The Faith of a Madwoman

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Sometimes I have wondered what God’s purpose is for people suffering severe mental afflictions, in particular those who, because of their mental illness, lead very difficult lives and make life extremely challenging for people around them too. I feel especially sorry for those who long for human companionship, but end up driving others away because they develop delusions and are unable to maintain healthy friendships, instead fixating on those who are kind to them, harassing and stalking them.

However, this incredible story of a Chinese woman reminds me that God can be glorified in the lives of those who are so afflicted:

CHINA: Shanxi Province, 1996 — Duan Yuxin, 82, has suffered from mental illness for more than 60 years. During spells of her illness, her main symptom was to walk around the village day and night, loudly reciting Bible verses. From 1966 to 1976, the ten-year period when religion was prohibited, she was the only one who could openly recite Bible verses. Because she was a madwoman, the government was unable to make her stop. On many nights during the time of religious suppression, believers would lay in their beds silently reciting the verses along with her. Today she is loved and cared for by fellow believers as someone who made a contribution to the church.

(Photographer: Lu-Nan)

God often chooses those who are weak, or to be rejected, in human eyes to bring about His wonderful plans. David was a young shepherd boy overlooked even by his own father when the prophet Samuel came searching for the new king. Jonah was a reluctant prophet who ran away from his mission. The Apostles were a ragtag bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, and other riff-raff off the streets and shores of Galilee. Yet, when they accepted their callings from God, the grace of God transformed these humble people into the noble, courageous beings they were meant to be, part of salvation history and builders of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Today, God invites each one of us to be part of His great plan, even those whom we may overlook or despise. No matter our faults or weaknesses, we can all give glory and praise to Him, leading others to His marvelous Light.

“It is a great mistake to suppose that those who have inherited the material for their life from suffering generations, and who have poor health and a timid approach or some vice or weakness, have not been designed and planned by God as much as others who seem luckier in the world’s eyes.

Christ has said: ‘I am the Way,’ and He has been there in every generation, blowing with the Divine Breath of the Spirit on that little flame of life. He is the Way, but He is not limited as we are: He can manifest Himself in countless ways we do not dream of. He can will to live in lives of suffering and darkness we cannot conceive of; He can choose what seems to us the most unlikely material in the world to use for a positive miracle of His love.”

— Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God


Photo: James Coleman, Unsplash / PD-US
Jean Elizabeth Seah

Jean Elizabeth Seah

Jean Elizabeth Seah is a Singaporean living in Australia. She has had several adventures with Our Lord and Our Lady, including running away to join a convent after university. The journey is tough and the path ahead is foggy, but she knows that as long as you hold firmly onto Our Lady’s hand, you’ll make it through! She has also written at Aleteia, MercatorNet and The Daily Declaration.

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