WHY IT HURTS WHEN YOU TELL ME TO “PRAY MORE”

I am a devout Christian, I love God and believe in the power of faith, that it can give us the courage to keep going in the hardest of trials, give us hope in a better future, and build us up when we are down. But there is something I have found incredibly hard and painful over the past year as I started to admit that behind my cheerful, put together facade, I have suffered from serious anxiety and depression for most of my life, and finally sought personal and professional help for it.

“Are you praying?”, “Remember to pray!”, “Pray more”, “You need to have faith!”, “Don’t forget to pray”, “Rely on God and he will sustain you!”, all things and so many more than have been said to me with the best of intentions, but have hurt me and my faith so deeply. Why?

Because when you tell someone to just keep praying and relying on God to help them with their depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other number of mental health issues, you are basically telling them that if they had enough faith, then they would be better, they would be given power beyond the normal to heal, and that if they don’t heal, then they are unworthy of the help they are praying for. Those words can make you feel as if you’re doing something wrong, you are inadequate, useless. I know it is not intended that way, people mean well, but when their only support is to quote a scripture and then leave you alone it certainly can feel very painful.

The thing I have found with admitting you suffer from mental health issues is that you are often left on your own to deal with this deadly illness because it lacks the physical signs or test results that someone battling cancer or diabetes have.

There are no phone calls to ask if you need help getting to your doctor appointments, or offers to have your children for the day while you attend therapy, there are no meals dropped off for your family for the nights you are too sick to cook, there are no (or very few) visitors to see you in hospital. There is even a lack of people asking how you are, maybe for fear that you might tell them and go on and on and on for hours listing the many issues you face, maybe for fear that they will upset you by mentioning it, or maybe because they simply feel uncomfortable with a condition they don’t understand or feel you cause yourself by not “thinking positive” or “praying harder”.

The result is to feel more isolated than ever, rejected from those in your congregation who you turned to for help, alone with the fear that because you can’t think positively and face the fact that others maybe have it worse, you are unworthy to live, incapable of being loved. To feel that because God has not sent you some kind of superhuman strength to deal with your downs, the nightmares, the memories, the sadness, the panic, the fear, that you are not worth His love or care, that He does not want YOU. You feel alone, isolated, and more and more you find yourself wondering why you keep holding on to life, battling the suicidal thoughts and feelings, putting your exit plan off for another 24 hours, because why stay in a world where you are unwanted and a burden to those few people who do love you?

So please, next time you consider telling someone to think positively, or to keep praying, please don’t. Just sit with them and listen to what they have to say, offer to make a meal (they are unlikely to accept anyway, but the offer means so much), ask them if you can help them get to appointments, and support and encourage them to keep holding on because YOU CARE if they are alive. By all means do gently assure them that their prayers are heard and remind them of the power of prayer, always assume they are already pouring their heart out, and offer to say a prayer for them.

Don’t ever assume someone is where they are in their mental illness because they don’t have faith, or because they don’t think positively, you do not know what has happened in their life, you do not know how they got to where they are. Maybe their faith is all that is keeping them going, be careful that you don’t ever suggest that they do not have enough!

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Lauren says:

    I found this on Mighty and I cannot tell you how deeply I understand your plight. Your blog resonated with me, and I will be sharing it with several friends and anyone who ever asks about mental illness. Thank you for the courage to share.

    Like

    1. Kat says:

      Thank you so much Lauren for your warmth and encouragement. I’m sorry that you too have felt similar, but there is comfort in the knowledge we are not alone in our feelings sometimes too isn’t there. Wishing you strength and health. Xx Kat

      Like

    2. I also found this on The Mighty and agree — I feel as though I could have written it myself. I have wrestled with my faith over the past 25+ years, often over some of the same issues in this excellent article. Disappointment in prayers for better health not answered, family & friends whose only offer for “assistance” is a cavalier “Just pray about it”, and a growing sense of isolation over the years has not fueled my faith; it has taken its toll. I tell close friends who care to listen that I sometimes feel like a “psychotic spiritualist”: I often find myself praying or talking to a god that my rational brain sincerely has concluded does not exist! And yet I march on. Thank you for an excellent article which I believe has the power to help many.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kat says:

        Thank you for the bravery in sharing your feelings Michael. People truly struggle to understand what it is we are going through, that it isnt just a normal feeling of sadness or worry, but that depression and anxiety (or whatever other mental health issue we are facing) is more than that.

        I am sure that God does appreciate your prayers, talking to him can certainly help us to be able to let out the painful feelings that are consuming us. But sadly these days there are no miracles to heal our soul, we just keep going and pray for the strength to continue.

        All the very best to you! And thank you again!

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  2. Hannah says:

    Yes yes yes. yes exactly. thank you so much for posting this – it’s so true. I’ve been hurt many times by well meaning people who tell me to pray, read Scripture, and go to church as means of coping with my mental illness. if only I could have them all read your article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Feel free to copy, paste, and share.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Kat says:

      Hi Hannah. Thank you for sharing your experience too. I have come to realise that it is not a lack of love that causes this, but simply a lack of understanding. People really do struggle to see what is happening to a person when their illness is invisible. Big hugs to you. Thank you!

      Like

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I understand this completely. Depression consumed me for years, and I felt the brokenness in every fiber of me. I prayed. When it didn’t “work”, I prayed harder. Then I prayed specifically that God would fix me. He had the power to do it and it was the desire of my heart. So I kept praying, asking to be fixed. Finally, God answered me. He very clearly said, “You’re not broken. You talk to me at every turn. You seek my face for every answer. You never leave the protection of my hand. Why would I fix what doesn’t need fixing?” For the first time I saw that my depression had driven me into the closest walk with the Lord I had ever experienced. How could I ask him to remove that from my life? So I kept praying but I changed my perspective. Slowly but surely, using fresh eyes to see my illness, the fog lifted. Depression doesn’t define me but it doesn’t have to be my enemy. Let it serve a purpose if it’s meant to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      Your post reminds me of the story of the footprints in the sand Elizabeth. Where the person says to God, “Look, there are only one set of footprints here, you left me!” and God replies “No, that is where I was carrying you!”.

      Thank you for such a warm and encouraging, positive post. It is really beautiful!

      Like

  4. Felicity says:

    It sounds like you have not had a very understanding group around you. I am going through something similar and have to say that I am being told to pray but also given reasons and how tos. I’m also getting practical support from people which I am very grateful for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      Thank you Felicity for your reply. I am so very glad you are getting practical support also, that is such a wonderful thing. I have to admit, yesterday I was given the biggest hug and some really warm commendation from a couple of members of our congregation and it was very uplifting. It has helped me to keep pushing on!

      Like

  5. lyratolea777 says:

    One word – yes.

    Liked by 1 person

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