I have been on a long journey for about a year now after I had a total mental breakdown last October. I was originally diagnosed with major depression but I ended up having more bipolar-type symptoms. I too have been thinking about what having this disorder means for my faith. At times I feel so disconnected from even those I’m closest to and often wonder if this is the result of sin in my life … Overall I’m wanting to have a solid relationship with Jesus and find meaning in this suffering. Do you have any other suggestions about living with this illness and faith issues?
-Feeling Far From Faith
Dear Feeling Far,
I have found that at times, in a bipolar episode, I felt closest to God and also farthest from Him. I don’t know whether that was the bipolar symptoms or authentic following after Jesus, or perhaps both. What I do know now is that no matter what sin we have committed, there is nothing Jesus can’t and won’t forgive (aside from the unforgivable sin). He is there with you through all of it, sees all of it, walks through all of it with you, provided you are a child of His. And for you to be so honest tells me that He is stirring your heart to follow Him more closely.
God did use my experience when I stopped taking my medications (the second hospitalization) to discipline me like a loving Father, but it wasn’t a punishment. Punishment and discipline are two different things – Jesus was punished for us and our sin, and discipline is what a Father does to correct his children’s behaviors.
I will tell you, God will comfort, guide and heal you in His timing and ways. There are organizations like Fresh Hope and Grace Alliance, healthy communities of believers that love and fear the Lord, that offer mental health answers from a Biblical perspective. Also, listening to your doctors’ and mental health professionals’ counsel is a wise thing to do and will get you back on an accountable pathway to healing and purpose. God has healed, comforted and guided me back to a place of solid ground, and like He promises in 1 Peter 5:10, “the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, [He will] perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
That is what He promises for you. I’d encourage you to hold on to that verse and know that He has some really great things in store for you, so that when you come to that settled place in Him you will be able to help and guide others to that hope in God. I think He already has your attention, so I would encourage you to trust in His timing. In the meantime, wait patiently and know that if you are seeking Him, then He is definitely for you, and you are in His hands. Mental illness is like a special burden – at times I forgot to put my helmet of salvation on, and later realized that was when the enemy was able to mess with me the most – so wear your armor of faith (Ephesians 6:10-18). As a Bipolar, it is a blessing to know Jesus and to have His strength available to us as we battle this ugly disorder.
I appreciate your question. God bless you and keep you.