mental-illness

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”

Matthew 25:45, NLT

The truth of the matter is that the Church can be the wrong place to have a mental illness. This is a generalization, I know. But many times it is true. We have a strong tendency to offer only token acknowledgement of “the least among us.” We will smile and nod, and, oh so quickly move away; we feel we’ve performed our ‘duty’ as a Christian. We are somewhat relieved to ‘get away’ and dodge the problem person.

Stereotypes abound for the mentally ill. Afterall, they can be demanding, unpredictable, and dangerous. The worst are those who are dirty, unkempt. They say things that are odd and out-of-place. Have weird delusions and paranoia. They move to the margins, and usually sit in the back. But as a general rule, the mentally ill get ignored.

“People with mental illness sometimes behave in ways other people don’t understand and can’t make sense of. People with severe depression sometimes stay in bed all day, unable to manage the most basic motivation to move. People with anxiety disorders can be gripped by irrational or even unidentifiable fears that don’t incapacitate other people. Those affected by psychotic disorders may see things that aren’t real, hear voices that don’t exist, and sometimes lose the ability to discern reality at all.”

Amy Wilson, Christianity Today, 4/10/13

Often, a believer must find valuable help outside ‘the four walls’ of the Church. Some resources are often found with wise psychiatrists and caring therapists in clinical care. Medications (which are a godsend) give the afflicted much relief. The local Church just don’t always have the resources but that is o.k. It isn’t their role exactly.

However, the Church of Jesus has the only ‘real corner’ of the spiritual side of things. The body of believers encourages, teaches and guides. Without it, the mentally ill Christian would be severely effected. The local church feeds us spiritually. It can’t be replaced. It has ‘the goods’ for discipleship. It has the Word of God and motivating worship. It has elders and other leaders who shepherd each believer, into a holy life. It provides fellowship which the believer with a mental illness must have.

It’s also a place of ministry: each one using his/her gift in the corporate body of the saints. This is vital. The broken believer has an opportunity to serve, which is such a factor in the walk of the disciple. We need them in our fellowships, and they need to be there too. God blesses those who will serve Him in this. Fellowship is critical for disabled believers.

As Jesus’ representatives in this present moment, we need to extend our hands. We may not fully understand the afflicted, but we can reach through the issues (ours and theirs) and administer the love of Jesus. We might pray that this scourge of mental illness be lifted out of our society.

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