We are Loved :: by John Lysaught

As many of my readers know, I’m pretty transparent in my writings about myself. Also in my writings I get a lot of responses from folks out in the world who relate to me and suffer from mental illness, as I do.  They are depressed because of mental illness, depressed from circumstances they are facing; depressed about their church and depressed about not knowing their standing and/or faith in Christ. I have also received correspondence from people who have criticized me and talked badly about me because of my mental illnesses. This is a topic near and dear to me.

For those that don’t know me, I suffer from Bipolar Type II, General Anxiety Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, and yes, Major Depressive Disorder.  Quite a bit, right?  Yet I’m a survivor and through Christ’s love, support, and my faith in Him, I survive and thrive in life even with these disorders.  It’s not to say that I don’t suffer symptoms of these conditions, for I deal with them on a daily basis.

I have served in the military, I work, I have a family, I have hobbies and most important, I have Christ in my life who has blessed me greatly. Christ has blessed me with the right doctors who work with me all the time through therapy and counseling, as well as proper medication to allow me to be as stable as possible. Though I do suffer symptoms daily, they are manageable with the help of those Christ has brought into my life and through His strength in me.

There seems to be a stigma attached to those of us that have mental illness and there is also a stigma in the church of those of us that suffer mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four Americans suffers from some type of mental illness. That is 26.2% of the American population. So look around next time you are at church. Look in the pew you are sitting in and just think, and know that there is one in four in that pew that has some type of mental condition that they are dealing with. Look at your friends and realize that some of them have a type of mental illness that you may or may not know about. We are people who have the same desires and hopes as you do so be careful of what you think about us and how you view us.

For me, I’m very good at hiding my disorders.  If I met you on the street or had a conversation with you, you would never guess that I suffer from so many disorders. The same goes for you who don’t suffer; some of your friends and family members suffer from some form of mental illness and hide it very well.  Think of that before you judge us with these conditions.

A lot of people write to me from my articles and complain that the church has shunned them, isolated them, or have completely abandoned them because of their mental illness that they have disclosed to others in the church. To me this is sad. These people tell me that they as I have been told as well, suffer because their faith is not strong enough. To me this is a farce. To me it is like telling someone that they have diabetes because their faith is not strong enough or telling a person with cancer that if they had more faith, they would be cured. Does this mean people don’t get cured of mental illness? No, but just because people have mental illness doesn’t mean they don’t have great faith in Christ. I want to say that if you suffer from a form of mental illness you are not alone out there and Christ still loves and accepts you.  He is there for comfort, for love, a shoulder to cry on for strength to get through your bad days.

2  Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV): “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

From experience with chronic mental health conditions, as those who have it can relate and for those that don’t understand it, it is a horrible experience to endure. There are voices in our heads, there is sadness that envelopes us, there is anxiety, and there is great fear to name a few. Yet as the verse above says, we can gain comfort from God from this. He is there for us in these times of trouble, and we can gain strength from knowing He understands what we are going through and will help us through the hard times.

For me, when I am feeling really off mentally, I give it to God.  I say a prayer asking for relief and I give it to Jesus to help me through these times of great trouble. I may or may not get relief, but when I do this, I feel a peace come over me that assures me that He is there to guide and strengthen me to get through the times of my trouble.

My conditions and symptoms may not lift, but knowing that Jesus is my strength gives me hope for a better day and in a way it strengthens my relationship with Him, for it teaches and reminds me that Jesus wants me to rely on Him in my times of need. Those of you who suffer as I do, if you have not done this, I urge you to give it a try. Just don’t do it without an open heart, but make it a heartfelt prayer and supplication to Jesus to help you. I have found it very therapeutic and strengthening.

Those of you who don’t suffer, I beg you to not shun those of us who do. I ask you to not judge but to be the compassionate person that Jesus tells you to be. He says to love your brother and sister; that is our charge from Him. So when you see someone who seems depressed for instance, know someone who suffers from mental conditions, take that step to comfort them.  Jesus won’t put it on your heart to walk away, but He will urge you to help and provide comfort to that person, whether a stranger, acquaintance, family member or friend.

I know that suffering from mental disorders has made me very empathetic and sympathetic to others who suffer from mental illnesses.  Because I suffer, I can recognize and discern those who suffer as I do. I can impart my love and Christ’s love for them with comfort and words of encouragement. We should all do this.  We need to let these people know that there is a God who loves and cares for them, regardless of their mental status.  God’s love is powerful and He will guide you to say and do the right things.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God did not make a mistake when He created each one of us. He knew us before we were born. He knew what we would be like. He knows the suffering and success we have and will go through. He knows every hair on our head.  This means that when he created those of us with mental illness, He knew we would have these problems. Remember He did not make a mistake.

I have heard from people who are in and out of the church tell me why would God allow this to happen to them, why would He create them this way or, that God made a mistake with them.  I emphasize to them that God did not make a mistake, that he is still a God of love and compassion, and that each of us has a cross to bear and ours just happens to be mental illness. I tell them that they should not lose faith but should seek Christ with earnest desire.

Those of you with mental health issues know how I feel when I say we feel hopeless, that there is nothing for us, no future, no now, and no hope. I feel this way a lot, and yet, when I do, I delve into God’s Word and it comforts me and gives me hope.  I put my hope in God and praise Him, even when I’m depressed about everything I must endure, as related to what Psalm 42:11 (NIV) says: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Even though we face problems with mental health, we must still praise God. It is His blessings and power that created us and allows us to live and gives us the gift of allowing us to worship Him. We with mental problems need to remember that God is there for us and we must still praise Him, even when we are at our lowest. By praising Him we exalt Him and when we exalt Him, I at least, feel a peace overcome me that tells me things will be all right and He will help me through these moments.

Everyone has a cross to bear. For  those of us with metal disorders, that is our cross to bear. We face tribulation every day and we can become stronger in our faith.  I have met and talked to people who bear this cross and have given up on themselves and have given up on God. They blame God for their problems and hate God for their mental illness.

It is hard to break through to these people, to impart to them that we all face tribulations, that we all must overcome tribulations and face them head on with trust in Christ. Sometimes I can, but mostly I have a hard time because I have found that a lot of people have lost their faith due of the unkind treatment they get from “Christians”  after disclosing their condition to “trusted Christians.

If you claim you are a Christian and shun or look down upon those with mental illness, you need to reevaluate your belief system. You need to look where your heart really is. If you think you are better than those with mental illness or think those with mental illness are somehow inferior to you or are not “good enough” to be Christians, you are wrong.  God loves each and every one of us and you must too.

Just because we may be a little different, act a little off, or see the world differently than “normal” people, does not mean God loves us any less or that we are somehow excluded from Christ’s love.  We are welcomed to the Kingdom and have the opportunity to enter heaven just like anyone else. We humble ourselves and he cares for us too.  We are told this in 1 Peter 5:6-7 (KJV): “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

I know this is not the typical article I usually write, but it was put on my heart to write it for those out there reading that have mental illness.

Know this my brothers and sisters: Jesus loves you. Just because you suffer from mental illness, Jesus still and does love you unconditionally. You are by no means left out of salvation. You are not excluded from Christ’s love for you. You are not abandoned by God. He made you who you are. Embrace that and love Christ. Worship Christ and lean on him when you have “flares” in your illness. Seek Him always earnestly and He will be there to hold your hand, walk with you, and guide you.

Don’t listen to those who shun you, exclude you from church or tell you that you’re not worthy of God’s love because of what you suffer from—for they are not true Christians. Stay away from those people. Find a true loving church and Christians that will welcome you with open arms because that is what Christ does for you.

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV):  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

With great love and compassion to all,

John Lysaught