True or False:
- A diagnosis of anxiety means that my faith in God is weak.
- I cannot truly be a Christian if I suffer from depression.
- A child with ADHD is just an undisciplined child.
If you answered true to any of these statements, then please keep reading! All of the above statements are false, but I believe that Satan has done a great job in confusing the minds of the Christian community to believe that these ideas are true. This perspective, that Christians should not suffer from mental illness, is one that saddens me the most. My heart aches for clients that I see that are truly struggling with a mental illness and doubting their faith in God. How can someone who has so much hope in God, feel so hopeless? How can someone who has such anticipation for heaven, feel so much despair? How can one pray daily but still be controlled by anxiety?
These are appropriate questions. So, can a “real” Christian have a mental illness? YES! Absolutely. It is important that we define what a mental illness is and what it isn’t. Depression is not just sadness. Anxiety is not just nervousness. ADHD is not just disobedience. It is not a decision. It is clinical. It is biological. It is chemical. There is actually something physical occurring in your brain that involves neurotransmitters, hormones, genetics, and environmental factors.
Even in the Bible there are instances of godly men who suffered from a mental illness.
- Saul – Saul was a powerful king and he was also a very troubled man. He sought to kill his own sons, he attempted to kill David on several occasions and he eventually committed suicide.
- Elijah – was a prophet and he suffered from depression. He was in so much despair that he asked God to take his life.
- Jeremiah – aka “the weeping prophet”. Enough said! Read the entire book of Jeremiah and you’ll see for yourself.
- Jonah – struggled with suicidal thoughts and wanting to die.
- Paul – who was probably the most zealous for God, describes a time when his struggles were so great that he “despaired even of life.”
I look at these examples and my conclusion is that yes, you can be a faithful, devoted, committed Christian AND suffer from a mental illness. They are not mutually exclusive. The Bible says that there is no temptation that you feel that Jesus hasn’t felt. So take heart, Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through. It’s easy to feel isolated and somehow different from other Christians, but remember that you’re walking with Jesus even through tough times. Don’t allow your Christian walk to be a barrier to getting the help that you need. And don’t let the fact that you need help be an obstacle in your faith.