Trusting God Through Mental Illnesses
A Guest Blog
By Shaina Wise
As a little girl living at the first house I can remember, I used to lay on the sofa with my mom to watch Touched By An Angel. Sometimes I still think about Gloria, the youngest angel on the show, and her mentor, Monica. There was an episode where Gloria had to deal with confusion and temptation. Temptation came from a demon telling her to trust that “beautiful mind” that God had given her. Why couldn’t Gloria trust her mind? Why couldn’t she trust something that God had given her, crafted especially for her? It was a question that plagued me as a kid and sometimes still bothers me.
When I was little and dealing with chronic pain, anxiety, and panic attacks, I couldn’t understand that they were an illness of the mind. I knew that it was a “chemical imbalance in the brain,” my mom had told me that honestly when I asked, but that didn’t make sense. Now, as an adult dealing and sometimes struggling with mental illness, it does. I can’t trust the mind that God has given me, because even though He made me exactly the way that I need to be, it is still faulty (Psalm 139:13). My brain is imperfect; it’s a product of this imperfect world (Genesis 3:14-24).
Does that mean that God made a mistake? Of course not! God does not make mistakes, and the trials and tribulations that often contribute to mental illnesses are a part of living in this cursed and fallen world. While learning how to navigate as an independent adult who struggles with C-PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, many discussions on Christianity and mental illness have crossed my path.
Often times, I’m told that such illnesses are a curse or a punishment from having disobeyed and offended God. Did Job offend God to cause all of his sufferings? No, suffering is something that is allowed due to the nature of our world, and Job’s suffering was a demonstration that even though someone might be the godliest and most wonderful person in the world, bad things still happen (Job 1). Job understood that though his crops, his livestock, and even his children died, God would bring good things out of it (Romans 8:28). Equally as important, Job knew that his suffering had nothing to do with God being spiteful. Job accepted that God would not torture him for the sake of ruining his life and livelihood.
My suffering has nothing to do with a spiteful God
Prescriptions are another area where judgment and confusion arise. To allow myself to be medicated is expecting doctors to heal me instead of God, according to a lot of arguments that I see online. What people don’t understand is that, just as someone would take Ibuprofen to help manage the symptoms of their flu, psychiatric medications help me to minimize the symptoms of my sickness. It is a sickness. It does not get healed, it is a chronic illness. Often times the disease itself tries to convince me that I am not faithful enough, I don’t pray enough for healing or for peace, I don’t fast, I don’t do whatever things the internet has been telling me – I take my daily medications.
Here is where trusting in God becomes incredibly important
Without those prescribed medications, without my service dog, without my friends and my family, how will I remember that God loves me and is faithful to me when my brain tries to convince me otherwise (2 Corinthians 12:9)? My sick, faulty, unbalanced brain works to tell me that God is ignoring me, has walked away from me or has decided that I need to be punished by the circumstances that cause a depressive episode.
With the assistance of my dogs, medication, and support network, I can remember that I can trust God (Romans 8:38-39). My dogs are a gift from Him, he has helped me to train two excellent Psychiatric Service Dogs, he led me to a Church to provide support exactly when I needed it the most, he provided me with caring friends that make sure I take care of myself (Proverbs 16:9). My mental illness is not a punishment from God; it has become a path to learn to trust and lean on Him rather than on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).