Monday, March 2, 2015

When You Feel God Has Abandoned You

I recommend Amy Simpson's writing on mental illness from a Christian perspective. She knows what she is talking about. See Q&A: If you feel God Has Abandoned You.
I receive a lot of inquiries from people asking for advice about living with mental illness, loving someone with a mental disorder, and doing ministry to people with mental illness and their families. I can’t offer the kind of advice and help a mental health professional can give, but I can point people in the direction of resources that might help them. Sometimes it’s a matter of just introducing people to resources that are available. Sometimes it’s a matter of sharing my own personal experience and my own perspective.
Occasionally I’ll be sharing some of these interactions* here, for the benefit of others who may have similar questions.
Here’s one:
Question: I’ve been living with mental illness for a long time. I have worked very hard to be healthy, and I think I will always have to struggle hard against crippling depression. I know what the Bible says, but sometimes I feel like God has abandoned me. I won’t walk away from my faith, but why does life have to be so hard? Sometimes I doubt God loves me.
Answer: I can sense the tremendous pain behind your words. I’m so sorry for what you have gone through. I rejoice that God has brought you through such hardship, and I know that sometimes it’s hard to have that perspective for yourself. I also know that your survival did not come without a lot of hard work and hanging on to hope, and let me say I’m proud of you for pressing on.
The pain you experience does not mean God has abandoned you (Romans 8:35-38). It means you’re human and you’ve suffered–and your feelings have betrayed you at times. You have suffered in a way that most people don’t have to endure. And the good news is, God redeems our sufferings and has the ultimate remedy for them someday (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).
Please keep holding on to faith and hope in prayer and in Christ. I know that is not always easy, especially when you’re struggling with those very dark days. I hope you have someone to talk to, who knows what you’re going through and doesn’t judge you for it. Do you see a counselor? Have you considered working with a spiritual director? If not, I hope you’ll consider talking with someone who will walk alongside you and help you wrestle through this with God.
Also, here’s a Christian book I can recommend, written by a woman with bipolar disorder: Darkness Is My Only Companion
Are you familiar with Adrian Warnock? He’s a pastor at Jubilee Church in London and a trained psychiatrist. He blogs at Patheos.com, usually on other topics, but a couple of years ago he wrote a series on mental illness, which answers some questions and offers some hope. I think this article is the first in that series: Can a Christian Get Depressed?
And finally, I’ve written a host of other articles on this topic, some of which you might find encouraging or helpful. On my website, you can find a list with links. Scroll down below the video and the list of broadcast interviews. Here’s one you might find especially encouraging: When Mental Illness Comes Home.
I hope this is helpful and not overwhelming. I hope you will cling to the knowledge that God has never abandoned you and will not ever walk away from you. You have not let him down either. Your illness did not surprise or overwhelm him, and he is not disappointed in you. He loves you no matter what, and any message you hear or feel to the contrary is a lie. Please also know that while you may feel alone, you’re not the only person enduring this kind of trouble. There are others out there, and some of them feel alone as well. You may be able to find support with them. I’m sorry for your struggle and I will pray today that you will continue to be aware that the Lord is right alongside you. He loves you more than you can imagine.
*Questions have been modified to protect privacy.