“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more…
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you,for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-12
As I was reading this passage of Scripture, I kind of fell in love with the phrase “more and more” — especially as it pertains to both my Christian walk and my mental illness walk. As I type this, I’m also struck by my use of the term “walk,” which implies movement.
As a Christian, I don’t believe that I’ll ever be perfect on this earth. I strive to grow in my faith more and more, to love God and others more and more, but I’m working towards heavenly completion, not an earthly one.
This is similar to how I’ve come to view my mental illness(es). I used to think that if I went to therapy, took the right pills, confronted my inner demons, forgave and forgot that I would be healed and whole. But that’s not exactly how it works. It requires more and more. In the same way that our faith is not one and done (it requires us to actively pray and seek God’s guidance and show Christian love), our earthly struggles (such as mental illness) must also be responded to in an active, ongoing manner, grounded in the eternal hope we have in Jesus.
Depression, anxiety, and my eating disorder sometimes all flare up at the same time, while at other times they take turns. These past few weeks for me have been filled with a crazy schedule, giant waves of self-doubt, and brief glimpses of excitement. At times like these, when I am desperately seeking control and stability, ED (an insider term for eating disorder) knocks very loudly on my door. In all honesty, I’ve had to pull out a few of my old self-help books and journals, hating it all the while, believing it to be hurtling me back 10 years. But I reminded myself that healing is rarely linear. And no matter what the path looks like, all we can do is choose to keep going, more and more, confident in nothing but God’s goodness and grace.
This is how, as 1 Thessalonians reminds us, we win the respect of outsiders, how we grow the Kingdom, and how we live in a fallen world.
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.