Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. ~ II Corinthians 1:3-4
For those who identify as Christian and seek to live according God’s principles and statutes why do we find it so difficult to be vulnerable? Christians have a tendency to withhold sharing significant struggles with their mental health or difficulty trying to manage a close family members mental health needs. When is the last time you had a conversation in small group about the depression symptoms that kept you home from work or the panic attack that landed your family member in the ER last night? Better yet, when have you known someone in the congregation to openly share their struggle with suicidal thoughts, self-harming urges, or that they hear voices?
It is time for the church to begin to educate themselves on the different psychological and mental struggles that are epidemic in our culture and yes, in our churches. We must break down the barriers such as shame and judgement. The church is called to minister to those who are hurting and burdened, but it is difficult to empathize or offer encouragement on what we don’t understand. Member often fear judgement. Some believe nobody understands them, especially since being told to “just pray about it” which reinforces feeling misunderstood.
This is tragic and counter to what Christ commissioned the church to be. The stigma associated with mental illness or mental disorders creates such discomfort that people in the church present only what they want others to think about them, which is that they are capable of managing life stresses. Nothing to see here!! As a result, church members take their mental health struggles and vulnerability outside the church. They keep their mental wellness separate from their church life. This too is tragic! So who is tending the flock outside the church? What counsel is being provided? The church (members of the body of Christ) must be available to meet the needs of its congregation. Psalm 1:1 reads, “ Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.”