While I’m a strong advocate for Christians struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness to not dismiss medication as an option, out of fear or misunderstanding, I’m just as adamant about not relying on it alone.
Please consider medication if things are getting out of hand, but remember it is not a magic fix. Accepting that medication can be necessary does not negate the importance of attacking health issues – mental, physical, emotional, social, spiritual – with the whole person in mind.
We all need a balanced approach to health. When we let things slide in one area, we suffer in the others. While I had to accept that keeping up the best of good habits could not “cure” me, it’s equally true that bad choices make things worse. None of us is perfect when it comes to healthy habits. Good habits take work, practice, and self-discipline. I don’t always eat the way I should, and too often get lax about exercise. When I feel stressed or tired or too busy, I let Bible study and prayer time slide. I wallow in self-pity and rationalize my crankiness. I withdraw from people.
Whether the cycle starts with a malfunction in my brain, or a choice, they feed each other. And it becomes progressively difficult to break the cycle.
The frighteningly escalation of impairment by the glitch in my brain made medication vital to regain and maintain health. But medical intervention is just one necessity for my mental health. If I choose to be lazy and rely on medicine to save me, I can’t be truly healthy. If I ignore other things necessary for physical health, neglect my spiritual health, stifle my creativity as a waste of time, and fail to deal with underlying feelings and patterns, I can’t be all that I was created to be.
If you’re struggling, hold on a bit longer; you’ll see light at the end of your tunnel, and find your way back to walk in the sunlight. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you have to crawl first. When you get on your feet, don’t be deterred when you stumble.
My knees and hands were bloody, but I kept choosing to get back up.
In the worst of my depression, I felt beyond the reach of grace. In this gray I too often stumble in, I doubt my necessity. I doubt my worth. It’s difficult to believe I have a purpose.
Let’s turn it on its head… What makes us so special?!? I mean really, do I think I am, do you think you are, the only one God created without a purpose? Why should we be an exception? It’s easy for me to know and say you are more valuable and more loved than you can imagine. It’s another thing altogether to believe it for myself.
But that’s like saying God’s Word doesn’t apply to me. It may be backwards pride, but it’s still pride.
God didn’t create anyone without a purpose. If you are here, there is a reason.
Maybe, like me, you’ve found yourself asking, in one way or another…
Does mental illness make me unfit to serve in church?
You were created with intent, uniquely designed to fulfill God’s purpose at this time in history. Don’t let it overwhelm you, but the Body of Christ needs you to do your part.
Even if you’re feeling like a nose hair, or something else hidden away, less than attractive when sticking out in the light of day.
But even nose hairs are important. When something that doesn’t belong enters the nose, a nose hair gets upset. It stimulates the flesh around it, and incites a sneeze. Sneezes aren’t always met with joy; they can be unpleasant. But they’re effective to get rid of something that doesn’t belong and could harm the body. Hmmm… Not a bad job.
Whatever your part in the Body in this season, you’re perfectly fit to fulfill God’s purpose right where you are.
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:20-26, NLT
Lessons Learned… and Forgotten
A blessing I have found in the black quicksand of my journey is the reminder that I am not in control. This is a lesson I need to be taught over and over again. Because I refuse to rest in what I’ve learned.
In the Bible, Jesus told a young man that all he needed to do to receive eternal life and treasure in heaven was to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. He was a good young man, who had tried to please God by following the rules. Jesus was not making a sweeping statement for all who wish to be saved, but was speaking directly to what held this young man’s heart back from full submission to the love of God.
One thing I need to give up is control.
When I couldn’t stop whatever happened in my head, when people develop cancer or other diseases – even catch a common cold – it’s a reminder not only that we live in a fallen world that is groaning as it awaits redemption, but also that we are not in control. We cannot even control all that happens within our own bodies.
We need Christ. You need Christ. I need Christ with everything in me, but I let my self get in the way. My insecurity and fear. My desire to be comfortable, and attempts to feel in control.
Choosing to follow Christ is not choosing the easy way, but submitting to His Authority brings peace and joy that can’t be found any other way. We were created to worship God, and live in fellowship with Him. We can only be our best selves in Him.
Living in submission to God makes our temporary lives here worthwhile, and promises eternal victory – all brokenness made whole, all wounds healed.
So, does mental illness make me unfit to serve in church? Nope. It may equip me in a way I wouldn’t have chosen, but it equips me, nonetheless. I can’t be anyone but me, and I shouldn’t try. Instead, I’ll focus on being all God created me to be.
Be you, in Him.
What do you have to lose?
Elijah and Depression
I’m working on an ebook Bible study devotional on what I’ve learned about depression from the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Receive monthly encouragement, and be the first to know when the ebook is released, by signing up for the Fruit of Brokenness Newsletter.
Are you part of the Body?
If you don’t yet know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior… you need Him. He IS the answer – the Way, the Truth, the Life. I’ll be the first to tell you that accepting salvation won’t make your life easy. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.” It’s true. Not because He wants us to be “good,” but because He knows that growing in holiness is growing in wholeness. You won’t be happy all the time, or get everything your heart desires. You will, however, find joy, which doesn’t depend on circumstances and can sustain you in the darkest places, unlike puny, capricious happiness. AND God will transform the desires of your heart until all you want are the blessings with which He is waiting to lavish you.