Weary and Burdened: Mental Illness and the Church

Stained glass in St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
Jesus as depicted in stained glass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC. My Jesus loves everyone. Everyone is precious in his sight.

Meet Joe.

Joe is a Christian who struggles to keep his blood pressure under control. Following his doctor’s advice and having the support of his family, he manages to healthy. He keeps encouraged by those who love him, and that makes all the difference.

Meet Sarah.

Also a Christian, she is a survivor of breast cancer. She has suffered through a double mastectomy and many chemo treatments, and is currently in remission. She surrounds herself with people who love her to stay in a positive mindset, and has the admiration of the community for the brave fight she has waged.

And Sam.

Sam’s  diabetes demands constant care. The dietary and medical choices he makes impact his life every day. Sam is very open with others about his condition, as he depends on their support and his own healthy choices to keep him going.

Joe, and Sarah, and Sam. They each battle a disease. Each need a place to rest, as rest is essential to wellness.

In this life, we will have trouble. If God’s own son was not spared suffering, we will surely not be either. Health challenges are simply a part of life.

Now meet Amy.

Amy is a follower of Jesus Christ who suffers from mental illness. Perhaps you know Amy – or someone like her. We all do.

Maybe she cuts herself. She might even have visual and auditory hallucinations.

Perhaps depression weighs her down, making even the most mundane survival tasks difficult.

She could have anxiety, the dreaded foot race between her worrisome thoughts and the beats of her heart.

She may have crippling compulsive behaviors, making her a social outcast.

Her moods may soar to the top of the stratosphere – beyond logical control – and then crash and splinter in too many pieces for her to put back together.

Her emotions may be too wild for her will to handle.

She might rage or isolate, with the same outcome: shame.

Amy is just as sick – but no sicker – than others with chronic diseases to be managed, but that makes some people feel uncomfortable. So she hides, even from her own church. She knows there are others who struggle with issues like hers, but she is wary to share her story with them.

She depends on Christ to help her through each day, but desperately needs other Christ followers to walk with her.

Christians struggle with mental illness, too.

A brain that does not regulate serotonin levels is – spiritually speaking – no different from a pancreas that does not regulate insulin. The biological propensity toward addiction and alcoholism should carry no more stigma than having genes that could carry cancer.

High blood pressure can be managed and so can mental health. And having a mental illness has nothing to do with having a relationship with Christ because that relationship is simply, not “all in one’s head.”  It is all in one’s heart.

The church is the first place that the mentally ill should seek to stay encouraged, become surrounded with love, and depend on the support of one another.

To bear our own crosses while we help others keep from collapsing under the weight of their own.

To manage the pain of life and all the challenges it doles out.

To combat the stigma of mental illness, and nurture the brave ones coping with it every day.

To stay encouraged by those who love us, which makes all the difference. To have a safe place to find rest.

Joe, and Sarah, and Sam. They each battle a disease. And so does Amy.

It takes a village to build one another up, yes – but it also takes a church.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus. (John 16:33, NIV)

 

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7 thoughts on “Weary and Burdened: Mental Illness and the Church

  1. Jana, this message needs to be in every church bulletin. I think mental disorders scare us, so we ignore, discount, and shame ourselves for having them. We say “I should,” instead of I care and I understand. I love your heart for this. Keep sharing.

  2. Thank you, sweet Kim. I battle depression and anxiety (and addiction, obviously) myself, and know countless other people who live with other mental disorders. They are valiant fighters and deserve so much respect.( I love your heart too, by the way.)

  3. Oh no, not in church! Christians aren’t allowed to have disease or be ill. As long as we have Jesus in our life we shouldn’t have any kind of mental illness or any kind of health issues, or I wiil go as far as saying even having financial, or marriage issues. I agree as fellow believers we should always be available for others that may need some help or encouragement. All things work together for good! It doesn’t say that all things will be good for those who serve the Lord. It says ALL things, the good, the bad, the ugly, the mental illness, the high blood pressure, the diabetes and anything else life decides to throw at us. We as christians must be willing to show our love and support during those times. Jana, thank you so much for just being you and being so open and transparent. I know with your honesty you have and will reach people that need to hear your words of encouragement.
    ps: sorry for the rant.

  4. Beautifully said, Barbara! And ranting is welcome (thank God it is, that’s basically what this whole blog is ;)) ALL things indeed work to the good, but “all things” are not EASY, that’s for sure. Love to you!

  5. Dana bless your honesty.
    Many of us who walked into an AA room in time found that drinking to excess brought us to our knees. It also covered other diseases. The term dual diagnosis is basically what psychiatrists call this. In many cases we drank to cover up another disease of some type of depression. It could be OCD, bipolar, depression, and these diseases never manifested until sobriety set in for a number ofonyhs or years.
    So we are still drunks, just understand our sobriety might mean being on medication for life to treat the other disease.
    If I am describing anyone, God bless you. You are fine are are just as welcome in those rooms as the next person.
    Stevie

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