Chris Tomlin O Come all Ye Faithful

Monday, December 14, 2009

No Harm Intended but Harm done

I would like to bring up a topic which may be controversial...or, and I am praying that this is the case, perhaps the problem exists due to ignorance and can be remedied by a little bit of education into the facts. The problem is the: the continual ostrich syndrome of Christians who do not understand that, by and large, mental illnesses are PHYSICAL diseases...True, they play havoc with our emotions and can potentially challenge our spiritual state as well, but those effects are the consequences and not the causes of the struggles we face. And the longer Christians get their horses before the cart and tell or infer to people who are thus suffering, that they need to "pray a little harder" or "get in the Word more" or deal with their hurtful pasts which are CAUSING their symptoms; the more pain and burden they are heaping onto those who are afflicted with these diseases.

The following quote is from a blog post which I read this morning on this very topic.
"Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders — dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness. " quote from USA Today

"Isn’t that the truth!
Christians are horrible at addressing mental illness, because we equate the mind with the soul, and presume that if someone has a mental illness that it is at the root a spiritual problem. Now I will be the first to grant that mental illness always has a spiritual component, but arguing that clinical depression or other mental illnesses are simply spiritual is irresponsible..."
The author of this blog quote is Pastor Todd Peperkorn, a Lutheran minister who suffers from clinical depression and he can be found at:http://darkmyroad.org/2009/10/29/another-pastors-suicide-sparks-conversation

The suggestions come in various forms; "Have you prayed about this?" "Maybe you need to completely surrender this to Jesus..." or in their prayers saying, "Give him/her the faith to accept the healing that You have for her..." "God doesn't desire ANYONE to be sick...it's not in His plan for us" "Lord, we ask you to reveal the hurts that lie at the root of this illness and heal them." Yes, these things have a core of
truth to them, but why does no one ever EVER pray, "Dear Lord will you fix this diseased brain...balance out it's production of seratonin and dopamine; somehow heal the genetic problems and fix the damage that they've caused to the brain. Lord, change the things in their environment which are not conducive to mental health..."
You get the idea. We hear those kinds of prayers in requests for healing from cancer, why not for schizophrenia or major depression or obsessive compulsive disorder?

If you look at a schizophrenic brain in a CT scan; you can observe the physical differences in the brain which have been caused by the disease. And medication is the only thing that will make that person able to function (short of a miraculous
healing.) Unfortunately, the medications aren't perfect and come with their own sets of problems. But they are really the only option for a person suffering with this, as well as with other mental illnesses.

It is adding a great burden to the already bowed shoulders of the mentally ill to imply such things or suggest or pray in an unbalanced manner for these illnesses. For someone who has problems with OCD or even depression and tends to question themselves endlessly or to put blame on themselves where none exists; to deepen their insecurity or to cause them to further question themselves, is not just irresponsible as the above quote stated, but it is even hurtful.
Church: wake up! If you need to become educated, do so. Look at some of the websites in the sidebar of this blog. I would even suggest that you search your heart and ask God's forgiveness for any hurt you have incurred to someone, albeit unwittingly...and maybe ask them for forgiveness as well. Mental Illness is a sneaky disease in that it begins in the brain and can cause erratic behavior and labile emotions... But before you go judging the behavior and condemning the emotions, please consider that the sufferer of the disease is a hapless victim of havoc wreaked within his/her brain and biochemistry. Their behavior may be wrong, and while they should be encouraged to find help and to treat the disease, I do not think that God will hold them as accountable for each action as He may in other cases.
Please have the same mercy!
Post a Comment