What is the cause of your suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
My wife and I are part of a group for Christians with Borderline Personality Disorder on Facebook. She has the condition. I don’t, but I am in there to be supportive. Yesterday, I saw a post by someone saying that they were being condemned by their church for having Borderline. They were supposedly making their Borderline an idol and they don’t have enough faith and they need to pray and read Scripture more and similar things. Naturally, if they truly had faith also, they would be healed.
Let’s be clear with some things at the start. We could all bear to pray more and read the Bible more. It also doesn’t hurt to examine ourselves and look for sinfulness in our own lives to work on.
Also, there are times where suffering is your own fault. If you drink alcohol and get in an accident because you were driving drunk, that is your fault. If you smoke all your life and get lung cancer, that is your fault. If you overeat and suffer the effects of obesity, that is your fault.
Yet some things you are born with or born with a predisposition to that are not your fault. A mental illness can be one of those things. While I am sure this is sometimes said to people with diabetes or people in wheelchairs, I am sure it is less often than it is for cases of mental illness, something the church just doesn’t really deal well with.
Mental illness has a stigma around it such that it is even thought to be connected with demonic activity. I do not doubt demons can influence us, but they cannot possess and control us and it’s too easy to blame our problems on a demon instead of realizing it could be something with us. If you have a mental illness, that is not your fault. What you do with the condition is your fault. I have Aspergers. I cannot control that. It is hard to look someone in the eye when I am talking to them, but that is something that I must actively work on.
In the same way, people with Borderline have powerful emotions that seem gripping and controlling. Can they be controlled? Yes. Is that easy? No. It can often require a combination of medication and therapy. It’s the same way with a phobia. One doesn’t just sit down and will through a phobia naturally. It takes concentrated work and effort to overcome it. I am terrified of water and when I get in a swimming pool, it takes a concentrated effort to move where I need to move. It is not bulldozed over.
The church doesn’t help with this when the church demands instant cures. Now, can an instant cure happen? Sure. God can do it if He wants to. I know people who come to Jesus who have addictions like alcohol and drugs and when they convert, they lose their addictions. That can happen. Sometimes, it does not happen. It is foolish and cruel to say the reason someone is suffering is that they don’t have enough faith.
It’s also just bad theology. Sometimes we do suffer for our own sins, as I said. Sometimes we suffer for the sins of others. Sometimes we suffer because this is a fallen world. It is a foolish person who thinks without divine revelation that he can tell you why a certain kind of suffering is taking place like that. We must be very careful whenever we make any sort of claim to speak for God.
What the sufferers often need most is not someone to fix their problems. We should have people who are ready to be good therapists and counselors and work with them, but if you’re not that, don’t try to be one. Here’s something you can be. You can be a listener. You can be a friend.
Try this for the person with mental illness that you know. Pick up a phone and call them. Send them a message on Facebook. Go to their place and visit them. Take them out to eat sometime. Show the other person you’re glad to have them around. Do not do anything to them that indicates that they are a bother. If you think having to deal with someone like that is a bother, it speaks more about you than it does about them.
Many people like this can struggle with thoughts of depression and suicide. How does it help someone like that to pile on to them? Don’t also tell them they’re being selfish or self-centered. In the moment, that is not helpful to them. It only gives them more reason to be depressed and/or suicidal.
Overall, be Jesus to these people. Jesus never turned away people who were truly suffering and in need. He always had the greatest of love for sinners. The people who thought they were alright were the people He had the most problems with. If people don’t think Jesus will accept them, maybe it’s because they’ve met too many people who claim to represent Jesus who haven’t.
I look forward to the day when the church treats mental illness in much the same way they treat physical illness. Of course, some churches are still horrible there, but I think it often gets worse for mental illness. Come alongside those who are suffering. Be a friend and confidant and really listen to them. If you reach out to someone you know with a condition, you never know how much hope that might give them.
You’ll truly be being Jesus to them.