“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Recently, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church, the Rev. Rick Warren, confessed that he had suffered from depression after the terrible death of his son, Matthew Warren, who committed suicide. His pain is like a knife cutting through his heart. What he did, to at least be able to manage his depression, was to always ask for God’s grace to sustain and help him stand in the pulpit on Sundays to preach the Word. After a little over a year since the passing of his son, Rev. Warren and his church established a ministry that addresses mental and emotional illness/disorder. Warren believes that people who are struggling with mental and emotional issues should not give up as there is always hope in Jesus Christ. He stated that, “We are not defined by our mental illness, addiction, alcoholism…” Therefore, we are also not defined by our family’s background or medical history. We are defined by Christ; our identity is in Him. The Scripture clearly says that we are a children of God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12). We are more than conquerors (Romans8:37); we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). This is our identity in Christ. Hallelujah! Glory to God for this great hope of healing and deliverance!
Now, if you have issues with alcohol, addiction or mental and emotional disorder, you should never say, “I’m an alcoholic, addict or mentally and emotionally ill person,” as we are not defined by any of these. Rather, what we should say is “I’m a believer of Jesus Christ struggling with alcohol, addiction or mental and emotional disorder.” In addition, the Apostle Paul said that God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs and His power is made perfect when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:8). Hence, followers of Jesus Christ have been given such exclusive gifts of hope, healing and deliverance. To learn more about Rev. Warren’s mental health ministry, please watch this video link: http://
In his lecture on “Christianity and Depression,” Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA Irvine, stated that “he had patients that would choose cancer over depression.” This fact surprises me; however, I came to realize that mental and emotional illnesses are both invisible diseases that surely would never go away completely, and pills just do not fix these problems permanently. It is also stunning that studies show one in four adults in America will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives. At this point, it is crucial to reflect on Dr. Harold Recinos’ essay lamenting the death of Robin Williams. As Dr. Recinos put it:
What can we do to help others with severe depression, especially before they see no other way out of the anguish than death? We can learn the signs and symptoms of depression, encourage treatment, identify signs of a worsening condition, understand the risks of suicide associated with depression, remain vigilant for warning signs of suicide such as talk about suicide, severe mood swings, withdrawing from social life, developing personality changes, among others. We can provide support, learn all we can about depression, and locate helpful organizations that offer support groups, counseling and other resources for addressing depression and suicide.
I believe that this statement from Dr. Recinos is an important call to the church to get involved not only in the physical healing of a person but as well as providing a place to accommodate those people who may have emotional and mental issues. It is easy to tell someone if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, but telling someone that you have depression or mental illness is almost impossible as this kind of disease is stigmatized in our society and community. Thus, it is crucial that the church or any small-group of believers should step up and remove the stigma of depression and mental disorder. We need to treat this invisible illness just like other physical disease that we experience. It is my hope that we as people of God would create a safe environment and ministry to address these illnesses as more and more churches are now doing it.
In my conversation with Meagan Jackson, a Licensed Professional Counselor and member of our church, I have been tremendously blessed by her knowledge as to how we can better address mental and emotional illness. As she shared with me:
“Emotional and mental healing begins with the acknowledgment that a problem exists within an individual. At that point each individual has a choice to seek healing or wholeness through vulnerability, either with a professional or within a community.”
She suggested Carl Rogers’ three conditions for healing: empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another), unconditional positive regard, and genuineness (truly what something is said to be; authentic).
“The individual’s process of healing is one of being willing to be vulnerable with others and to examine the role they have within the world they have created. This is an active role.
“The role of the community is to learn acceptance and rid itself of stigmas. Mental and emotional health in this country is often looked at as a weakness of the individual rather than as a struggle or illness. Educating a culture or church through building relationships and understanding the roots of many disorders can create an environment of empathy, unconditional positive regard and genuineness. Once this community is created, the role of the community is to support, care for and be the hands and feet of Jesus to create a place for healing. I also personally believe in the power of prayer and believe that praying for those who hurt in our community is powerful. We are told in James 5:16 “…to pray for each other that you may be healed.” Prayer is a powerful part of any individual’s and community’s healing.”
With these powerful statements above, I would suggest that we keep in mind and reflect on these important words that Meagan Jackson has said about – prayer, choice, acknowledgement, vulnerability, Carl Rogers’ formula (empathy, unconditional positive regard, genuineness), acceptance, getting rid of stigma, community, building relationships and support. (For further Scripture readings, please see also Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2, and Luke 6:17-19).