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💕