Warning: there is mention of suicide, psychosis and death in this blog.
One thing I’m grateful to God for is the opportunity over lockdown to connect with people I had previously been too busy to keep in touch with regularly.
Without the daily rush to lectures/classes/events and much more time spent on my phone, I found myself drawing towards people I knew/had mutual friends with due to a significant period of time I had spent in treatment for my mental health.
My relationship with God as my Father is fundamental to my faith as a Christian, and I have for a long time found great joy and deep pain in trying to reflect His nature in my relationships with others, which I recognise to be a small fragment of His joy and pain in seeing human happiness and suffering. My time participating in Just Love’s homeless outreach has strongly reinforced the importance of developing a relationship with those for whom we desire justice, reconciliation and restoration for.
Over lockdown I found out that someone I had been praying for, though did not know well, had taken their own life at the age of 22. I rang and regularly supported a friend living in an abusive situation and developed a safety plan with them. I felt pain and anger when a friend’s distressing symptoms of psychosis was repeatedly dismissed and ignored by professionals. I anxiously spent a whole day with the phone number of the police ready to call for a friend I suspected was planning to end their life that day (thankfully they are still here). My heart ached when I heard of friends I had been in hospital with who were back in hospital again after a few years of remission. I felt heartbroken and helpless that a friend was unable to access mental health treatment despite five serious suicide attempts. I worried and felt so clueless on how to help a friend from church who had developed delusions (a symptom of psychosis). Whilst praying I often pleaded and asked God if situations would ever change.
I also felt joy and praised God when I heard of friends making progress and recovering, of the small victories made which may not have been significant in the eyes of the world but were certainly significant in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. I rejoiced when, in the midst of suffering, there were friends that were curious to understand who God is, friends too that came to faith!
God also taught me the importance of healthy boundaries. Whilst I sought to reflect His nature in my relationships with those I cared for, I could of course never be Him and it was at detrimental cost to myself when I somehow forgot this in my imperfection and human weakness. We have a power in Heaven whose “love surpasses knowledge”, and “who is able to do so much more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:19, NIV) and the knowledge that we can ask Jesus to carry destitute, painful situations for us is freeing.
The existence of illness is certainly the result of a fallen creation and a broken relationship between we as humans and God. However, unlike many physical illnesses, mental illness is often caused and borne from deep injustice such as domestic abuse, human trafficking, poverty and more.
These injustices are tremendously important to fight and tackle as part of our journey as Christians but it is also important to remember that in the example of the New Testament, whilst Jesus did have the power to heal all earthly afflictions instantly, He walked alongside and healed individuals in love and in relationship with them.
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