“For we are the product of his hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the anointed Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
According to 2017 research by the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.9% of adults in the U.S. have a mental illness. For those of us doing the math, that’s about two out of every ten people. It could be us, someone in our family, our co-worker, or someone we serve with at church. As Christians, how do we deal with mental illness?
Those who haven’t struggled with mental illness can find it hard to understand the depth of pain experienced by those who do. Charles Spurgeon, a great evangelist who suffered from depression, said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” The pain is real. The struggle can be daunting.
Let’s look at this issue from two sides. First, if you have a mental illness, God’s word points the way to hope:
- Ephesians 2:10 says God created you with his own hand. Heaven’s poetry is written on your life. No mental health issue can ever change that. God created you deliberately, loves you unfailingly, values who you are, and has a plan for your life. “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I chose you for a special work…” (Isaiah 1:5). You are God’s beloved, the apple of his eye.
- God is a “wonderful counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) You can talk to God about your mental illness. Many of the Psalms deal with depression, anger, or fear, and can be used as prayers. Remember, no one knows what you are going through better than the one who created you. Feel free to pour out your heart, your emotions, and your pain to God—he understands.
- Don’t hesitate to get professional help and medication. When a person has a physical illness, they feel no shame about seeing a doctor and taking medicine. If you have a mental illness, you should feel no shame about seeing a professional and taking needed medicine. Jesus himself said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do…” (Mark 2:17).
Second, how should Christians react to people who have a mental illness? Matthew 7:12 says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” What if it were you? What if it was your son or your daughter? How would you want them to be treated? We treat others as we want to be treated—with kindness, empathy, and grace.
Dear God, I come to you as your beloved child. Thank you for surrounding me in your love and mercy. Help me to remember your faithfulness and to trust in your plan. You have promised that your grace is sufficient, both for my current circumstances and for every day of my future. Bring strength out of my weakness. In Jesus’s name, amen.