Over the past few days the world has been exposed to a surprising reality; the church is also seeing it's reality shift. No longer can we hide behind the idea that because we are Believers, because we are Christians, we can't and don't suffer from such strangling mental illnesses like depression. I believe the world sees us and thinks we "have it all together" that we're "perfect" or perhaps even immune to the darkness they may feel. And we are perceived this way because we continue to put some of those images forward for all to see. We don't talk about the struggles we face, the depression we feel, the hopelessness that can consume our days. Yes, we have a hope that is greater. A hope of a life that will no longer be subject to the darkness and depression, to the hurt and fear of this world. But that is a future life, a life beyond this one. It is something to look forward to.
What about right now? Mental illness is not something that only affects those who don't believe in Jesus, it affects us all. Whether you've been a Christian since you were 5 years old, or have only recently come to know him at 80, no one is exempt. The problem is, no one wants to talk about such things. There is such a stigma associated with mental illness, even one as "minor" as depression (Trust me, depression is no minor illness, but I believe most people would describe it as such in comparison to illnesses like Schizophrenia. All are serious, none are minor.) that no one wants to admit they struggle with it. It has been my experience that this is even more true within the Christian church. It is thought that if we have enough faith and trust in God we wouldn't be struggling like we do. Or at least we shouldn't be. I've even heard pastors belittle and degrade psychology from the pulpit. Granted, by itself, psychology can only benefit so much. But I think that's the wrong attitude and approach to someone in need; and yet that approach has so permeated the church that instead of seeking help from those who should love them most, people hide, often not seeking any help at all. It becomes an embarrassment, a shame that they must live with along with the illness. Now, I don't think everyone needs to know all of our business, but there should be someone or even a group of someones who can share in our burdens. Who can walk with us through the struggles, providing counsel, prayer, and support. Someone who can assure us that we are not loved less by God or others simply because we are trying to cope with an illness. Ann Voskamp likens depression to cancer, they're both illnesses, and both deadly. Why is it we're so ready as a church to cry out for healing, while still encouraging the seeking of necessary medical care, for one but not the other?
In the wake of the death of a beloved son, brother, friend, and believer, I have seen more Christians stepping forward and speaking out about their own struggles. The international awareness of this loss has brought a once hidden truth to light. The world is now becoming more awakened to the reality that even Christians suffer, and not just in persecution form. I believe the church is being called to be more, to be the Church, more so than ever. There are churches who are already acting as the Church, who provide the support and care for those struggling with more than just physical illnesses. Pray that others will follow. We're all being called to put aside the stigmas. To lay down our preconceived notions of what it means for a Christian to have a mental illness. To be the Body.
Let's be a light to the world following after the Light of the World, exposing the darkness, dispelling the shame, and bringing truth to a world very much in need.