Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

But What If You Have No Faith?

I was touched by this comment on the combox of my post “5 Ways Churches Can Minister to Those with Mental Illness” by Beyond Blue reader Vincent Zimmerman:

Therese, I sometimes think I must be the only person diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety who doesn’t find peace and security in faith. I don’t know why, but fostering a belief in a higher power has caused me nothing but misery and pain. I tried prayer, going to church, bible studies, and nothing did me any good. Different religious beliefs and practices have the same effect. Nothing feels right, nothing touches me on a personal level. I was desperate for a religious or spiritual experience that would touch my heart and point me down the right path. I no longer burn with the desire to find a higher power, because after years, even decades, of searching, I haven’t found anything but anguish and agony. I am glad that seemingly everyone but myself can find peace and solace in a higher power, that they have a support, in times of trouble, someone or some thing that provides them with strength and comfort. I envy others for this, but I’m not bitter towards them. They have something wonderful, a true blessing. I wish I could say the same for myself.


Several readers composed compassionate, compelling responses to Vincent. What would you say to him?

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  • Dawn Nelson

    Hello Vincent,
    I certainly empathized with your comments. My son and I have the same illness you do….and I have found comfort in faith, but my son has not.
    To try to make this succinct: Everyone needs at least one source of love in his or her life. (And the more, the better.) We tend to have problems with our relationships here on earth, and maybe have not found human love (or have found it and lost it). We may have/probably had parents or relatives that did not give us love, and did not model loving behavior.
    But I believe in a loving god, and a god who loves us. Whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, the Mother Earth….whomever….these spiritual leaders love us.
    When you get to the core of their message, it’s all about love. They love us no matter what we do. They love us for who we are. It’s unconditional love.
    I feel we must strip their message down to the essentials…unfortunately mankind has changed or perverted their message to one of judgmentalism, punishment, favoritism and/or fear.
    I hope you will take some time to read some really good books about these spiritual leaders, and let their message of love sink into your soul.
    You are brave and loving yourself for bringing up this subject! Peace to you.

  • Larry Parker

    I am a fellow traveler (bipolar disorder type II), so I can empathize with your suffering.
    I think everyone in the Beyond Blue community was wonderfully supportive of you, but I would say Dawn Nelson today and the anonymous person on May 17 — both of whom spoke of dropping theology in favor of spiritual truth — gave you the best advice.
    From my Catholic upbringing, some of the Protestant denominations I have attended, my girlfriend’s Buddhism, and other religions, philosophies and medical discoveries I have studied, I — in the words of 12-step — “take what I like and leave the rest.”
    But this is faith, too. Indeed, the subject of the recent movie “Doubt” is one seen numerous places even in Judeo-Christian tradition (Job, 2 Corinthians 12, Ecclesiastes, even the Genesis creation narrative) — faith is different from certainty. And one cannot truly believe unless there is the possibility of not believing, as Meryl Streep as the ultimate traditionalist nun finds to her anguish at the end of the movie.
    One thing my studies and prayers (in the most general sense of that word) have taught me is that there is some purpose to human suffering — depression, schizophrenia, cancer, natural disasters, heart disease, shootings, car accidents, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, you name it — that is just beyond our frail capacity to understand it. Perhaps we will understand after death — perhaps not — but for now we must (again going back to 12-step) accept the things we cannot change.
    And given our own frailty that leads us sometimes (for some, often) to not even have control of our own moods — or our own minds — this has been of tremendous, if paradoxical, comfort to me.
    I wish you the best.

  • Amber Gorsh

    Hello Vincent:
    I have a husband that seems to suffer from all that you do as well. He has never been diagnosed with what you have been, but told that he suffers from post-traumatic syndrome. My husband originates from Brasil and was in and out of orphanages until 11 or 12 before he came to the USA for medical care and adoption. During those very tender years, he was abused physically, mentally and socially because of the type of lifestyle lead in a 3rd world country and being born with his bladder outside his body. He has suffered greatly and has never had the privilege of knowing what it was like to be a ‘child.’ It is hard for him to grasp that there is a love beyond reason that can take away his pain from within and I don’t pretend to know exactly how he feels inside, however, I do realize the reasons for why he acts and reacts to things in the manner and way that he does. There is a gal by the name of Joyce Meyer who wrote a book titled “Battlefield of the Mind” and there have been testimonies of people who greatly suffered such as you that have found peace within themselves and no longer feel those pains. One thing that I have learned with God is that Love is the most powerful thing this world and its people can ever possess. The whole world is hurting truly and is in desperate need of something to cling to, to believe in, have faith and confide in. We suffer so many different types of abuses while growing up that even the most seemingly harmless action toward us and/or within our childhood can have very adverse affects on us as kids and damage the most tender areas of our hearts, souls and minds. I suffered ridicule and teasing about my weight when a child from my own father and brother constantly and it has caused me to become un-confident and withdraw inside myself. It caused me to resent my parents for a time until I could come to an understanding that they too did not have a very good upbringing as both suffered from lack of love and support from their parents. I wish there were a magic pill that I could tell you would take away everything that you have been suffering for so many years. My heart goes out to you Vincent. I pray that soon God will touch your heart and help you realize that you’re not alone. God does love you Vincent and he accepts you for who you are and no matter what you may or may not have done, he will forgive. There are a few things that I’m not very proud of that I have done in my life that I kept beating myself up about, but the first thing one must do is forgive yourself first and foremost. For until you can forgive yourself and not feel guilty for what your life has turned out to be, God can’t help to remove the guilt from your heart until you are willing to let go of it. Jesus died on the cross to shed His blood that we might live and He wishes for us to live a fulfilling life. Any troubles that we may have, give to God (which means, let go and let God deal with it.) Pray to God that he help you understand and help you let go of your past, of any hurts and ask God to help you help yourself. God’s word is powerful and one very famous saying within the Bible is: “By His stripes we are healed.” Don’t be afraid to speak to God and even yell out to Him if you need. Don’t be ashamed if you do. God understands you even better than you understand yourself, for He made you. My husband still struggles with his past and is trying hard to change and follow God, but for anyone it is a daily struggle and commitment you have to be willing to sacrifice for. He will truly help you Vincent, please don’t give up. Persistence is key. And I know you’d be saying the same things my husband says to me. ‘Easy for you to say, or you didn’t suffer like me, or you don’t understand.’ Well, I don’t fully understand. I can’t possibly, for I’m not you or him, but I do know God enough to know that He never wishes us to stay in a life of suffering. Let God help you walk through that valley and come out the shining star. He’ll be beside you all the way. Don’t let go Vincent. Cling to God and He will cling to you. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added onto you.” He’s waiting for you Vincent. Don’t be afraid to tell Him how you feel. Cry out to Him, don’t be afraid to tell Him you need His help. Don’t be afraid to scream out to the top of your lungs if you feel you need to. Take time alone with God. He loves when you feel the need for Him. Maybe you feel you’ve done all these things already, but do it again! Do it a hundred times if that’s what it takes. Don’t allow the devil to tell you any different. God is yours and you are God’s. I send this prayer to you Vincent: “Father, I pray you take this broken spirit and weakened vessel into your bosom. Let your love reign down upon him and shower him with your peace, grace and mercy. He knows not what else to do Lord God and he feels lost. Bring back this lost sheep like you have done so many others through the years. I thank you Father that Vincent will see the healing power of your hands. I thank you Father that you have heard his cries and that revelation is coming. I thank you Father that you shall show him the path to your spirit and relieve him of all darknesses within. I plead the blood of Christ over this soul, spirit, heart, mind and body that they be cleansed with the blood of the Lamb. Thank you Father in the name of Jesus I pray–Amen…….Take care Vincent and may the healing power of God reside in you post-haste.
    Love, Amber Gorsh

  • Your Name

    Instead of trying to have faith and a spiritual experience, just view a God that exists. He is there just as a friend and just wants to walk around the block with you. It is not a mystical experience, but a friendship.
    God came down and became one of us, his feet got dirty, he became thirsty on a hot day. He had headaches, people that thought He was crazy, He knows how you feel, so have a cup of coffee with him.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment shayne

    i hear you
    my faith is dead dont expect anything from faith it will keep you persistant in torturing yourself dead or alive no one can help you sorry if i worded it wrong i tried for ever and keep getting sucked into worse misery from having faith/hope.

  • Te-Erika

    I have no faith either and I see nothing wrong with that. Just because you do not find a mass stimulant/depressant like religion to be satisfying does not mean something is wrong with you. When you have not decided that a certain path is “right” you are open to so many more adventures without shunning those experiences just to be correct. Have fun. This world is a playground. Life is not a test. You don’t have to get it right.

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