The Building is On Fire and We are Just Watching

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18 years ago, on September 11, 2001 at 9:41:15 a.m Richard Drew captured a horrific photograph of a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

One hour.

There was one hour between the time the plane crashed into the North Tower and the time this unknown man (likely) jumped from the burning building.

For one hour he fought through uncertainty, chaos, and absolute terror. He lived for an hour in a world very few of us will ever experience.

And then… in a situation we can only imagine… this man saw no other escape from the flames or the heat or the smoke… and he jumped.

What a tragic thing for there to be so little hope of rescue or relief that death was the only escape.

Yet this same hopelessness reaches across the world into homes, neighborhoods, business and even churches.

Sometimes, burning buildings don’t look like burning buildings. Sometimes burning buildings look like people we love.

Yesterday I got a call from my husband as I was out running errands. He asked if I had heard. He knew that if I had, I would know exactly what he was talking about.

I hadn’t heard. I didn’t yet know about pastor Jarrid Wilson’s death. Maybe somehow you haven’t heard either.

Jarrid was an associate pastor at a church here in Southern California. He was open about his fight against anxiety and depression. He ran a ministry called “Anthem of Hope” for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. He was so much to so many.

I didn’t know Jarrid personally. I won’t pretend to have known him more than I did. I followed his ministry on social media for years. I had nearly worked on a project with him a few months ago. I have friends who knew him and loved him well, but we had never met.

Still, I wouldn’t say he was a stranger.

He was an ally in the fight against mental illness. He was a voice that championed the call to remove the stigma and shame surrounding those who suffer silently. He was a Christian who passionately loved and served the Lord, and he lost his life to the dis-ease of his mind he worked so hard to overcome.

Most of us won’t ever understand the invisible inferno that those who lose their lives to mental illness experience. We can’t see their flames. We can’t understand the chaos in their minds. We can’t see the years the building has been on fire and there doesn’t seem to be a hope of either rescue or relief.

We just don’t know. As someone who has fought anxiety most of my life, there are still some aspects of mental illness I struggle to personally understand.

But not understanding isn’t an option anymore. It just isn’t. Not for me. Not for you. Not for the Body of Christ.

Church, we have to fight to understand. There have been many in the last few years who have fought to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. But we have to go farther. We have to become those who help put out invisible fires. Because if Jesus came to heal those who are sick, He meant those who have sicknesses we cannot see as well.

How? Here is where we start.

STEP ONE:

Look for fire. We must acknowledge that people we know and love live in burning buildings. There are real fires, real pain, real desperation, and just because we can’t see it does not mean it does not exist. Ignoring mental illness doesn’t make it go away.

STEP TWO:

Don’t blame the person trapped in the burning building. Can you imagine scolding a person fighting for their life? Telling them it’s their fault? All while you stand watching rather than rescuing? No! You’d help or you would get someone who could. You’d tell the person you love that you see them! You Hear them! You’d tell them to hang on! And you wouldn’t leave them alone.

STEP THREE:

Recognize that Christians can get trapped in burning buildings, too. Christians can have faith in Jesus as Healer and Savior and at the same time suffer from a mental illness.

If you can have a broken arm that takes six weeks to heal, if you can have a chronic condition like heart disease or asthma that you never fully overcome, if you can fight through cancer and your faith not be faulted if you do not receive immediate healing, then there is ZERO room to fault the faith of a person who has a brokenness in their brain and needs time (as much as it takes) to be healed. Brains are organs, too. And Christians get cancer, asthma, burst appendix, eczema, celiac disease, and all forms of mental illness. The good news is that Jesus is STILL OUR HEALER.

STEP FOUR:

Help the person who feels trapped and hopeless, using every method available to you. Imagine your loved one standing on the other side of a window with smoke filling the room, looking at you, desperate for either a relief or a rescue. Desperate for water to put out the flames or someone to break the glass and pull them out. You would do everything in your power. Yes? You’d cry out to Jesus. You’d call on the professionals. You’d call 911. You’d scream for others to join you! This is an emergency! Right?

When we find out someone we love is suffering, we recognize that Jesus is the answer, He can heal in an instant, He can rescue in an instant, but He has sent us filled with His Spirit to be His hands and feet… and so we run into burning buildings and do everything we can to pull others out.

We bring relief by helping those we know take physical steps toward healing. We pray for supernatural intervention… for the demonic powers of fear and depression and suicide to be broken WHILE we help those we love make appointments to see doctors and counselors. We read the Word AND we see if there’s an underlying medical condition causing the illness. We pray for peace AND for healing.

We recognize that it’s not one OR the other. It’s not EITHER a physical brokenness OR a spiritual battle. It’s BOTH AND! It’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. And so we rescue from all sides. We take all the steps, trusting Jesus to show us HOW to break the glass and rescue from all sides.

STEP FIVE:

We MUST prioritize community. We MUST make room in our lives for others. We MUST let others in. Because the only way to know somebody we love’s world is on fire is for them to do the brave thing of sharing their reality without fear of judgment or shame. We have to do a better job of living life with each other. The hope of the world is Jesus… Jesus found in living rooms and safe gatherings of like-hearted believers who break bread and share life together.

There is so much work to do. There are so many we love suffering.

For one hour the falling man fought the flames. Others live in burning buildings for years, decades, or their entire lives…

What a tragic thing for there to be so little hope of rescue or relief that death was the only escape.

What a tragic thing when as the Body of Christ we have the power through Him to be both.

Let’s pray together.

God, be our rescue. Be our relief. Be our Healer, Lord. Be our strong tower and defender when we are weak. Be our peace. We pray now for those we love who are battling mental illness. We ask You to touch every process in their bodies. We ask You to bring peace and healing, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Jesus’s blood paid the price for our healing and so we ask for it now. Send angels to war in the Heavens on our behalf. Push back the darkness. Silence the lies of the enemy. We ask in Jesus’s name, Amen.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline now. 1-800-273-8255.

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