Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2012 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Last week, an unexpected phone call came. “Hi, Nancy?” It was an unfamiliar southern voice.
“This is Janet from Tennessee.” That name was not familiar to me.
“I just read your article about depression online. I’ve read it over and over again. I am wondering if you can help me,” she said with a drawl.
“Oh!” Surprised is not a strong enough term for what I felt. “I can try.”
“I am sure God has left me. I just know I have sinned too much and he has decided he is through with me.”
Uncertain what I could do for her, I just prayed. She continued to explain her battle with depression and how recently she had spoken some words she believed were offensive to God. Her pastor and church friends did not understand, and she felt she had nowhere else to turn.
One fact was certain; her depression was severe. In the course of her struggle with this condition, she had lost her usual sense of spirituality. No longer could she feel God’s presence, or understand his promises as they applied to her. Depression can do that—make a believer falsely feel spiritually dead.
Clarifying to her my lack of professional expertise, I assured her of what I know to be true – God does not walk away when we hurt.
The article to which she referred is titled, Never Alone in the Dark: A Christian’s Experience with Depression. In it, I describe my struggle with spiritual life during one major depressive episode endured a few years ago. It mentions that although a sense of God’s comfort was missing during the ordeal, and all vestiges of religion were gone, he had not stood back and waited for my confused mind to become reasonable. The last words read, “It is a rather simple bottom line—when all else was lost, Christ was there. And he never let me go.”
Hopefully, Janet was encouraged by our phone conversation. We were on dangerous ground because she was asking for a diagnosis in some ways. All I could safely offer was my personal experience and a few scriptures. After she agreed to find both a psychiatrist and therapist, we said goodbye…
Two things have to change. People like me must be open to feelings and humbly express them, and the Church has to learn that emotionally struggling people are in the pews and this is normal. Christians like Janet and I need spared condemning remarks and judgmental attitudes. Otherwise, how can any of us get well?
The challenge for both the church-at-large and me is the same. Be real.
Today’s Helpful Word
**********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
Teen girls by MELODI2 on rgbstock.com; phone pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com