“Jesus didn’t wait for a crowd of perfectly well adjusted disciples to turn up; he appointed a real mixed bag of personalities, in spite of their weaknesses and struggles. There’s a place for everyone in the Church and it breaks my heart when I hear of people who’ve been stripped of responsibilities with no explanation or discussion, and all because of their mental health. In all circumstances there are ways of doing things that are honoring and encouraging, so be a kind church. Make sure everyone feels valued.” A struggle doesn’t mean a diluted or broken faith. In fact it’s often quite the opposite; sometimes it’s when you’re at your lowest ebb that you feel closest to God, as your dependency on Him soars. Sometimes, those people may actually have the most to give. I don’t want the next generation of young adults to see a church in which mental health problems have to be silenced and struggles kept out of sight. I want them to understand that we saw it, talked about it and then did something about it.”
By Rachel Welch at Christianity Today
This is part of the ministry to which God has called me. Having experienced acute depression nearly 20 years go, but realizing how very present God was in the midst of it, I am able to talk to women with depression, anxiety, and dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse from first hand experience in what God can do – through patience and self-care in the midst of suffering, through his healing Word and Spirit, through the comfort and encouragement of others, through the witness of those who not only survived but thrived on the other side, through modern medicine and skilled counseling, and through the support of nurturing community. This is why programs like the Depression Impact Group and Titus2 are so needed.. We reinstituted D.I.G. at Lynn Haven last year after a 10 year hiatus because of recent experiences with suicides in our community and several women experiencing profound depressions and despair with suicidal ideations. Someone who has been there and lived to tell the story, as many have, can offer help and hope. Women who have grown and become whole and happy in their lives are able to encourage others who face “dark nights of the soul.” It doesn’t necessarily mean years of therapy and medications, loss of ability to meet daily demands of life or disability. Sometimes it can be a matter of gaining one’s footing in an identity in Christ or becoming educated about depression, anxiety, medications, and being received and feeling accepted in loving empathic faith community.
As I talked through my experiences those years ago with a wonderful Christian counselor (now retired), she gave me the freedom and gentle guidance to explore fears, meaning and purpose, God’s will, the real meaning of love and forgiveness, redemption lived out in daily life, and so much more. Christ’s healing work through her was the difference in healing and forever living in fear of the onslaught of depression again.
It was with her in counseling one day that it occurred to me that God had allowed me to experience the things I had…..to go into the dark wilderness…..in order to see how the enemy works and come out prepared to be shown the wonderful ways in which God guides us into protection against the wiles of the devil in the spirit, soul, and body. God was so very present with me throughout those days. Because I felt his protective presence I was more confused by it all and the suddenness with which it seemed to overtake me than afraid. Later my counselor and I laughed as I described to her how it seemed to me almost like being “innoculated”, receiving a stout dose of something that, though it throws you for a loop, provides immunity from experiencing it again by ramping up your immunoglobulins and providing a protective defense against future exposure. Oh, the lessons that came out of those years of counseling! In time she became more a friend and a mentor than a counselor. Her wisdom and confidence in prayer and the healing power of trusting God helped me grow in ways that nothing else had. It allowed me to step out in HER faith at times when mine felt so inadequate.
I thank God for the experience of depression, for the hospitalization and for leading me to a counselor whose grace and truth through the Word and by the Spirit changed my life!