This blog series about mental illness is inspired by a session taught by Irma Janzen from Fort Garry EMC, presented at the Ministerial Day on July 3, 2015 at Ebenezer Christian Church in Brandon, MB. Thanks to Irma Janzen and the Evangelical Mennonite Conference for addressing this important issue, and for doing so graciously, while challenging us all to carefully consider our beliefs and actions in this area.
There is much more that could be said about mental illness—we could look into the variety and types of disorders, their symptoms and treatments, and the struggles associated with them. The bottom line, however, that I want to leave you with is this: there are no simplistic or easy answers when it comes to mental illness.
Often when suffering from mental illness, or in dealing with someone suffering from mental illness, we feel helpless. In those moments of helplessness, it can be tempting to listen to those with overly simplistic answers to our dilemmas, and to find rest in their self-assured confidence. If we go this route, however, it will usually end in disillusionment and an even greater sense of confusion when we can no longer reconcile those simplistic platitudes with the realities we face, and the complexities and nuances that accompany mental illness.
In my faith journey, there have been many areas where I once accepted the overly simplified answers, only to find out that they only held true as long as I didn’t leave the four walls of a church, and didn’t read an ever-increasing list of pesky Bible passages. As I was involved in ministry, and as I studied, my list of questions grew larger, and my list of answers grew shorter. At first it bothered me, because I liked the feelings I once experienced when I thought I had all the answers. Who doesn’t like that feeling? It sure does stroke to our ego to think that we have it all figured out. But as I matured in faith, I began to be more comfortable in the not-knowing.
Eventually I was not only comfortable with not knowing the answers, but it caused me to marvel at the infinite mystery of God, and the complex way that he created the universe. It caused me to worship. Though I still feel helpless and inadequate at times when dealing with things that I don’t or can’t fully understand, I know and trust that God is adequate, and that he can and does help us in our times of need. He has carried me through so much, and he carries me still.
It is not that I have anything figured out more than anyone else. In fact, it is probably less so. But what I do know is that I serve a God that will journey with me through my helplessness. What I do know is that God loves me, and loves you, and desires to be the centre of our affections and worship. What I do know is that mental illness is an incredibly complex subject, and that God desires for us to walk with one another through our struggles, even ones as complex and daunting as mental illness. What I do know is that though we may feel helpless, we are never without hope. What I do know is that God can make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19). What I do know is that though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not need to fear evil, for God is with us (Psalm 23).
Thus I close this post and this series with the words that Jesus told to his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”