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.
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.
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)