I’ve known many believers that have been faced countless times with hurtful words from inside the church – born out of well intentioned ignorance. Phrases such as if you would just pray harder…study more…had greater faith then you wouldn’t be dealing with this or how I must be sinning to be experiencing depression, I just need to repent, or my favorite about how Jesus came so we could live an abundant life full of joy…maybe I need to examine whether I’m really a believer.
To be honest, I’ve struggled with the same kinds of questions, the same fears and lies telling me that struggling with something like depression…or Alex struggling with all his issues means that there must be something horribly wrong with him and me. That I really don’t have enough faith or I’m really not a child of God. Even if I could accept that my struggles are not disproof of a merciful God who loves me…we’ve been reminded so often in church lately the differences between leading a spiritual life and living according to how we “feel” or by our physical needs/desires. How do you reconcile any of this with any type of mental illness?
I’ve still experienced some issues and symptoms these last years, but it’s been on the way out and I’ve learned how to fight right. Somehow I assumed that because of that I would never feel like this again. So when I realized that this may be what’s going on I started having those same questions popping back up, but in a more desperate way. Considering that I had believed things were getting better, I have no new major stress in my life, this whole new fear began to take hold. That I would never be able to escape this feeling, and if that’s the case, how could I possibly think that I love God, because if I really truly did – this just wouldn’t happen right?
God has spent years now teaching me how to fight the right way… it’s time to put that training to good use. And in a hurting and broken world – there’s a need for people who can stand and say that’s it’s possible to fight the right way, regardless of the way I feel – emotionally or physically. People who know the path through because they know a loving and powerful God.
There are a lot of promises in God’s word but I have yet to find one that says that if you would just pray more…have more faith…then He will give you a struggle free life. If that were true, the thousands praying and fighting against cancer would be healed. Every faithful disciple living in countries where followers are persecuted even to their deaths, He would immediately rescue. He does however repeatedly promise to strengthen us, to guide us, to comfort us and to grow us to make us more like Christ. See, it’s never been about comfort and ease or fairness even. It’s never been about me. And if it’s really always about Jesus, then a few of my perspectives need to continue to evolve…
Like how I can’t always control this… any more than I could control when and where I went into labor with my kids or the swelling when I broke my leg in the 4th grade. Sometimes, it’s just where I am. Or that these emotions or the times when my head latches on to random harmless things and twists it into narratives about how no one cares or that I’m just a burden doesn’t mean that I live being ruled by my emotions or the physical aspects of this… what I do with those emotions and thoughts is what determines things. If I allow them to seep in and listen to them and pick up offenses, then that’s when we have an issue.
Which brings me back to those well-intentioned statements made out of ignorance. If you’re like me, I am a bit wired anymore to hear only the judgmental or condescending part of those statements. But like so many other good things in this world, the truth is in there – it’s just twisted up. Fighting right means to fight God’s way., and that includes prayer and faith and worship. All of those things that should be the building blocks of our lives as Christians are the things we need to focus on whenever we run into any kind of heartache or hardship. We just need to drop the expectation from the end and realize that regardless of how God gets us through… He’ll get us through.
That’s just the kind of God He is.