Striving to be the Face of Christ to Those Who Struggle

Striving-to-be-the-Face-of-Christ-to-Those-Who-Struggle

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Mt. 11:28 

“Borderline Personality Disorder. I have Borderline Personality Disorder.” When my sister shared these words with me over the phone, I expected to feel sad. Instead, I felt relief. After years of knowing that something wasn’t right, she finally had a diagnosis. A diagnosis meant treatment, a plan, hope. 

Mental health is not something that gets talked about frequently throughout Christian communities, but it should be. After all, psychiatric disorders do not discriminate against who they stick their teeth into. Holy or not, mental illness doesn’t care.

Even as mental health awareness becomes more commonplace among young people, there’s no question that speaking openly about one’s psychiatric problems carries the weight of an ugly stigma. For so many, being deemed “mentally ill” means unwanted attention, shame, and a label they can’t seem to break free from once it’s been established.

Who can blame those who suffer from hiding their pain when so few people understand them?

Sure, outsiders may claim to be compassionate to those with a mental illness, even if they have one themselves, but so often their actions fall short of their good intentions.

It’s easy to say we empathize with someone until we witness them struggle with something we find simple. It’s comforting to say their condition is heartbreaking until they do something we consider unforgivable. True empathy comes in loving the one who struggles, even in their worst moments. 

What does that mean exactly? Knowing when to hold on and when to let go. 

So many times, I’ve pounded my fist against the wall, frustrated by the lack of answers on how to properly love my sister in the midst of her illness. “I don’t understand her, Lord,” I’d pray. Her words, disposition, and choices make no sense to me, often bringing unresolved tension and heated arguments that result in hurt feelings and days of not speaking. 

In these moments I have to remind myself that I’m not the only one suffering – she is, too. 

Perhaps the worst part of having a disorder that can’t be seen, touched, or felt by anyone but the person its inflicting is that it silently and unknowingly seeps into virtually every relationship the sick person enters into. Just when life seems wonderful, the illness rears its ugly head once more and pushes both parties to their knees.

As debilitating as mental illness can be, however, a person shouldn’t be defined by the disease that they suffer from. Even in the chaos of confusion, frustration, and pain that accompany loving someone with a psychiatric disorder, we must strive to see every person through the eyes of Christ.

When a mother looks at her child, she doesn’t see a diagnosis. She sees everything that child is and has the potential to be. She can look past their tired eyes and notice the sunlight dancing on their hair once more.

It’s through this lens that we should all strive to see one another, as the mother of a child who is loved beyond measure.

Mental illness is a thief. It robs parents of their babies, spouses of their intimacy, friends of their joy, and young people of their peace. It strips families of experiences they hoped to share and everyone who’s unfortunate enough to look it square in the eye of what they thought their life would look like. 

It steals and it steals and it steals until there is nothing left to take.

But when it feels like you’ve emptied yourself completely and you’ve got nothing left to give, Christ does. After all, He is the one “who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine.” (Eph. 3:20)

If you or someone you love is silently suffering with mental illness, I see you. More importantly, Christ sees you. He longs to give you rest. Let Him.

St. Raphael, Healer from God, pray for us.


RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A FRIEND ASKS – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide