In the last few weeks, I have had personal contact with several families dealing with their precious loved ones who suffer from some sort of mental illness. For most of my life, people just did not share stories about relatives who had mental or emotional struggles. And they certainly did not open themselves up for prayer and care.
I am so glad the times they are a changin’!
Mental illness in all its forms (and from all its roots) is all around us. Anxiety plagues leaders, pastors, mothers, church workers, missionaries and everyone else. Fear grips the hearts of dads, teenagers, teachers, political figures and children in our vacation Bible schools. Mental trauma attacks every race, people group, gender and social sphere. No one is exempt from the trials and suffering that our minds can conjure up.
But there is hope. (No platitudes here. Just the statement that in Christ, there is hope!) In the gospels when someone thrashed around bullied by his/her mental condition, Jesus modeled the first step towards getting them mentally healthy. He showed up!
In Luke 8, Jesus encountered the maniac of Gadera. The scripture says that after Christ freed him from a legion of demons, the afflicted man was found “…sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.” And it all started because Jesus purposed to visit his town.
All around us sit people trapped in emotion cages and mental prisons. Some have medical issues. Some have chemical imbalances. Some are harassed by Satan and his crowd. Some are traumatized by significant life events.
However challenging and methodical the therapeutic interventions might be, they all start with someone who cares by just showing up.
Maybe this week, you can take a moment and look around. Notice who may be retreating a bit. Find someone who is hurting. And reach out. Start a conversation. Buy them a cup of coffee. Offer to drive them to a doctor or therapist. Or maybe just sit and listen.
I get that mental illness is complex and complicated. But Jesus gave us the example. Let’s just show up and then we can pray for the next steps towards their recovery.
We all want to be “dressed and in our right minds.” Let’s help our friends and family get there.