Overcoming Mental and Emotional Illness through Faith
In Scripture we read of Jesus being followed by multitudes. Contemporary images do not depict an accurate picture of these crowds. To our minds, the multitudes were full of average middle class people with clean unwrinkled robes, fresh washed faces, and inquisitive smiles. While it is true Jesus was surrounded by ordinary people, we miss those to whom he especially reached out. The people most desperately seeking Jesus were those in severe needs. The afflicted, lame, crippled, epileptic, blind, demon possessed, mute, paralytics, the scorned or rejected, those in the deepest poverty of life experience and mind all came to Jesus. People we are tempted to avoid, looking askance and displeasure at, are those who sought Him.
What was the Lord’s response? He warmly and mercifully welcomed. Jesus walked among them, touched them, and taught them in redeeming love. Each never left Jesus the same again. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we read of God reaching out to the most afflicted and unwanted.
In some segments of Christian culture, healing is a major preoccupation. Without it, faith seems to lack relevancy or empowerment. It is natural to want the disorders causing us anguish to go away. While God is more than able to instantly heal, the norm of most experiences is He allows our infirmities to remain to a greater or lesser degree. It may take a long journey to be healed and free, with the remnants of the pain remaining. God uses the struggles to strengthen our faith in an ever closer walk with Him. The proving ground of the Christian life is endurance in trials rather than the easy removal of them. Our sufferings compel us to see our innermost need, which is for ever more of Jesus Christ. Oh, how we need Jesus! This is not to say we will never get better or do not need to proactively seek help, we can and should. Wherever we are in the trial, whatever steps we take; God is of utmost and central importance. Mental and emotional wounds are painful, yet remind us we can do nothing without our Lord.
It can be very challenging to our limited understanding that God’s view is to value our spiritual growth in connection to Him of higher importance than our temporary comfort. We can become disillusioned and hurt until we realize this is where the redeeming grace of Christ meets us. The paradoxes of joy in suffering, finding ourselves by losing ourselves in Him, and wholeness in the midst of infirmity come alive in His mercy. What hope a resurrected, living Savior is to the darkness of mental distress.
Sometimes depression, anxiety disorders, and mental or emotional illnesses leave deep scars. The depths of suffering can seem to overwhelm or cripple us. When all is black, while we are burdened and discouraged, it is hard to see any way forward. How grateful I am that God does not have an aloof “get over it” attitude toward us. He does not simply say, “Chin up”, and then walk away. His care is always gracious, seeking our good, meeting our vulnerability. In my case, though a lifetime of deep problems shipwrecked my life, even after that long valley, God healed me with a measure of wholeness I never dreamed was possible.
In Matthew 12:20 we read of a prophesy from Isaiah: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. This says a great deal about Jesus’ gentleness. Christ comes to us where we are, in our specific circumstances. In our pain and brokenness He heals, with endless mercy.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Psalm 9:9-10.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.
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