Church Myths About Mental Illness By: Rick Qualls
“It’s all your fault,” said Job’s friends. …”If you hadn’t done something wrong these troubles would not have come upon your house.”
But God reveals that Job’s problems were not punishment for sin. Sometimes troubles come into our life because we live in a fallen world where troubles naturally exist.
Even though we know that a disease is not caused by a specific sin, our mind jumps to the ancient conclusion: If you have a problem, it is your fault because you lack enough faith. Repent and all will go well.
But repenting does not cure diabetes. There is no shame in taking meds for diabetes. Nor is shame found in taking meds for high blood pressure. But when troubles come and we don’t understand we blame the victim.
And so like Job’s friends we make the assumption the victim is at fault.
And like Job’s friends we particularly respond with blame or shame for someone diagnosed with a mental illness.
One of four families in our churches are dealing with a member with a mental health diagnosis.
There are many kinds of mental illness, like depression, anorexia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. There are several categorizes for these illnesses as well. Everyone’s experience is different. Each person’s illness has different symptoms.
What are some of misconceptions we make about mental illness?
- God doesn’t care about how we feel. We are saved by faith. Believe and feelings will follow. If healthy feelings don’t follow then you lack faith. Something is wrong for you.
But the problem is God does care about our feelings. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit” Ps 34:18
God cares about every aspect of our lives.
2. It is wrong to use meds to help our mind.
The problem is that many mental illness are a dysfunction of the brain. Chemistry and genetics can play a part. Scientist are still discovering the complex etiology of mental illness. Not taking medicine to help correct these imbalances is irresponsible to yourself, and to your family.
3. In an attempt to be helpful people will say many things. “I know what you mean, I got depressed for a few days.”
The problem is the “blues” are totally different than clinical depression. Usually those who make those remarks are trying to be empathetic and mean well. But end up hurting more than helping their friends.
4. “Oh just get over yourself. I wish I could lose weight.”
People who are comparing themselves to your disease reveal they have no idea how painful anorexia is.
5. “Those with metal illness are not trying hard enough.”
While we would never say to someone with cancer or heart disease, “just get over it. Jump out of that bed and get going.” This is the advice given to mental illness by other church members.
The problem is that we think mental illness occurs because an individual lacks self-will. Theologically we believe that we find life and meaning through God’s grace, through His action of love for us through Jesus Christ. We do not find life by the efforts of our own self will.
“Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” Matt 9:3-5 1-2
Bible teaching helps us during times of difficulties such as mental illness.
The Bible teaches that we are to comfort each other.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
We live in a broken world.
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses.Romans 5:12-14 (MSG)
We have a responsibility to help those with mental illness.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16 Message
We must respond with compassion when one of four families are dealing with mental illness. Together we all need hope and grace.
Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.
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