who God is. God is Spirit- not a man.

People get hung up on God’s gender, but God has no gender. Why is this so important? I have found that some find it challenging to receive from God because God is a man. Past or current toxic relationships with men cause their relationship with God to become problematic. Therefore, understanding that God has no gender is especially important. 

Well, He’s a father, right? He’s a he – The concept of a genderless God can be confusing.

So let’s take a brief look and see. 

In Christianity, the Hebrew scriptures are referred to as the Old Testament. Here, God is a He. The ‘he’ simply is an allegory for His authority and creativeness. The Hebrew word he is usually not written out, but more understood from the verbal form. Then he is used as a reference to God not to be confused with the Latin HE, which refers to one’s gender.

 All the names of God in the Scripture are simply a description of his actives in creation. By this, we then understand who God is. Therefore, the is He is referring to the Infinite Being (Ain Sof), who is the creator of the universe and is above all divine names. So, God is not a he or she (Numbers 23.19-20). God is a spirit.

Jesus taught us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4.24). A spirit is a genderless being who is eternal, beyond time and space. God is the Alpha (the beginning) and the Omega (the end) of all things. Beyond time and space (Revelation 21:6). It is the eternal creator who lives in you by his Holy Spirit so you can succeed, “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” Philippians 4.13.

 We could grapple with meanings of words all day, but the vital point to grasp is that God is Yahweh, which means, I Am who I Am. It is not God’s name but describes the Eternal Divine. God in Christ is above all names, in other words, God just IS. God is past, present, and future. God is a timeless, genderless Spirit being whose essence is love.

God The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist as One beyond the universe or human imagination and yet present with us in our worst fears and the most profound grief. God shows himself in Christ, on earth. I know it’s mind-blowing, but that same Christ lives in you, who we call, the Holy Spirit. Colossians 1:27-To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

To place that into today’s understanding – Christ is the matrix of all that is. Christ IN YOU the hope of glory. ( the promise of beauty). How wonderful!

God is also depicted widely in Scripture as having female attributes. This is a beautiful metaphor depicting his nurturing character. We see this clearly in many scriptures, and just for an example here Deut. 32:18 “You forget the rock who begot you, unmindful of the God who gave birth to you“. Here we understand that God is not a rock, but the allegory is used to describe the steadfastness of God’s nature. Likewise, ‘he’ is also used in this way. Job knew the steadfastness of God and place his trust in this infinite being.

In my book ‘NOTHING GOOD ABOUT GRIEF: from grief to recovery’ I go into this in more detail.

 When we know who God is, we come to understand God in Jesus Christ, securing us in our journey through our darkest valley. 

You have meaning & purpose because God loves you and has a wonderful plan for a happy life.

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