So I've been having a conversation with a friend about the topic "Can you be a child of God while struggling with mental illnesses?" I find this topic very near and dear to me.
In case you are just starting to read my blog and don't already know, I struggle with mental illnesses - a lot of them. I have ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, PTSD, Schizoaffective (between bipolar and schizophrenia), severe Depression, and self-sabatouge. I struggle with cutting. I didn't want to come out and say this because I know there are some people who read my blog and I'm not really ready for them to find this out. I almost went a year without cutting (next month would be a year). I was planning on writing an ebook on how to overcome the struggles of cutting after not cutting for a year. Unfortunately, I gave in yesterday. I was really stressed out and started feeling suicidal again. I wanted that feeling to go away so I wouldn't actually attempt anything. So I cut my arm. I'm not proud of that. There are things I could've done instead and it's something I'm ashamed of.
Now, there are some people who believe if you're a child of God, you won't have any struggles as long as you rely on God. This is not Biblical. First off, when you say that, you are minimizing the struggles others have, and the struggles you have. Sometimes I struggle with this in a sense too. I have this weird belief in karma. I tend to believe if you do something wrong, then something bad is going to happen to you. But you know what? That belief in itself is wrong too. It's my way of trying to make sense of things that have been happening the last couple years. But sometimes, bad things happen when you haven't done anything wrong. Bad things happen to us sometimes and it's not our fault. Just like we have struggles that aren't always our faults. Now, some of my struggles are my fault. I'm schizoaffective with a brain injury because of a suicide attempt back in 2009. After having two massive overdoses in my life, I could possibly have kidney issues in the future. These things are my fault. I caused them. Cutting is also my fault. I choose to self-sabatouge. But the rest of the mental illnesses I struggle with are not my fault. None of these illnesses are God's fault either. I don't blame Him at all for them. Some of them have shaped me as a person to where I can help others who struggle.
Sometimes we go by our experience of God instead of what His Word says. Sometimes I've done this myself. This also is not Biblical. When I was a teenager I literally hated God. Based on my experiences, I thought God was just toying with me in some interstellar game. I was a pawn. I've had times where I was pissed off with God. Why did He allow me to survive three suicide attempts? You know what? He's a big God and can handle my complaints. I also know though that His Word sometimes says different things than my experiences do. It's safe to say if His Word is not lined up with your experiences, your experiences are lying to you about God. I've struggled with hearing voices, and a lot of times when I hear voices they are either talking to each other (like I'm listening in on a conversation), or they talk crap about God. It angers me when that happens. But what those voices are saying about God are not the truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." What God says in His Word, is the truth, not my experiences, not the voices in my head, but His Word. This is how He communicates with us. When I used to think I was just a pawn to God, His Word says differently. My favorite verse (Psalm 139) saved me because it says God created us in the innermost being. He knit us together in our mother's wombs. Just as the Psalmist says, "God's works are wonderfully made, I know that full well." God didn't create pawns, He created living, breathing people. As an artist myself, I can tell you there is no art better than what God has created. Artists want to bring their artwork to life, God actually did that! Jesus also said, "I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep listen to my voice. Nothing can snatch them out of my hands." This is so powerful! We are stupid like sheep. When I think of this verse, I imagine myself being this little lamb that often gets itself into trouble. There are hungry wolves all around me and I tend to separate myself from the rest of the flock and away from the shepherd. But just as soon as the wolves are about to devour me, my sheherd comes to the rescue and beats the wolves so badly they run away with their tails between their legs. Then the shepherd picks me up and puts me on His shoulders and takes me back to the rest of the flock. As stupid sheep we will listen to a voice. Sometimes we listen His voice, and sometimes we listen to another voice. But even when we stray away, God ALWAYS brings us back to Him. Nothing can truly take us away from Him. We can walk away from Him, but to take us away from Him is impossible.
If you tell someone they're not a true child of God because of their mental illnesses, shame on you! Even the Apostle Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh! Elijah begged God to take his life! You want to talk about depression? Look at Jeremiah! There are mental illnesses everywhere in the Bible! Even Jesus experienced sadness and anger! Are you going to say any of these people were not children of God? Are you going to say Jesus wasn't really God because of His emotions? If any of these people went by only their experiences, there's no way they would continue to follow God. The difference is they KNEW God as He is, not based on experiences. How do we know who God is? By His Word. All of the Apostles were brutally murdered except for John, though they tried to kill him. We don't really know how John died, but he definitely lived past the others. Don't you think any of them could've turned away from Christ for being killed for His name? They could've, if they only went by their experiences. But again, they knew God for who He really is, not just by experiences. I'm not going to discount experiences all-together. But if it comes between our experiences and His Word, the Word is the truth. Jesus said, "I haven't come for the healthy, but for the sick." God is not looking for perfect people. The people who thought they were perfect Christ didn't even really bother with them. You know why? Because their hearts were hardened. Jesus came for the weak and sick people because their hearts were open. They were willing to change. By saying children of God can't have mental illnesses, you might as well say they can't break any bones or even get illnesses like the flu or a cold! We live in a fallen and corrupt world. WE are fallen and corrupt people. We will never be perfect until we die and go to heaven. Christ would NEVER minimize our struggles. I have a great movie called "The Encounter: Paradise Lost". Without giving too much away, Jesus shows up in person during a storm at a hotel, where there's a couple who own the hotel, a drug smuggler with his wife and bodyguard, and a DEA Special Agent. The drug smuggler's (Bruno) wife is hooked on crack. She's practically dying without it. She says how her pain isn't real and she feels it because she hasn't reached enlightenment. Jesus says though that he will never discount the pain she feels. It's the same thing. Christ will never minimize the pain we feel. He will never minimize our struggles. He doesn't say, "Get your act straight and then we'll talk." No. He accepts us where we are, who we are. End of story. So what you're not perfect! No one but Christ is! He's not expecting us to be perfect, nor our lives to be perfect. He takes us as we are: broken. He gave us His Word, His "love letter" so we would know the truth. Not by our experiences, but by His Word. So if you are struggling, don't be disheartened. Christ came to "overcome the world." He's bigger than our struggles. Can He take our struggles away? Yes, but He doesn't always do that. More often He doesn't. But He uses those struggles to bring us closer to Him and to shape us in His image. We are broken reflections of Him, but some day we will be perfect image-bearers. That won't happen until we die though. He understands where we are. He doesn't take pleasure in our suffering, but He does when we overcome them! If you are telling people though that because of their struggles they aren't children of God, then shame on you and I pray to God He'll have mercy on you.
This is probably the longest blog I've ever written, but I had to get these things off my chest. I hope they will be helpful to you. God bless.