I was disturbed a short time ago when I was at a church service that spent part of worship time singing a song focused on Jesus as One who could loosen our chains of depression and anxiety. Although it was about Jesus, “the light of the world,” I felt that he had been cast into a situation of darkness—not love.

There was a time when I was angered by such an attitude—an attitude that blamed a person’s mental health challenges on spiritual problems. It’s as though those with mental health conditions brought it upon themselves. As though it was all because they had allowed themselves to be separated from God..

In my years of helping many people with lived experience, I have known this to be far from the truth. People with illness, mental illness included, should not be blamed for something they could not have had control over. After all, it is an illness, as most medical professionals will agree. I don’t see God’s love being shown in this line of thinking. Our spiritual health is important, but Jesus did not come to make us feel guilty. He came to show his love to hurting individuals.

Yes, I used to be angered when I saw such problems being addressed as shameful by those who had no understanding of the pain suffered. But today I’m just sorry that there may be people with illness out there who are getting the wrong picture of what Jesus is truly like. Are they being shown how Jesus really feels about them? Are they aware of how he values them, regardless of the emotional pain they might be experiencing?

The picture I have of Jesus has nothing to do with chains. Although life has been hard, and although I have suffered, all I know about Jesus –and all I’ve experienced in my long life with bipolar—is his love, his goodness, and his compassion.

One picture I have of Jesus is a familiar one of him holding children on his lap and blessing them with his love. In the same way, I believe, our Father God is holding us, his adult children, close to himself and caring for us, no matter what our sicknesses or disabilities might be.

With the greatest love imaginable, God treats us with kindness. He regards all of us as equal to each other, no matter who we are. He forgives our shortcomings, especially when we recognize them in ourselves and ask him to change our ways.

Jesus was the Son of God. But having been a flesh and blood person, not unlike ourselves, Jesus knows and understands what it is to suffer. He suffered too—in unimaginable ways—even though he was good by every means possible.

And it was all for us.