Out of the Depths… the Church and Mental Illness

Last fall I posted a piece on mental illness and the church. For many reasons this issue resonates with me – personal experience with friends and family struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, and a host of other mental illness. I have found a significant slice of  the church communities I have served also struggle directly with mental illness and struggle with it in their families and friendships.

This weekend the son of Rick Warren committed suicide. He and his wife, Kay, shared a powerful witness around this tragedy that led to my writing again about it today. (If you’ve not seen it, you should read it here. I want to lift up some of the things in Rick Warren’s message that bear repeating to the faith community:

(1) Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, was treated with medicine and medical procedures – as he should have been. While therapy and counseling and spiritual disciplines and Christian community help those who struggle with these demons, the complex chemical processes in the brain are at the root of these illnesses. We have come a long way in the medical world from the days when people were locked in “lunatic” asylums. The church also needs to not lock this issue away.

(2) Mental illness is a devastating problem for those who face it and their families, friends, and other social relationships. The inner darkness that men and women struggle to overcome (and children and teens too for that matter) affect those around them. The darkness overflows into the networks of relationship in people’s lives. At its worst, it erupts into violence as we’ve seen all too clearly in our day.

(3) We – the church – have something to contribute. We have a message of hope and victory that we can offer to those who struggle with mental illness. We also – and perhaps more importantly – can offer places of grace, welcome, and love to people who may not be able to find it anywhere else.

Join me in praying for the Warren’s but also for those who suffer, who struggle, who need our love and grace.

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