Brock Harrison was going about his life as a new dad and speechwriter for the leader of a political party when it hit him. It presented innocuously enough as panic attacks. Sitting down at his computer brought sudden and paralyzing physiological discomfort.
He had experienced the odd panic attack in the past, but they were periodic and easy to shake off.
These were different.
He physically couldn’t work.
Being depressed means you’re never present. You don’t experience life the way most people do.
A casual conversation can be torture.
Comprehending a simple written sentence requires effort.
Eating? Forget it.
Your appetite is long gone.
You can’t engage in life because you’re constantly fighting your mind.
Brock says, “Fortunately, I never experienced the desire to end my life. I now believe it was Jesus, and my begrudged demonstration of faith in my darkest times, that kept me from reaching those lows.”
“I’m thankful to my Pastor for his willingness to talk about mental illness candidly from the platform and for encouraging me to share my story.”
The Jericho Road
Churches can feel like the Jericho Road or the Good Samaritan to sufferers with mental illness.
Jesus tells the story of a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho – a dangerous portion of Judean roadway because of thieves. The man falls victim to violence and robbery. A Samaritan in Jesus’ parable stands out only because the other players in the story stood back. They saw the man’s need but kept their distance – curious but uninvolved.
The Samaritan saw the need, sympathized with the man’s pain, seized the moment, and spent whatever it took to care. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” – become a Good Samaritan of mental health.
Mental illness is the invisible illness. Its hard to see. It leaves sufferers misunderstood, marginalized and isolated. Its easy to feel like a victim on the Jericho Road.
Churches can better care by becoming aware of the sufferers, especially those who are Christians.
Like A Thief
Mental illness is a thief that robs and strips people of their dignity and hope. The trauma of depression, chronic anxiety, mood disorders, OCD, PTSD, postpartum depression and other forms of mental illness leave sufferers desperate on the Jericho road.
Mental illnesses are one of the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and misguided illnesses in the Christian community. Many Christians who struggle with anxiety and panic are falsely led to believe that it is merely a spiritual struggle, and undergo humiliating attempts at deliverance. Some are also led to believe it’s their fault because of sin or because their faith isn’t enough to heal them.
The majority of people I know with who struggle with severe anxiety have an incredibly dependent, vulnerable and personal relationship with Jesus.
Brenda suffered from depression. She was actively involved in our church and a nurse by profession. She told me, “I sang in the choir. I went to Bible study, but I never felt I could share with anyone. Depression is like leprosy. No one talks about. It is ignored—especially in the church circles—and the people who are in depression feel even more isolated.”
“Often I would try to make comments about people with depression in order to sound out some of our friends, but the remarks I received in return were about people who ‘couldn’t cope, or should pray more,’ so it underscored my feeling that I was inadequate. I felt more alone and lost.”
“The only person I felt I could talk to was a lady who had also experienced severe depression after the death of her brother. She was quite open about it and made me feel acceptable. Finally I went to a doctor.”
People who experience mental illness do not need to hide. They do not need to feel unloved or unchristian. God loves you. We need to remember that we are not here on earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
What does the Church need to see?
Depression is the only physical illness with spiritual symptoms.
- Depression is not a spiritual disorder.
- People facing depression can be sad, but depression is not sadness.
- Depression is not something you can will yourself or pray yourself out of.
- Depression is not a choice.
- Depression is not a character defect.
- Depression is not an emotional dysfunction.
- Depression is not demonic.
A Safe Place For Those Who Suffer
Mental illness does not make people weak, cowardly, faithless, hopeless, or joyless.
Mental illness means you’re experiencing sickness and in need of healing. Sick people use medicine, therapy, support, exercise, faith, and prayer to become well again.
There is healing.
There is hope.
Churches can become the safest place in the world for sufferers by dispensing hope and healing.
The subject of mental illness and health is addressed numerous times each year in North Pointe’s Sunday messages.
We listen. We pray with sufferers. We listen again.
Stories from the platform or blog posts raise the awareness level in our community.
We care for the whole person – supporting through prayer, medication and exercise.
A support group is provided free of charge – “Hope For Mental Health.” The group is facilitated by Dr. Catherine Thorlakson.
We refer people to professional Christian counselors. There is an onsite counselor at North Pointe two afternoons a week.
We resource people with Sarah Ball’s book, “21 Days To Fearless.” Sarah pulls back the curtains on her very private battle with mental illness. She shares 21 revelations that led to her healing. The book is available at North Pointe.
Be A Part Of The Solution
Is your church a hope dispenser?
Be alert to the dangers of the Jericho road.
Be Good Samaritans of compassion.
Related Article – What Christians Get Wrong About Depression
APPLICATION: Pass this post on to pastors and leaders you know and people in need of hope. Please leave a comment below. Thank you.
Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.
- Subscribe. I’ll put helpful content into your email box early Mondays and Thursdays, as well as upcoming events at North Pointe Community Church, Edmonton, Alberta.
- Follow on Twitter. I daily tweet info I think you’ll be interested in.
- Friend on Facebook. If you “like” my page, let me know you found me here.
- Connect on Linkedin. I like this because it reminds me what people think I’m good at.