Loving God, Self, and Others: We accept that we have no control over the illness or the individual with the illness. We only have control over our own actions and thoughts.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
As Pope Benedict said in Ecuador: “The family is the nearest hospital; when a family member is ill, it is in the home that they are cared for as long as possible. The family is the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly.” It is where we answer Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Yes, we are our brother’s keeper”
Many times, we are well-intentioned to help improve someone’s life. This is nothing new. We can look at Matthew 16 and hear of a time when Peter wanted to change the direction of Jesus’ life:
Matthew 16:21-27 : From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Never Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
When we move in someone’s life, we often desire to change the pathway they are walking with God. This we should not do. However, we must first “take the plank out of our own eye, and then we will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 5)
And yet, there is a time and place to come alongside those who have a mental illness. When they cannot provide for themselves, think for themselves, etc. However, often they can understand consequences and have an intelligence that can respond. Yes, we always need to be loving (1 Cor 13). Yet we do not have the power to control others.
Although we are our Brother’s Keeper, we are also respecter of an individual’s right to choose. God Himself provides us with the opportunity to choose Him or not. We are not forced to make the “right choice.” How can we learn to walk this way?
By following Jesus’ example: Before choosing his 12 Disciples, He spent time in prayer. Before going to the cross, He spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking His friends to pray alongside. He healed when asked, He provided resurrection and will provide resurrection for all of us, no matter what we carry on this earth. It is a fine line between controlling someone and walking alongside them to make the most constructive choices of their options.
And it may be that we, like Jesus, may be too late to ‘save’ our loved one from consequences of mental illness. They may even die along the way. And yet, we know that there is a Resurrection for all His children. The seed may fall to the ground but there is a new life coming. May we so love our family and friends with mental illness that they will be drawn to God and lean on Him, no matter the path chosen for them on this earth. Our love, not control, can make a difference. And what does Love look like? I Cor 13.