Mental illness. Sadly it is one thing that affects many of our families in one way or another. Depression, anxiety disorders, suicide, addiction behaviors, bipolar disorder, hoarding – these are just a few of the illnesses that are represented in the histories of our own personal family. Are we alone in this? Are “our” families the only ones who have suffered such a vast degree of mental illness?
The enemy would whisper to us, “YES. You are surely alone. Look at your history. Such shame. Such disgrace.”
But God would say, “No, you are not alone! And My power is best displayed in your weakness. In this world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
That in itself, brings me great comfort. I choose to listen to the loving voice of God over our lives. And statistics tell me this is truth as well. Did you know that countless Americans struggle with mental illness every day? A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that, “1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness.” And, “about 5 percent of Americans have suffered from such severe mental illness that it interfered with day-to-day school, work or family.” So why such shame? Why such negativity attached to these words? Why are we afraid to address it, to talk openly about it?
With the very sad news of the suicide of Rick Warren’s son over the weekend – this topic has been once again pushed to the forefront. Some would have harsh words for him. Some may have judgmental thoughts. Many of us though, have only deep compassion and grace over their family – and I believe that this is the very heart of God. Grace. Compassion. Healing. Redemption. Hope.
This is who we need to be as believers in a world that desperately hurts. We need to speak up. We need to show support. We need to encourage those who struggle. We need to be a place of refuge. We need to be a people of hope. We need to point others to the freedom that comes through Christ. We need to foster a place of trust. We need to provide counseling. We need to encourage treatment and medication for illnesses that require extra on-going help and support. We need to be a safe haven. We need to be a people of prayer. We need to stop judging. We need to stop avoiding. We need to stop gossiping. We need to stop being afraid to talk. We need to stop the negativity associated with certain words. We need to quit telling people to just “deal with it.” We need to offer unconditional love. We need to point others to the God “who can do anything.” We need to be inspired to action. We need to defend those who are desperate. We need to walk alongside those who hurt. We need to go the extra mile.
Being a believer doesn’t remove us from pain or conflict in this life – but we can be assured of this – God is our Strength and our Help forever. This is our chance to shine the heart of Christ, to be His hands, to show His comfort, and care. It is time. Time to remove the shame attached to certain diagnosis and to offer help and support to a world that is hurting. The choice is ours.
Joining many of you right now in praying for comfort over the Warren family in these days ahead…