I know some here will not understand, and I don’t expect anyone to. I have suffered mental illness virtually all my adult life. According to the doctors I have two different disorders, a depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder. It is extremely difficult to live life under these circumstances.
However, this article is not about me and I seek no sympathy. I seek only to foster understanding in Christ’s church about the multitudes of people who are battered and bruised like me. People who’ve been wounded at the hands of those who were supposed to care for their soul. Some of them feel they are not worth anything, so why go to church? They feel they have nothing to offer anyone. And in many cases, that’s true. They have been so depleted of spiritual hope that they just fade into nothingness.
They already feel worthless, so why go to a place where they’re going to be told they’re not doing enough, that God is mad at them, they’re not praying or reading their bible enough and various other things that can take a depressed person into a very dark and dangerous place?
I used to think it was just mentally ill people the church had difficulty with. But what I realized is that this same condition applies to others who do not suffer from mental illness as well. You don’t have to mentally ill to be emotionally and spiritually depleted. Because of things that have happened to them in the church, some no longer feel safe there. We have all been wounded by sin. It’s the human condition. But not all who wander are lost…
How sad it is that many followers of the One who says, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest,” find it so hard to come to Him because of their experiences in church. More than sad, it’s an indictment of the corporate model most of the Western church has become.
Those with mental illness often have special difficulties.
Mentally ill people are actually harmed by church when church is done in this way. For me, the constant reiterating of God’s desire to punish and judge drives me further into despair. Then the anxiety takes over and I am scared of God. This isn’t the good “fear of the Lord” I’m talking about but literal terror imagining my own death and destruction that might come to me or my family.
I remember a fellow who went to our church back when we were still attending. This man was an extreme depressive. I remember people literally trying to get away from this poor soul, when what he really needed was folks to come around him and just be with him. Yes, it’s hard to listen to a depressed person’s view of things because it’s skewed negatively due to the depression. But it’s our calling to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 ESV
I don’t really have any answers, except to say that God’s grace must be enough. In my weakness, He is made strong. I don’t understand this, but it’s true.
I will end by proclaiming God’s grace. His grace is so wonderful it would almost seem to be ridiculous, were it not so holy. It is by that grace that I stand, wounded and bleeding, but still standing. Some might say if I’m not going to church, I’m not standing. “But which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 2:12 ESV
I am working toward the day when I can return to church and both find and give solace there.
I urge any of you who are weary and heavy laden to stand in God’s grace.
Realize He’s not mad at you. Your wounds are great and painful, and He understands your pain. But His grace is able to make you stand as well. Don’t allow despair to take away the only comfort you have.
Trust in His grace.