Mental Health Perceptions- Part 3

I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression. I know the borders of despair and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone. But hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency.

~Charles Spurgeon

A tendency to melancholy let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.

~Abraham Lincoln

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.

~C.S. Lewis

My last point, but definitely not least, from my thoughts on mental health is the idea that if a person deals with a mental illness it is:

3. An indication that the individual has a spiritual problem or not enough faith.

I have actually heard sermons and been in church services which indicated that those who were depressed or suffered from anxiety had a “spirit” of depression or anxiety. To me this type of statement seems to indicate that the illness was somehow due to a weakened spiritual state of the person. That the person had a choice in allowing some type of mental illness in occurring. The implication being that the mental illness would not have happened if the person would have been praying enough, reading the Bible enough, attending church enough, thinking of others first, etc.

Of course this line of thinking is incredibly flawed! It’s like saying a person has a “spirit of cancer or a spirit of a broken leg.” This sounds absolutely ludicrous….because it is!

Now is it possible for a person with a mental illness to not know God or need to grow spiritually? Certainly, we are all made up of a body, soul, spirit and all three are interconnected and impact the others. However, there may also be room for spiritual growth in someone who is overweight, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., too! Just saying. So automatically putting those who have mental illnesses in a category of “not having enough faith,” not having a relationship with God, etc. is a false notion. Other types of illnesses are not usually labeled/categorized the way mental illnesses can be by some in the church. 

Those within the church or religious groups are most certainly not called to make this type of judgment about others. At most, Christians are called to examine spiritual fruit in others. Do they show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? They honestly might! And maybe, just maybe, if the spiritual fruit isn’t there, it could be because the tree (or the person) needs to be nurtured and restored to health! Also, no one is perfect! We all have weaknesses God has to help us with. Just some thoughts here…

Some of the greatest Christian leaders of all time suffered from depression. Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and Abraham Lincoln are a few that come to mind. Were those individuals less than others because they carried the burden of a mental illness? I believe they were even more amazing because of it. The determination, strength, perseverance, depth of character, profound ability to love and empathize with others are just a tip of the iceberg in what made these individuals incredible. They were awesome not just in spite of, but because of their illness. Their weakness became their strength.  To be sick and still shine, to lead, to love like they did, makes them seem like superheroes to me.

And to question whether or not they were close to God or had enough faith seems ridiculous. The fruit of the spirit in their life shows that. The fact that they persevered through life’s ups and downs despite the difficulties, is nothing short of amazing! God was definitely at work in the life of each of these individuals.

I guess this wraps up the thoughts I wanted to share on mental health perceptions. This topic is definitely something I feel pretty passionately about. One reason is due to the number of suicides I have personally known about. It breaks my heart that those who were struggling did not for whatever reason have the emotional/psychological support that they needed. It makes me sad to think it may have been because of a stigma that they didn’t reach out for help or others didn’t reach out to the person struggling. It is surprising and awful to me to hear it said “we didn’t know they were going through anything” or “if only someone knew.” 

The stigma of mental illness needs to change. Mental illness is most definitely not an implication of an individual’s lack of faith. If anything, illness of any kind should cause those of faith to reach out, to be of service, and to offer compassion and love. We are called to love others as Christ did.

The people with very hard problems are understood by God. He knows what wretched machines they are trying to drive. Some day he will fling them away and give those people new ones; then they may astonish everyone, for they learned their driving in a hard school. Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.

~C.S. Lewis


Blessings.

Your friend,

Tiffany

A Heart That Truly Cares

A friend shared the following quote recently. I know people who are much more preoccupied with appearances and material things than what really matters-having a heart that truly cares about others and loving God. I read a quote the other day that said to teach your children two things and you’d taught them well: to love God with all of their heart and to have a heart of compassion for others. The things that actually matter are loving God, loving others, and sharing hope with all. The following quote by Jenn Kish (along the same lines) resonated with me too.

On the day your life is required of you, it won’t matter if you kept a clean house.

No one will ask what shade of grey your walls were painted.

There will be no chatter about the type of car you drove or how many bedrooms were in your home.

What will matter to people, is how you made them feel.

Did you make them feel loved? Less alone? Important?

Did you point them to Jesus?

On the day your life is required of you it won’t matter if you have five dollars or five million dollars.

What will matter to you, is what you did with Jesus.

~Jenn Kish

My prayer has always been that others feel loved and and significant when they are around me. Never “preached” to, judged by, or ignored. While no one is perfect, I hope others feel Jesus’ love from me. All the other stuff has never been or will ever be important.

Blessings, friends.

Your friend,

Tiffany