Karma means action and action motivated by compassion is good. To complain that what happens to you is just the result of your karma is lazy. Instead, confidently recalling the advice that, “You are your own master,” you can change what happens by taking action. ~ Dalai Lama.

 

If you want God’s grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing. But that kind of spiritual humility is hard to muster. We come to God saying, “Look at all I’ve done,” or maybe “Look at all I’ve suffered.” God, however, wants us to look to him…Timothy Keller.

 

I have a good friend (I’ll call her Trish) who practices Buddhism. Trish says she likes having a teacher tell her what to do to gain spiritual enlightenment. She claims this is just what Jesus did with his disciples. He showed them the right things to do, and gave them the truth to speak. He demonstrated compassion to share. When they shared this good karma, they would be rewarded; if not in this life, then in a higher reincarnated life form. But if they had bad karma, well, as Kurt Cobain said: “If you’re really a mean person you’re going to come back as a fly and eat poop.”

For the Christian, God’s grace is just the opposite of karma. Grace is not a reward for good behavior. We can do nothing to earn God’s favor. But Christ has done everything and through him we receive God’s saving grace. Compassionate action is not something we can muster from the karma within us; it flows freely from the Spirit of grace working through us.

So which is better for our emotional health? Karma or grace?

Many within the mental health community say, “Whatever belief works for you is fine with me.” But genuine faith is essential for the well-being of our minds, our psyches, our souls.

 

As someone with a mental illness, I desperately need to avoid behavioral extremes. It’s all I can do to maintain relative emotional balance. If I were to believe that I am master of my own destiny, I would fall into a dangerous pit of spiritual angst. On the one hand, if the outcome of my behavior was positive, I would be filled with a spiritual arrogance bordering on grandiosity. If, however, the outcome was negative, I would fall into dangerous despair and wallow in self-pity.

 

If I clung to karma, I would either think too much or too little of myself. Either way, my ego would be front and center and my psychological scale would tip high or low. I would be at the mercy of the fickle fates of the world around me rather than the secure spiritual foundation of Christ.

 

Grace offers us a way out of our ego’s grasp. With grace, we do not have to earn our salvation. If fact the effort to earn it is precisely what we most want to avoid. Instead, we surrender to the will of the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to give us something beyond our imagination. Grace sets us free from spiritual anxiety that everything we say and do might determine our final destiny. We can be secure of our salvation when we know Christ and accept that he is the Master of our destiny, the Savior of our souls.

For someone with a mental illness, what does it look like to embrace grace?

For one, we accept medical treatment. We come to realize we can’t produce our own healing; it is a gift that comes from God working through properly trained professionals who have a mission to balance the chemicals in our brains so we can better function for the glory of God.

Two, when we receive God’s grace, we shed the stigma that too often sticks to us. We can be who God created us to be, even though we may have limitations others don’t have, even debilitating disabilities. Our self-worth is not found in what others think, but in the One who loves us just as we are.

And third, when we embrace grace, God pours compassion in our hearts. This compassion is so great, we simply have to share it. This gives us a mission to reach out to other hurting souls with the hope of healing in Christ. And this mission gives us purpose which then promotes healing within ourselves.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8)