Dear ones, this is the last post on my thoughts from our trip. I saved the most complicated topic for last. Mental illness. There are multiple members of my family with varying types of mental illness. This can make traveling and visiting one another difficult. I have two simple points I’d like to make in regards to this subject. I’m also including between paragraphs a two part sermon series that was very helpful to me.
The first is that even believers suffer from mental illness. As with cancer, flu, and death, the side effects of this fallen world rain on the good and the bad alike. Growing up my single mother struggled with hearing and seeing things that weren’t there, along with depression, all made worse by drug and alcohol addiction. When I was 14 she was soundly saved, and while the addiction to meth was removed, she still suffered from the mental illnesses. Her outbursts and paranoia were not evidence of false conversion, but rather that the medication and treatment she was receiving was inadequate. This is the case for other believers in my family who suffer from BiPolar Disorder. Unfortunately the modern WoF movement makes these individuals feel that their illness comes from a lack of faith.
The second point I want to make is that God is sovereign, even over mental illness. Throughout my life, and even now into my adulthood, God has used these experiences to soften my heart towards the suffering of others. He has taught me understanding, and given me the ability to to care for and love those who often times are unable to control their behavior. As a believer, over the last few years, God has used the daily difficulties that come along with being a caretaker of loved ones with mental illness to sanctify me. This is not to say that it’s easy, or that God has given me a special gift of patience. Patience of a fruit of the spirit that is worked in and through us, and I thank God that He has taken all these moments of pain in my life and used them for my good.
There are two sides of this equation, those with the mental illness, and their caretakers. Both are subject to break downs, as the weight can often be too heavy. We need to be cautious, and judge with righteous judgement, when we come across impatient or frustrated people. It’s possible that they are dealing with one of those two sides of the equation. As church families we need to surround one another with love, prayer, and assistance when it’s needed. In that way, we can lift one another up and show the world the love we have for the body of Christ at the same time. There’s a lot of guilt, and embarrassment that comes with having any type of mental illness. Likewise, for the caretaker, there’s guilt in feeling exhaustion or irritation. This is another area where we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ, through discipleship.
One last thing I wanted to mention is that, during our trip and visiting with family, I noticed that the holidays seem to take an extra weighty toll on those dealing with mental illness. At a time when most seem to be full of joy, there’s even more pressure for those who find the sights, sounds, and responsibilities, stressful or confusing. We need to moderate our expectations, doing all things in love, without selfish ambitions. In other words, remember that these are human beings, their emotions might be overwhelming, or unexpected, but they are no less important. When we put others ahead of ourselves, not esteeming ourselves higher than them, we become more compassionate. I hope this helps anyone who is dealing with a neurological disease, or those who are caretakers. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.