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Mental Illness Doesn't Disqualify Us From God's Work: Courage for When Our Callings are Hard

By Carla Arges

Brave Women Series - Carla's Story


I have to be honest.


I feel ill equipped on so many levels to be writing this article. And while in my past I would let that hold me back, I have come to discover most things God has called me to have nothing to do with how equipped I am and more to do with how powerful He is.


If anything, my past and my struggles would seem to disqualify me from doing kingdom work.


I am a product of childhood trauma and still healing from those experiences by the grace of God.


I tried to take my own life at age 13.


By age 14 I was a homeless teen and disillusioned with God, disappointed at what I perceived were evils he had allowed to happen to me. I couldn’t see then what I see now - God loving me through the brokenness of this world and offering to cover me with his peace.


I was seeking solace in all the wrong things. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. I was a living, breathing prodigal daughter stuck in the pig sty, not yet confident there was a heavenly father that would receive me back.


 

"I was a living, breathing prodigal daughter stuck in the pig sty, not yet confident there was a heavenly father that would receive me back."

 

At 18 I found myself dealing with back to back pregnancies - and abortions. I was angry at God. I was angry at myself that I let fear guide me to choices that were not aligned with my beliefs. My shame grew in this period to unimaginable heights. Shame I still am working through as I learn to give myself the same forgiveness that Christ bestowed on me.


My early twenties were full of rage, panic, anxiety and depression. Barely making it through with undiagnosed - and untreated - mental illness. It was in the midst of this inner chaos I started to hear the small, still voice of the Spirit calling out to me - “Carla. Stop running. Come to me and find peace.”


The enemy loves to use shame to isolate us and cut us off from God and his church. And my shame ran deep. I could not imagine God loving such a broken mess that made so many bad choices. I could not imagine that this “hope and a future” promise was for me.


 

"I could not imagine God loving such a broken mess that made so many bad choices. I could not imagine that this “hope and a future” promise was for me."

 

But friend, that promise is YES and AMEN. And God was going to show me that promise does not rest on our merit but on the goodness of God.


God is in the business of making beauty from ashes. He is in the business of restoring what was lost. He is in the business of turning things around for our good and his glory.


 

"God is in the business of making beauty from ashes. He is in the business of restoring what was lost. He is in the business of turning things around for our good and his glory."

 

Now, that didn’t come my way with ease. My reconciliation with God did not remove my trials or instantly heal my hurting heart.


In fact, I had big hurdles in front of me after I returned to Christ.


As a wife and a mom of a young child, the biggest hurdle was coming face to face with my mental illness. It was destroying my marriage and seeking to repeat toxic cycles with my son that I had experienced as a child. I was committed to not having my son live my childhood - no matter the stigma or judgements I had to face from my family, church and world around me.


The reality is that coming to terms with my mental illness was in a way freedom - eventually. It was devastating at first to learn that I had bipolar and borderline personality disorder.


It brought me to a place where I learned to fall on my knees about this issue before the One who breaks all chains. And I still fall on my knees daily about it.


 

"Coming to terms with my mental illness was in a way freedom - eventually... It brought me to a place where I learned to fall on my knees about this issue before the One who breaks all chains. And I still fall on my knees daily about it."

 

For healing? Not such much anymore. Not because I don’t think he’s capable of healing me. Because of course he is.


But because I think I am finally starting to understand that sometimes the miracle of God does not happen in the “healing from”, but in the “living with.” Sometimes, just sometimes, the “living with” is the protective tether keeping us connected to the source of our strength.


 

"Sometimes the miracle of God does not happen in the “healing from”, but in the “living with.” Sometimes, just sometimes, the “living with” is the protective tether keeping us connected to the source of our strength."

 

Don’t get me wrong. I would love for this illness to be banished from my life. From all life. It is very much like a cancer of the mind.


I mean, having bipolar is hard.


But maybe hard is what I’m called to. And maybe hard is what you are being called to as well.


Maybe we are being called to hard so we can point to the One who can sustain.


Maybe we are being called to hard so we can be blessed with the opportunity to lead others through their hard.


 

"Maybe we are being called to hard so we can point to the One who can sustain. Maybe we are being called to hard so we can be blessed with the opportunity to lead others through their hard."

 

Maybe we are being called to hard because God wants to create a ripple effect through our lives to touch hundreds. We just can’t see it yet.


And maybe, just maybe, it is the hard that safeguards us from the complacency and lethargy of easy.


 

"It is the hard that safeguards us from the complacency and lethargy of easy."

 

I used to think of bipolar as robbing me.


It’s made it difficult to hold down a “normal” job. It’s caused financial hardship. It’s put a wedge in relationships. It’s tempted me with death on too many occasions to count.


But you know, isn’t it true that perspective is everything?


I started to ask myself what if I tried looking for the blessing in the bipolar?


What if I take the brave step and start looking for the blessing in the hard I’ve had to walk through?


 

"What if I take the brave step and start looking for the blessing in the hard I’ve had to walk through?"

 

Truth be told, if it wasn’t for my past and my bipolar I probably wouldn’t have ever started my podcast to encourage amazing women all over the world.


If it wasn’t for my past and my bipolar I wouldn’t have the testimony of healed relationships, miraculous provision, and a deep, experiential song of hope in my heart.


 

"If it wasn’t for my past and my bipolar I wouldn’t have the testimony of healed relationships, miraculous provision, and a deep, experiential song of hope in my heart."

 

I certainly don’t have it all figured out. And I am still trying to cover my fear of the future with faith in who holds the future.


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