The Invisible Illness

(Originally published in the Corsica Globe 11/22/11)

You’ve seen those commercials on TV. They talk about how moods change. They talk about how being depressed makes you feel horrible, how being depressed keeps you from activities with family and friends. And if you took their particular medication then you’d be better. You’d be able to join in family events. You’d be able to enjoy things you used to enjoy. How often have you watched these commercials and wondered if they were really true? How many times have you thought that medication isn’t the answer but instead getting out of the funk by positive thinking works better? Or how about the fact that someone’s just acting this way to get attention or even get out of doing work?

I would like to bring up the issue of Depression and mental illness. Depression is real. Depression and mental illnesses are very real. You can’t see them. You can’t fix mental illnesses. You can’t cure them either. They are an invisible illness that has physical manifestations that if you don’t know what to look for you wouldn’t see it. People with depression and other mental illnesses try to hide it. They try to keep it close to them, to keep their cards close to their chest. This is a fear that if they let people know about what they’re struggling with, then they’d be misunderstood or chastised for not having enough faith in God to be healed.

That one has always gotten me. If you just had enough faith then you wouldn’t have the problem of depression. You’re a Christian. You have the deep joy of Jesus Christ. Why should you be sad like that all the time? Why should you be depressed? You have Jesus. And if you just prayed hard enough and had enough faith, then you would feel a lot better.

When I think of those dealing with the pain of Depression and the eternal struggle that even affects their very faith, I think of Jesus praying in the Garden. We read that he was in anguish. The word here in Greek means one who is struggling, who is in pain, who is in a conflict with himself. Jesus is in such anguish that an Angel comes to strengthen him. Jesus is in such anguish that he is sweating drops of blood. In his struggle, he feel the pain and hurt of having to be separated from God. He feels the pain and hurt that he knows he will experience. And he is in struggling with himself on what to do.

With depression and other mental illnesses, this is what it feels like at times. It feels like you are in this type of anguish, struggling with what to do. You are feeling hurt and pain, you are wanting to do the things you love to do but just can’t. You struggle in pain that only you feel and no one else knows of or even believes you in the first place. It becomes a personal conflict and anguish inside yourself that you feel like you have to do it alone. And the pain of isolation becomes deeper. And the pain of your own spiritual life becomes a struggle as you walk through a valley of your faith.

Psalm 139 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In Genesis 1 we read that we are made in God’s image. In Genesis 2 we read how God formed us from the dirt and breathed life into us. We read in Genesis 3 how sin entered into the world. God made us. He made us wonderful. He made us to be like him in holiness and righteousness.

The human brain is amazing. It’s like a computer. It has these neurons that shoot out information through synapses or something like that. Yet because of sin, even our bodies are distorted by it. We now have sickness and death. We have pain. We have war. We have natural disasters. We have evil in this world. I’m not going to go into why we have these problems but we have them.

We are still in God’s image, but because of sin we are bent. We aren’t right. Our brains don’t always work as they should. Please know this: As you come towards the holidays, know that there are those who are hurting, who are in need of healing emotionally. Yet they won’t show it. If you know those who are dealing with depression or another mental illness take time to be Christ to them. Take time to show them the love of Jesus.

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