Have you ever thought you understood one thing, only to realize later you totally misunderstood? There may have been no malice on your part, you just had limited understanding of what you were seeing. You didn’t know what you didn’t know.
Some of my favorite movies are the ones that look like one thing, but then at the end are revealed to be something else entirely. At the top of my list is Life is Beautiful, the story of a Jewish father and son imprisoned in a concentration camp in Germany in World War II. Many years ago, when I was a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries, I would start the presentation on my eating disorder testimony talking about this movie, stating that this movie is a cinematic masterpiece, but real life is often not a cinematic masterpiece.
I think God really likes these stories with the ‘big reveal’ at the end as well. After all, He delights in revealing Himself to those who diligently seek Him. The things that He reveals to His servants are our treasures, forever (Deuteronomy 29:29).
So in this sense, God is the master director and storyteller. The most important story, of how He works with humanity and how He came to rescue humanity as fully God and fully human is of course the Big Story. But the Big Story is full of trillions of lesser stories.
He writes the ‘little story’ in what happens in my relationship with Him, and yours, and every other person who seeks wholeheartedly after Him. Since the day of creation, the little stories have never ceased to be written. And I’m convinced they mostly revolve around God breaking through the illusions we have in our lives.
Things look bleak. God says He will never leave or forsake me.
I’m alone. No one loves me. I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3 Before you were knit together in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5 I have plans for you that only you can fulfill. Jeremiah 29:11
But do these things apply to mental illness?
In our time, mental illness remains one of the most difficult things to diagnose correctly, treat effectively, live with advantageously, minister to compassionately. But God often does His very best work in those things that most of us consider impossible. I believe that mental health conditions allow us to explore the height and depth of God’s love for the hardest of human problems.
“It’s just too hard to minister to individuals and families with mental illness.” A pastor once said this to me. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
And Romans 11:33 - 34 feels like God is challenging His followers to pursue His wisdom into the hardest of the hard places, even into the unknowns of the human mind: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” God’s wisdom covers and penetrates every human condition, even mental illness. We’ve barely begun to understand what He has to reveal.
Stop making God small. Step back and let God guide your church into mental health ministry. He often does things that we can’t anticipate, revealing things only He can know and doing things only He can do. He’s still in the business of breaking through illusions, creating big reveals and writing astonishing stories in the lives of those who love Him.
Recommended Resources for Mental Health Ministry: Pathways to Promise offers training, consultation and other resources for faith groups who want to become supportive, caring communities for people with mental illnesses and their families. Pathways to Promise’s written resources, which include ministry manuals, bulletin inserts, and training curricula, are used by people at all levels of faith group structures from local congregations to regional and national faith group staff.
Catherine Boyle is Mental Health Ministry Director, Blog Editor and Social Media Manager for Key Ministry. Follow Catherine’s work here and at www.catherineboyle.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.