This is a helpful article on many levels, although incomplete and perhaps confusing at some points. But this is a message that needs to be heard in both our local churches and the American church at large.
“Church can be a tough place for people who struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar, or any other mental disorder. Not because church members don’t care about those who struggle with mental illness, but because most church members don’t really know how to care for those struggle. Those who struggle can feel lonely, hopeless, and ashamed.
I don’t say this in a critical way. Trust me, I get it: mental stuff is really hard to understand. Depression doesn’t make sense if you’ve never experienced it. Chronic physical anxiety almost sounds like worry, even though the two are drastically different.”
“In some churches, there’s this weird taboo surrounding mental illness. Nobody ever talks about it or acknowledges that it’s real. If a guy is sunk into depression, we say he’s, “Going through a rough patch,” or, “Having a tough time,” or we don’t say anything at all. If someone has cancer, we pray that God will heal her. If someone has back surgery, we make meals for him. But when it comes to mental illness, we don’t know what to say or do. Everyone knows something is wrong but nobody actually talks about it.
If we’re going to really serve those who struggle, we need to readily acknowledge that mental disorders are real, and that they can really mess a person up. We need to come to terms with the reality that our outer selves, including our brains, are “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16). We need to affirm that all of creation, including our bodies and brains, have been “subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20). Mental illness is a result of the fall. We are totally depraved, which means that the totality of our being, including our minds, have been broken.
When we acknowledge that mental illness is a real category of suffering, it allows those who are suffering to open up to others. It also allows other Christians to pray for and serve those who are suffering. The Bible has so many words of encouragement for those who are suffering, but we won’t be able to encourage others unless we first recognize that they really are suffering. As one who has dealt with chronic physical anxiety for years, I can assure you, mental illness is real suffering.”
“I posted this on my personal Facebook page last week, but it’s so good I wanted to share it here, too.
“This short interaction has had a lasting impression on me. And not just because of her audacity but because I can relate to what she was thinking. While I’ve never walked up to a mom and criticized her, I have thought things to myself not too dissimilar, and it made me feel awful. Here I was in an extraordinary situation wishing others would understand and I was guilty of thinking the same things.
My husband’s words hit me like a hammer. I’d silently judged without stopping to think that maybe I didn’t have all the information. The thought that I could have dismissed a mother in desperate need of support, a mother like myself, deeply bothered me.”
“When these things happen, we do what we must to survive. Sometimes that means our parenting choices look strange. These are the times when the world feels harsh, but we need it to be kind. I truly believe if anyone should have compassion for parents, it’s other parents. What we really need is support, not judgment.
So, to the random lady on street, I can’t thank you enough for making me realize this. You hurt me and embarrassed me. But, you made me realize I was guilty of forgetting that my battle is not an isolated one. You reminded me we all struggle and none of us have the whole picture. You changed how I see others and how I approach them. You connected me to my community and gave me compassion for the unconventional.”
Disclaimer: “Links to Think” is my post of curated articles and blog posts from around the Internet. I rarely post something in its entirety (click on the heading title to read the rest of the article I’m excerpting), and I have yet to find another author with whom I agree with on everything. Please note that my sharing an article from a particular author in no way signifies my endorsement or agreement with their entire work.