Compassionate Understanding is the first way the church can help those struggling with mental illness (and those around them).
Science is a gift from God, don't be unscientific. But don't automatically accept scientists philosophical conclusions, remember they are scientists, not philosophers or theologians. Learn, but with biblical critique, because the Bible is the highest authoritative knowledge that we have. Specifically when attempting to minister to someone with mental health problems, we should learn more about their condition in order to feel more compassion and be better equipped to love them.
Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter asks, “What are the causes and cure of melancholy (depression)?” and answers:
“With many people most of the cause is in distemper, weakness, and disease of the body, and by it the soul is greatly disabled to any comfortable sense. But the more it comes from such natural necessity, it is the less sinful, and less dangerous to the soul, but still just as troublesome.”
Baxter then goes on to identify “three diseases that cause too much sorrow.”
- Those that consist in such violent pain as natural strength is unable to bear.
- A natural passion, and weakness of that reason that should quiet passion (often seen in the elderly or debilitated).
- When the brain and imagination are impaired, and reason partly overthrown by the disease called melancholy, or depression.
We tend to fear the unknown. If your friend tells you they have been diagnosed as bipolar, there are a few different ways you could react, but understanding more about that condition enables you to love them better. Weakness and inability to just “fix” things ourselves reminds us of our fallen condition and our need of Christ. If you struggle with a mental illness, Jesus offers not just temporal help but the hope of ultimate deliverance in the resurrection body! If you need help ministering to those with mental illness the daily grace that Jesus gives is exactly what you need for the sometimes exhausting and daunting task that that is.
In Prayer Today:
Ask how we might seek help or give help to those who struggle with mental illness.