The Intersection of Broken and Redeemed: The Church’s Response to Mental Illness Tuesday, August 28th, 2018
This week, a Southern California pastor took his own life, leaving behind his beautiful wife and children. As the Body of Christ, our hearts mourn for his family and for his church. Out of respect for both, this article is not about what took place here in California. This article is written as a plea for the Church to become unashamed and unhindered in our discussion of mental health.
As I was growing up, there was a crippled man who was brought to our church by his family members nearly every Sunday. They parked his wheelchair in the back corner, and he worshiped alongside the rest of the church. Despite this man’s handicap, I never questioned his ability to have a relationship with Jesus. It never crossed my mind that his physical disability would hinder his love for Jesus or Jesus’s love for him. And that’s because it didn’t. This man deeply loved the Lord, and he remained bound to a chair. These were two independent facts about him.
This is not always the same view we have about Christians with mental illness. We treat these individuals as though their sickness impairs their faith and relationship with God. The truth is, those who struggle with anxiety or depression can fully know the Lord, love the Lord, and serve the Lord. Their hearts can be fully committed to following after Him, while chemical imbalances in their minds and bodies cause their hearts to race or sadness to crash in like a wave.
And while we would never fault a deaf or blind or crippled Christian for their disability, the Church often approaches mental illness with, “If you just prayed harder, you’d be okay.” Can you imagine the same words spoken to a child in a wheel chair? We’d never.
No. As the Church, there are some areas of brokenness that we accept, and there are others that we assume could be overcome with just a little more time spent reading the Word.
But as a woman who has experienced the effects of anxiety for as long as I can remember, and as a woman who is also so sure that Jesus is the healer and comforter and Prince of all Peace, I can share with you that there is often a disconnect between what I feel and what I know.
The Truth is, all of us are born broken. The fact that we will one day die proves that is true. The original plan God had for His creation fell apart when sin entered the world. Your brokenness might not be obvious. It might not be glaring. It might not be physical or mental… but it is cellular. We are broken down to our very DNA. None of what we see and experience as we live in these bodies is as it should be.
As Christians, everything in our lives hangs on these two words. As a matter of fact, these are the only two words that separate us from the rest of the world. Because while the world is broken just as we are, they remain lost in their brokenness while we have found hope in our Savior.
Everything was in chaos, but Jesus came and gave Himself so that we could return into right relationship with God and so that we could be made whole. We still live in a world that’s a mess and we still live in bodies that aren’t eternal, but our hearts are now made fully alive right now with God.
This minute, my spirit and your spirit are citizens of Heaven. We could go into the full Scriptural context for this Truth, but for the purpose of this article, just follow me for a minute. Our spirits are whole. We are forever… eternally… alive in Christ. But we have to live our lives here… in bodies that will one day wear out… and that includes our brains.
How can depression and anxiety exist among Church leaders? The same way that any broken person can lead another broken person into the saving arms of our perfect God.
Because the reality of everyday life and the Truth found in Scripture intersect at the crossroads of brokenness and redemption. That’s where Jesus waits for us, and that’s where Jesus expects us to look for each other.
I will end with this. Our God still heals. In Scripture, Jesus healed every single person who was ever brought to Him (and some of them just had to be mentioned in His presence). Not just some. Not just most… Jesus healed every person who came before Him. And our God doesn’t change. Jesus is still the miracle-working, healing God we know Him to be throughout Scripture.
And so, we pray.
We pray for healing. We pray that God would touch minds and bodies and emotions. We pray that He would supernaturally intervene in ways that only He can.
We pray for our leaders.
We pray for our pastors.
We pray that those who suffer in silence among us… no matter their position… would come out from the shadows of their shame and find help.
And as we pray, we open our arms and create a safe place for everyone who needs our support.
The Church is not immune to the disease of mental illness, but we should be the most willing to walk alongside those who are struggling as they make their way to healing and hope.
If you’re struggling, know this. You are not alone. You are not stuck. And you don’t need to hide. You have options. Call a friend. Contact your Church. Get in touch with a medical professional. And if you’re desperate, reach out to this suicide prevention hotline now: 1-800-273-8255
I’m not afraid of your particular brand of brokenness… and neither is Jesus.
You might also be interested in these articles: