From the moment Adam and Eve made the decision to stray away from God’s intentional plans for life on earth, nothing has been exactly the same. And this includes our bodies and the illnesses that plague them. I want to be careful here. I am not suggesting that illnesses are God’s way of punishing humans but that they are simply another reality of our living in a fallen world. Mental illness is not the fault of anyone individual but rather a disappointing reality for what it means to live life on this earth. Should I say it again, just in case?
Mental illness is not a punishment. It is just one of the gnarly waves of suffering we humans ride in this thing called life.
To accept this mindset requires certain deference and humility toward God, for it could be easy to stamp our feet and demand that it ought not to be so. We want to say, God should have done this! God should have done that! God should have done better! But then, where would that get us? As Job learned, we are not God. And we cannot undo what God has already done. . . .
If our purpose in life is to journey back to God and become fully human along the way, then, yes, we must oppose suffering at every opportunity, but to find ourselves stuck in an existential crisis over the nature of this existence is to miss the boat entirely. The point, as a Christian, is not to eradicate all suffering or even overcome suffering but to endure it faithfully and ease it in people and places when we are able to do so, as Jesus did. All of this makes it a little easier for me to swallow the reality of mental illness. . . .
What helps the most, however, is the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. The truth is that I’m not sure I could worship a God who hadn’t tasted the bitterness of the kind of suffering we humans experience on a daily basis, especially those of us who suffer in the mind. But when I look at the cross I see a God so intent on loving and living with his people that he was willing to crawl into the deepest pit of suffering known to humanity so all of humanity might know there is no darkness into which he will not give chase.