Putting on the Armor of God on in the Face of Mental Illness
This reference to the armor of God is in Ephesians 6: 10-18,
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."
So what does this have to do with mental illness? Well, I've found that besides the damage done by people with mental illness through stigma, there's also a psychological/spiritual battle going on for people suffering with this particular classification of illness. The evil forces want those of us suffering with mental illness to just lay down and die, lose all hope of ever getting better, and not have us seek help from supportive family and friends. God doesn't wish his children to be ill, but that's not what the illness will tell you and dark forces can use the opportunity to crush our spirits and plunge us into despair. We can use the Armor of God to combat the situation.
The belt of truth, take that as the truth that God loves you and that maybe the illness won't be forever or that maybe it will. Don't fall for the lies of the illness, plunge into despair, and lose touch with God. God's will isn't always easy and what he gives us will only serve to make us stronger in the end.
The breastplate of righteousness, that is symbol of doing and accepting treatment, help, counseling, whatever you need to get better. Being, accepting, and doing what is right always within the limits of your illness will help you stay focused on getting better or at least maintain a stability if the mental illness is lifelong. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and suffering with mental illness means you've become more connected to the other members of Christ's body who suffer in a similar way to you.
The shoes of the gospel of peace, that is keeping a level head as you are able, and maintaining the inner quiet that only God can provide. Being at war with yourself with the intrusive thoughts of OCD for example, losing your head, and getting upset is a sure way of making OCD worse. The key in that instance is to ask God for peace, acceptance, and know that those evil thoughts in your head are not your doing but the illness talking. Once you have God's peace and that knowledge, the symptoms will become much easier to manage. Treat others with peace and love and most of the time you'll get some in return.
The shield of faith, that means having faith in God, Christ Jesus, that He will reward you wether it is with the promises of heaven or having people look up to you in some way in accepting the illness with grace and courage. Have faith that he will heal you if it is in your best interest for your salvation overall for getting to heaven.
The helmet of salvation, is similar in a description as the shield of faith. It means knowing that God will provide us with the will to combat the illness, take charge, and not allow dark forces to win over us as long as we are willing to work with him. Having knowledge that salvation can be obtained by bringing up our sufferings to God, accepting his will in our lives, and try to deal with our situation the best we know how.
The sword of the Spirit, that symbolizes not having a negative attitude towards the illness. We will slash through the illness, let it be under our control, and maintain hope in the Word of God with the power of this weapon. Attack the illness with confidence, steady feet, and a sunny disposition. God will give you for whatever you ask for if it's overall in your best interest.
So my fellow suffers in mental health and fellows in Christ, take heart and let God guide you through your life with the knowledge that the cross he gave you is the one that you can carry!