Why I don’t believe in “praying through” mental illness

I remember hearing a story in Sunday School as a kid. It went something like this…

A man was drowning in the middle of the ocean. He cried out to God “Save me! Please save me!” A boat came by and the captain called out “come aboard, I’ll bring you to safety” to which the man replied “No. My God will save me.”

The man called out again “God! Please Save! Send me a miracle!” A large ship came by and saw the man. The people on the ship called to him “come aboard! We’ll bring you to safety!” to which the man replied “No. My God will save me.”

The man called out a third time “God! Please send me a miracle! Please save me Lord!” And then a helicopter flew over. A ladder was lowered for the man and he heard from the helicopter “climb up! We’ll bring you to safety!” But once again the man responded “No. My God will save me.”

The man drowned and upon entering heaven asked “God, why didn’t you save me?” And God answered “I sent you a boat, I sent you a ship, I even sent you a helicopter. Why wouldn’t you take them?”

My sister reminds me of this story. She has more faith than anyone I’ve met. She spends every morning in prayer. She spends as much time as possible helping those in need through volunteer work as she firmly believes in sharing Gods love with everyone. But secretly she struggles with depression. And because depression is an illness based on brain chemicals instead of more obvious things like bones, nerves, or muscles, she refuses treatment and prays through. 

My sister has had 3 suicide attempts. Still she refuses treatment. She struggles (as so many of us with mental illness do) to understand that it is a disease. 

To those who tell us we simply need God, we need more faith, we need to pray through, let me ask you. If you believe God has given everyone a purpose in life, that he gives people the passion, skills, and intellegence they need to follow that path, then why would you deny those who use that passion and intelligence in the field of Psychiatry? Why should those of us with mental illness ignore the psychiatrists, therapists, and medications that God made possible on this earth? Why must we ignore necessary treatment for a medical problem in hopes of seeing a more “obvious” style of miracle?

For those of you choosing faith instead of treatment as my sister does, stop. God is not asking you to do that. Don’t ignore therapy and psychiatry available to you. Don’t let the boat, the ship, and the helicopter pass. Don’t drown in your depression to prove your faith.

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