It is my conviction that there is no way to deal deeply with the spiritual aspect of mental illness without the sufferer coming to a real experiential acceptance of grace. There is no real hope outside of grace. Resting in His grace we are able to look into the depths of our hearts and deal with the very worst that we find hidden there. We no longer need to put on our “spiritual” masks to find acceptance because we know we are not accepted for who we are in ourselves but for who we are in Christ.
We cannot lower God’s standards because of our weakness and inability to live up to them. Satan constantly feeds us the lie that certain verses either don’t apply to us or that they confirm that we are hopelessly unable to ever measure up. This leaves us unable to draw close to God because we feel that He has put us in a no win situation. Only grace can bridge the gap of what God demands from us and what we are able to give Him.
He really only expects us to give Him ourselves just the way we are – weak, broken, wounded and sinful. He doesn’t expect us to measure up by our own merit. Grace applies Christ’s merit to our account and allows us to be fully accepted by Him just the way we are in light of how grace will ultimately transform us to be like Christ.
Access to grace
Romans 5:2 tells us that “we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The believer “stands” in grace. We don’t just receive grace, we breathe grace. We dwell in a kingdom where our King sits on a throne of grace and dispenses grace freely to all in His kingdom. (Heb. 4:16)
We are not accepted because we have it all together nor because we are weak but because we are in Christ. We have been made acceptable by His grace.
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Eph. 1:5-6
No mental illness can affect this acceptance because no one is accepted on their own merit. No matter how deep and how difficult your struggle, it will never impact your acceptance by the Lord.
In 2 Cor. 12:9 we see the response of the Lord to Paul’s prayer to be delivered from a bodily affliction that caused him great difficulty. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” This verse shows me that grace is more at home with weakness than with strength. It also shows that God can be glorified easier through my life when that which is good is clearly not of my doing.
Are you willing to accept that your infirmities might not be what disqualifies you from glorifying God but they might actually help you to glorify God? Again it is grace that bridges the gap allowing us not only to be accepted by God but also glorifying Him in our infirmities by showing that the power of Christ rests on us. This verse also indicates that God is not always glorified the most by healing us. Sometimes giving us the daily grace to live with our struggles is a greater expression of grace than a miraculous healing.
In 2 Cor. 1 Paul clearly shows that his personal sufferings had a purpose well beyond his own subjective experience. The Lord deals with us in a way that is beneficial for the whole body. In some way the Lord wants to use our suffering for the good of the whole body.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1Pt 1:13)
The future of grace
The greatest outpouring of grace is yet to come. When the Lord Jesus returns we will be eternally transformed by His grace. We will shed all our weakness and struggles. We will then be perfected so “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:7). Even in eternity it won’t be about us and our measuring up to His standard. It will eternally be clear that we are there because we are recipients of God’s kindness in Christ and the exceeding riches of His grace.
How does this thought help us today? It gives us a purpose, an achievable purpose even in the midst of our struggles. We can all show the riches of His grace by not pretending we are capable of pleasing Him in our own strength. We can choose to lean on His grace moment by moment even when it doesn’t seem to be working for us. We can accept that it is not our effort that makes us acceptable to Him.
Living in His love
This can free us to stop trying to earn His love and simply rest in the fact that He loves us already, just the way we are. This intimate love will then be the positive motivation to love Him so that our fellowship with Him can be full. If it takes a mental illness for us to realize that we are totally dependent on grace then that is a small price to pay for the privilege of beginning now to show the riches of His grace.
God’s purposes will never be overthrown by any illness. He does not allow anything into our lives that will not ultimately work out for our good. If this doesn’t ring true to you in your present suffering, cry out to Him who is full of grace and truth and ask Him to assure you. He is in the habit of giving necessary grace that exactly fits your need. Trust Him!