Facing Mental Illness With Faith

04/21/2016 11:22 am ET Updated Apr 22, 2017
mental health issues / anxiety & paranoia.
mental health issues / anxiety & paranoia.

I suffer from a mental illness. At times, it can be crippling and debilitating. I just spent six days in the hospital dealing with my illness. One of the doctors knew I am a divinity student and Christian minister and asked me as he was treating me, "Have you lost your faith?" I held back tears as I said that no, I hadn't lost my faith, but I was acutely aware that perhaps that wasn't always the case for every patient that doctor saw.

How odd of God to call a mentally ill person to Christian ministry, but maybe God is a little crazy. Actually, God must be crazy, how odd of God to call humanity to be better and more in tune with God's self. But God being crazy is precisely what makes God identifiable to some. God is just crazy enough to be real, and frankly some of us need a crazy God to keep us sane. Some of us facing mental health issues need to roll away the stone of mental illness and claim the resurrecting power of vulnerability and authenticity.

I'm hoping people of faith will read this and be honest with themselves, their families, friends and places of worship that mental illness is scary, but God is a big God. God hung the earth upon the waters, and if the lilies can be cared for, if God's eye is on the sparrow, then what have we to fret? Certainly it is easier said than done but perhaps we are to a point where we must throw everything we have at mental illness, including the God we serve, because God is a powerful ally.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't seek treatment, medication, or therapy, it's actually quite the opposite. By the grace of God we are given these tools to fight mental illness. What I am suggesting is we claim the promise made in scripture that God would never leave us or forsake us. Regardless of whether we are in the bowels of mental illness or in a hospital room, regardless of whether we've had a mental health issue yesterday or thirty years ago, we are to claim the promise that while it may not be easy, we are not alone.

Someone in the hospital pushed me to ask if God did this to me. I don't think that's the God I have come to know, but I know this: I have never felt closer to God than when I'm fighting mental illness or advocating for my mental health. That is because God is just crazy enough to love someone like me, and frankly, that is the good news. Our faith is most importantly confidence that we are loved and can love others. As the hymn goes, "The task looms large before us, the cry goes up how long, and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song."