After speaking on the issue of depression and faith recently, someone came up to me afterwards and suggested that rather than having a mental illness, I was really suffering from demonic influences. He further prescribed the following plan of action:
- Identify the sin in my life that is the root cause of the demonic influence. In his own words, “sin is always the cause”
- Claim the power of God and have faith in him to remove the demon from my life.
- Conquer depression once and for all.
I have no doubt that every word from him was spoken out of genuine care for my well being. While I disagree with his theological beliefs, such as all mental illnesses are results of demon activities, sin is the root cause of depression, etc., his worldview reflects a popular theology in the church that says God is here to help us conquer life’s struggles and it is in such “victories” that God’s power is displayed.
Over the years I have had many, many conversations with people diagnosed various forms of mental illness. Some of them are people of religious faith, some are not. The one thing that is common In all those conversations is that living with a mental illness is a life long journey. Some days are better than others. There are days when the battle is fierce, when it takes all the strength you have just to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. There are days when the battle gets the better of you, and your can only hope to get through the night, and go at it again the next day. I have not, up to now, heard one person told me how they “overcame” or “conquered” a mental illness in one dramatic display of faith or power.
I have said before that there is much the church can learn from the mental health community. One thing they can teach the church is to stop worshiping success and strength. After all, what is true strength? Is it the ability to pick up 1,000 pounds, drop it and never come back to it again? Or the steadfastness of picking up 1 pound per day, day after day, for 1,000 days?
Perhaps that is in part what Paul meant when he reminded the church in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”