First, I’ll be honest… I don’t like the phrase “mental illness.” But, I don’t know what else to use. I’m talking about emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. (If you know of a better phrase to use, please tell me.)
Yesterday, I published a fairly short post called “The church is talking about mental illness, but are we listening?” The point of that post was a simple one: While the church is talking about mental illness right now because of the tragedy in the family of a celebrity Christian, we need to be listening to those who have mental illnesses.
Yes, we can learn more about mental illnesses by listening to the people who struggle wit them. But, even more important, we can learn more about ourselves and about God by listening to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including those who struggle with these kinds of issues.
I was extremely encouraged by the response to that post. I want to share some of those responses with you. These responses were left in the comments on that blog post:
Robert wrote: “What we need is people who have been there and out the other side to find their life redeemed to be ministers to those who need to know ‘It doesn’t have to end this way.'”
Liz wrote: “We need fewer people who pat us on the shoulder and tell us we need more faith. Maybe we do, but unless you’ve been there and out the other side, just do as Alan says. Listen to them and pray with and for them. Please.”
Tom wrote: “The single most important thing I think I have ever done for anyone is be there. To simply be present, engaged, encouraging and part of someones life, to love them as friends has been the highest calling of my life.”
Randi wrote: “Listening… being there… removing shame with love… referring to resources… prayer… that’s what I would picture Love doing for those who are battling this illness.”
Dan wrote: “See, listening is great. But there’s something that has to happen before listening; and that’s just showing up. Getting someone, anyone, to show up in person to be there for mentally ill people or their families is 80% of the battle.”
John wrote: “We have looked down upon people who deal with mental illness, as if they are ‘less than’, or as if we are so much more spiritually mature. To some degree, we expect them to somehow snap out of it and move on with their lives.”
And, here are a couple of responses from Twitter:
@morethanpepper wrote: “26 years as a christian with depression been quite the road”
@ReagonGood wrote: “31 yrs of depression it never goes away it plagues your mind its a day to day process you learn to cope or you may die trying”
I want to especially thank my friends who struggle with these issues and who contacted me privately. I appreciate and love each one of you.