As I have been walking through this valley over the last month, there are a few observations that I have discerned.
- God’s church is alive and well. Contrary to popular opinion, His people care and can put aside differences when necessary.
- It’s sad how many believers struggle with severe anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorders. Many of these believers suffer silently because of the stigma that we have placed upon it. I recently received a message of prayer for Kierstin from an amazingly faithful missionary. A missionary that would put most of us to shame with her walk with God and fruitfulness in His service. This dear lady expressed to me that she has been taking medication for the last year due to anxiety and depression. She also shared with me that she couldn’t share it with many people for fear of retribution from some of her supporting churches that would condemn such a use of medication as a lack of faith.
- There are many good people that mistakenly have adopted an either God or medicine and counseling mentality. I think this has been hoisted upon them by good intentioned but poor teaching. It borders on the false doctrine of Christian Science. These people are looking for the magic faith pill to put them over. I knew a bi-polar man once that thought he was doing well with Philippians 4 as his “medication”. The fact was that his faith, while real and true was not healing his mental illness and everyone but he saw it. Because of this he lost just about everything. Our faith is not what heals or restores us, it is God that does or does not and he will at times say NO and lead us to seek medical help. I recently heard that in one of our small groups a woman rejected any kind of attempt at postpartum relief was a lack of faith, or that the symptoms of this postpartum was God trying to get their attention. What trite garbage.
- I think that there are pastors that could benefit from some professional counseling instead of going it alone. I have seen some pastors that very likely suffer from some form or mental illness but believe that if they seek help it will signify a lack of faith. This is heartbreaking, because they suffer and at times may even take it out on their families or flocks. They are faithful men and have endured so much and need to be ministered to, but stubbornly or fearfully refuse to seek help.
So what’s the point? It’s time to move on from these destructive ideas and positions. There are many good doctors and even godly counselors that we might avail ourselves to. As pastors, we had best check ourselves when we renounce mental illness as a lack of faith or even say such things as “there may be a time for that kind of help, but few really need it…”.
Let’s care for the flock responsibly and tenderly and recognize that not everything we encounter in the flock is sin, some and maybe even much in the area of mental illness simply is not.