Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 8th 2014 Contents A31
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
At times, the church appears
to be operating by conflicting
principles. Its message is "loving
your neighbour as yourself" and
"bearing each other s burdens"
but many congregations remain
silent when the neighbour s bur-
den is mental illness.
It wants nothing to do with
"weakness" and so withholds the
loving as commanded.
It s self-contradictory, preach-
ing, "We who are strong ought
to bear with the failings of the
weak and not to please ourselves"
then it says your sharing should
only be about victories because
a testimony "is about a test you ve
passed." Essentially, if you have
a recurring/ongoing illness here
is not the place to speak of it.
Someone wrote saying her pas-
tor says testifying about depres-
sion and crying in front of the
congregation makes God look
powerless. She now resorts to
crying when Christians aren t
around and simulating happy for
church. How does the church
meet her needs as Christ expects
when she cannot be open about
Could this rejection by the
church be the representative
voice/attitude of the Great Physician?
So what if I m in the period of test-
ing and need the membership s sup-
port to bear my burdens with me?
James 1:27 says, "Religion that God
our Father accepts as pure and faultless
is this: to look after orphans and wid-
ows in their distress." Why does pastor
say you cannot talk about distress in
Paul says, "Bear one another s bur-
den" Galatians 6:2. Pastor says, when
you come into the house of God, leave
it all outside. Come with an attitude
to praise God, come expecting healing
and miracles (which have never been
performed in that congregation that s
over three decades old). Come and
make a joyful noise.
Why does Hebrews 12 say "Endure
hardship as discipline; God is treating
you as his children. For what children
are not disciplined by their father?"
Has the God of this current church
changed his mind about Christians
going through hardship; discipline?
James 1:2 says, "Consider it pure
joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever
you face trials of many kinds, because
you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance." Pastor says
come happy; let s not acknowledge
trials and testing.
I contend that pastor s intimations
adds to the faulty perception that
Christians are all healed and whole
and the ones who don t appear so are
just downright riddled with sin and
If we are so whole, why does the
writer in Hebrews 4:15 say we need
a high priest who is able to empathise
with our weaknesses? One who s able
to deal gently with those who are
ignorant and going astray since he
himself is subject to weakness. Why
does High Priest Jesus "always live to
intercede for (us)?"
This obvious withdrawal from real-
ity comes because church interprets
holy--which the Bible say Christians
become--to mean perfect. The church
is so infatuated with healing and mir-
acles, happiness and perfection that
it inevitably marginalises the very peo-
ple for whom Christ died.
"Part of the problem is our expec-
tations," says Pastor Dr Rick Warren.
"If we could just tear down that bizarre
idea that Christians are supposed to
be perfect, that church is a place for
happy, smiling, perfect people, then
these realities might not be so diffi-
"I think part of it has to do with
this expectation that Christians have
to be perfect. But we re not. So we
avoid things like mental illness,
depression, pain, struggle and failure.
Those things are the opposite of per-
fect, so we don t dare talk about them."
In the story of Amy Simpson, author
and Christianity Today editor who s
mother is schizophrenic, Simpson says,
"There are so many misconceptions
about mental illness, it s hard to pick
just one. But I think it s critical to
understand that a person with mental
illness is not a wasted life or a throw-
"God is not surprised by illness or
helpless in its face. He is not disap-
pointed by our diagnoses, and he does
not walk away to focus his attention
on people who aren t broken."
Simpson is one of four children to
dad, a one-time pastor, and mom, a
homemaker and lay worker. Both had
been formally trained for missionary
As a teenager, Simpson realised
something was different with her
Mom but no one spoke of it. She grew
up witnessing her mother sink into
various realms--including paranoia,
the occult, and prison--and noted there
was never an appropriate response
from the church. These were among
what prompted her to educate the
"We re all broken," she says, "and
that s the backdrop to the amazing
message of Jesus," she says. "He knows
our flaws and weaknesses and cor-
ruption better than we do, and he loves
us anyway. He redeems us and makes
us his representatives, despite our
shabby lives. He knows how to use
the very weakest and most powerless
to bring shame to those who are strong
and powerful (1 Corinthians 1:27)."
When church conduct appears 'schizophrenic'
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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