Over the years, mental illness has been given a bad rap, unfortunately—not just in the world, but also in the church. Stigma tends to arise from the fact that we don’t fully understand a topic, so we generalize or draw negative assumptions about it.
However, stigmas are hurtful and can cause real damage on the receiving end. It breaks my heart when I hear that someone has taken the risk to reach out about their present struggle with mental health and is met with shallow judgments on their faith and character.
The truth is, even people of God face illness, whether it be mental or physical. Matthew 5:45 tells us that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. There is no discrimination when it comes to the hardships of life. We just seem to have a hard time grasping the workings of the mind because they are less visible. This is especially the case when it comes to the battle with depression.
Depression is known for carrying with it a lot of shame, guilt and hopelessness. Click here to read about serious signs of depression in yourself or a loved one and how you can help. And if you’re struggling with this, I’m sorry it has been a trying time for you—and you are not alone. It’s more common than most are willing to admit, and recovery is absolutely possible.
Depression makes us feel far from God when we need Him the most. It may have caused you to question the validity of your faith. You may have even been approached with the idea that being trapped in depression is because of being in sin.
Well, I want to encourage you to take hold of the following truths.
Illness is not a willful sin.
Let’s break down the perspective of sin. There are the sins we commit by breaking God’s commands in our own will. Then there is the nature of sin, which we are all born into since the garden of Eden. This sin nature has caused a disruption in all of creation. Now everything is headed toward decay, and that includes living within mortal bodies that are susceptible to illness. But let’s be clear that illness is not a willful sin. It’s the effects of the original sin, which has led to a fallen and broken world. However, God has always worked through brokenness with an eternal plan to get the glory through it all.
Here’s a great example in the book of John verses 1-3, where Jesus clarifies just this.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
You see, facing an illness, like depression, can’t automatically be linked with an act of sin. Some things God allows in our life and redeems in an act of His glory. God uses broken people like you and me to help other broken people like you and me. You have to realize that God knew you’d come face-to-face with this and He still chose you. He is for you, not against you. Even though you may feel unworthy, it does not change that He has declared you as His and of immense value to Him. Even depression cannot change that fact. Never underestimate His plan for you.
Medication can help.
The topic of medication has been a trivial subject in the church.
Can’t God just heal me? If He hasn’t, is it because I don’t have enough faith? If I do take medication, does it mean I don’t believe in God’s healing enough?
These types of questions can definitely trigger a war of doubt and shame in the mind.
However, we have to understand that depression is a mood disorder that is linked to the brain. The brain is also wired by neurochemicals. Sometimes, these chemicals are very low or not functioning the way they should. Medication helps boost these chemical levels to bring stability to the brain again. In some cases, there is a physiological element to depression that needs treating. A psychiatrist would be able to make a proper diagnosis and give better advice according to your needs.
Note that even if your doctor isn’t Christian, they’d know how to fix your broken leg or treat an infection because God has given us brains to use practical knowledge and common sense. The same is true when it comes to mental health. We have to remember that God is the foundation of wisdom and He endows people with the gifts and knowledge for the benefit of a broken humanity, even if they don’t recognize it comes from Him.
Using the benefits of science is not contradictory to faith. God uses people, and He can work through both the natural and supernatural, however He chooses. I cannot ultimately tell you what road to take. However, I don’t recommend embarking on this road alone. Talk about these convictions, doubts or questions with a trusted doctor, therapist or counselor who knows your situation and is qualified to give well-rounded advice.
Recovery and support are possible.
Lastly, while it might not be our fault for getting knocked down, it is certainly up to us to get back up. The truth is that recovery is a personal job. We don’t do it alone, but we must personally commit to it one step at a time—even if it’s with baby steps. At some point we have to put our foot forward to get out of this pit, whether it be reaching out to a friend, family member or pastor; joining a support group at church; or setting an appointment to see a therapist. Recovery doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice.
Know that here at Project Inspired we are for you and lifting you ladies up in prayer. Don’t forget to drop us your thoughts in the comments below!