Last fall, I spoke in a breakout session at the Women on The Front Line’s World Convention, the topic was on living fearless. The room was packed with people, some sitting on the floor on the sides and standing in the back, every seat was filled. During the session, I shared my story of overcoming a severe mental breakdown and the room fell silent. This was a group of women from all across the world, pastors, leaders, mothers, ministry leaders, teachers, counselors and men too. I noticed tears and a heaviness fall throughout the room, not because of my story but because of the heavy weight of “me too”.
As soon as the session ended women hurried to the front to buy my book, some bought one, some bought two or three. “My sister” they said, “my mother, my son, my brother … myself”. One young lady hung silently behind the crowd waiting for it to diminish and she meekly pulled me aside. I knew that she was being incredibly brave as she looked around to make sure no one could hear her. “I have Schizophrenia, do you think God can heal me?” she whispered. My heart sank, “I do believe God can.” I told her “and I will pray for you, but I want you to know how precious you are to Him and how loved you are. Your illness does not change His heart towards you.”
I laid hands on her to pray, feeling a little overwhelmed by how to pray and what to pray. I felt such a deep compassion for her suffering, knowing that she had come all this way to pursue God and answers to her mental anguish. I know that she had prayed the prayers, read the scriptures and done all the things. She was the woman grabbing onto the hem of Jesus’s robe crying out “can you heal me?” What a beautiful young lady no older than 20.
Jesus’s call to the church.
In that moment, as men and women began to leave, leaving me with their stories, I felt such a burden and weight placed upon my shoulders. This yoke reminded me of Jesus walking through the streets healing the sick and every kind of disease begging his disciples to pray for more workers because he was overwhelmed. Jesus was calling the church to rise up and walk through the streets with the same compassion he had. Not preaching do more, give more and be more, like the Pharisees did, but bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth through love, healing and compassion.
Jesus walked throughout the region with the joyful message of God’s kingdom realm. He taught in their meeting houses, and wherever he went he demonstrated God’s power by healing every kind of disease and illness.
When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd. He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out many more reapers to harvest his grain!”
Matthew 9:35-38 (TPT)
We are the reapers.
Jesus cared for the WHOLE person.
Imagine the mental health of a leper. Sure the physical burden of lesions, muscle weakness, numbness and pain were enough to have compassion but to Jesus that was just the outward appearance. Think for a moment and imagine having to announce your presence to your peers, leaders and strangers as you walked through the market place to buy food yelling “unclean!” (that’s if you were allowed to enter the market at all.) Imagine being considered an outcast and imagine the mental and emotional affects of being rejected and isolated and most of all refused human touch.
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
Matthew 8: 1-3
Jesus never laid hands on the centurion’s servant, or the woman with the issue of blood, he never touched Lazareth when he raised him from the dead or moved the man laying lame next to the pool of Bethsheba but he touches the leper in the midst of a large crowd?!
Church, Jesus heals the whole person. Body, mind, and spirit. Imagine what the simple act of being touched did for this untouchable and Jesus said in front of his future church following, “I am willing”
Often times we will rush to the bedside of those ravished with illness and disease but we tend to throw shame, blame and/or pat responses at those who’s illness is hidden, but Jesus always saw the hidden and was willing and he’s calling us to do the same.
The Church is an Army and the Battle is in the Mind.
The Lord made it very clear that our battle was not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities of darkness. So many of us ignore this threat fighting the world with our resentments and criticisms, others over-spiritualize it imagining demons spilling milk and stubbing toes, most of us numb it with busyness and entertainment, but the bible said very clearly that the battle is in our mind.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action! 1 Peter: 4
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10 NKJV
What is the knowledge of God that this principality is trying to conquer in our minds?
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The prize the enemy is after is the truth and knowledge of God’s love for us. Every anxious thought, every moment of depression, or worthlessness, shame, condemnation opposes the truth that God is love. When we battle mental illness with shame, condemnation, guilt and striving we reinforce this stronghold.
We are called to love.
So what is the church’s call to those battling mental illness?
Our call is to have compassion on those ravished by mental illness not leave them as outcasts. Our call is to create an environment where people can bring their sadness, their fears and their irrational thoughts to Jesus. Our call is to continue to create a conversation about mental illness and train the ministers and leaders to recognize it and to not be afraid to reach out and touch it. We are called to set the captives free in body, mind, and spirit but above all, we are called to love.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love [c]Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4 (NKJV)
This was the fourth installation of a four-part series. This originally appeared on Saraheball.com and was republished with permission.
Sarah E. Ball, is an author, speaker and mental illness survivor. She inspires others to live fearlessly by sharing her humor, vulnerability and wisdom on overcoming anxiety. Sarah offers fearless hope to many through her blog – saraheball.com, online courses, speaking and book – Fearless in 21 Days, A Survivor’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety.