Having with a loved one who suffers from a disorder can be confusing and painful, but medical labels don’t grant us permission to lean away from intimacy.
When my sister was first diagnosed, I started seeing her differently—and over time, I began to treat her more like a disorder rather than as a sister. It was far easier, and less painful, to maintain that safe distance than to pursue genuine emotional connection. And then there was always this overwhelming sense of guilt—if only I was a better Christian, I would have enough grace for her shortcomings.
I was thriving in every other area of life and in all my other relationships, and yet I constantly struggled to love my own sister. Sometimes it’s far easier for us to love the disorder in someone across the world than in those who sit across the table from us. It made me answer uncomfortable questions like, “What if my sister never changes?” and thus come to terms with the true basis of my love for her, regardless of who she was or what I received in return from our relationship.
Walking alongside someone who suffers from a disorder is heart-wrenching, but it can also be sanctifying. For me, it opened up a deeper level of God’s grace in learning how Christ died for humanity’s kaleidoscope of disorder, and that this very same love purifies our own hearts towards others. God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and I have learned so much from watching my sister battle with her weakness and letting God’s strength be made perfect in her.
Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote about what it’s been like to grow up with an older sister who suffers from OCD, ADHD, and anxiety/depression. I wanted to encourage others by sharing how it changed our relationship, affected our family, and ultimately challenged my spiritual growth.
Too Close for Comfort
“Maybe that’s the beautiful opportunity God has hidden for us in loving someone with a disorder. Disorder exposes in us the conditional love we would otherwise perceive as sufficient, and reflects back to us the ugly glint of our own inadequacy. It requires the most sacrifice—and therefore has the most potential to sanctify all that is unholy in our hearts.
Jesus drew near to disorder. The closer He got, the more pain He endured—and only at the cross did He express the fullness of His love. We must remember that, when we feel as if we’ve come to the end of ourselves—when we’ve offered every last bit of kindness and extended all the grace we could muster. One day, we will all be seen in the light of eternity. And when our mortal coil is shed and our souls are exposed, will we celebrate our choice to draw near despite discomfort—or regret our instinct to self-preserve?
Only God knows the future He has in store for us—my sister, you, and me. But if I know anything about Him, I know He’s up to something good—something worth the wait—even as we walk in the dark night of our present circumstances. I believe that one of these days, maybe when we least expect it, He’ll be there to guide us into that bright, beautiful day we all long to experience.” (excerpt from the article linked below)
Continue reading at: https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/faith-works/too-close-for-comfort