Mental Illness & The Struggle of Selfishness by David Lee Chu Sarchet
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”-Philippians 2:3
This verse has always caused me great trouble. It is not that I disagree with it or that I particularly dislike it. I think it is a beautiful verse that describes the type of attitude that every Christian should strive to have. The thing is, however, my Schizoaffective Disorder causes me to behave in selfish fashion. It is not that I intend to be selfish, but that one of the ways my mental illness manifests itself is in being selfish.
Purpose Of The Blog
This has caused significant problems in my personal relationships with friends and family. I know that this is typical of people who deal with mental illness and the purpose of this blog is not to give us an excuse to continue in bad behavior but instead to provide a context for our behavior so that people can understand why it is that we behave the way that we do.
I am not entirely sure why it is that we behave in selfish fashion but I think part of it is because mental illness does cause us to be self-focused a lot. We spend a lot of our days monitoring our symptoms such as our thoughts, feelings, and even our physical attributes. This can be exhausting but at the same time since we are so focused on our mental well-being we do tend to get used to paying close attention to ourselves.
This may be the reason why we are not as focused on other people and what is going on with them. This is not to shame my fellow people who struggle with mental illness. We definitely do need to pay attention to our symptoms because they can easily become exaggerated if we ignore them. However, that does not give us an excuse to ignore the command in this Scripture.
Paul did not give a clause saying that “if you struggle with mental illness then this does not apply”.
So, what do we do with this Scripture then?
First off, I would like to add that we cannot properly fulfill this command in our own strength so we should not even try. Our sinful nature naturally makes all people selfish by default. As a matter of fact, I like how the Heidelberg Catechism says that in our natural state we “hate God and our neighbor”. I find this to be true in my own life and I believe that it is true in everyone’s life as well.
Secondly, the only way that we can fulfill this command is by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this by daily dying to ourselves. This is not easy at all but we must do it. However, we cannot even die to ourselves in our own strength either. Again, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to cause us to be able to die to ourselves because:
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
The process of sanctification is all 100% completely a work of God from beginning to end. As a result, we must constantly rely on His power and strength and not on our own. This requires us to stay in prayer in every moment of every day. I think this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he told us to pray without ceasing. He knew that we would need to rely on God’s strength all the time because our natural state is legalism.
When we try to muster up the strength to fulfill God’s commands on our own we will always fail but when we rely on God to sustain us then we will accomplish His will by His strength.
Does this mean that we will never act selfishly again? Absolutely not! I will struggle with selfishness for as long as I have a mental illness and I will have my mental illness all the days of my life until Jesus Christ returns. However, we must strive to be selfless by God’s strength and when we mess up—and we will mess up– we remind ourself of Romans 8:1:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (emphasis mine).
This means that no matter what we do or say in this life we will never be condemned as long as we remain in Christ. That is good news! No matter how much we sin– and we sin every day every moment of the day– our sins are covered by the blood of Christ. So, let this word encourage you to live the best life you can live for Jesus and do not allow your sin to condemn you. Soli Deo Gloria!
-David Lee Chu Sarchet
Christian Mental Health Advocate
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