3 Ways Mental Illness Strengthened My Faith


3 Ways Mental Illness Strengthened My Faith

Guest Blog by Catherine P. Downing, Author and Blogger


Our son was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22, but it wasn’t until he turned 34 that he was able to accept the diagnosis and receive treatment. During the twelve years of his struggle with untreated mental illness, God taught me deep truths about how to keep believing in His light where there is only darkness, and trusting in His goodness when there is only pain. Here are just three of the lessons:



1.  We walk by faith, not by sight.

There is so much that goes on “behind the scenes” when God is at work. I can’t begin to assume that all I see is all that is happening. God often displays his best good in the secret places. So when the situation is at its worst, that may be the very time God is doing his deepest grace. In Psalm 139 we are told, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬).  During some of our darkest times, I have meditated on those words to shore up my faith and have come through the crisis believing fully that God was ever present, just as He promised.


2.  God has a grand plan.

Think of the story of Lazarus. Jesus tarried to come to his aid when his sisters sent word of his illness. When Jesus did finally arrive Lazarus had died. Mary and Martha each expressed their profound disappointment by saying, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”  But Jesus had a bigger plan, a hidden plan, a miraculous plan. Instead of healing Lazarus, He raised him. We may not know God’s grand plan for our loved one, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV‬‬).



3.  We are not alone.

God has placed us amid others who love Him. He has provided a “life-raft” in the form of people who will pray, who will support, who will counsel. It is so important to nest in the fellowship of Christian community. The most significant breakthrough for our son happened after friends gathered in our home (and elsewhere, virtually)  for a designated two-hour prayer session to intercede for our family. But even prior to that, we were sustained by good input and compassion from our Family Grace Group and by the outpouring of love from some in our church.


James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬). It is absurd to think that the sufferings our loved ones and we experience because of mental illness are capable of providing joy, but as we consider God’s presence and faithfulness along the way, we can rejoice in the grace we’ve been given so we can hold fast to Him.


Catherine P. Downing is author of Sparks of Redemptive Grace and 31 days, 31 ways 2 pray 4 families. Both can be ordered in digital or paperback formats through Amazon and other booksellers. Her monthly blog is available here.