I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people. At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God. I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible. God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little. But, those who are forgiven much, love much. I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin. God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!” He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are. He meant I was vile, evil and depraved. I replied, “No, I’m not!” He said again, “You’re a sinner!” I said again, “No, I’m not!”
Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me: He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years). The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame. My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years. And, my Pride was assaulted: I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.
Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall. I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me. God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him. And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.
But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain. God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well. I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness. (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).
I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone. I wish I could have learned without the pain. But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.
And for that I will forever be grateful.