By Corey Bullock – Ahwatukee Campus Pastor
Over the past 3 weeks my phone, email and text have been hit especially hard with cries of help on the other end. The diagnoses are different but the despair is the same. Each person battling thoughts of inadequacies and each needing confirmation of life itself. For anyone who has walked through depression at any level you will understand that the joy, hope and peace that is so readily realized on the sunny side of life escapes the grasp of those struggling with a mental illness. Certainly joy, hope and peace are not withheld and are in fact readily available, but they are eclipsed by lies and shrouded by emotion. The result is intrinsic self-centeredness.
Now before you go thinking that I’m condemning those who combat mental illness you need to know that I am certainly no expert, but I am also not a stranger to this disease. I am not saying that a person is depressed because they are selfish. What I am saying is that a person who is depressed becomes more and more self-consumed because it is the nature of the disease. The further in the go the less they can see hope because it is outside of them. Unfortunately, the facts tell us that this disease is growing rapidly among us.
About 11.4 million adult Americans suffered from severe mental illness in the past year and 8.7 million adults contemplated serious thoughts of suicide. Among them, more than 2 million made suicide plans and about 1 million attempted suicide. – ABCnews Health Blog
Sometimes people assume that a personal who has a mental illness is just weak in their mind or their will, but I have found the opposite to be true in many cases. You and I wake up in the morning and struggle with whether or not we should work out today. They wake up in the morning and struggle with whether or not they should live. Over and over again they combat these feelings, emotions, and lies and time and again they persevere to survive another day. Did you have to “survive” today? Then you tell me who is stronger.
Our role is not to condemn, but rather shed light and the only way we can shed light is to be present in ones darkness. One of Robin Williams’ less notable movies was called “What Dreams May Come”. I personally didn’t like this movie and could not understand why Williams would leave the realm of paradise to join his wife in the torment of hell. However, reflecting on this further, is this not what Jesus himself did for us and is it not what he instructs us to do when he tells us to “weep with those who weep”? I have learned that it is not enough to simply care about a person who is struggling with mental illness. You have to enter their personal hell to help them find their way out of it. The plain truth of the matter is that most of us just aren’t willing to love someone that much. Often times I am one of the “us”.
There is no magical pill, but there is help and there is hope. Most mental illness is treatable, but we have to create a safe place for those who battle. Unfortunately, the church is one of the worst offenders and the quickest to cast judgment. We must instead be willing to walk alongside through the valley of the shadow of death all the while shouldering the burden because these guys are worn out from the mental warfare. We must lovingly remind them of truth and help them seek the medical attention they need to bring holistic healing. We must help them take hold of the “peace that surpasses all understanding which will guard their hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus.” We must painstakingly endure their hell while the Lord restores their joy. It’s time to be the church.