Blanketing mental illness has become a norm in some churches by saying it is a spiritual matter that needs to be healed by God. Difficulty with many pastors is the expectation and assumptions projected by caring for those in the church with mental illness. Many churches seem unwelcoming to those who suffer mental illness. Such perception may be fueled by the stories shared by persons who reported negative experiences. Many have left the church entirely after seeking help for a mental health condition—Job’s friends sought to support him in his grief and loss.
Many church leaders and attendees quickly assume that suffering associated with mental illness is a consequence of personal sin. They suggest that the persistence of illness is a consequence of insufficient faith or inadequate prayer life.
The Bible clearly equates self-control with spiritual maturity, but most mental health conditions can negatively impact executive functioning. The cognitive capacities through which we establish priorities, plan for the future, manage time, delay gratification, and exercise conscious control over our thoughts, words, and actions. Millions suffer from mental illness, and some of them are pastors who are broken from some tragic event and need some comforting words. Such brokenness reminds us that we live in a broken world and that is why the church needs to step to the plate. The church must become a hospital or refuge for those with mental illness to feel safe.
Congregations promise during baptism to do all in their power to love, support and encourage the person being adopted into God’s family. This covenant has no exceptions related to mental health or mental illnesses.
At the core of the Christian church, misunderstanding and mishandling of mental illness stems from the belief the root cause is sin. Most mental illness is not a demonic infestation, but an informality of the brain. The church needs to steer away from the belief that mental illness is demonic and treat it as a brain disorder.
Do not tell people not to take medication, but encourage them to take what can help them focus and leave the rest to God. God can heal, but sometimes he allows things to strengthen our relationship to Him. My personal life has seen many ups and downs due to mental illness.
Having ADHD and Learning Disability Syndrome, I struggled to get where I am now, but God has healed me to some extent, leaving me with scars. These scars can be used to reach out to those who struggle with mental illness. So don’t blanket mental illness in the church, but embrace it, helping those with it cope and live in recovery with the help of God.
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