In many churches, denial is part of the game regarding mental illness. Many say we should not say we have this, that we are healed, or that God is healing us. There is a need to evangelize churches about taking strides to understand and recognize the struggles of mental illness. We must help churches see mental health is not just spiritual but mental and physical due to informalities of the brain. Mental illness is a highly stigmatic topic in the church, leaving those who struggle feeling hopeless. People who do not struggle with suicidal ideations and the extreme despair of clinical depression can be challenging to understand. Although many Christians know the trial of occasional anxiety or depressed feelings, people diagnosed with mental illness face unique challenges.
Since the fall, God’s people have suffered mentally, emotionally, and physically. Even Christ himself cried out in despair on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), echoing a psalm of lament (Ps. 22:1). When we suffer, we are not alone. You are almost certainly not the only one in your congregation dealing with issues arising from mental illness.
Speaking openly about your mental health issues will allow others to share their struggles and will enable you to care for one another. Of course, sin can exacerbate mental illness or stir up depression or anxiety. Sin spreads the infection of the darkness, so it’s so important to have people point you to Christ. If we repent and turn our focus to Christ, we can allow the light—however, dim it may appear—to seep in. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8) is a promise for good days and dark ones.
We have a personal Savior who experiences emotions. As you suffer the effects of mental illness, you can remember the nearness of Christ. He weeps with you as he wept with Lazarus’s family (John 11:35). He knew he was about to do the resurrecting work, but he sobbed with anger anyway. Likewise, he knows how he will work in and through your life, and he is with you in the midst of it.
The Bible isn’t afraid to talk about mental and emotional anguish. Look at Job or the psalms of lament, which compose the largest category of psalms. These are songs of people crying out to God in despair: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps. 25:16). “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” (Ps. 42:5). “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Ps. 88:3). So, there is no need to make mental illness a game of denial.