What I feel most deeply when helping individuals who struggle with mental illness is the conviction that God loves each person—both the one with the difficulty and the caregiver. That love runs deeper, and bigger, and higher, and broader than we can possibly imagine. While this type of illness can be extremely challenging, I’ve found it helpful to begin addressing it by being willing to consent to the power of that love while praying to understand and practice it better.
In Christian Science, one definition of God is Mind—the universal, all-good, all-inclusive consciousness. Good mental and physical health has its source in this Mind and is our natural state. Therefore disease, or a disturbed mental state, is unnatural. As God’s children, we all have the potential to show forth mental soundness, even when we are struggling with an illness that would seem to take it away. We can embrace each moment as an opportunity to draw a little closer to, and gain greater clarity about, our unity with the divine source of consciousness.
There’s a wonderful passage in the Bible that says, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” To me, this passage is referring to the Christly, spiritual identity of each of us. In our prayers, we can strive to see ourselves and others in this Christly light—going beyond an identity based on gender, heredity or diagnosis, to the purely spiritual perspective of our oneness with God. Praying this way can help dissolve fear, whether it’s fear for oneself, for the loved one who is ill, or the fear that another family member will get the disease.
No matter how hard the problem is—even if it is considered incurable—in Christian Science there is always the expectation of healing. Disease is not God-given or God-created. We can challenge disease on this basis with a deepening conviction that it’s impersonal and without divine authority. By that I mean that mental illness neither originates with the individual nor with his or her family. It is never a part of anyone’s true identity, because each is the child of God.
While Christian Science teaches that disease doesn’t have the substance or permanence it may seem to have, Christly compassion and practical wisdom are of primary importance as we apply these spiritual concepts in prayer and in our lives.
If a loved one is confused, depressed, behaving erratically or is self-destructive, it is never wise to ignore the problem or address it only in a superficial manner. Immediate, specific, consecrated prayer that embraces this one in the safety of God’s love is clearly needed. This prayer leads us to know what steps to take to keep our loved one safe. Continuing treatment in Christian Science holds the expectancy of complete healing.
Prayer can also help us gain full freedom from any condition that is considered treatable but not curable. While it wasn’t a diagnosed mental illness, I was faced with that prognosis for a thyroid problem. It was completely cured through Christian Science treatment—substantial proof to me that “with God all things are possible.”
I understand from personal experience the challenges of caring for someone with a mental illness. It can be very demanding, even overwhelming at times. I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t need to be ashamed or afraid to ask for help for ourselves as we give this care.
Prayer during these times is deeply sustaining and healing. Family members need to know they can turn expectantly to the very source of health and wholeness, and draw on the love that God has for all of us. They can lean on God’s love even when they feel they can’t take another step or go on another day. It’s a powerful love. It’s a strengthening love. It changes how we think. It stills fear. It brings peace to our hearts and minds. And ultimately, it heals.