Editor’s note: The posts you’ll read this month will all center around the word “perissos” as found in Ephesians 3:20 and John 10:10. In the future, we’ll offer a greater variety and breadth of scripture, but we wanted to explore some of the depths of these two passages first.
I’m writing this having just finished a conference on Mental Health and the Church. There is much I learned about mental illness but the most surprising is this—none of us are exempt. We all have been in a crisis, are in one right now or will be in one in the future. As scary as that may sound, the real problem is that the majority of us do not know how to respond either as people in crisis are in seeing a loved one go through one. Life has not equipped us to comprehend what happens in these most precious instants. And because of this, we have left many isolated, fending for themselves to find hope in the darkest moments of their lives.
Well here is the curious part of the story. The second part of the title of the conference is “and the Church.” These two concepts are rarely put together in the same sentence. Yet what I witnessed has contradicted everything I ever understood regarding the church’s capacity to help. Putting aside all the failed and/or poor attempts of the church in trying to help, I saw and spoke to many faith leaders who are doing just this—breaking the silence and stigma surrounding those living in the most pain within our midst.
I stood in awe of these great pioneers in part because I would have loved to receive that kind of love throughout the sad and difficult journey of my life. I grew up with mild depression and didn’t know it for years AND grew up in a home where both of my parents were also suffering from mental illness. Our story is all too common in that as much as we had hoped for the church to support us, help us, intervene for us, they did not, leaving us drifting broken and unsure of what next crisis would come our way and on what shores we would end up next.
Yet somehow, I found hope. Through counseling and more counseling, bible studies, countless prayers with and without others, and often many sessions where I felt I was wrestling with God to no avail, darkness began to lift. They say that mental illness can take up to 10 years of your life. Funny, I felt I lost about a decade of my life to depression. I often wish I can erase those years, the terrible mistakes I made, the loneliness I felt, the people I hurt, often rethinking what would have happened differently if… I can’t change my past but I can change how I live today.
One teenage girl with mental illness said it best at the conference, “life is not just supposed to be fine. It is meant to be lived abundantly” (emphasis added). The only way that can happen is if someone who cares comes alongside you to listen to you, to not judge you, to help you get the help you need, to stand by you even when nothing seems to help and pray with you until the darkness lifts. That is what helped the young teenage girl who shared her story, one in which she found help and hope at a church.
Her story is one of the best descriptions I can give you of what Ephesians 3:20 means. “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine.” This means that you can hope to be healed of mental illness, to feel like you are not alone regardless of what the crisis may bring, that you don’t have to bear the burden of trying to overcome what feels impossible to achieve by yourself. I know that might sound like crazy talk –believe me, I certainly struggled to believe that in the darkest moments of my life—but having lived through it, I know now it was God’s grace that kept me pressing forward to the many blessings I have today. That doesn’t mean God has granted me every wish I’ve ever asked for but it does mean that he has helped me live free of needing every wish in order to find peace and joy in life.
So if you are struggling with mental illness (or know someone who is), I first encourage you to share this with someone. Let others know what you are struggling with and how they can help you during this time. If you need immediate help, please call one of the many resources in your community (see below) including your local church. They may not be perfect but I pray you will find someone who will walk with you towards your journey towards hope, life and hopefully one day, abundance in Christ.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recovery-support
To Write Love On Her Arms: https://twloha.com