Does God use a Mental Illness to Slow Us Down?

Do you think mental illness is God’s way of forcing us to slow down and change our behaviour or is it the Devil messing with our minds?

I recently received this question from one of the readers via the anonymous question survey.

It’s an interesting question and one that I think has many questions under the question. It also demonstrates a type of belief about God and Gods relationship with us.

So here is my answer. Leave a comment below to let me know what you think about this question. 

Questions under the question.

So there are many questions under this question.

  • Is God in control?
  • Is God an abuser of power?
  • Does God initiate something bad to teach us a lesson?
  • What is the nature of God like? (Punishing father/ mother)
  • Does the devil mess with our mind?

All of those questions led onto to other bigger questions that are beyond the scope of what I want to cover.

The question is a good question and I would have to answer ‘No’.

Mental illness is not God’s way of forcing us to slow down and change our behaviour. A Mental Illness is not the Devil messing with our minds?

Mental Illness is …

I believe that a Mental Illness is but one consequence of living in a broken world with broken bodies.

We live a long distance away from the garden of perfection. There are no supermen or wonder women that are impregnable to suffering. Yet we want this and certainly many are airbrushed up to appear so, but it’s a false reality.

In waking up we discover that Mental Illness is the result of a combination of many factors particularly biological factors such as our genetics, then stress loads and coping skills.

To read more about this I have a whole section in my book ‘So you want to help’. When you understand this basic principle then the whole understanding of what a Mental Illness shifts from something of a mystery to being more grounded and understandable.

Can God use a Mental Illness for good?

Let’s be clear God never intended for us to have the illnesses we have.

Yet within the illnesses can come a deepening of our relationship with God. We also learn about ourselves and about what makes us tick. We learn about our the need for rest, proper self-care and a million other things.

We can come out of the experience more whole and well rounded.

Some of the deepest lessons I have learnt about God have come from those who struggle with a Mental Illness. They discover health through being vulnerably honest and real.

I remember one such guy who had been horrifically treated by the Mental Health system. He and a group of others won a court case relating to the abuses suffered whilst being on a psych ward.

I can see him now wearing a baseball hat with the words ‘Shit Happens’ embroidered across the front. I suppose a few self-righteous people were probably offended by this but it was his peaceful statement of acceptance.

I had the privilege of baptising him and it was one of the most delightful things I have done in ministry.

He taught me so much and he taught other strugglers too.  He taught me that Mental Illness ‘shit happens’. To get on with life, work the angles of your experience and to help others.

So what is your version of God like?

When I first read the question I wondered about how this person viewed God.

Was God like

  • An angry judge wanting to punish
  • A distant parent only half interested in us
  • A Santa Claus type of God where he keeps a list of who has been naughty and who has been nice
  • A control freak God

I wondered what their parents were like and how it shaped their views of what God was like.

You see how we understand what God is like will influence everything we do.

You see the type of God I want on my side is the type that knows exactly what it is like to be human. A God that cries, gets anxious, needs space from people and knows pain in every form imaginable.  That is why Jesus Christ is the truest form of hope we have.

Quotes to consider

  • Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C.S. Lewis

  • The problem sincere Christians have with God often comes down to a wrong understanding of what this life is meant to provide. Larry Crabb

  • We unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves… But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves — unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely.  Brennan Manning

Questions to answer and leave a comment below or anonymously here. 

  1. How would you respond to the question ‘Do you think mental illness is God’s way of forcing us to slow down and change our behaviour or is it the Devil messing with our minds?’
  2. What has Mental Illness, either your own or others, taught you?
  3. What does your version of God look like? Does it help you or hinder you?

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Edwin Andrade

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4 Replies to “Does God use a Mental Illness to Slow Us Down?”

  1. God doesn’t cause illness in my view. Maybe if we had slowed down in the first place we might not get ill. We can learn from the illness though. I believe God works within a situation to bring about good but we not be able to perceive that. He could help us to recognise lessons to be learned for the future.

  2. Our experience of working with people suffering with mental illness is that they are more prone to being attacked by the enemy because they don’t have the wherewithal to be able to fight those battles of the Mind. Some types of mental illness tend to over spiritualize life around them. People in Mania feel good and can’t differentiate that their symptoms are negative and find themselves all of a sudden in trouble. Our minds with the help and accountability of others just like an addicted person needing a sponsor can slow down when symptoms seem to be showing up. I pay attention to my thoughts, my level of anxiety, and my rest ratio to keep myself in check. I view my Lord as all loving all knowing and a provider. Never a punisher. My choices may make me suffer, with transformation just around the corner.

  3. God does not cause mental illness but can use it as a means of drawing a person nearer to Himself, in my view. The causes of these illnesses are multifarious but I believe that there is a spiritual dimension, and the author can only be the devil. I do think that what the ancients called demonic possession is what we now call psychosis. Have you ever wondered where those voices come from? If you believe that there is a spiritual dimension there can only be one explanation, and that isn’t that God caused the illness or that it is God’s voice that the person is hearing…

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