Prayerfully Speaking

Hope from the Truths of God's Word

Praise Him in the Midst of Mental Illness

praise God during mental illness

We are continuing our Even So, I Will Praise Him series aimed at prayerfully focusing our minds and our mouths on God’s goodness in the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances. Today we are exploring the possibility of peace in the presence of mental illness.

If you are in crisis, please call 911 and get help immediately.
It is okay to need help and okay that you are in this place right now.

*thanks to great input from readers, I’ve made a few edits to the original post. 

Instability vs. Peace

What comes to mind when you hear the words “mental illness?” The word that I think of is instability. Instability describes the erratic highs and lows both the patient and their loved ones experience. It is very often an unpredictable and sometimes volatile life due to cycles of depression, mania and the surprise of the panic attacks. The illnesses range from nervous disorders to complete breaks from reality. The families in our churches, our schools, and our work places deal with extreme paranoia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, narcissism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so many more variations.

Many times the symptoms last for decades. Weariness and despair knock on the door of their hearts while they wait for God to rescue them from the ongoing stress. Is peace even possible for them?

anchor for our hope boat

Isaiah gives us this anchor for our hope:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind (both its inclination and its character) is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
Isaiah 26:3 AMP (emphasis mine)

This perfect and constant peace does not come with a disclaimer. It is not only for those who have a near perfect life. It is not a prize for those who are completely mentally and emotionally well.

Isaiah promises that peace is for the one who commits his or her life to God. It is for the person who has decided to confidently lean on God. This confident reliance on God does NOT dismiss the need for medication, counseling, and hospitalizations. I’m very aware that those are critical components of the pursuit of wellness. 

God secured our peace with the gift of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. This peace giving God tells us to keep our minds on Him. Our Healer, Jehovah Rapha, dispenses peace with instructions to focus on God.

But how is that possible when the patient’s mind is not performing optimally? Maybe it isn’t possible yet. But you, the caregiver or the intercessor, can draw near to God on behalf of the one who struggles as well as yourself.

Prescription Praise

Praise is an excellent prescription for keeping our mind on God and pursuing peace. (It is not to be used in lieu of prescribed medications for the patient.) Here are three great reasons to praise God in the midst of really difficult times:

  • Praising God diverts our attention away from our limitations and forces our focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8).
  • Praising God gives voice to our faith in God’s character and faith pleases God (Heb. 11:6).
  • Praising God is an act of obedience, which produces peace (Isa. 32:17).

The proactive approach to praising God even in the midst of mental illness is to have a list of praises ready to read aloud to God. And if reading is too difficult, have them recorded so that you can listen to them and agree with a simple “Yes Lord!” verbally or in your heart.

As you read through the Bible, God will highlight those praises for you. Or maybe you need to ask others to help you collect them. Add them to your Even So, I Will Praise Him List and make copies to keep in your car, bathroom, bedroom, and even your smart phone. Share copies with a prayer partner who can praise God with you or on your behalf.

Here are 7 praises to get you started:

I praise You, the Almighty God who secured my place in Your unshakeable kingdom. Hebrews 12:18

My heart rejoices in You, the God who made heaven and earth and executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. Psalm 146:6-7

I am a child of the living God who will reign forever. Psalm 146:10

You, O Lord, have more power and wisdom than any human can comprehend. Psalm 147:5

I exalt You Lord, our very present help in this time of trouble. Psalm 46:1

Though I am surrounded by troubles, I will rejoice that You have saved me. Habakkuk 3:17-18

My hope is in You, the God who offers me unfailing compassion, steadfast love and peace. Isaiah 54:10

Do you believe that God is able to give you or your friend peace even in the midst of mental illness? If you struggle to believe, simply ask God to help you believe.

About Jennifer O. White

I'm a simple wife who has discovered God's amazing gift of prayer. Here at Prayerfully Speaking I share my journey of unwrapping this gift. God invites us to ask Him, but His enemy works diligently to keep that from happening. I hope to offer you encouragement to believe God is ready to pour more into your life than you've ever imaged.

  • This post is probably more helpful for the family members of people suffering from mental illness, because it is very hard to be a caregiver or supporter of someone who is mentally ill. It would probably me more appropriate to aim this post at them or people who are going through hard situations in their lives that will pass.
    Scripture as medicine sounds cute, but people with mental illness, regardless of the definition, often have a physical pathology for which they need medical interventions. If you have mental illness, you aren’t exactly going to be sitting down and highlighting scripture. You can’t think straight. You can’t get out of of bed/take a shower/function at a normal level.
    Depression can be like a blanket that covers all of your thoughts. You can think an irrational thought and know that it’s irrational, but it doesn’t matter. Tips like these are fine when used in conjunction with professional help because when a depressed Christian tries to praise God and pray for relief, but doesn’t receive any, not only do they feel worse about their spiritual life, it makes them feel more depressed. That’s when you start to doubt the promises listed above. If anything, those tips can accelerate a depressed Christian into a crisis.
    For instance, I used a birth control IUD when I first got married that left me hospitalized from depression and suicidal ideation. It took several months of counseling to see the pattern, have the birth control removed, and then things got back to a semi-normal state. I prayed, I had people in my life praying for me, but I was really out of my mind. And that’s only depression. I continue to suffer from debilitating mental illnesses, even with medical help, Christian counseling, and the support of a loving family.
    It is dangerous for a depressed or mentally ill person to search the internet and find this kind of advice without any disclaimer about seeking professional help. God may help the doctors and give them wisdom, but “finding peace in scripture during mental illness” is irresponsible and does a disservice to the mentally ill who need medical attention.

    • I’m going to have to go with Sarah on this one. Yes, we need to praise God anyways through everything but we also need to take the help offered by the doctors to whom He has imparted wisdom. When a person is suffering from a severe mental illness, and experiences a complete break from reality as mentioned in your post, it is barely possible to remember God to begin with. A severe break from reality looks and feels like this: “Where am I?? (in your own home) Who are these people?? (in regards to your family) I have to get out of here, I’m in extreme danger!!! (in a normal, safe situation) Wait…he asked me what my name is…what is it? I don’t remember…I can’t tell him I don’t remember…Does he know me??” It’s absolutely terrifying, and if you reach a point where all of those questions are in your head at one time, even having an awareness of a diety at all is a remote possibility. Faith can help you through the hard times, but God has provided us with doctors who can help us to prevent such horrible, awful times from occurring. Praise is only part of the puzzle. To suggest that it is the only prescription needed for such an illness is beyond irresponsible, and is doing a disservice to all Christians suffering with an illness that is caused by a physical, chemical issue in the brain, just as telling a diabetic who has a physical, chemical issue in a different organ that he needs to pray and praise instead of taking his insulin. The results of giving such advice can be equally devastating and horrific for everyone involved.

      • Kaitlin. I’m so grateful for the input you and Sarah have offered. I agree that my post could have opened doors to more problems rather than helping. I’ve made edits based on your input and would like your feedback. I want to make sure that I’ve represented God well and been helpful to the patient and families rather than harmful.

        • Thank you for the edits–that is much better. Many patients are often told from well-meaning Christian friends/advisors that they just “aren’t praying enough” or “don’t have enough faith” and it can have devastating consequences, as Sarah described. I greatly appreciate your edits to acknowledge the need for medication for such illnesses.

          • Kaitlin, I’ve included that at the beginning of the post. Thanks again for your help.

        • I would like to see a note added to the very beginning of this, that if you are in crisis, please call 911 and get help immediately, and that it is okay to need help and okay that you are in this place right now, but it can and will get better. There are some parts that could still be harmful in an immediate crisis situation, where, as Sarah said, if prayer doesn’t instantly aid the situation, anxiety increases because of the sudden fear that God has left them. An immediate crisis requires immediate emergency intervention so I would like to see that noted, in case this post was the first thing someone in crisis read.

    • Sarah, thank you so much for identifying the holes in my post. I’m very grateful for your help and for your willingness to share your own experiences. I’ve made edits to the post based on your feedback. I’d like for you to let me know if you feel it can still be misleading and detrimental. I NEVER want to be the instigator of more problems in these very sensitive situations.

  • Rosella Kasper

    Thank you Jennifer. I struggle with mental illness: clinical depression, bi-polar disorder and anxiety disorder. This post was very helpful and comforting to me. I am printing it off and putting it in my Bible. Thank you for writing about it. Love you and miss you so much! But glad you are happy and being used where you are!

    • Rosella I am so thankful this has been helpful to you. I’m sorry you struggle with these things. You are very special to me. Love to you!

  • Candy

    Just had to add what God has done for me!! Over 35 years ago I was admitted to the psychiatric ward in a large hospital between three abortions and far from God, having taken the wrong road in my college life and married a man who was not a Christian. When I came back to God and remarried a Christian man, God began to renew my mind with His word and it’s been a wonderful journey of restoration and growing in Him. Praise Him, when he says we have the mind of Christ and that we are a new creature and we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Forgiven and set free is what he promises and whomever he sets free is free indeed. Oh what a great life I have had since turning it over to Him and I am still learning and growing at 71. I also was healed of Crohn’s Disease completely…no medication in 20 years. I began to read the word and study and memorize scripture and the word does not return void but accomplishes what it was sent to do. Thanks for the opportunity to give my testimony of Jesus. I am writing for a local paper and have had an article in another paper and am speaking to women in a prison soon. It’s never too late. Delivered out of the lies of Satan into the light and truth of God’s word is a blessing I could never imagined. I have three children in heaven waiting for me and their names are Mary Hope, Joseph Paul and Sarah Noel. I also have 6 here on earth with 11 grandchildren and 4 great grands. I am blessed and love God and have a husband who loves me.

    • Candy, I am thrilled to hear your testimony of healing. He sends His Word and He heals us! (Ps 107:20). I’m so thankful that He is giving you opportunities to shine the light on what He can do to help everyone who suffers. May God bring many here to read your testimony!

  • Jennifer,

    Thank you for writing this post. While I am not a Christian and do not necessarily agree with you on the “power of prayer”, I do have to commend you for tackling this subject. I believe it is often not properly addressed or altogether ignored in the faith community. I also appreciate you making the edits that Sarah and Kaitlin suggested. They are spot on. As someone with both a serious mental illness (Bipolar Depression for 13 years) and as the founder of a mental illness educational nonprofit I think I can suggest one more edit. In regards to the line “It is okay to need help and okay that you are in this place right now. You can and will get better.”, the first part is true. The second part is not true for many people with a mental illness. If you fall into the category of “serious mental illness” Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression (which constitutes about 4% of the population vs. the 20-25% estimated for those that will experience a mental illness in the course of one year) you most likely will NOT “get better”. All of these are chronic illnesses and while your symptoms might abate for a period of time, just as someone living with cancer may go into remission, the chances are extremely high that they will return at some point.

    Again, thank you for posting.

    Regards,

    Jared Wilmer
    http://www.Not-Crazy.org

    • Hi Jared. I’m really thankful for your feedback on this post. I’ve eliminated the sentence you mentioned.

      I’m thrilled that you and others are partnering to help me and others understand mental illness as it “is” and not how we often “imagine it” to be.

      I appreciate your ability to disagree and yet be kind and respectful. I’ve learned a lot from this post and the feedback you and others have given.

      I agree that the church has a responsibility to love and serve those who deal with mental illness and it often gets overlooked. I believe education is a key component in helping Christians move toward those who suffer in this way instead of shrinking back in fear or judgment.

      I’d like to share more of what I believe and have experienced on this subject with you and future readers.

      Jesus did not shrink back from people with illnesses, even highly contagious diseases like leprosy (Matthew 8). We, the church – His representatives, often respond to mental illness in fear. In doing so, we misrepresent Jesus who gives us the direct command to “Fear Not” more times than I can count. Let me apologize on behalf of Christ followers for not following Him in fearlessness. We are works in progress – people who choose to believe He is who He says He is, but also fight His enemy the discourager – the one who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy our bodies, minds, relationships, and our faith in Him.

      I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus still has the power to heal anyone at anytime. I also believe that we are required to ask for healing and to believe that He can. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37, Mark 19:26, Job 42:2). I know that He is healing people today. I know that He has healed me in areas of mental and emotional distress. I know that studying His Word and choosing to believe it and practice it has opened the door to healing and closed the door to problems no counselor and no medicine were able to help. I am living proof that He sends His word and heals them (Psalm 107:20).

      I recognize that He sometimes chooses not to heal one who suffers in this life but delivers them into complete wholeness in the next life (our eternity). He is sovereign and we are unable to think on His level (Isaiah 55:8-9). I trust we will understand the purposes in our suffering more when we see Him face to face.

      I believe that those who suffer with mental illness (as I have and many of my family have) are equally loved and valued by God as those who do not deal with it. He is merciful. We are all weak in areas. If we weren’t we would never look for God and then find out how incredible He is and How much He values us.

      He offers to strengthen us in our areas of weakness. He can use medicine, people, His Word, and His undeniable supernatural power to do it.

      But until my dying day, I will testify that He healed me in ways I did not know where possible and it started with a simple “Help Me Jesus” prayer.

      I am not trying to disregard your opinion about the power of prayer. I am only wanting to give you more information on the subject by sharing with you my own story.

      Peace to you, Jared! Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic.