Jul 272016
 

mental-health1-300x187I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church.

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.

  102 Responses to “Cash: Why I Stay Home On Sunday”

  1. Cash,

    Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your situation here. Please continue to trust in Christ and his grace and promises. He will bring them to fruition for you.

  2. Cash, you are loved. I hope that truth settles deeply into your heart, because it is true.

    Thank you for sharing with us. I want to learn to be more sensitive to the needs of my brethren around me, to have greater empathy. Your words have helped in that, and brought a tear to my eye as well. Again I thank you, my fellow Christian.

  3. Cash has been a friend to me and of the blog for many,many, years now…very happy that he wrote this for us all.
    Mental illness touches so many homes, so many ways… we need to make our churches safe spaces for those suffering and those who love them.

  4. I was actually talking about a similar subject elsewhere just a few minutes ago. I’ve definitely had some depressive stages in my life, though I don’t think it’s anything that would rise to the level of a diagnosis (at least a justified one). I have a similar experience with church though. Probably 9 out of 10 times that I attempt to go to a worship service I leave feeling depleted, and end up in a funk for multiple hours afterward.

    I would love to expand on the community of believers that I associate with, but the church thing is just too much for me now.

    Thanks for sharing this Cash.

  5. I never get through a week without a serious encounter with diagnosable mental disorders and illnesses being present in the pastoral care. I try to educate my pastors and leaders incessantly and persistently.

    A man asked me about the biggest change in ministry I have seen in 40 years. I instantly opined that unless a pastoral has a functional knowledge of dealing with mental illness he will be destroyed and he will damage lives.

    Even being alert and aware does not stop the problem. Sometimes we have to insist that behaviors be curbed and thus… “why I stay home.” We do our best to make room for people when we discover the problems but of course we do not always accomplish it.

    So our staff keeps a lifeline to counselors, we train lay ministers to pray with and for people without making things worse by spiritual mumbo jumbo. We are a charismatic church and so often charismatic people identify everything as having some discernible spiritual causation. Slowly I have insisted the people parse things with more patience.

    I suffer my own depressive disorders and am open about it in the church even telling them when I am in a bad spot and owning the fact that medication is always viable.

    I often think churches get judged much more unfairly than other groups of people. Somehow people think churches are not made up of the same crowd as their other social organizations. We all know better really but our senses don’t connect it. It seems to me that we dissociate from churches quicker than from other social groups because of the expectations.

    Of course I am a vested insider to church life.

    We definitely feel we have a mission to understand and treat mental illness with more care than historically has been evident. When your own life has been filled with suicidal seasons you have to listen with better care to a sighing world.

    Enough from me

  6. BD, Dallas…

    Glad you both spoke up.

    This is a difficult subject and the more we address it, the better we all can be.

  7. For me, it is kind of like in the movie Fight Club, once you find out about those little splices of Brad Pitt that pop up early in the movie, they are impossible not to see. There are certain things about the way that many (if not most) churches and church services work that now that I know them, I can’t not see them.

    I now actively avoid YouTube videos on how sausage is made.

  8. Thanks to you all for your encouraging words. Thank you again, Michael, for the opportunity. BD, thanks for your input. It is good for me to hear from a pastor regarding this subject. I thank God that you are one who is educated and doing your best to educate your staff and lay ministers regarding these illnesses so many struggle with.

  9. Cash, this corporate sin couldn’t have been stated more graciously or clearly than you’ve posted here today – IMHO
    “you don’t belong here” … how terrible it will be to stand before our Lord and have Him ask, “why did you say that to, or think that of, a brother?”

    Babylon’s Dread is clearly called of God to minister to the Church

  10. Thank you all for sharing with us. We are all wounded and limping, but Jesus has won the battle and in Hime we are safe. Let us support one another and encourage one another in His way and to His glory.

  11. Cash has a gift for communicating a difficult topic so as to make it understandable for those who haven’t been where he is before. He also connects with those who are in the midst of mental anguish for any number of reasons and offers hope. Thanks for your words.

  12. One thing that can be helpful to those suffering from depression is to try not to stigmatize the condition more than it needs to be. Someday I may share my more of my experience on this blog but at this point, Michael has not been too receptive to me and it would do more harm than good. Although clinical depression is diagnosed as an “illness”, healing can come from turning the perspective around and to focus on mental “health” and not mental “illness” solely. What I liked about Cash’s article is that he mentioned you don’t have to be mentally ill to be spiritually and emotionally depleted. This is exactly true. In addition, it goes the other way as well, although I certainly understand the difficulty, is that folks can make mentally “healthy” choices even if they have a clinical “illness” diagnosis. Cash, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make it to church. Do the best you can to make the healthiest choices you can and leave the results to God. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  13. There is a great need for churches to have visitation pastors / elders who can visit those who cannot make it to church – to just check up on the person’s spiritual needs, perhaps to remind the person of the gospel, offer a time of confession / absolution, prayer and the Lord’s Supper.

  14. Cash…

    I’m sure you already know this, but I’m saying it anyway…… this topic is SO important, and many are the churches that need better knowledge and training in this department!!

    My wife also has two separate diagnoses, bi-polar and anxiety/depressive disorder. She has struggled for decades, and it’s only been in the past few years that she has been able to begin to socialize “normally”, and that really takes a toll on her when she does. It’s only been in the past couple years or so that she has been able to regularly attend church, and afterwards she needs quiet and calm for the rest of the day.
    Our pastor has been wonderful with this. I can’t say the same for a lot of the congregation. Some of them don’t understand that it can’t just be prayed away. Some of them won’t go near her for fear of “what might happen” .

    Thank you for putting the message of grace out there. It needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops, not only to the depressed and mentally ill who aren’t finding it in the one place that should be offering it, but to a lot of the ignorant congregants who need to learn to apply it.

  15. MLD,

    Excellent point…that would be very helpful, I would think.

  16. Owen,

    Well said…thank you.

  17. BD #5…

    In agreement with what others have said here, it’s good and refreshing to hear a pastor bringing about education in the church for this. So many churches just won’t talk about it, and that just slams the door on someone looking for help with these burdens.

    Michael – thanks for hosting this message.

  18. Thank you Cash. I struggle with anxiety as well. This anxiety affects my relationship with God and His church at times. There are times when church is the last place I want to be.

    “Don’t allow despair to take away the only comfort you have.”

    This is very encouraging, indeed.

  19. MLD #13..

    Our pastor does visits regularly ( we have quite a few shut-ins), and at times does solicit the help of the elders as well. I agree, it’s a much needed ministry. I would even go so far as to suggest a group of several congregants that have a heart for this kind of ministry to form regular visitation rounds. The support is badly needed.

  20. Good stuff Cash. As you know, you don’t need to go to church to know Jesus and love Jesus.

    The Ecclesia is not the church building or the memberships etc. The Spirit of Jesus lives and moves and breaths all around us and when you “Love your neighbor” and when you love God/Jesus you are in church.

  21. On a practical note with your health issues: Have you tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

    The Mind is powerful and you can retrain it and overcome your issues. It’s like PT (physical training) if you are intentional about CBT every day, you can retrain your Mind, it works. It works remarkably well. There is nothing you cannot overcome.

  22. E Runner–you also gave me an opportunity to share on your blog many moons ago. Thanks for always encouraging me in my writing. You’re a good friend.

  23. Cash….you have a place at my dinner table.My youngest brother suffers with mental illness…2 churches gave him the God block as he calls it.

  24. I would like to respond to each of you personally. It takes me a while to get through all the comments. So I will be commenting here and there. 😉
    Andrew, I completely agree with you about the stigma of mental illness and that stigma is a large reason people don’t always understand. It’s been my experience that stigma is borne of ignorance, so the more we shine the light on these and other issues, the better. I also like your idea of focusing on mental health instead of always the illness.

  25. Owen, your wife is a courageous lady. I haven’t been able to get to that point yet but as I said in the post, that is my goal. You are setting a good example of a Christian husband loving her just as she is. Thanks for that.

  26. Thank you Cash for the bravery of this article, anyone thinking I’m blowing smoke at you, hasn’t suffered like us with this illness(es) like us to know. Also, I doubt I’ll ever publicly discuss my issues.
    I too have suffered and will continue to, but have found little to no care or concern in “the church” and DEFINITELY not by some here.
    Oh sure there’s the patriotic dribble people spout, but when confronted with a combat vet who lives with things they can’t understand (no, your movie doesn’t count), I see their true hearts.
    Thank God I’ve found resources outside the church (Wayne Jacobsen) who care, and ironically understand and practice free speech with me, allowing me to think for myself, and not have tantrums when we don’t agree.
    Finally, I too have found comfort listening to Cash!
    : )
    Oh, finally I’ve found (again outside the church, but a believer) counseling which is helping immensely. Though many don’t care if I live or die, I found a few who do.

  27. The Ecclesia is not the church building or the memberships etc. The Spirit of Jesus lives and moves and breaths all around us and when you “Love your neighbor” and when you love God/Jesus you are in church.
    —————————————————————————–
    Al, you hit the nail on the head with that. Honestly, this blog has been my “church” for a long time. It’s a place I can go to find true believers who are working out their own salvation and they encourage me to do the same. As to your question, I do practice cognitive behavioral therapy and it is a very successful treatment of depression and anxiety.

  28. UnCCed,

    I can hear the pain of rejection in your voice. I do know your experience and it is unlike anything civilians can comprehend. I’m glad you’ve found a counselor you trust and feel comfortable with. Hang in by His grace. Anytime you want to talk about your experience, I’d be happy to talk with you about it.
    mikey2008@comcast.net

  29. Cash, thank you. I think she is, too! 🙂 You seem pretty brave yourself.

    I really like the graphic you used at the top, pretty much defines the feeling.

    Another therapy that has been helpful to us (see link below)…..

    http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

    …..although one has to be ready for it, as one has to be ready to start digging up painful things….

  30. Owen, I can’t take credit for that graphic.lol. That was Michael. Very good graphic I agree.

  31. There are many subjects here that I will not comment on here because I have little to no practical experience with them. But this is not one of them. Mental illness runs in my family. I have a grandmother that I never met who was in a mental institution all of my life. The family did not even attend her funeral. My mother has had multiple nervous breakdowns in her life. When her mother died she broke permanently, in spite being a very serious Christian. She is in a home, frail, and rarely says a word to anyone. My father was a very angry man and a heavy drinker who died from complications from liver damage. My family history looks more dysfunctional than the average soap opera extreme fiction written for television. And to top it off, I have had to deal with a boat load of issues myself.
    However, this is not the end of the story. I chose the path of discipleship when I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die, but was too much of a coward to attempt suicide. At that point I had nothing to lose. Luke said that Jesus started his ministry with these words: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” I took these words to heart and set out to seek God and to get delivered from the anxiety and depression that was oppressing me. The process took years, but it worked. My life has been radically changed. It was not easy. I still live with many side effects. But my personal testimony is one of the transforming power of God. In my personal relationship with Jesus, I have found that these words He spoke are certainly true. He has come to set us free in our inner man from fear, spiritual blindness and oppression. This is an important part of my story: to give testimony to the power of God. I have even written a book about it. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. To really know Him is to have that peace inside of us.
    Unfortunately, from what I have read 70 percent of pastors in our country have great anxiety. To be honest, I call these the practical blind leading the blind. How can a leader faithfully represent the Prince of Peace if his own heart is full of anxiety? So I am not surprised when I hear about many wounded sheep. The church has not always been helpful. I once had a pastor of mine state that I “deserved to be out on the street” when I was in the midst of a great crisis. He had no idea what I was going through. But I have forgiven him and went on with life. God keeps putting people in my life who have been diagnosed with severe mental disorders. One has been a close friend and even a disciple of mine. He has Scrupulosity along with others and so I can sympathize with those who are confused and troubled by preaching. I went though a period where I too did not want to hear more sermons when I needed practical help to pick up the broken pieces of my life. I have done all I can to help this man to get free.
    So Cash, Andrew and any others who are out there struggling, I can relate, I can sympathize and I have learned how to overcome these things in my life. I have free time. I have these things in my rear view mirror. If you need help or just someone to talk to, I am available. I would love to participate in Jesus’ ministry of healing the broken-hearted. I invite you to contact me. Michael has my email address. This blog is not really the place for this kind of intimate conversation. Otherwise I will be praying for you.

  32. Most Christians struggle with some form of mental illness or another… FACT!

  33. Well done Cash!

  34. “How can a leader faithfully represent the Prince of Peace if his own heart is full of anxiety?”

    Mr. J, you can’t be serious.

  35. “How can a leader faithfully represent the Prince of Peace if his own heart is full of anxiety? ”

    Better than most because he can identify with his flock.

    Broken person leading other broken people to the One who heals…

  36. Joel beat me to Mr. J

    Mr. J is obviously misunderstanding the difference between the man and the office. The pastor is just one of the guys who has been called – same issues as anyone else and it works just fine because the pastor is dispensing Jesus and his good gifts to the people – he is not dispensing himself and his heart full of anxiety.

  37. #33 Thanks, London. 🙂

  38. My favorite pastor growing up, the one that baptized me and preached the Gospel to me each week was hospitalized with depression in latter part of his life, while he was still a pastor. The older I get the more I understand that this brokenness is what made him such a good shepherd.

  39. Mr J,

    Do you not think that Jesus gets depressed at how little compassion His followers have for one another, especially based on your example, “How can a leader faithfully represent the Prince of Peace if his own heart is full of anxiety? ”

    O_o

  40. JoelG #18 I am glad you felt encouraged, friend. This has been my prayer for this post and I thank God He may see fit to use it.

  41. @32
    I would agree. And because of the denial of such, they can become very difficult individuals to deal with.

  42. Cash,
    You’ve inspired me to sit down sometime soon and write out my own answer to this very same question. Why do I stay home on Sunday?
    The answer to that question is different for me now than it has been in the past, so I’m curious about why exactly it is now that I have so little interest in attending church these days.

  43. Cash…I think you did well here… 🙂
    Thank you for taking the risk!

  44. Cash,

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST. God knows how frustrated, as one who has mild mental illness and married to one who has more serious mental illness, I get with Christians who flippantly tell us that the solution to our problems are more prayer and bible reading, along with repentance (the assumption that our problems lie in unconfessed sin). Heck, if it was that easy, there would be no one with mental illness.

  45. Michael #35…beautifully said! That is how I want to picture my relationship with my wife, as two broken people who point each other to the healer.

  46. Thanks, Dan and thanks for being here with the rest of us broken folks.

  47. This is such a good and important article. Thank you, Cash, for sharing it. The church needs to do better. Life is not as black and white as many Christians try to make it. But what is clear is that we are all called to love – and that includes loving those who may be struggling. It is a privilege to walk with people who are struggling. It is life-changing for them . . . and for me.

  48. It is my understanding that it was King David’s failures, trials & brokeness that earned him the title of the Sweet Psalmist of Israel. It may be by design that being somewhat broken helps pastor’s to minister as God intended them to. I do know that watching my wife die at an early age and experiencing one of my sons being shot 4 times has caused me to look at other’s with much more compassion.

  49. when i was young (about 9 or 10) a new friend invited me to go to a church gathering in a private home, a party for her Sunday School class – a couple girls came up to me and asked me what i was doing there as i wasn’t welcome (they learn young) 🙂 needless to say, i declined my friend’s later invitations
    about 5 years later another new friend invited me to go to Sunday morning church service with her and it was there that i encountered the real Christ… guess what church it was 🙂

    as i go down memory lane here, i recall those Sunday mornings worship services – carved in wood (beautiful, traditional old Presbyterian church bldg.) was the verse, “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” If you’d come in with a troubled mind, it would be a time of rest and reflection and a time to hear God’s word and His voice, too, perhaps… sadly, i cannot disagree with those who have peeled off from today’s corporate atmosphere in the evangelical world… there used to be a pop song titled: “Personality”- in today’s churches, it seems if you ain’t got it, you ain’t “called” … but… “Sirs, we would see Jesus…”

    i ramble… again….

  50. This was a very nice article, and one that brings up important issues with how we are to conduct ourselves when together. There are certain portions of the church where mentally ill are undesirable, and throw-away. And there are certain portions where they become projects to be treated and counseled, possibly involving bill-able service.

    I also like your ending. Sometimes there is no solution, a given situation is what it is.

    I do not have a mental illness, though I am familiar with it affecting family members. My diagnosis was a degenerative condition in 2002 after having physical symptoms of pain as my earliest memories. Unfortunately this does affect my brain due to exhaustion and general mental fog. I am probably living a life identical physically to the average meth user, except I have money, family and assets.

    Here are some thoughts in no particular order:
    -A person facing personal difficulties is likely to become invisible to fellow believers….It is what it is.
    -Church can be a source of depression….Probably to a lot of people.
    -Church can result in people leaving the faith…Probably for a lot of people and it just is what it is..The solution is..don’t leave the faith, just don’t.
    -I have never attended a church for the purpose of learning anything about God, his word or anything…Do people actually do this?
    -In the last twenty years I have not attended a church where I believed in what the leadership was promoting…I don’t know that as believers we need to.
    -Doctrine makes for hostile church relationships..It is supposed to happen this way. Just as Paul mentioned the mocking of Issac by Ishmael in Galatians.
    -If staying away from church is helpful, then do so…but not for the rest of one’s life.
    -If church is unfulfilling, it’s OK…It’s fine to read or nod off. The point is we are doing what we have been asked to do, and that makes it fine. Ours is not to wonder why, it just is what it is.

    And finally..there must be a reason why Heb. 10:25 reminds us to not forsake assembling together. It is noticeable that this especially applies as we see the day approaching. There must be some reason why people will find corporate assembly distasteful or undesirable towards the end of the Church Age…But, it is what it is and we go anyway.

  51. #50- i’d have to tweek “Doctrine makes for hostile church relationships.” a bit before i could agree, since i believe sound doctrine is what church folk should build their lives on…

    however, if i may tweek 🙂 “Doctrine makes for hostile inter-church relationships.” ? now i agree … or so it seems to me … Eternity will be interesting

  52. Covered, I can’t imagine your grief. May the Lord comfort you as only He can.

  53. Thank you JoelG and He does. I believe that it happened to better equip me for ministry. What Cash wrote is very real and very touching. It breaks my heart to hear that people don’t feel comfortable joining us on Sunday’s for any reason. Fellowship with like minded believer’s is important. If we don’t see a person 2 weeks in a row, we find them, pray with them and find out if they have any practical needs. What I have learned is that loving on other’s draws them closer to Christ no matter what their condition is.

  54. I have been parsed I see, and misunderstood. Instead of asking for clarification, my case has been jumped for a single sentence. I have sympathy for everyone with anxiety including pastors. But I have more for their flocks to the extent that a mental illness or addiction causes them real harm. My focus remains on orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. Knowing the truth in your head is not the same as experiencing it. This is an effective site for watchblogging. But for understanding across denominational and theological lines, not so much. This is more a “gotcha” site, unfortunately for discussions. Those who do not share personal details here are truly wise.
    Understanding: do you really want to understand my point of view, or anyone elses you do not agree with? Anyone can play gotcha. The media does it all the time with soundbites. Twitter is king at jumping to the worst conclusion based on someones pithy statement. It is some of what is worse with Facebook. My current pastor has been encouraging us not to act this way on social media.
    I once has a pastor who was manic/depressive. He did not make a good pastor, nor would anyone with a severe mental disorder. One week he would be on a high getting everyone excited with his high octane sermon. The next he would be crashing and preaching despair. He once actually gave a sermon called “Can a Christian Be Saved?” He was crashing that Sunday and the sermon planted more doubts than assurance. I am not condemning this man, just pointing out that crazy leaders are more of a problem than a blessing. I actually like the man and would count him a friend if I ran into him.
    When I talk about anxiety and depression, I am talking about Clinical depression. I know how that works and what that does. I am not talking about everyday stress or sadness over a loss. I am referring to mental illness. But lets all assume the worst here and make a snap twitter like judgment. That really helps those who are struggling with disorders to feel safe enough to speak up! But I wax sarcastic. Because they are mentally ill, they will certainly say one thing that someone else does not agree with here, theologically, on this blog and a few of you jump down their throat. Excuse me, but I am failing to feel the love. Your response to me boldly illustrates the inability for some to see how their pride, anger and snap judgments actually squashes conversation and creates a obvious hostile environment. So good Orthopraxy then involves being unkind, rude, quick to speak and slow to listen? From what Orthodoxy did this practice come from? Again, I am sarcastic.
    My point is not to bash pastors but to point out a truth that living the gospel is much more powerful than merely talking about it in third person mode. I am lucky in that I have a good pastor. He had lost his minds to drugs and was planning to commit suicide. Then God touched him and restored his sanity and he went to seminary. He lives the gospel and what a true blessing that is. My point is that a pastor cannot take his flock somewhere he has not been to.
    Leaders have blind spots and weak spots. We all do. I think if we were truly humble, we would admit that we too can be the blind leading the blind, at least in the case of strongholds we are not overcoming. I appreciate an honest pastor who states that he can be the blind leading the blind. I think that is part of the reality that Jesus was speaking to. And, by the way, I am not claiming to see everything clearly myself. I have areas where I know I am more blind than not, and I am not ashamed to state that fact. Is a proud pastor one who chafes and the hint that they might be partially blind? What does Jesus actually think? Did He not say that “He who thinks he stands should take head unless he falls.” It was not my intent to offend anyone. But that comes too easily here. There are many besides me here who have said they feel quickly judged and condemned, but these remarks appear to fall on deaf ears. But I write this to show sympathy to those who honestly have stated that they do not find this a safe place to talk about very serious problems.
    By the way, I was once the blind leading other blind people by publicly encouraging people to give to Gospel for Asia and Voice of the (Child Perps.)Martyrs I publicly repent and ask for forgiveness.

  55. Mr. Jesperson,

    I defy you to find another site online that is remotely the size of this community that has more diversity of traditions.

    This is what you wrote; “Unfortunately, from what I have read 70 percent of pastors in our country have great anxiety. To be honest, I call these the practical blind leading the blind. How can a leader faithfully represent the Prince of Peace if his own heart is full of anxiety?”

    We have had more than one pastor here admit that they suffer from some degree of mental illness.

    If we read your statement literally, he is disqualified.

    So much for compassion…

    Your writing also implied that you were healed and if we all did what you did we would be healed as well.

    If that is the case I call that bovine scabulon.

    Those of us who have sought healing (or have family members who have) would consider such a statement cruelty.

    We rejoice when God does heal…but we do not condemn the afflicted if He does not.

    if you don’t find this a “safe” place then by all means protect yourself.

    However, we do hold people accountable for their words here…and I get called on the carpet more than anyone.

    That cannot and will not change…it’s necessary and healthy.

    If you’d like to correct these impressions, feel free…

  56. I do not agree that a person with a mental illness is ineligible to serve as a leader in the church. Yes, there are behavioral issues that may disqualify them, but not always. I believe a pastor with a broken heart is a gift to the Body of Christ.

  57. Mr Jesperson,
    Wow, you really have some wonderful insight! I saw my therapist today and she re-in forced everything you wrote to a tee. My time is probably almost over here on this blog because it can be more hurtful than helpful. But your post was spot on and so thankful for that.

  58. Andrew,

    I’m going to spare you further damage and and simply block you.
    God bless you as you find safe spaces that suit you.

  59. I have Chronic PTSD. I have been told in church after church that it doesn’t exist and I’m being selfish and sinning by feeling sorry for myself, or I don’t have enough faith or it’s demonic oppression…I’ve heard it all and I can honestly say I will never set foot in a church again unless something seriously changes in the way we treat people who are struggling. I have gained so much by leaving that atmosphere, I have come to know other people who suffer and have been able to walk along side of them, I have also been drawn much closer in my walk with Jesus. No matter what’s happened His grace has been there in the darkest hours, and in moments of joy and comfort too. I left behind so many friends who quickly judged me, and (especially online friends) who wanted to bombard me with bible verses, sermons about the dangers of psychology and the new age movement’s involvement in modern psychiatry. I ended up so exhausted and drained and honestly if this would have happened to me as a younger woman I don’t think I could have handled it. Thank you so much for writing this, life is complicated and messy but after leaving the pressures of church I have found it much easier to handle. Your article says so much and will help so many people.

  60. “We rejoice when God does heal…but we do not condemn the afflicted if He does not.”

    This has always made me scratch my head, I have heard about people being “healed” but because they were Catholic or Charismatic that those healings were of Satan to deceive us. As for being “condemned” for being “afflicted” again it was SOP in my faith communities that God made you sick because you are in sin usually some type of rebellion of the leadership of the church so God will make you sick or kill you if you don’t obey the leadership. The one exception is if God heals you for an apologetic reason than most likely it was not of Satan, but most healing, given peace, hope etc is of Satan. We should constantly be in fear / terror of God’s wrath and our unworthiness and we should constantly be reminded of it daily. Also one is condemned if they dont get over grief, sadness, chronic pain, mental illness learning disabilities etc. Usually people are faking that to get attention. That about sums up what I was taught back in the day. Of course I dont believe that but it does stick with you.

  61. In light of Brian’s #59 and the other heartfelt questions that people have regarding depression and the intersection of faith with mental health, rather than attempt to summarize, I would like to commend this article, which describes Martin Luther’s approach.

    http://ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scaerprayer.pdf

    God bless all those who are suffering. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

  62. Cash, good to hear CBT is helping. Keep up the good fight. Thanks for sharing this article. Good stuff!

    “I do not agree that a person with a mental illness is ineligible to serve as a leader in the church. Yes, there are behavioral issues that may disqualify them, but not always. I believe a pastor with a broken heart is a gift to the Body of Christ.”

    Agreed. If the bible is the rule book that governs such, the disqualifying issues it lists or pastors/elders/bishops etc are behavioral and action-based not tendency-based.

    One can be tempted to anger….it is the expression of that anger as violence that is disqualifying. One can be tempted to drink…and even have alcohol in moderation…it is the action of drunkenness that is disqualifying….one can be tempted to sexual promiscuity and women…it is the action of adultery and/or fornication that is disqualifying. (Cover your eyes Calvary Chapel Pastors and go “la la la la we can’t hear you!”) Not disqualifying in a salvation sense, disqualifying in a Position-of-Pastor sense…at least according to that thing called the bible that some claim to teach “simply”.

  63. Here are a couple of interviews with Lutheran pastor Todd Peperkorn who suffers from depression

    http://issuesetc.org/2013/04/10/1-christians-and-mental-illness-pr-todd-peperkorn-41013/

    http://issuesetc.org/guest/todd-peperkorn/

  64. “Pastor” Ralph Wood, “Pastor” Raul Ries, “Pastor” Don Stewart, “Pastor” Steve Matheson and so many others including my step-dad Bob Grenier…all disqualified but the bible means nothing to the Leadership that claims it isn’t really a Leadership…except when it is a Leadership and wants to be a Leadership…but only for the good stuff and fun stuff and when it comes to money and promoting the Brand.

    Shameful.

    I’d rather have a 100 pastors like Cash than many of those jerks above.

  65. Truth be told, many CC pastors are neurotic wrecks, and so are their wives. They take pills they drink alcohol some of them even smoke pot and take other prescription drugs they don’t have a prescription for.

    Many of the CC pastors are “mentally ill” they just hide it and keep up appearances…so do their wives.

    What you see at the pulpit and in front of the lights and cameras is not reality folks.

  66. “What you see at the pulpit and in front of the lights and cameras is not reality folks.”

    This stems from two theological fallacies:

    (1) In a theology of glory, a pastor should be farther up the sanctification scale. Since they aren’t, they have to fake it.

    (2) Parishioners have been trained to think of their pastors as gurus. They aren’t. Pastors are simply redeemed sinners (no better or worse than anyone else) who have been called to proclaim Christ and His Gospel in the church. He isn’t their to give you a 10 point plan to better marriage, parenting, health, etc.

  67. Jean, good point.

    A great irony to me is this.

    In the Calvary Chapel construct in particular (I speak to it b/c it’s what I know at an Expert level)….

    ….there is this big Law and Legalism push and focus….yet no regard for Pastoral Qualifications, none at all.

    This creates a very bad dynamic. It means the Pastors and their wives and their families…often who are Disqualified….have to completely FAKE IT and pretend they are holier than thou….when in fact, it’s a complete cluster-you-know-what behind the scenes.

    I have literally a stack….of CC pastors…and their specific scandals given to me by several big CC insiders. The only thing keeping me from publishing it is I choose to take on one lawsuit at a time LOL and will get this one well-documented and on the court record and tell that story in major detail from beginning to end with no room for “it’s rumor!” and ‘it’s gossip!”…nope it’s called sworn declaration and sworn deposition and sworn court testimony and Discovery documents and court records etc etc.

    One at a time. We’ll get to some other specific situations before I croak and we’ll prove what Michael and myself and others have been saying for many years now….and demonstrated it for the Historical Record and benefit of the public’s right to know on “matters of public interest” which the Appellate Court has already ruled in my favor on that one.

  68. One of the hardest things that evangelical Christians face, because of their independent traditions regarding sanctification, is that they are trained to expect to be renovated by God into holy, morally upright people, who leave many sinful tendencies and behaviors behind by their piety (does this remind you of any other traditions?).

    But, here is the real deal folks: God doesn’t play “flip this house”. He doesn’t renovate bad guys. God creates from nothing. He is into new creation. A new heaven and new earth. He kills the old, and raises the new. “Behold, I am making all things new.”

    Quit trying to live by sight, and begin living by faith.

  69. Good stuff Jean! LOVE the analogy.

  70. With Michael’s permission, this a good article by Michael Spencer about his experiences with his and his dad’s struggles with depression. It’s long but worth the read.

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-the-boat-in-the-backyard

  71. Just now read your post (9:30 pm Wed.)

    That was so beautifully worded Cash.

    You became vulnerable when you opened up your perspective to others.

    It was inspiring and very helpful to those of us who have been dismissive to people with issues we have not a clue about other than their demeanor.

    I will be more careful in the future to be aware and more apt to listen than to try and “fix” something that I have no qualification to understand or remedy.

    It’s mind blowing that your so understanding and not bitter at the likes of us who just walk away and not give what is so desperately needed, a listening friend who judges not but is there for you.

    thanks again for opening up here!

    Glad I checked in before going to bed.

    Some things to ponder as I wind down that I would not have thought about except for your powerful post.

  72. #54 Mr Jesperson, i apologize for making you feel that i was looking for a gotcha with my comment at #51…
    FWIW – i found your post’s “random observations” well worth taking the time to read…

  73. Thanks for those here who are trying to understand a different point of view with out playing “gotcha.” I am honestly surprised by how difficult it is to go against the grain here. Michael, you have completely misunderstood and misstated much of what I wrote. This is a big problem here. I know you do not know me. I wrote what I did to encourage people who are suffering to find a safe place to get help. This ain’t it. Good watchblog site. But other than that I see this as a place to quarrel over things, many of which are simply miss-understood. I make light of no ones problems. But God has helped me greatly and I would love to help where I can. Forgive me if I am not communicating this plainly. I am doing the best that I know.

  74. Jesperson,

    I used your exact words.
    You can either answer what I wrote or continue to play the victim.

  75. By the way, some people have found this site very helpful over the years.
    We were talking about this issue long before it was popular.

    If you do not find it helpful, then feel free to click away from the site.

    Perhaps you and Andrew can start your own blog where you can be safe together…

  76. minds do heal and minds can be renewed… we have a processor called a brain and when one’s life experiences any trauma the brain is the organ that, unseen, takes the hit… how long a healing will take depends on many factors …
    believe it or not, we all have reactor factors from unrecognized events producing irrational thinking of one form or another .. some traumas are crippling and some are minor, but if you think you’ve got it all together? you don’t

    IMO there’s been much good information and sharing on this thread and some that is a little fuzzy (like this one, maybe), but i’ll refrain from doctrinal positions – those inter-church ones that muddy the Truth and mess up a good thread 🙂

    God keep all close

  77. can i mention one of my heroes here? Erunner has taken us on his journey over the years with candor, trust and patience and has helped greatly in an understanding the topic of this thread

  78. Erunner was a trailblazer… when he started you could count on the religious to come in and tell you that you were sick because of a lack of faith.

    We used to get accused of not believing the Bible, deceiving people with psychology…on and on.

    He was a warrior…

  79. Thank you Em and Michael. Michael, getting a bit nervous being spoken of in the past tense! 🙂

  80. I know I get helped here most of my “demons” are past events that have come home to roost and they are filtered through many layers. Some of my accounts can be a more cynical rendering of the events that I have experienced or saw others experience. I really wish I could break this cycle to be honest.

  81. Just a word about pastoral leadership and depression. If we were to remove from pastoral leadership all who suffered from bouts of depression (clinical and otherwise), I fear that 95% of our pulpits would be emptied. If we can learn to be honest about ourselves, we might also learn to be more compassionate to others who are suffering.

  82. May I just add that ERunner has been an inspiration to me in my fight against this illness and in encouraging my writing. He truly was the trailblazer (sorry for the past tense–LOL).

  83. Read the Psalms and then tell me the saints do not struggle with depression!

  84. Ya, Erunner is a stud. He has helped De-Stigmatize mental health issues in the church.

    I remember Calvary Chapel being VERY anti-psychology and anti-mental health care when I was growing up and even into my 30’s.

    The hilarious thing is most of the pastors and their families had major problems and many of them really NEED some time with the shrink, especially guys and gals like Grenier and Ries etc. OMG. Talked about messed up. Bob Coy could’ve used some help for his NPD as well but he blew himself up before he could get real help.

    Again, it’s all a Front and an Act. Most of these “Pastors” are a mess and just pretend better than you and I do. I’m glad for guys like Michael and Erunner and others who tell the truth.

    We’re all human and we all have a range of similar experiences. You aren’t alone, you aren’t a freak, you aren’t any more broken than any of the rest of us jerks and no more than any of the “Pastors”.

    They aren’t “special” anymore than a celebrity is special and those celebrities are a mess and a bunch of idiots as well….yikes! Look at rock stars and celebrities and what a mess they are….Pastors and Gurus…not a lot different.

    We’re all just trying to get through this existence the best we can and sometimes we make bad choices, sometimes we face real health issues that make life more difficult be it mental or physical health issue (but mental health issues really are physical, it’s a chemical imbalance and akin to a broken arm or diabetes).

    Get the help you need. Don’t let the hypocritical idiot “church” tell you differently. God is behind Psychology…nothing is True and nothing works in this Universe/Multiverse w/o it being God’s Design.

    Get help. There is real help. It can work. It works. A trained psychologist or psychiatrist can help you infinitely more than a bible counselor. Do both, however, as the bible counselor plays a role, but don’t skip the mental health professional in that equation….and RUN don’t walk from a church and sect that shuns Science and Medicine. They are witch doctors and backward cultists if they do.

  85. MLD @ # 13:

    I go back far enough to remember when Lutheran pastors still wore the cassock on high holy days. One such pastor by the name of Sorensen went on foot across town in a blizzard (the city snowplows could not keep the streets clear) to be with an old saint in her last hours in hospital. Men like Sorensen are the real McCoy, few and far between, in any era past or present.

  86. @63 No doubt, David was almost surely a man who seriously struggled with dark depression. Our Calvinist friends can tell us that Charles Spurgeon was profoundly depressed.

  87. oops that was @83

  88. Yep. Look at Elijah. He wanted to die. Noah got drunk. Paul was ready to go to heaven so he takes off to Jerusalem even though he was told of what would happen if he did.

    Just acknowledging this is very comforting.

  89. “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death”- Jesus.

    He wanted to die even before He did.

  90. the fields of psychiatry and psychology are very useful in sorting out why we act the way we do, but they are also a mine field of rabbit trails – one needs an intelligent, competent person at the helm
    reading up on neurology’s break-through studies of the brain greatly helped my understanding – some here love to say that we sin because we’re sinners and that is true – the study of the brain even helps me understand the grace of God 🙂

    Matthew 26:41 and Romans 8:3 affirm how vulnerable (and God dependent) we are IMHO

  91. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

    Oh, how we need Him.

  92. I haven’t read all the comments yet, so this may have been discussed already. I am bipolar and completely agree that there is so much misunderstanding and insensitivity among Christians. I am on meds
    and have a good psychiatrist who is a Christian. I cringe when I hear read your Bible more, do you have unconfessed sin, and that I would feel better if I think about others more, etc. Those voices are not in my life now (mostly), but I do wonder if I am throwing the baby out with the bath water when I automatically reject those ideas just bc they are delivered by well-meaning but ignorant Christians. Yes, it’s an illness. Yes, take meds and go to counseling. But I’m not fighting it in spiritual ways as well. I don’t read the Bible and pray much. I do think selfishly most of the time. I generally don’t care about fellowship and wouldn’t choose to socialize if I didn’t have a husband and kids. Thus leading me down a spiral of guilt. I want to want to want those things, but I don’t.

  93. LL,

    The vast majority of us don’t read the Bible often or pray much.
    We do think selfishly most of the time.
    “Fellowship” tends to be an effect of personality…if I had my way I’d only leave the house to go the woods and then only after all the tourists had been removed.

    My point is that guilt really isn’t helpful in these matters…

    I have someone very, very, close to me who is bipolar.

    That person doesn’t need to wrestle with being more spiritually disciplined, he needs me to be more disciplined for him.

    He needs to hear me pray for him and know that those who love him are doing likewise.

    If the Holy Spirit is convicting you about some things, that conviction is to help you….not to create another problem for you to wrestle with.

    Do what you can do in the power of the Spirit and know that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…you already know life is a marathon and not a sprint.

  94. Beautiful, Michael!

  95. I will argue that thinking right is definitely helpful though not always curative or even possible for those with mental health issues. Nevertheless, learning how to think about life, about God, about yourself, about the world is vital to developing a foundation for maintaining mental health.

    The true Gospel gives us identity, forgiveness, rest, peace, and an abundance of lens through which to see the world. These things are vital.

    Mental health does not always require medical intervention but it always requires healthy and true thought patterns. We cannot do all that is needed by volitional thinking but we can do more than we assume.

  96. This is a very compelling post. Takes a lot of guts to bare one’s soul like that in an open internet forum.

    Thank you for sharing.

    I have my own maladies, however, depression is not one of them. The closest experience I’ve ever had to it was when I first started long haul trucking 7 years ago after a major collapse of the economy and my business.

    I remember my first solo trip out and parking in what felt like some God forsaken hole in the middle of nowhere.

    A sense of loneliness so deep came over me that I could not contain my weeping. Even then, God drew near to me in a gracious and tender way.

    My experience must of only been a smidgen of what some of you have expressed here.

  97. Michael @93..

    “.My point is that guilt really isn’t helpful in these matters…”

    Spot on, Michael. Much of the time there is already more than enough guilt present, and the downward spiral continues.

    There is an actual, valid reason why the “want to” is very difficult to come by. And much of the time it’s not a spiritual reason.

  98. BD @95….

    Agreed, learning how to change thought patterns is helpful. But I am glad you added that it is often not curative or even possible. Two of the markers of my wife’s illness are high anxiety and obsessive thoughts. And they are both very difficult to control, which makes it very difficult to change thinking patterns. This usually requires help from other people.

  99. the brain is so intertwined with both the senses and the body’s chemistry that our thought processes can be just as individual as our finger prints – someone(s) up the thread observed that when a person is struggling or even unable to struggle with the body’s frailties, the best that most folk can do to help is just be there with a sympathetic heart and a closed mouth – my only experience with a serious mental problem was my dear bi-polar daughter in law, who came to stay with me after being released from hospital confinement … we were making progress as she saw that i was just there for her, protective and watching as she struggled (i didn’t know what else to do), knowing that i’d step in if she went under…
    however, her atheist father, denied that she had a problem (it was other people), convinced her to move out telling her that a religious atmosphere wasn’t a good place to be (we said grace at supper)… she went tragically under, divorced my son and we have been dealing with heartache ever since
    a close relative now gone had a personality disorder (a little more intense than most of us :smile:) and i’m not sure where to categorize that as it seemed more intentional than not – dunno

  100. Michael (#46), thanks for considering me part of this community. I know I don’t make hundreds of comments here for every blog post, but it’s nice to be included nevertheless!

  101. #100 Dan, i make too many (i type really fast), so maybe we balance each other out

  102. Em (101)…balance is a good thing! I wish I could comment more, but sometimes something I want to say has already been said.

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