One day in early 2006, I was attending a Mood Disorders Association meeting (MDA-BC) when the facilitator went around the circle asking each of us to tell what their best way is to cope with symptoms. I knew that my best way was to go to God, to trust him, and lean on him. But how would this secular group feel about me talking about God? I didn’t want to make members of the group feel uncomfortable.

And, when I thought about it, Christians with mental health challenges did not feel comfortable discussing their mental health challenges in church groups. They need to have a place of their own where they could talk about both—the difficulties of living with mental illness as well as the God who could help them cope.

Soon after the MDA meeting, I felt God’s gentle but firm hand pushing me to make such an approach to mental health care happen. He led me to start a group for individuals who, like me, needed God as part of their wellness plan.

For too long people with mental illness had been misunderstood by the church, denied the kind of support that would be helpful. Individuals with mental disorders were often blamed, told that their suffering was their own fault. Told that they had allowed themselves to wander too far from God.

Those who lived with mental health issues were missing the kind of spiritual care they needed. Care that would help them accept their disability as a natural part of their make-up. Care that would help them seek comfort and encouragement from their faith. They needed a message of assurance that God would walk with them through their ups and downs. They needed others like themselves to join them on that journey. They needed to know they weren’t alone.

I made an appointment with Pastor Don.

Having been introduced to the needs of people with mental health needs by me and the pastor’s mental health workshop, he was open to hearing about how I felt God leading me to form a faith-based support group. He soon gave me the green light to start planning.

My disorder had made a regular job impossible for me. I had never dreamed of doing anything like forming a group like this. I had never heard of faith-based support groups addressing mental health problems. This was a brand new thing I was undertaking. Where do I start?

There were times I doubted myself. “Who am I anyway doing something this big?” I became a pioneer, travelling unknown territory with God my only guide.

From before 1994 I’d been fighting the stigma of mental illness, mostly addressing Christian audiences. Now I would be giving direct help to those with such illnesses. I would be giving spiritual care to people who had for too long been misunderstood—even ignored—by the Church. My work was expanding. No longer was I only speaking about them, I was working for them.

But it was a huge task for a person who herself was living with mental illness. Anxiety was no stranger as I prepared. How I needed God!

Although most communication with Pastor Don took place by email, I’ll never forget one meeting we had. I told him about how the story of David and Goliath often came to mind. I saw myself as the young David fighting the giant of a man. Goliath symbolized stigma for me. Stigma so huge that I couldn’t see the head or feet. Only a massive body. Where should I aim my attack? Where do I start? How could I possibly be strong enough or clever enough?

David’s response when King Saul doubted his ability to fight Goliath inspired me. His trust in God inspired me.

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”  (1 Samuel 17:36-37)

I told my pastor how clear it had become to me that this big work I was taking on was God’s, not mine at all. I shared how I marvelled at the difference that line of thinking was making to my resolve. God was giving me courage. I was able to trust him to stay with me and, in turn, I knew that I would try to stay with him.