Mental health conditions affect millions of Americans every year. They are so common that they are the third leading cause of hospitalization for American adults between the ages of 18 and 44-years old. Since mental health conditions are such a looming threat over the lives of millions, you would think the church would be active in the battle against mental illness. But, as you can probably tell, it largely isn’t.
In the church, we talk about mental health from a distance. It’s a problem, but it’s not a problem for us. It’s a problem for people who don’t have Jesus in their lives.
Well, this isn’t true.
Mental illness is a threat to those within and outside of the church. Mental illness doesn’t represent a crisis of faith. There are many reasons someone may have mental illness, such as trauma or chemical imbalance issues. Regardless of the cause (even if it does correlate with a crisis of faith), the church has a responsibility to act.
Why should the church care about mental illness?
The church should care about mental illness for the same reason the church should care about the poor, the broken, the outcast, the unloved and anyone else who is suffering. It’s what Jesus wants us to do.
In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells the church to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” What’s the Law of Christ? It probably has to do something with loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Which is what Jesus calls the greatest commandment in the Law:
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
The church needs to declare war on mental illness
Those with mental illness are in a war and they need an army on their side. The church needs to open its eyes to the reality of this war and they need to stand by the people who are hurting from it.
Acknowledge mental illness for what it is, and let people know you’re there for them. Talk to your church about reaching out to those with mental illness. Look for resources like Bible Studies for Life’s mental health session. And pray. Pray that God will help the church take action in the war against mental illness, so we can better love our neighbors and ourselves.