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)

 

Save

11 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.

    Like

  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.)

    Like

  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.

    Like

  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!

    Like

  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

    Like

  6. So true. The problem is I am my own worst enemy. I was writing a book about overcoming depression without medicine and faith in Christ. Then I relapsed and had a Bipolar manic episode. Since I experienced a dellusion at the ER, I was state mandated into a psychiatric treatment facility for a month. At first, I refused to take the meds and they wouldn’t let me out until I did. Those places are the pits and not very helpful. For a second, I really did think I was in hell. I’m having a hard time writing anything now. One, because I’m always thinking who wants to read me whining about my life anyway. Two, my success story about my recovery from PTSD and depression just got blown out of the water when I relapsed. I know you say you aren’t ashamed about experiencing mental illness, and I feel the same way towards other sufferers. Just not myself. How do you talk about mental illness in a positive light when your in the middle of the storm? How do you share your testimony when you aren’t living in positivity. I love Christ, but my faith has taken a dump over this last manic episode. I’m still hoping to sweep all this under the carpet because some people are so unkind to people struggling with these disorders. I would like a job and advertising your Bipolar or depressed isn’t a surefire way to get hired. So I have kind of disappeared inside myself. Funny thing…even inside the psychiatric facility there were people targeting and bullying other people for “being crazy.” It’s like they instituted this cast system for levels of craziness. Depression, PTSD, addiction, then Bipolar and Schizophrenia. That is the height of irony. No one would be in there if they didn’t have an issue themselves. Thanks for sharing. I was fine sharing my struggles with depression but this Bipolar thing has got me stumped. I feel like a shell of my former self now, and sadly, I have dropped out of church. I really don’t care to talk to anyone because I just feel shame now. I know I shouldn’t but I do.

    Like

  7. Oh, Melissa. First of all, EVERYBODY is ‘crazy’ to some degree – of that I am certain. And it’s ok. Your comment struck such a chord with me! I would TOTALLY read your story, from exactly the perspective you speak from right now. Because Christ is doing a work in you; it just know it. What do you do to share your testimony when you are in a dark place? Exactly what you are doing. Just do it anyway. I personally believe medical intervention is often the hands and feet of Jesus. You would have to pry my Prozac from my cold, dead hands, because even WITH it, my serotonin levels are abysmal. So that’s chemical. And it sounds like what you are going through is chemical. No shame, sweet friend. NONE. It adds so much insult to injury, yet it is still my default sometimes. It’s SO HARD doggypaddling in the midst of new diagnoses and all the brain fog and self doubt that goes alongside it. Don’t let those within the caste system bully you. Remember that what you are going through will someday change someone else’s whole life, precisely because you were honest about where you are and how you feel. II understand disappearing inside yourself. Lord yes. I say that my brain is a scary neighborhood, and it is, BUT Jesus also lives in me – in my mental squalor. He is a real hands-on, raw and loving guy; I know it feels like you’ve been abandoned when you are struggling so, but oh how he loves you! I actually think he is especially fond of us because we are attuned to the spiritual realm in a way others may not be. I cannot explain it, but I just know he understands. I also know what it feels like to be a shell of your former self, but I promise you that you are STILL whole and perfect in the eyes of your Creator. You write BEAUTIFULLY! Keep doing that. Keep doing you. If you can find a church where you are accepted, dig in and let them love you. We are prone to isolation because of the shame. Law, the last thing I want to do when I’m struggling is go to a meeting or see other people. Or talk to other people. Its just too people-y out there! But it really can help draw us up out of ourselves. I’m praying for you and pulling for you! Thank you so much for your readership, by the way. God bless ❤

    Like

  8. Thank you Jana. It is so good to talk to other people struggling with the same thing and sharing openly. You inspired me to take my former blog posts out of hidden status. You can check them out at https://setmycaptivesfree.wordpress.com/. I recently hide them because I’m looking for a job. I don’t think most employers are very understanding of mental illness. Actually I don’t think a lot of people are understanding about it. My friends and family certainty have been, but I’m really fighting the stigma currently within myself and others. I agree with you: I think everyone is a little bit crazy even if they don’t admit it. I’m tired of hiding it under the rug and I’m hoping to interact with others on WordPress again.

    Like

I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s