Discipling people who have been given the label of “mental illness” brings me great joy.  I tell you that with full-hearted sincerity!  My heart overflows with happiness when I am able to teach a Christian woman who has been formerly diagnosed with a “mental illness.” 

Some examples of the labels that I am talking about include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anorexia, bulimia, or bipolar disorder.  Just as the Lord transformed me by renewing my mind, the Lord can also transform them too.  

Several years ago, I was struggling.  It was difficult to find someone who was willing to take on the challenge of ministering to me.  Nobody was there to teach me how to apply the Bible.  No woman would take on discipling me in my new faith.  I was turned away many times when they found out that I was formerly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I would even directly ask to be discipled and taught – they would refuse! 

Over the last couple of years, I have been discipling women with the labels of mental illness.  Here are four reasons why I love to disciple people with “mental illness:”     

Natalie Bymaster ministering to others
My passion…teaching others what the Lord taught me.

Reason #1: They are Genuine

I found that people with mental illness labels are very genuine people.  They are open about their life struggles, and many times they are open to wisdom, teaching, and counsel from the Bible.

Reason #2: They are Seeking Help Already

Many times, these people have been seeking help for a while.  They have probably gone to a psychologist or psychiatrist for help, but that has not alleviated their problems.  When they decide to come into a Christian discipleship relationship, many times they really want help.  They are usually humble, willing to take correction, and apply the lesson to their lives.  They are willing to truly change: they will take bold actions and renew their thinking.  If anything, they are willing to do this because the former help they had sought usually did little or nothing to help them.  

Reason #3: They are Loyal

I have found that people with a modern-style mental illness diagnosis are very loyal people.  They are loyal to their friends and family.  They always want what is best for the people in their lives.  Additionally, they are loyal to discipleship.  That means that they usually keep their commitment to regular meetings and they work hard to change their lives. 

Reason #4: The Results are Amazing

The most rewarding part about this type of discipleship relationship is that the results are many times amazing.  Although it requires a lot of prayer and patience, wonderful changes occur after the discipled person takes bold action to apply Jesus’s teachings.  Many people labeled with mental illness also believe a multitude of untruths about both themselves and the world around them. When these beliefs are corrected, the result can be a drastically changed life, full of power and renewed purpose that can only come from God.

My Hope: The Disciple Becomes the Teacher

It is most rewarding to see a person that was labeled with a mental illness be transformed by renewing their mind!  Then, frequently that same disciple becomes the teacher of other disciples.  Christians who suffered with deep problems in their past are uniquely qualified at understanding the challenges that others might be facing.  No matter what group we attempt to teach or disciple in our Christian walk, let us always keep the final goal in mind: have the disciple become the teacher.