Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Chronic pain is not always physical. Sometimes those with mental health disorders awaken, breathe, and go to bed in pain. As with physical issues, treatment may involve medication and coping strategies. Each day requires courage.
Some Christians respond to another’s chronic pain with platitudes that seem dismissive. “Just give it to God and you won’t be anxious,” or “You cannot be down if you rejoice enough.” These are beautiful sentiments on the surface. Who doesn’t want simple solutions to pain? There’s only one hitch to all this promised comfort:
It is not real hope for those in chronic emotional pain.
Those born into families without nurture, who grow up abandoned or victimized by cruelty, do not always experience faith like believers who have not been traumatized. Complexities like personality, sensitivity, brain function, experiences, spiritual understanding, and more, create unique beings who handle faith differently.
Understanding love at at a foundational level has to exist before one can fully experience God’s love. Knowing how to trust is a challenge if betrayal came through significant people. No one can advise a solution of “just” anything and expect to resolve chronic emotional or physical pain.
A woman in Florida was sexually abused numerous times as a child. As a young adult she struggled with functioning. People who knew her back then could have written her off when she failed to “just” snap out of it and get on with life.
Yet she went on to become the founder of a residential treatment center for child ex-prostitutes and otherwise sexually abused young girls. She is pouring out her life into their healing and mental stability. She has become a safe person who imposes healthy boundaries. Enthusiastic, consistent, and obviously deeply invested in guiding these children, her work grows them beyond lies once thought true.
How would it work if she said to the child whose abuser used God as an excuse, “you just need to give it to God”? What meaning is a grieving and confused victim going to assign to “just rejoice”?
This woman is victorious yet not pain-free. This champion of wounded girls says she longs for safety and family. Chronic emotional pain follows her into bed each night and faces her in the mirror every morning. Her hurt spirit discourages her, interrupting life when she least expects it. She knows reality though – God is good all the time regardless of how she feels.
There is only One who shares the hurt and shame of our pasts. He too rose above mental and physical anguish to change the world. Jesus Christ does not offer platitudes. He does not promise to take physical or mental pain away. Rather, he guarantees he will be with us as we suffer, even if our pain is chronic.
Therein lies real hope.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.