I am sure that this is a question most readers have asked themselves when reading a particularly bad, boring or uninspiring book. Likewise, I would wager (were I a gambling man – which I am not) that it is a question that some writers have asked when reviewing their work and on realising that what they have done to date seems to lack any real direction or purpose.
But what if the question isn’t being asked by a reader or a writer or even about words on a page? What if the question is being asked by someone who is desperately unhappy or someone who is suffering from mental illness and what if the page in question is the next page in their life story?
Today is December 31st, and it is New Year’s eve. The end of one year and the beginning of another. And whilst for so many this is a time of celebration or of ‘jolly folly’ (as a good friend of mine puts it) for others it can be a very difficult time. Even a time, sadly, when that consideration – “is it worth writing another page in my life story?” comes to the fore.
Trust me, I know this first hand and I know from countless conversations with others that I am not alone in this. And on this day, this day of reflection and of potential struggle for so many people, we need to be so very careful don’t we?
I am a Christian and a Christian who suffers from mental illness. Part of that mental illness is depression and part of it is suicidal ideation. (Of course not everyone with Mental illness suffers from depression or Suicidal thoughts) But I really do struggle with and fight against both. I am also – as it happens a Christian with mental illness whose mental health seems to be particularly poor at this time.
This morning I was catching up on my blogs and then reading other folk’s blogs. And in so doing I came across a statement from another blogger which stated that whilst they did not believe that committing suicide will absolutely condemn a person to hell. They do however, believe that suicide is a strong indicator that you are not in a right relationship with God, which will send you to hell.”
I have no doubt in my mind that this statement was made with every good intention. And I have no desire whatsoever to either a) identify that blogger and cause controversy or b) get into a battle with that person. But I do – for the purpose of this post – want to point out that I, for one, found the statement to be particularly condemning and harmful. And yes I accept that it is possible that this is partly due to my state of mind at the moment. But if I found it to be that way, what about others who could also find it to be the same?
And that is the point isn’t it? So much of what we are talking about here is a state of mind. And our state of mind – for those of us with mental illness – is so often so deeply impacted and influenced by our mental illness(es). And the fact is that very often that (or those) mental illness(es) do not conform to our faith based ideal or beliefs. And are simply not an indicator therefore of the ‘rightness’ of our relationship with God.
After all, doesn’t 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV) tell us, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” Isn’t the very fact that we (all) have to take these thoughts ‘captive’ and make them ‘obedient’ an indication that they can indeed – regardless of our relationship with God – be harmful?
I am blessed to have a strong faith, one which – despite my mental health and the inherent depression and suicidal thoughts – has, by the grace of God, seen me through this far. And I am extremely grateful for this. And I have to tell you that I neither see my mental illness as; a weakness in my faith, an indicator of not having a right relationship with my heavenly Father, OR as an indicator that God is not sovereign in my life. And I seriously doubt that the apostle Paul saw the thorn in his flesh as being an indicator or those either.
In truth, I have been a Christian for a good many years and trust me I have seen many different responses and approaches to mental illness from the Christian community. Some of which have been wonderful and inspiring, even life-saving and sadly some of which have been harmful, condemning and even – dare I say it – life threatening.
The title and focus of this blog is ‘Christian Concern For Mental Health’ and on this day I am inviting you the reader to have an extra bit of concern for those who are suffering from mental illness and who are also perhaps considering ‘not bothering to turn another page in their own life story’
So I invite you to do one or two things at this time…
Pray for all those who suffer from mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts.
Pray for anyone who you may know who suffers with mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts.
Text or message them. Being very careful in your wording, simply extend love and caring to them. Letting them know – in the process – that they are not alone and that someone is thinking of them.
We are called, as Christians to love. To minister Christ’s love. Let us do that with an open heart and no other agenda than to serve Him.