4 Encouraging Truths for Christians with Mental Illness |

The apostle Paul tells of a thorn in his side that he begged God to remove three times (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Biblical scholars aren’t sure exactly what thorn Paul is talking about, but I can tell you mine: bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed since my teens and I have begged God more than three times to take this away from me.

It took me longer than Paul to hear God tell me that his grace is sufficient.

Mental illness can still be a highly stigmatized topic in the church. For those who don’t have such struggles, it can be difficult to understand the suicidal ideation and extreme despair that comes with clinical depression. Although many Christians are familiar with the occasional test of anxiety or depressed feelings, people with a diagnosed mental illness face unique challenges.

Charles Spurgeon once said: “The mind can sink much lower than the body, because there are bottomless pits in it. The flesh can only bear a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways and die again and again every hour.” Mental illness is not a new phenomenon.

And the same biblical truths that have encouraged Christians for centuries can encourage those suffering from mental illness today. Although we struggle daily in the “bottomless pit” of the mind, we can hold on to four things that will give us encouragement.

1. You are not alone

God’s people have suffered mentally, emotionally, and physically since the Fall. Even Christ himself cried out in despair on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt. 27:46), echoing a psalm of lament (Ps. 22:1). When we suffer, we are not alone.

Also, mental illness is probably more common than you think. According to him 1 in 5 American adults lives with a mental illness. says that 1 in 4 people worldwide will experience mental health problems.

You’re almost certainly not the only one in your congregation dealing with problems stemming from mental illness. Talking openly about your mental health issues will allow others to share their own struggles and allow you to care for each other.

2. It’s not your fault

Although mental illness is the result of the Fall, my affliction, like that of the blind man (John 9:3), is not a punishment for my sins or the sins of my parents. Mental illness may not be my fault, but it may be my opportunity to tell the truth about Christ’s love to others.

Of course, sin can exacerbate mental illness or lead to depression or anxiety. Sin spreads the infection of darkness, which is why it is so important that people point you to Christ. If we repent and put our focus on Christ, we can allow the light, however dim it may seem, to filter through. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8) is a promise for good days and also for dark ones.

Mental illness may not be my fault, but it may be my opportunity to tell the truth about Christ’s love to others.

3. God sees you and is with you

We have a personal Savior who experiences emotions. As you suffer the effects of mental illness, you can remember the closeness of Christ. He cries with you, as he cried with the family of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). He knew the resurrection work he was about to do, but he sobbed in anger anyway. Likewise, He knows how he is going to work in and during your life, and he is with you in the midst of it.

By grace Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, our comforter and counselor, to be with you, to help you. The Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:27). He cries out for you when you can’t form words, but only sounds of despair (Rom. 8:26).

Stand firm because there is great hope: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We are all broken in our own way, but Christ heals us. He illuminates the darkest corners of my heart and mind (2 Cor. 4:6). He pulls me out of the deepest pit (Job 33:28; Ps. 40:2; 103:4; Lam. 3:55). And if he sees fit, he will use me to reach others (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

4. The Word of God speaks to you

The Bible is not afraid to talk about mental and emotional distress. Look at Job or the lament psalms, which are the largest category of Psalms. These are songs of people crying out to God in despair:

“Turn to me and have mercy, for I am lonely and afflicted,” Psalm 25:16.

“Why are you desperate, my soul, and why are you troubled within me? Wait on God, for I will praise him again for salvation from his presence,” Psalm 42:5.

“For my soul is full of evil, and my life has drawn near to Sheol”, Psalm 88:3.

However, even most of the Lament Psalms end positively. They remind their listeners of God’s faithfulness. Like God’s people throughout history, we often forget all he has already done for us and the promises he continues to keep.

Keep these truths somewhere where you can often remind yourself of them. Share them with a close friend, family member, or accountability partner who can remind you when you forget them or don’t have the energy or willpower to remember. God’s Word speaks to you even on the most difficult days.

My thorn may never leave my side, but I can rejoice in the greatness and sovereignty of my mighty God. This illness keeps reminding me that God’s grace is enough for me. I pray that God will reveal his strength in my weakness.

Originally posted for . Translated by Patricia Namnún.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.