There is beginning to be a more open discussion about mental illness and how the church can help.
History shows us that the church was the place where men and women would go to get help. People would be surrounded in warm, loving and safe communities where their needs would be met, and when hardships would befall them, they could reach out to their spiritual family who would assist them in their time of need.
The problem is that many within the church have abdicated their responsibility to help those in need. As a result, people have given more power to the government which has led us into the state that we’re in. God’s command for the church is very clear:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 82:3
Growing up within a very warm Greek family church, I have witnessed the profound sacrificial love of faithful believers who have a deep reverence for the Lord.
The recent open discussion of mental health is encouraging to see. In Philippians 2:4 Christ tells us the following:
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have you ever experienced feelings of anxiety? Ever felt sad? Disappointed? Depressed? Most people have. However many people who struggle with mental illness live with these feelings – some at a debilitating level.
Some people struggle with a physical disability which is visible to the naked eye. It’s very easy to see where they need assistance. For example, we can see when an frail elderly person is struggling to cross the street.
An individual in a wheelchair may need assistance going up a slight incline.
Cystic Fibrosis, hydrocephalus and others physical illnesses are diagnosis that can be seen and require extra external support and care.
Yet what about mental health? Not all mental illness symptoms are visible. Many symptoms are experienced internally, only by the person who has the diagnosis.
Never assume you know how people are thinking or feeling. Everyone’s perspective is different. The concept of “normal” is a myth. As Dr. Daniel Amen says, “Normal is a setting on the dryer.”
So how can you help? Good question!
Amy Simpson has written a great article titled “Your Small Group Can Help People Affected By Mental Illness.”
Until we go home to glory, our ultimate purpose here on earth is to become transformed into the character of Christ.
Jesus did not come for perfect people…. He came for the broken.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 12:7
The great commandment is told in four simple words:
Many clinicians will confirm that just like most physical diseases can be treatable, so too are most mental illnesses. All that is needed is a humble, teachable spirit and the supportive context and resources to equip it. There is only one “illness” that is untreatable. This is the sin of pride.
Countless failed marriages, the collapse of multi-billion dollar enterprises and the tragic loss of human potential can all be attributed to this. History is replete with examples of the sin of pride. It’s been the cause of national collapse – not from external attack, but from within. It’s what many people currently fear for America.
Since all people were born into sin, one could say that we are all “in recovery from sin.” One way to measure our maturation and growth towards Christlike character would be how we treat those who are the poor, widowed, fatherless and the alien. I’ve written on the current health of the church in this post.
My prayer is that we all have a desire to grow deeper in Godly love, genuine humility, brotherly affection, and authentic hospitality. It is only when we transcend the selfish pull of society, the material pleasures of hedonism, and set our hearts and minds on things above that we will begin to have a heart for others and see them, love them, and help them with the love of God.
When you choose to serve those who have a physical or mental health diagnosis, know that the love in which you serve them is the love for God in action.
May your heart grow deeper in Godly love each and every day.
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.