Churches as Champions of Mental Health
By Robert (Bob) W. Jones
Being depressed means you’re never present. You don’t experience life the way most people do. A casual conversation can be torture. Comprehending a simple written sentence requires effort. Eating? Forget it. Your appetite is long gone. You can’t engage in life because you’re constantly fighting your mind.
In November of 2013, Brock Harrison was going about his life as a new dad and speechwriter for the leader of a political party when it hit him. It presented innocuously enough as panic attacks. Sitting down at his computer brought sudden and paralyzing physiological discomfort. He had experienced the odd panic attack in the past, but they were periodic and easy to shake off. These were different. He physically couldn’t work.
“Fortunately, I never experienced the desire to end my life. I now believe it was Jesus, and my begrudged demonstration of faith in my darkest times, that kept me from reaching those lows,” Brock said.
“I’m thankful to my Pastor for his willingness to talk about mental illness candidly from the platform and for encouraging me to share my story. I hope and pray that it will make a difference for you.”
One of the most vital pastoral roles to champion is offering support and care to those suffering from mental illness. Why? Compassion for cancer patients, sufferers of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, or those who are hurt comes naturally. It’s easy to care because we’re aware. Mental illness is the invisible illness. It leaves sufferers misunderstood, marginalized and isolated – especially those who are Christians.
Mental illnesses are one of the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and misguided illnesses in the Christian community. Many Christians who struggle with anxiety and panic are falsely led to believe that it is merely a spiritual struggle, and undergo humiliating attempts at deliverance. Some are also led to believe it’s their fault because of sin or because their faith isn’t enough to heal them. The majority of people I have counseled who struggle with severe anxiety have an incredibly dependent, vulnerable and personal relationship with Jesus.
People who experience mental illness do not need to hide. They do not need to feel unloved or unchristian. God loves you. We need to remember that we are not here on earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
What does the Church need to know?
- Depression is the only physical illness with spiritual symptoms.
- Depression is not a spiritual disorder.
- People facing depression can be sad, but depression is not sadness.
- Depression is not something you can will yourself or pray yourself out of.
- Depression is not a choice.
- Depression is not a character defect.
- Depression is not an emotional dysfunction.
- Depression is not demonic.
Mental illness does not make people weak, cowardly, faithless, hopeless, or joyless.
Mental illness means you’re experiencing sickness and in need of healing. Sick people use medicine, therapy, support, exercise, faith, and prayer to become well again.
There is healing.
There is hope.
Both start with pastors.
Churches can become the safest place in the world for sufferers by championing hope and healing.
About this Contributor:
Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.
Connect with Bob:
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