Between Thankfulness and Grace
The other day I heard someone tell a group they were an anxious person. They then spoke of a recent meeting with a friend who prayed for them stating; “their anxiety wasn’t from God, to believe His word (Bible) and replace the anxious thoughts with ‘God’s truth.'” The person telling the story then declared she was thrilled with this revelatory prayer and her belief in the power of God and His word.
I was thankful for the woman’s relief from anxiousness and a friend who cared enough to listen, empathize and pray for her. I also thought about people I know who suffer from anxiety disorders, clinical depression, post traumatic disorder and other mental health issues. They pray, believe, hope, trust in the promises of their faith and scripture but permanent relief seems elusive.
For those who carry the burden of persistent mental health issues, stories of quick, permanent healing can be discouraging. Others who speak to them of; “having more faith, claiming the victory, believing God’s Word, praying until healing comes, be stronger, don’t let yourself be a victim of the devil/satan,” may be trying to help but often this type of advice does the opposite.
People with long term mental health issues often struggle with feelings of loneliness, doubt, self worth and long to be free of the struggle of dealing with basic existence. They may wonder; “Why have others received release and not me? Am I doing something wrong, being punished? Does God hear or care?”
Some of the hardest places and groups for people to share their struggle with mental illness can be churches, other faith communities, or with believing friends. Whether it’s a fear of being judged as weak willed or lacking faith, a misunderstanding of the reasons and causes of mental illness, or the stigma mental health issues sometimes engender in people, it’s a risky move to share such a deep, intimate issue.
Finding the balance of rejoicing with those who’ve experienced healing and relief while being mindful of those who continue to struggle is the middle way of grace and thankfulness.