“And so you became a model to all the believers…The Lord’s message rang out from you…your faith in God has become known everywhere.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8
“In all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:7
This week I have been reading through 1 Thessalonians and thinking about how we become encouraged through other people’s faith. Granted this a subject that occupies all of Paul’s letters, but I really love some of the language in 1 Thessalonians. How can I live in a way in which the Lord’s message “rings” out from me? That it becomes known everywhere? That my faith brings support and hope to others — especially those in times of distress?
When I was first thinking through these questions about my own spiritual life, I felt guilty, like I was being conceited or self-congratulating — who am I to think that my faith does anything for anyone, I wondered. But I don’t think that’s a healthy or productive mindset. We are called, as believers, to be a witness. Often I think we tend to align being a witness with the act of verbally witnessing to non-believers (telling them our testimony and inviting them to join God’s kingdom). But there are other types of witnessing too, other ways of being a witness.
For me, as a witness, the term has taken on the notion of being proof or evidence. And that is really where my heart for this blog came from. To “ring out,” to tell my story, my everyday struggles of being a Christian with mental illness. We exist. Yet, too often believers either hide the darkness in their lives altogether or they leave the church completely. And unbelievers with mental illness think that the church doesn’t want them. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m not going to pretend and say that becoming a Christian will make all of your struggles — mental, physical, etc. disappear. Because it won’t. But it will fundamentally change how you address those struggles. It will give you tools to persevere. And it will bring you into an incredible community of fellow believers, whose faith will no doubt encourage you and bring you comfort (e.g. my sister’s poem last week was such a blessing!).
All of this to say, shine your light! Be yourself. Be brave. You have no idea how God can use your story, your very being, as witness to his story of love and grace and restoration.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience, either by writing a guest post, or doing an interview with me. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.