Having Mental Illness Is Like Being in Fight Club

My body and brain are broken.

I often hear Christians say, “But isn’t the solution to every struggle to have faith in Christ and his promises?”

Yes, it is in the ultimate sense. Jesus truly is the answer for every struggle. But the way we point people to Jesus also matters. When a person is diagnosed with leukemia, we don’t immediately tell them that Jesus is the answer. We get them appropriate physical treatment, we patiently listen to how their sickness affects their life, and we support them, all the while reminding them that Jesus is with them in the midst of it all.

When someone tells me that the solution is to simply have more faith, I pull back from that person and isolate myself more. Because the immediate issue isn’t my faith, it’s my body. Yes, there are times when my body tempts me more toward worry or despair, but this isn’t normally the case.

If you really want to help those who are struggling, don’t assume they’re sinning. Listen. Ask questions. Ask them what it feels like. Pray for them. Be present with them. Don’t prescribe solutions. There may be a time for that, but certainly not right away.

Treat someone struggling with mental illness the same way you would treat someone battling any other bodily affliction.

Don’t Give Suggestions

It is both a human and God-given impulse to want to help someone who is suffering. Unfortunately, when people make suggestions to those who are sick in the brain, it can actually do more harm than good.

Suggestions usually involve your own experience. You were sad once and then you did this thing and the sadness went away. So maybe that would help their deep depression.

But this almost never helps because regular sadness and depression are two massively different things. Every human experiences sadness, while only some experience depression. What helps sadness usually doesn’t help depression.

Because these suggestions almost never bring relief, it can make the sufferer feel even more isolated. They don’t want to keep receiving these unhelpful tips and lifehacks, so they simply cut themselves off.

Unless you have specifically experienced what they are experiencing or are a trained medical professional, the best way you can serve your struggling friend is simply with your presence.

Be with them.

Pray for them.

Remind them that it won’t last forever.

Affirm your love and God’s love for them.

Remind them that other Christians, like Charles Spurgeon and William Cowper, have also endured great mental affliction.

Read them the Psalms.

Compassionate presence is one of the most underrated spiritual gifts, but it’s incredibly helpful for the crazies like me.

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Stephen Altrogge
Stephen is a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook . facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephenaltrogge . twitter: https://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge