When Mental Health Issues Aren’t Sin

Freedom from depression
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We love to live in a black and white world. We tend to think of those who are doing well as “winning,” and those who aren’t doing well as “losing.” When things go wrong, we need to think there is a cause that could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, even with the Spirit breathing life into our souls, we live in bodies that are part of our fallen nature.

The endocrine system reacts to stress, affecting both our physical and emotional situation. Sometimes, our system gets so overloaded that our regular helps don’t work.

Then there are times that our body just goes haywire. We tend to feel alone, isolated and empty.

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Someone Does Understand

I thought I had God over a barrel once, shortly after the birth of my fourth child. As I stormed around the house in a hormonal fit, I informed God, “You were not a female, you can’t possibly know what it is like to have your body go haywire like me.”

With great patience and love, God showed me a picture (in my mind) of Jesus, beaten and bleeding, carrying his cross on the road to Golgotha. In this picture, I could see the response of Jesus’ entire body to the stress he faced—both emotionally and physically. He didn’t skip up the hill, but he did manage not to give into his errant emotions. Then I heard God’s whisper “and the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you.”

If you are in a lonely, empty spot, be encouraged. We do not serve a God who sits far off, waiting for us to make it up the hill. We serve a risen Savior who understands what it is like to walk in the crazy space. He knows what it is like to have your emotions and entire intuitive system screaming for relief. He understands.

Others Have Walked This Road

Elijah ended up on the edge of the desert, alone, tired and unfocused. He prayed that God would just let him die.

The interesting thing is that the activities that landed Elijah in that difficult space were not sin, but fantastic, necessary ministry.

When we feel as if our life should be over, when paranoia and panic define our inner thought life, we can learn from Elijah.

Honesty. Elijah was honest with himself and God. He didn’t try to sugarcoat his situation. In fact, if he had, he would have pushed the emotions down and tried to fake it, only making the situation worse. Instead, he chose blatant honesty.

Run to the mountain. There are days where the best response to life seems to be escapism. If we could ignore our situation long enough, or push the bad feelings aside (usually through dependencies), life would get better. Yet, history and experience tells us that escapism only delays and compounds the results. In desperate need, Elijah ran to God. He didn’t try to fix his situation, or self-talk himself into his next ministry venture. He ran to God.

Expect an answer. Elijah didn’t just run to God; he expected an answer. He didn’t blame himself for his emotional situation; he knew that the only way out of this difficult position was to be infused again with the strength that only comes from knowing that God has given you a direction and purpose.

Don’t do it alone. Elijah thought he was alone. God let him know that there were plenty of people to walk with him. God even told him to go appoint Elisha as an apprentice of sorts—someone that would know Elijah from the inside out. God has put people in your life that will walk with you. You might have to reach outside your current circle, but they are around. These might be in the form of a mentor, mentee, doctor, colleague or coach. As you pray, follow up on any connections that God seems to send your way. He is directing your step, and as you walk in honesty with yourself and God, He will bring people around you who won’t judge, but will walk with you, helping you keep your eyes on Him.

When the black starts to descend, our first inclination is to work harder. This usually is the wrong response. Instead, take the opportunity to delegate. After all, if you knew you were going to get a heart transplant, you wouldn’t plan to work harder during your recovery.

When your body is in crisis, no matter whether the indication is physical or emotion, you will need recovery time. Sometimes, God provides times like this just so that we will delegate—as we give ministry away, we open up the possibility that God will expand our influence. When Elijah came down off the mountain, his influence didn’t shrink. Instead, it was multiplied through the lives of others.

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at deepimprints.com. She writes a regular column for ministrytodaymag.com.

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