I’ve been dealing with depression, anxiety, mania and even hallucinations for half of my life. At times, my disorder feels absolutely devastating. My family and close friends suffer too, as they stand by me through the painful and exhausting periods of time when I am taken captive by intense, irrational fear, as well as extreme swings in motivation and energy level. To put it plainly, mental illness really sucks. At times, it feels as though the bad times will never end and that darkness just might overcome me.
Thankfully, the morning always comes. Every time I face that dark abyss of suffering and survive to see another day, I see God’s faithfulness to me even more clearly. If I had the power to control my own life, I would avoid everything unpleasant or uncomfortable, but then I would never see God’s power to overcome evil and to shine light in the darkness. If I never suffered, I would never have any reason to grow or change. If I didn’t have these hard times, I wouldn’t have the chance to exercise my faith and grow in hope.
I consider my mental illness to be a part of a spiritual gift of suffering. The Bible invites believers to share in Christ’s sufferings, but who really wants to sign up for that? Yet, with every season of pain, I grow in compassion for others, in appreciation of God’s mercy and in the strength God gives me to handle pain and discomfort. As my capacity for suffering grows, so does my capacity to feel joy, peace and every other fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. God has used what, on the surface, seems like pointless and unredeemable misery and has turned it into my secret strength. God has used my illness and weakness to slowly and purposefully mold me into the beloved reflection of my creator, the “new creation” that He intends me to be.