The church is called to love one another. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus very plainly stated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
Following are a few ways that we as a church can surround our members who suffer from anxiety and show them the love of Christ.
Call it what it is
Let’s start by naming it. There is power in a name. It can be frightening to receive a diagnosis, but once it is identified treatment can begin. The church can support members who suffer from anxiety by being willing to speak about it freely.
The church must step up in its efforts to be more vocal about anxiety, mental illness and suicide ideation. When we remain quiet, we are rejecting those we are called to love.
Be a safe place
Anxiety can be crippling. It becomes a barrier to the outside world. The church can combat this by being a safe place where all topics are welcomed. Encourage others to share their struggles, and begin by sharing your own. Many times when one story is shared, the floodgates open and those who have been hiding their struggles want to share and find understanding.
Be the first to speak up and say, “This is me. I’m not perfect. But I know I’m also not alone.”
Everyone’s story is different. Some cope with meditation and exercise, some with medication, and some with therapy animals or a combination. The church needs to make space for those who suffer from anxiety. Be understanding when a volunteer calls in and says today they need to take a mental health break. Educate staff and members on how to interact with therapy animals, how flashing lights in a dark sanctuary may be a trigger, or how crowds may hinder some from coming. Provide alternatives by streaming live services, reserve the back row for those who may need a quick exit, and be accommodating to individual sensitivities of those who have shared their anxiety with you.
At Centerpoint, we acknowledge anxiety is a real and powerful mental health disorder. We stand by the sides of those who struggle with it. We encourage others to do the same and to empower people in their community to care for those suffering from anxiety.