May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Even in that, we still struggle to see the connection between our mental health and our quest to get closer to God. God needs you to be in healthy mindstate to use you at your best. As leaders and stewards, we make more inroads in the lives of others and in the Kingdom if we prioritize our mental wellbeing.
We have to be very honest about how we as Christians may often look at mental illness. A recent study from Lifeway Research found that there is a “stigma and culture of shame” surrounding mental illness, with some believing that mental illness is some sort of “retribution” for things done in the past. (Source: http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Acute-Mental-Illness-and-Christian-Faith-Research-Report-1.pdf).
Even with those stigmas and stereotypes, most believers know to look to the church for assistance and guidance. That survey also found that most Christians first go to their church for help.
But even those tasked to serve are taking a toll. That same study found that 23% of pastors and faith leaders have struggled with mental illness personally.
28% of individuals surveyed with acute mental illness (ie. clinical depression) agree their mental illness hurt/hurts their ability to live like a Christian. But unfortunately, instead of using our faith as a catalyst for self-help and self care, we often turn to destructive ways to cope.
Self-medicating won't put you at your best. Ignoring time with friends and family won't put you at your best. Days without prayer won't put you at your best. Deleting messages from your therapist to schedule your appointments won't put you at your best. God through His creations big and small -- individual and institutional -- are here to prep you for the road ahead.
Healing is synonymous with our faith because Jesus himself was a healer. Jesus healed the sick as a way to show the power of what God can do through His ultimate creation. Institutions of healing are here to help you as a conduit of the work that Jesus continues to do. Yes, these are no longer the days of leprosy but “demons” still exist. Depression and anxiety, if not treated, can put us in spaces to do harmful and hurtful behavior. Behavior that is not reflective of who we are and who God always called for us to be.
As it says in Romans 8, “for I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV).
For the work that still needs to be done for his Kingdom, we must realize that even in our struggles, we will not be separated from the Lord. Even in our mental health.
- Ciara Todd