A common question I am asked is if God is so all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, why does the suffering of any illness, much less the darkness of mental illness, exist. Frankly, I often find myself asking that same question. Is there meaning in this darkness?
It certainly couldn’t be considered a blessing. At least not but any ordinary definition of the word. Nor is it anything new. Throughout the Bible we see examples of others who are suffering because of illness. These moments often are thought about only for the miracles performed by Jesus as He heals those who are suffering. But are there miracles in the darkness?
I believe there are. I don’t say this only out my faith in God’s grace. Rather, I believe much of the suffering results from our fall from Eden. Our inherent sin. It isn’t any one flaw. It is the sum of millions upon billions of faults. Mental illness and physical illness is not our fault individually, yet it likely is partially our fault as a society.
Yet just as the darkness of the devil can be offset by the light of God, so too do we have the capacity to find meaning and miracles in the darkness.
For example, I never thought a single good thing would come from the darkness of my depression. Yet I am proved wrong every time I go to work as a recovery support specialist and get to see my experience in the darkness help others find their way out of similar shadowy depths. Humanity, the stigma we create, the flaws that are baked into our existence creates exile from each other and from God. And sometimes that exile opens the door to mental illness.
This doesn’t mean that mental illness is a weakness or faith. Even the strongest among us can struggle. And when others tell us that we just need to be better about our faith, we are exiled further. Because that statement implies that we must not be as strong as others in the church. Yet is this how Jesus ever treated His early church? “Sorry, about your blindness Bartimaeus, but maybe you should just try praying a little harder. Maybe you should try having more faith.” Of course, that isn’t what happens.
What happens is Bartimaeus’ faith allows him to be healed. His willingness to reach out, even when others told him to hold his tongue, helped healed him. His willingness to ask for help helped heal him.
And for me, as I thought about it this morning, that is the meaning, the miracle in the darkness. It is the opportunity for us to find one another in the dark. Because I believe God wants to bring us together. And I believe He is watching us, His heart full of love, just waiting for us to reach out and find that help among one another, to feel His presence when two or more of us are gather. And to, as Bartimaeus was, begin to be healed by our faith.
And it can be faith in God, as I talk about here. It can be faith in each other. It can be faith in your therapist. It can be faith in the medications or the meditations or the Reiki healing or whatever it is you do to heal. Part of why these things work is because we have faith in them working. Because I believe when we are lost in the dark there is no limit to the opportunities to find faith offered by God. My faith in the church, in God, doesn’t have to be what you find faith in. As I’ve said before, I’m not here to proselytize. But I would like to believe that you have to find faith in something to start the road to healing. And if that isn’t a helluva meaning to be found while lost in the dark, I don’t know what is.