I have had a post rolling around in my head for a while now. It is a topic incredibly dear to me, and it affects me and a number of people I love. It is a topic our churches don’t always want to deal with, and sometimes sweep under the rug. Other times, they blatantly alienate those who are affected by this. What is it?
But it’s more than that. It’s all the mental health issues we see in our society today. Depression is the one I deal with the most. That and anxiety. But there is a myriad of other ways mental illness shows up in our society and, yes, even within the walls of our very own churches.
I can remember many conversations with close friends who have been told by other Christians who they love and trust that the reason they have depression/anxiety/fill-in-the-blank was because they don’t pray enough. That is a load of crap. You are not less of a believer if you have a mental illness, and your mental illness does not define you.
Recently I had a friend come to me and “confess” they are depressed. The way they talked about it made it sound like it was some dark skeleton they have kept in their closet for years. It absolutely broke my heart. I could tell while talking to them that they honestly thought this was something to be ashamed of. Like this was going to make me trust them less or think less of them. All I wanted to do was hug them and tell them that they are going to be ok. Instead I shared some of my story.
I have had some serious depression issues in my life. I know what it is like to wake up and feel like there was no point to life. I can literally tell in my mind when I depressed and when I wasn’t based on the colors of my memories. My memories from when I was depressed are muted and have lots of cool colors in them. That is contrasted with the incredibly vibrant colors of when I am free of that mental state. There have been times where I literally fell into be completely spent at the end of the day; not because I did anything spectacular, but because I survived the day. There have been times where the only book in the Bible I could identify with was Ecclesiastes. Everything was meaningless.
That book doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of the Bible. There isn’t much about God’s love/power/etc. in it. Ecclesiastes is basically King Solomon’s view of the world from the lens of depression. Originally there was debate about whether or not it should even be in the Bible. Do you know why they added it? They ultimately included it because it was a good depiction of part of our broken world. Depression is real. It hurts. But it doesn’t define you or make you less of a believer.
We are often told in the Bible to seek wise counsel. People are ok with that, until it comes to mental illness. Then they want to just sweep it under the rug. Don’t do that. You aren’t helping yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally believe Jesus can heal us of anything and everything instantaneously and forever. But that doesn’t discount the fact that God has given us the ability and knowledge to be freed through medicine. Do I think you should pray for supernatural healing for your mental illness? Abso-freakin-loutly. Do I think that is all you should do? Hell no! Seeking wise counsel includes us going to the correct doctors for what is ailing us. Don’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. That is too dangerous. Don’t mess around with your life. Life isn’t a game, so don’t treat it like it is.
If nothing else from this sinks in, please remember that your depression/anxiety/suicidal thoughts/eating disorder/bipolar disorder/ etc. DOES NOT DEFINE YOU, and it does not make you less of a believer. You are loved no matter what state your mind is in. Jesus didn’t wait for you to get your act together before he died for you, and he doesn’t wait for you to heal yourself before he will welcome you into his family. He said it himself, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) So please do not be ashamed to seek out professional help. And don’t forget that you are not alone in this struggle. There are a lot of us out there fighting this battle. I believe one day we will win this battle, for Jesus has already won the war.