As of late, it seems as though the church community is learning to talk more about mental health and really understand that being a Christian does not exempt us from suffering these illnesses. About 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue each year, which means it is more than likely a brother or sister of yours, in Christ, is struggling with their mental health. We need to, in our smaller spaces, where we encounter fellow Christians, discern how to converse with them on such issues and most importantly have empathy without judgement. So, how do we do that?
We should listen with a heart of tenderness, to be quick to listen rather than speak (James 1:19). We need to really pay attention to what is being said, to understand without offering a solution. It can be difficult to talk about our mental health: the internal battles, the problems, especially as a Christian. There is an expectation that we Christians do not suffer the same ailments as the world, yet, we do. When we speak on these issues, it is not time to say we need to “read our bible more” or “pray more”; this is a time to listen.
A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speakEcclesiastes 3:7
At the feet of Jesus, Mary sat and listened (Luke 10:39). Martha was busy doing and trying to make everything ready but that was not what was required (v. 40-41). In that moment, Jesus called them to sit and be with Him. Only one thing was important. Similarly, our friends or fellow Christians may require our support through our mere presence. To receive comfort knowing someone is actively listening.
Although in these moments we may not feel like praying, we appreciate prayers. We can pray for and with our brothers or sisters during these periods. We can pray about the situation that is making us anxious, or pray about the day to help us get through.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GodPhilippians 4:6
The opportunity to pray as a community, to come into agreement in front of God can be a source of strength and support for those who need it. As we read in Matthew 18:20, Jesus says “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”. There is comfort in collectively laying our burdens or anxieties at the feet of Jesus who says that He will carry them and He cares (Ps. 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7). Praying together can be a reminder that we are not alone.
Even so, we should be cautious of prayers that invalidate the feelings and experience of the person. Understandably, prayer does refresh, as we give our problems to God but we have to properly deal with the issues and the underlying problems that cause the outward reactions.
Above all else, we need to have compassion to be there as a friend and fellow believer. We have our faith in the Lord as a common understanding but we need to further comprehend that believers can, have and will continue to go through difficulties in relation to mental health.
We need to stop cancelling our feelings in the name of faith. Our feelings are a good indication of what is going on in our minds and how we are dealing with it. It is important to listen attentively to our body, taking moments out to think about what we are thinking about. Meditation is the process of pausing to think about something. We read in the bible to meditate on the word of God day and night in Joshua 1:8. It doesn’t eradicate the problem but it can help to bring a different perspective to the situation when we look at what God is saying to us.
In general, we should all think more on mental health and the impact on those around us. As the body of Christ, we are to display the character of Him. Jesus asks us to be there for each other (Jn. 13:34), to be selfless and to do onto others as we would like done unto us (Matt. 7:12).
To find out more about the topic of faith and mental health, listen to this episode of the On The Table Podcast!