Mental Health Musings on Psalm 139
God made us for a purpose, to accomplish tasks laid out before us. But doesn’t having a mental illness, like depression, schizophrenia, or PTSD, to name a couple, completely throw off God’s plan for our lives? The answer is simple and biblical. No, not in the least bit, and I’ll explain why in this blog post.
One of the best books of the Bible to read when depressed is the book of Psalms. Let’s take some time to examine one wonderful passage from this book of the Bible bit-by-bit to see what God says about the secrets of our hearts, those things we believe we have hidden from everyone, even God. We’re going to hang out in Psalm 139 for a while here, so buckle up.
God Sees Through Your Mental Illness and Loves You
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”
God knows literally everything about you, and there is no shame in his view of you. God understands your depression and anxiety even better than you do. He knows every thought you have, no matter where we are, and there is no sense of longing for us to be different from how he made us. No matter where we are, he is with us by his Holy Spirit, and he knows everything we do.
The point of these verses is intimacy with God, not judgment. God understands our depressed thoughts crowding into our minds and sees our crippling anxiety and feels nothing but love when he looks at us. This is another opportunity to communicate the depth of love and grace that God has for those in the mental illness community. He has intimate knowledge of every intrusive thought that pops into our frayed and exhausted minds, and he sees nothing but love through the forgiveness of Christ. This message cannot be communicated enough times or strongly enough to someone battling the deep darkness of suicidal thoughts from depression and anxiety, so share this wonderful message freely to those who need to hear it.
You Are a Child of God
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
This is one of the most beautiful images in all of Scripture. God before us, God behind us, God upon us, and, by his Spirit, God within us. Indeed, this is nearly too wonderful to comprehend. Who are we that God would invest such time and energy into us? Especially those experiencing the weary journey of mental illness, who feel broken or unworthy.
The Bible gives us the answer: we are his children. It’s that simple and that profound. Because we are his children, he surrounds us with his presence and paves the way for those good works to happen. Despite the brokenness we feel so acutely in our struggle with mental illness, God still adopts us and embraces us and calls us his own because of his great love for us. God is literally surrounding his children with his presence. Even on the days when the battles are fiercest, God is all around.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
God Made You For a Glorious Purpose
We have been known since the beginning of our lives. God watched the wonder of our development in our mother’s womb and knew the works he had for us even then. Before a moment of our life had started, he knew the works that would be perfect for us to do.
This does beg the question, though, why would God allow terrible things like mental illness to happen? Why would God allow schizophrenia to exist, or why would God allow the events that caused the PTSD to occur in the first place? If each day was recorded in his book, why did he allow some days to be recorded?
There are no easy answers to these tough questions—but there is no question that we live in a busted world. You will have to field questions like this from those you trust, because it is disappointing and confusing, especially for those who struggle because of victimization of one sort or another, to find peace with these realities. For now, the best answer is that this is a broken world crying for redemption from its sickness. Regardless, God is good, and he has set you in this world for a reason, and knew who you were even before you were conscious.
Equally Called and Uniquely Prepared
Mental illness does not prevent those suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other condition from being called by God to perform the good works that were prepared for them. We are all equally called. Our mental illnesses do not disqualify us, in fact, they equip us. We are all equally prepared. Those who have struggled against the darkness of mental illness are perhaps even more prepared because we have tasted of the brokenness of the world in unique and clear ways. The best representations of Christ to those with mental illnesses are those who share those same disorders.
Anxiety and Depression
We have felt the overwhelming anxiety of a billion thoughts all swirling around our head at the same time, coalescing into what feels like an insurmountable mountain. This gives us the authority to speak into the lives of those with anxiety with an understanding others might not have.
Self-harm and Suicidal Thoughts
We have known the darkness of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Perhaps we have even been on the inside of a mental health ward, like I have. This equips us to speak with experienced compassion to those who are battling the heaviness of overpowering depression, hopelessness, and negativity. Even if we are in the midst of this darkness right now, we can still commiserate with our brothers and sisters in the same boat and remind them they are never alone. Let’s be honest—simply being heard is a powerful antidote to many mental illnesses. Though not a way to complete healing, being heard is part of almost every solution.
We have experienced the frenetic highs and lows of being bipolar and feeling out of control in both extremes. This gives us the ability to first identify those bipolar tendencies in others. We can look upon them with compassion instead of judgment or confusion because we know what that kind of life is like. We can even step into their lives, infusing them with hope and a sense of the deep love of God for them.
We have endured the scars of PTSD, and the ways in which the smallest thing can trigger an out-of-whack response that has nothing to do with the present and everything to do with the past. We have seen in our own lives the way this trauma can upend a perfectly good day out of nowhere and ruin it, with no chance for recovery. We can come alongside those whose perfectly good days have been upended and hug them, providing a safe space to just be.
I could go on. We have known the pain of our own pasts, so we are more than equally equipped to serve God. The very illnesses we have battled are the very things that equip us to see God in the dark and represent his love to those without hope. The reason we are able to minister to those who are struggling or brokenhearted is that we have experienced the same struggles ourselves or seen them in the lives of those we love and care for.
Your mental illness doesn’t ruin God’s plan for you—it’s a key part of living it out.