Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Twenty years ago, a doctor asked routinely if I felt depressed or anxious. One day I said, “Yes.”
She looked surprised and said, “In your religion, doesn’t your God love you? How can you feel anxious or depressed?”
She is not the only medical professional to dismiss mental health issues as matters of choice. One refused to treat me at all.
She is also not the first person to use lack of faith as the assumed cause of uncomfortable emotions.
The word anxious makes some people blame, scold, assume the worst of, or dismiss a person who admits to it. We are told to not feel whatever we feel, that there’s no reason for it.
What if there is a reason?
A healthy routine includes looking at why our feelings are strong. Emotions will teach us if we stop to ask questions of them and listen. Awareness is the first step toward solutions. (You will find the difference between a disorder and typical stress or mood explained below this post.)
St. Paul was a preacher in the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ. God gave him several brag-worthy visions. In the New Testament, we read that Paul learned the reason behind one of his many struggles. He came right out and said that God sent him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble.
Would anyone today walk up to Paul and tell him his weakness was lack of faith?
If he had denied this difficulty, toughed it out in his own strength, he would not have practiced his faith by asking God for help. He would not have understood the point. He would never have written:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Although the specific challenge Paul faced is not named, we do know he felt fears and anxiety.* Anxiety under a compilation of difficult circumstances is normal. Why cannot we admit, “I’m feeling anxious” without a hurricane of shouldn’t blowing us away?
It behooves us to discuss emotions without judgment. Through non-critical acceptance, we protect emotional safety. This in turn allows each person to consider options such as self-care and perhaps professional help as needed. How important it is to know we can approach God for help without guilt stopping us!
As a follower of Christ, and one who knows God loves her, I believe God walks with me through emotions and teaches me when I ask.
*Paul and anxiety
- Philippians 2:27-29 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
- 2 Corinthians 2:12-13Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there.
- Ephesians 6:20 Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
- 2 Corinthians 7:5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.