Despite the prevalence of mental illness, as a church, (at least in my experience),we don’t talk about it enough. I’m not advocating we always spill our guts over coffee or put ‘greater sexual intimacy’ on the PCC agenda. Not necessarily. But as the body of Christ, we don’t need to hide or cover our weaknesses. On the contrary – we’re to share them and to support one another.
I think we’re getting better at discussing depression, but there’s still a stigma there. At worst, it can be characterised as the ‘lazy’ disease. Recovery, (because of course this can’t be chronic), therefore requires you pull yourself together and start looking on the bright side. What sort of a Christian witness is misery, eh? You should have it together. And if that doesn’t work, why not dose up with a generous slug of guilt? – think of all those who are worse off than you.
Then there are the ‘shallow’ diseases – such as anorexia. So, if you’re gonna get sick, then at least get something that doesn’t revolve around fashion and your appearance. Now have a proper meal and stop being so silly.
Or the ‘crazy’ ones. Schizophrenia for example. OCD. Quick, call in the experts!
Of course such approaches only compound the problems. And they’re labels that sufferers give themselves, as much as ones inflicted by others. If you think the depressed Christian should brighten up, multiply those expectations by a hundred, add a dash of self-contempt and welcome to their world. When you’re in the pit, lifting your head above the parapet by meeting up with others is a big deal. The temptation is to shut down, withdraw, isolate. In reality, we need to be invited and encouraged to join fellow pilgrims who aren’t sorted or perfect, but who continue, albeit falteringly, to trust the Lord. Because it’s about how great He is, not how good at coping we are.
Sometimes I feel like to be real is to let the Lord down. If I’m finding life tough, then if I can’t put on a happy face, I should at least shut up, or paper over the cracks with an apt verse.But Jesus doesn’t require my clumsy efforts at PR. He is a doctor for the sick, not an add-on to the perfect marriage/family/career.