Depression, Anxiety and the Church

Churches, we need a new approach to mental illness, or maybe not new, but a more Christlike approach to mental illness.

ED STETZER

Mental illness.

It can be hard to talk about. Hard to accept. Hard for some people to even acknowledge. As someone who suffers from mental illness, I know what it’s like to feel the stigma. To feel the hesitancy to bring the subject up because of not knowing how it will be received. To feel ashamed.

I’m starting a book called “Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About” by Ryan Casey Waller and it sounds like an interesting read.

Description

A pastor and licensed psychotherapist himself suffering from depression and anxiety takes on the relationship of mental health and faith while addressing the role of self-care, compassion, and restoration.

Everyone knows someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, or another form of mental illness, but a stigma around mental health remains–especially in the church. Ryan Casey Waller–pastor, therapist, and cosufferer–has experienced firsthand the jarring dissonance of wrestling with mental health while trying to maintain a vibrant Christian faith. It can be a discouraging, lonely battle. But it doesn’t have to be.

In this book, Waller emphasizes that mental health issues are not a symptom of a spiritual failing or insufficient faith; rather, suffering is the very thing our Savior seeks to heal as he leads us toward restoration. Combining practical theology, clinical insights, and deep compassion, Waller invites readers to see why we need conversations in the church about mental health and how to have them; discover why seeking knowledge about one’s self is critical to growing deeper in relationship with God; understand the basics of brain health, the intersection of biology and spirituality, and why emotional intelligence deserves more attention; learn practical steps such as how to find a therapist, distinguish between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and afford treatment; and become equipped to support loved ones with mental illness while promoting healthy self-care.”

Addressing our mental health is more complicated than addressing other aspects of our health, especially for Christians.

Ryan Casey Waller

Mental Illness versus Physical Illness

One thing that has always always, ALWAYS bothered me was the acceptance of physical illness but not mental illness. Yes, with a physical illness, you can see what’s going on. You can see how a person’s physical illness makes them feel.

But what about those illnesses that can’t be seen? The ones that are crammed inside the brain. What about the person suffering from depression but is too scared to talk to anyone in the church about it because she fears being judged. Or being told “You don’t have enough faith. Just pray harder and it will go away.” (that “advice” infuriates me.)

Some of us battle mental illness like others of us battle our cholesterol.

Ryan Casey Waller

The Stigma

There continues to be a high level of suspicion, distrust and even fear in the church when it comes to psychology and psychiatry.

Matthew Stanford

“Mental illness is a sign of weakness”

“Your mental illness is punishment for your sin.”

“Just pray it away.”

Whether a person suffers from bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, anxiety, depression etc…the church must come together and help fight the end of the stigma surrounding the church.

For the stigma of mental illness to be broken, there must be direct, transparent speech from Christian leaders. We need more open dialogue in the church.

Ed. Stetzer

Its Not a Lack of Faith Issue

I have suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for many years.  I was told by someone once that my faith was not strong enough and that’s why I was suffering. I’ll never forget that.

But it’s not a faith issue. What if what I had was physical? Diabetes, or cancer? We don’t question those illnesses so why is mental illness any different? According to Ed Stetzer,

We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It shouldn’t be treated any differently from a physical illness.

It’s called a mental illness for a reason….because it is an illness. Why can’t it be accepted like any other illness?

Unknown

The church must stop being afraid of tackling the subject of mental illness. It exists. Simple as that.

March 16th, 2003

priscilla-du-preez-607177-unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

March 16th, 2003 will forever be a special day for it is the day I let go and clung to Jesus and trusted in Him. Has it always been easy? No.

 

I was 19 when I became a Christian, despite having grown up in church. I went through life thinking I was saved, thinking I had it all together when in reality I was lost.

I basically had the head knowledge but none of it made its way into my heart.

I even attended a Bible College before I got saved. I honestly thought I was saved. Then I came home for spring break and we had an evangelist come and speak at our church.  He made a statement that has stayed with me all these years…..

You can be 99% sure (of your salvation) but you’re still 100% lost.

Basically, he was saying that it doesn’t matter how much head knowledge we have, if it hasn’t reached our hearts, we are still lost.

Do I doubt my salvation sometimes? Well, I’d be lying if I said no, that I never doubt it.  But Satan has a sneaky way of getting into my head and stirring up trouble. He whispers in my ear that I’m not good enough, that God doesn’t really love me, that I’m not really saved.

God is always with us even when it feels He is not. He doesn’t walk away from us, we walk away from Him.

I’ve been struggling lately but I’m slowly getting back on track. I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers.

I haven’t been writing lately but like my relationship with God, I’m slowly getting back into it.

I really do want to write a book but I’ve been neglecting it. Who knows how long it will take for me to get through the whole process but if it takes me years then so be it.


Prevail Church is taking off! We have been having a steady number of people week after week! Pastor Jonathan began a new series last week, entitled “My Story.” Here is the first sermon from that series!