What would you think if you heard that someone had come to see me experiencing severe chest pain and I had only prayed for them and sent them away without STRONGLY encouraging them to see a health professional or accompanying them to the doctor’s surgery or hospital myself? I hope that you would be appalled. In the same way, if someone came to me experiencing symptoms of severe mental health issues, I hope that you would be appalled if I just prayed for them without doing the same thing as the person with chest pains.
As a new Christian in the late 80’s I was confronted with the messaging that mental health issues were a sign of a character flaw, or weakness (at best), or the obvious result of unrepented sin (at worst). I had thought the worldwide church had come a long way from the misunderstandings - naming, shaming and blaming - that had happened during that time. But I am having a growing number of conversations where mental health issues have been brought up - very anxiously and almost guiltily - by people who are still being made to feel this way. These conversations haven’t been with ‘bad’ people, or ‘mad’ people or just ‘sad’ people, they have been with people who are facing difficult mental health issues that need professional help.
So, yes, I will pray with someone facing a mental health crisis and support them to see where Jesus is present in their journey just as I will pray with and support those facing joint pain, heart problems or awaiting biopsy results. And I will encourage them to get the professional help they need. Can we all do that?
Just as ‘you can’t run from a bad diet’, you ‘can’t pray away the grey’.
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Christchurch, New Zealand
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