Shortly before Dr. Grcevich’s book Mental Health and the Church was published, we asked our readers to share their experiences, both good and bad, about mental health needs and church support. We continue to get responses, and want to share a few that we have received since we made our initial request, for the insight that churches and ministries can glean from the experiences of others.
I’d never wish the darkness of mental illness on anyone, but if it wasn’t for anorexia, bulimia, anxiety and depression, I don’t know if I would be a Christian today. There seems to be a pattern common to many Christ-followers who also live with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. Here’s how I now characterize the five stages in my relationship with Christ, and the spiritual growth He worked through each stage to the next.
No one wants to think of themselves or their family as dysfunctional. And the mental image associated with the term special needs most definitely does not fit. Special needs seems like a suit that was tailored for someone else. But there are no other health conditions for which there are such lengthy delays in diagnosis and treatment solely because of denial. Ditching the camouflage that covers your minimized mental illness might be the best wardrobe decision you ever make.
Whenever a group or congregation is talking about mental illness, there is a tendency to want to help the helpless. We are the powerful ones who can make a difference. As a result of my years of counseling, I saw myself as weak. But over the last year or so, the language I use about my ability has changed. I am no longer weak. I am resilient, remarkably resilient.
When I think about the scripture that exhorts Christ-followers to number our days correctly, I kind of get the meaning backwards. I think about things from a natural human perspective, when what I really need is God’s perspective. The verse isn’t so much about the volume of what I accomplish, but the quality and the purposefulness of what I do. It’s also what I let ministry do to change me. Without anyone reminding me, do I actually see the personal dignity of every person?
What do you think happens to a teenager when one of the main authority figures in his life lets him know in no uncertain terms, without words, that he doesn’t matter to your church environment? God offers us all incredible love and grace, but as His followers we have the responsibility to love others with both truth and grace, even when we don’t understand what we’re seeing.