Talking about mental and emotional health problems is a common topic for today. The church’s perspective on this (you could argue like many other church perspectives!) can seem at odds with current secular thinking. There are times when the church needs to be distinctive – especially when it thinks it is right and society is wrong. However there are also times when we need to press the refresh button on what we believe – especially where our beliefs are merely sub-cultural as opposed to doctrinal, and where our views add unnecessarily to the church’s reputation for being out of touch.
In this article, I respond to four questions I have been asked by an old friend of mine who attends your church. To make this a punchy article, I have been quite provocative at times – the aim is to stimulate thought…
The questions tackled from an old friend attending your church are:
1. Are severe mental illnesses the result of the impact of the Fall and the ongoing frustration and bondage that creation is experiencing?
2. How do you as a consultant psychiatrist (a real professional) and a believer (born again disciple of Jesus) communicate the Bible’s meta-narrative regarding both the diagnoses and the source / process of healing for those who come to you for help?
3. How can the local church live out the freedom of God when many within it struggle with their mental health, and how can it communicate the love of God to those who do not believe?
4. If mental health problems are a fact of living in the ‘now but not yet’ of the Kingdom of God, how can we find a balance between letting the ‘professionals’ deal with it and seeking healing / driving out demons – daring to believe that God can bring transformation?
I think my favourite quote from the article is:
So when we think about people who struggle, we need to see this as normal too. We can look at those who ‘struggle with mental illness’ and try to ‘set them free’, but I have yet to meet a person who is truly free (apart from Jesus of course). When we subdivide the church into the ill and the sane, we increase the struggle as well as set an impossible goal. If we were all more open about the ‘Pilgrims Progress’ of our own internal worlds, perhaps those who struggle with their mental health would not feel so useless. If sinners are allowed to lead churches, perhaps we should allow the depressed to lead us in worship. In fact, I know a few well-known worship leaders who are…
Well worth reading the article in its entirety.