By Nicole Kelp, Resonate WSU staff
It’s hard to be sick. And it’s arguably even harder to have mental illness. The root cause is often intangible, and yet the symptoms are all too tangible for those who struggle. People often don’t know how to talk about it, and it’s vague and difficult to treat.
But it’s not hopeless. There is a way to have joy in the midst of depression, to have peace in the midst of anxiety, and to have comfort in the midst of crippling fear. And it all has to do with the advent of Jesus into our lives.
In this season of Advent, as we remember the coming of Jesus, we have to remember why He came. God didn’t come to live on Earth because it was awesome and He wanted to visit. He came to live on Earth because it was broken by sin and needed a Savior. That brokenness wasn’t a part of His design. He had designed the Earth to be perfect - with no sin or sickness or separation between God and people. But then people decided they didn’t like God’s design and did their own thing. And that ushered in the brokenness. We see the manifestations of sin and brokenness everywhere: hate, conflict, sickness, war. God is holy and just, so He couldn’t just ignore our sin. But God is also loving, so He didn’t want to leave us in the mess we created. And that’s why Jesus came to Earth as a baby - to grow into a man who would die in order to pay the price for the sin and brokenness, and then rise again to conquer it. Jesus went back to heaven, leaving us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps restore us to what God designed. But we’re still in physical bodies, plagued by the curse of sin. Eventually Jesus will come again, and then He will restore everything to the perfect design He created. He will wipe away our tears and remove our sickness and pain (Revelation 21:4).
But we aren’t there yet. We’re in the in-between - the already but not yet. Jesus came once, conquered death, and gave us the Holy Spirit. So there is hope in the now. But He hasn’t come again yet. So we aren’t entirely free from the brokenness of sin in this world.
What does that mean for us now, especially in reference to mental illness?
1. We need to accept the reality that our bodies are affected by the brokenness of sin.
This doesn’t mean that your mental illness is a punishment for a particular sin you committed. It simply means that sin has broken all of humanity. Our bodies are not whole. And that includes our brains. All of creation groans, waiting for the redemption of our bodies in heaven (Romans 8:22-23). Because of that, it is absolutely appropriate to seek medical help for mental illness. Personally, I have been diagnosed with anorexia and with anxiety at different times in my life. Both times I received professional counseling. Additionally, I have a PhD in Molecular Biosciences and have published biomedical research. I know that science and doctors and medicine are a gift from God to help us heal when the brokenness of sin affects our physical bodies. If you had cancer, you’d get chemotherapy. So if you have depression, you may need medication.
2. We need to trust in the Holy Spirit in the meantime.
If you had cancer, you’d get chemotherapy, but I’m sure you’d also pray. Mental illness is no different. The Holy Spirit is known as our Counselor (John 14:26). We can ask Him for joy and peace and hope and comfort. We can ask Him for wisdom. He can transform our lives by being present with us in the midst of suffering. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self [our body and our mind] is wasting away, our inner self [our soul] is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Advent is particularly relevant here. When Jesus was born He was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” When He left Earth after rising from the dead, He said “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20) and that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16). Thus, because of Advent, we can live in the brokenness knowing that God is with us and we are not alone.
3. We need to have hope for the future.
While you’re in your physical body here on Earth, God may choose to heal you of your mental illness. Or, you may always struggle with it. Regardless of what happens on Earth, you can have absolute confidence in hoping for heaven. God will restore all things to their perfect design, which does not include sickness of any kind. There will be no more sickness or death or pain in heaven. Because of the advent of Jesus, our life doesn’t end in hopelessness and despair. Because Jesus came to Earth to conquer the brokenness, our life will end in eternal health.
As you celebrate Advent and Christmas, remember to look past the twinkle lights and the nativity scenes and remember that the advent of Jesus into our lives changed everything. The coming of Jesus provides joy in the midst of depression, peace in the midst of anxiety, and hope in the midst of despair. Because of Advent, our minds are being healed. Because of Advent, there is true light in the midst of darkness.