The topic of God in mental health was brought to my attention recently when a colleague and friend of mine was asked to speak at her church. As I listened I started to contemplate my view on this topic.
Suffering is a part of life. It is something that none of us is immune to. If you have suffered at the hands of evil it's a different kind of pain that often needs spiritual guidance. Narcissists will often leave you at your most painful and vulnerable times. When James discarded Ann after she had just given up her apartment to live with him and nearly lost her daughter to a tragic event. It is a very cruel thing, one that most people would not put another person through out of human decency. But are narcissists human? Or are they “Satan himself masquerading as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
To define God's role in mental health and our suffering we must define God. When I say “God”, what comes to mind? Is it an older wise gentleman with white hair and a beard, a cross, or a young man with long brown hair and piercing blue eyes? We have all constructed a mental representation or conjured a thought of God.
However, if we look to the bible we are never given a physical description of God. We are told that he is love, an all consuming fire, burning bush, creator, father, savior. These are all actions. Even in his role as father, savior and creator these words are action. We can not just create or be a father without doing what each of those words intends us to do. Therefore God is an action, an experience and an eternal state of being. And contrary to what most of us have constructed (this mental image) God is not a thought. We can not experience God through thinking about Him. We must experience him by being conscious, by being present in the eternal moment of now.
Being is an action, it is a state of existence. We cannot exist in the presence if we are thinking about the past or thinking about the future. Most past thoughts are saturated in could haves and should haves, guilt, regret and disappointment. Future thoughts are full of worry and anxiety. Trying to attain things we think will make us happy. But what makes us happy? Remember when you thought “oh if I could just do this or have that, I would be happy.” Are you happy?
When we are mindful and fully present, existing in this very moment all of our attention is focused on the now. There is no room to reminisce, remember, daydream, think or anticipate. When you focus on every sensation, breath, sound, noise, and smell in this very moment the past and future begin to fade out of existence and yet we lose nothing and gain peace.
This is what Jesus meant when he told the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. He tells us that the kingdom of Heaven is like a man who planted good seeds in his garden, but while he was sleeping (or unconscious, not present, daydreaming) His enemy came and sowed weeds among his garden.
To cultivate good seeds we must pay attention to them, by being present and experiencing God's eternal presence within us. We cannot think our way out of suffering, that is the trick that the enemy has sown in the garden of our mind. We must continue to water and care for the good seeds by practicing being present in the now.
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
When suffering at the hands of a narcissist it is important to stay present. “Right here, right now you are okay.” One moment at a time, one day at a time. In the conscious presence of God.