Hope and healing in the battle with mental illness

Hope and Healing in the Battle with Mental Illness Part 1

Part 1: Understanding the Struggle 

Several months ago, Word of Life reached out and asked me to write a blog about mental health and the reality of its effects on the Christian community, as it is a topic that directly affects youth leaders and their ministries. 

This topic continues to be a challenging subject for me, as it is close to my heart. I am a licensed professional counselor in the field of mental and behavioral health. However, I did not expect my worlds would collide between my occupation and my personal life. I deeply loved a man, my husband, who battled depression and anxiety for years until tragically taking his own life by suicide in 2019. 

What started as a profession for me became a mission after his death. It took time to admit that I did not have all the knowledge or answers to the battle that so tragically changed the trajectory of my family’s life. I have had years of schooling, experience working with others, and my own personal journey with depression as well as anxiety. Yet, the battle of mental illness appeared to win in our home and with my husband, Eric. I am learning that these tools alone may not hold as much truth as I once believed. The choices of my past and the shortcomings in my ability to help him keep pushing me to a bigger fight that the Lord chose for me before these events occurred in my life.  

For many months, I wrestled in my grief, trying to make sense of everything. Each day, I made a choice. I could keep living despite my heartache and sufferings, or I could choose to take the pain and start sharing about it, getting appropriate help to heal, and trusting the Lord to work in it. 

My heart is to educate other believers in understanding what mental health and mental illness are, and how to approach these areas from a biblical, faith-based theology. Will I be able to do this in a brief blog post? Sadly, no. But hopefully, the words you read today will help you have a better understanding and compassion towards this life-altering topic, especially as a youth leader who will inevitably confront this issue at some point with your students. 

As I talk with other Christians about what mental health means and how we can apply it from a personal and interpersonal perspective, I find myself answering these commonly asked questions: What do we believe about mental illness (depression, anxiety, disorders)? How do we reach out for help if we are struggling with mental and emotional pain? How do we care for and minister to someone who is struggling? 

Often, as believers, we live our lives as if there are two separate entities to ourselves—one being who we were created to be, and the other being our daily existence in this broken world. We dance between the two on a journey to discover who we are in the chaos and why we are here. How are we to live out our purpose on this side of heaven? What happens when suffering inevitably invades our life and challenges our faith? We all suffer and experience the continental drift between our human experiences and our belief systems. 

Mental illness has been a main cause of suffering for countless people who battle and live with it—whether in different seasons and circumstances or throughout one’s life. When we discuss mental illness or mental health in Christian circles, we find that there are opposing views to the validity of its origin and definition. For far too long, there has been a stigma that mental illness cannot exist in the life of a Christian who has enough faith and joy to battle the symptoms and effects it has on the heart, mind, and behavior of a person. I strongly believe that with more conversation and scriptural study, we can acknowledge what mental health is, what mental illness does, and the reality that mental illness has been around from the moment sin entered the world. 

A general definition of mental health can be described as our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make our choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Most likely, we can all agree that this is something we experience, think about, and grapple to conceptualize at times. It is paramount that Christians reexamine mental health—not as a cultural issue, but as a human issue. Mental illness isn’t just scientific jargon; it can be found throughout Scripture in the real-life stories of biblical heroes and human examples—all of whom loved and tried to follow the Lord.  

In the second part of this post, we will shine a spotlight on a few of these biblical examples. We will look at ways we can apply biblical truths to create a culture of compassion for those who struggle with mental health issues. As a youth leader, it is important for you to let your students know that they are loved, and that they are not alone. 

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2 thoughts on “Hope and Healing in the Battle with Mental Illness Part 1”

  1. THANK YOU for addressing this “elephant in the china store”! My dad was bipolar, and on the mission field my dad’s co-workers didn’t know how to deal with it so they kicked us out of the mission! My wife has bipolar, and it is quite rough dealing with all the issues as they arise. Now, our daughter of three of our grand-kids has recently been diagnosed with bipolar. (Her husband also committed suicide a few years ago, bipolar-related depression.) Looking forward to what you have to share! (We were part of an organization called NAMI: National Alliance for Mentally Ill)

  2. THANK YOU for addressing this “elephant in the china store”! My dad was bipolar, and on the mission field my dad’s co-workers didn’t know how to deal with it so they kicked us out of the mission! My wife has bipolar, and it is quite rough dealing with all the issues as they arise. Now, our daughter of three of our grand-kids has recently been diagnosed with bipolar. (Her husband also committed suicide a few years ago, bipolar-related depression.) Looking forward to what you have to share! (We were part of an organization called NAMI: National Alliance for Mentally Ill)

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