The church still shuns people with mental illness very often. I do believe many churches are getting it right. But there are also still so many out there getting it wrong, so very wrong.
I just read an article published in the Wallstreet Journal in January of this year 2020 that pastors who admit to their congregation or elder board that they struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts lose their jobs. They have no job security like the rest of us do. There is a “ministerial clause” in the American with Disables Act that gives churches freedom to hire or fire based on their own set of qualifications for the job. This clause is meant to be a good thing, but unfortunately it has been misused. They have a “mental illness” and now they aren’t qualified to teach or preach at their church! Are you kidding me? This is happening all the time right now, in the year 2020! “There is still a culture of secrecy surrounding mental health in many churches” and it needs to stop!
Christians still judge others who have depression and suicidal thoughts. "How can a Christian be depressed when the Bible says to be joyful in everything?" "Their bad thoughts must be sinful." "How could they commit suicide?" "Man were they selfish!" "Don’t they know they were made in the image of God and how valuable life is?" "How can they honor God’s creation and be pro life and yet take their own life?" "It doesn’t make sense?"
You’re right. It doesn’t make sense. Isn’t our basic human nature self preservation?
Isn’t it a basic human understanding that we should love others as ourselves… meaning you don’t have to be taught how to love yourself… so how could someone who loves themselves kill themselves?
I never understood suicidal thoughts before either. I honestly thought each of these judgmental thoughts before… until it happened to me. Until I became so sick that the mental anguish I was experiencing was so intense that I couldn’t imagine enduring it anymore.
Depression is painful, anguish and darkness that happens within your own mind and soul. A battle that rages inside your head and heart at all times that no one else is aware of. The evil thoughts that haunt you every moment of every day. The heaviness, the oppressive pressure that weighs you down and pulls you down into the depths don’t make logical sense. That no matter how hard you try to snap out of it or try and think happy thoughts you just can’t shake it. The darkness consumes you and starts to eat you alive from the inside out. The things you know you should do, you can't do... like physically can't do. The pain is so strong that to cope you become numb, numb to everything. You can’t feel good, happy, joyful, lighthearted. You start to feel like a zombie walking around, looking functional on the outside but feeling empty and dead inside. You feel exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally all the time. Some days you can't concentrate. Other times you can't stop thinking bad thoughts over and over.
The lies come over and over and over and beat you up and knock you down. The torment of hopelessness, wondering how long the darkness will last. If it never goes away the idea of enduring this ache forever sounds worse than death. Death would be a relief from the pain. Death would make it stop…. there seems to be no other solution.
I remember having the perfect family 6 years ago when my depression first started. I had the supportive husband, 2 kids, a boy and a girl, owned a home, had good jobs, friends, family nearby that I get along with well… no reason to feel depressed in any way shape or form… and yet I was. I was sick but I didn’t know it. While I was struggling to wonder why I had these awful thoughts for the first time in my life and felt so heavy all the time I had an old friend struggling with stage 4 breast cancer. I remember thinking I was so awful for having suicidal thoughts when I was perfectly healthy and my life was wonderful but there she was fighting with everything within her to stay alive. What was wrong with me?! I was such an awful Christian for even thinking about killing myself.
But I was sick too. I could see that she was fighting cancer that threatened to take her life. I failed to see my depression as an illness that was also fighting to try and take my life… but I was. I was truly very very sick, physically sick.
I hate the term mental illness. We categorize it differently that we do “physical” illness. But it’s not!!!!!!!! It should be considered a physical illness just like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. I could not control the thoughts and feelings I had anymore than a diabetic can completely control their blood sugar. If your pancreas doesn’t work correctly you can’t just pep talk yourself into being healthy. If your heart doesn’t pump correctly you can’t pep talk yourself out of a heart attack. My mind was not working correctly and I couldn’t pep talk myself out of my depression…. I just couldn’t.
Depression is very spiritual and we as Christians have no clue how to handle it. Depression is physical and it is ALSO a battle against the mind and soul. Is that why we think it is such a bad thing? That a good strong Christian wouldn’t succumb to such a fate, that a good Christian would have good enough theology not to think such lies and bad thoughts? I think this is why Christians look down on other Christians with depression. This is also why Christians are afraid to speak out. This is the battle happening within our own minds then those around us just confirm the awful lies we believe. Every day I had depression I beat myself up for being such a bad Christian. I begged God to forgive me for my unbelief, to forgive me for believing so many lies. I had great theology, I grew up in the church, attended bible college and received a minor in biblical studies. But I was not immune to the physical sickness of depression….
As a church we need to start seeing depression as a physical illness that infects and hurts the mind and the soul, not the other way around.
For those of you struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts I want you to know that you are not a bad Christian. You are a sinner (just like all the rest of us) but your sin is NOT making you sick. This is NOT your fault. You would never look at someone with cancer and think it was their fault or that their unbelief led to their disease, so stop putting that kind of pressure on yourself. Depression is a physical disease that has injured your heart your mind and your soul. God wants to bring healing to your body, mind and soul.
I believe there is hope for you. Hope for healing. God does not want you to suffer from depression all your days. I believe he wants more for you. So when you feel like the pain is too much and you are afraid you can’t take it anymore: quote scripture (that God came to give you life and life abundantly), tell evil to leave in the name of Jesus Christ, turn to your great and powerful God in prayer and then go to a doctor.