“As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him (John 9:1-3).
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. When it comes to mental health, there is nothing wrong with taking medication if that is what you need. Please follow the advice of a doctor if you need treatment. Your mental health is of the upmost importance to me, so please reach out if I can help.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and major panic disorder about two and half years ago. I remember being diagnosed and feeling a mixture of shame and relief. Relief because there was something to explain how I felt and now I could get the help I needed. I felt shame because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness in our society. I was certified broken; at least that is what I thought. This was all before I gave my life over to Jesus Christ.
Bipolar disorder basically means that I cannot regulate my emotions without the help of medication. Panic disorder means that I suffer from constant panic attacks. I suffered from these disorders for my entire life. For most of that life, I suffered silently like many people with mental illness. When I was first diagnosed, the only people who knew were my wife and my mother.
What I pray that you will take from this article is that it was a mistake to hide my disorders. What I want to show you is that Jesus can use you to glorify God. God loves to use broken people, and mental illness is not something that God hides from. In fact, He will take your suffering and use it for the good of the Kingdom.
It is funny to think about this now, but when I came back to church and was baptized as an adult, I thought that Jesus would cure me of my disorders.
I also thought that I would go to church once a week and that weekly church attendance would fulfill my life. I had no idea the path that Jesus would actually send me on, and I am not saying this because I am special. I simply listened to what Jesus was telling me to do and I followed. You can do the same thing. He called me to Liberty University where I got a master’s degree in Christian Ministries in order to help me pursue my ultimate passion of discipleship and helping men to mature in Christ.
All the while as I was working at this passion, I kept asking why I had to have my disorders. I would ask the Lord why I would have a paralyzing panic attack where I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was doing a lot of good things for the Kingdom; the least He could do was heal me, right?
Quite simply, I had the wrong view of God. I thought I could bargain with Him. In truth, I feared that my disorder was too much for God. Yet here is the undeniable truth: God accepts me for who I am, brokenness and all. That is the truth in your life too.
He accepts you and loves you. Jesus knows your pain. He feels your anxiety when you do.
John is my favorite book of the Bible. I have read it so many times, but it was only recently that I was floored by an observation from the Holy Spirit. Jesus and His disciples were walking by a blind man. The disciples asked a question which many of us can find ourselves wondering today when we see major suffering. Who sinned? We can all think like that, right? Someone must have done something wrong for this man to be punished with blindness. His parents or the man must have committed some grave sin.
Here is the big God moment that the Holy Spirit showed me. Jesus says that this happened so that the glory of the Lord will be known. How amazing is that? Our thinking is too small when we want to blame something for the disorders in our lives. Jesus says the opposite: there is no blame, there is only glory! And in our disorders, the glory of God can be seen.
I will leave you with one final story about the glory of God working through disorders. Recently I was in a mental health hospital. I spent five days there so that I could get my medication fixed.
It was in this hospital when Jesus taught me something I’ll never forget: I had entered not just a hospital but a harvest field with people starving for the living bread of Jesus.
One of the days I had spent in the hospital was a Sunday. Of course, I was sad to be missing church. But that is when God showed His glory. Sunday morning, a few fellow patients joined me as we had a Bible study. There were no Bibles at all in the unit, nor did the hospital bring in anyone to provide spiritual services. So we all crowded around my Bible and worked our way through 1 Peter.
I have felt the Holy Spirit with regular Bible studies. I have felt Him in prison cells. And, in that hospital, I felt the Holy Spirit embracing all of us. It was the glorious love of Jesus filling a sterile environment. For a brief moment we had the healing power of Jesus giving us something no number of pills could alter. I was reminded of how the Holy Spirit continues to work as my roommate at the hospital came to Jesus. We prayed together every night. He will be baptized in the very near future.
Mental health is a very serious issue. If you need professional help, please seek it out. Getting help has saved my life.
But don’t buy into the stigma. Never forget how the heavenly Father loves to use broken people.
There was only one perfect person and that was Jesus. All the heroes of the faith? You guessed it: broken people that still accomplished amazing acts in the name of God.
So the challenge that I lay out to myself every day is, how can I make an impact for the Kingdom today? If you are reading this, that is my challenge to you. How can God use your depression for His glory? How can God use your bipolar for His glory?
Remember the blind man. He sat there every day begging and then Jesus came. I want you to think about your own life and challenges, how can glory be found in those challenges just like Jesus brought glory through a blind man.