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The Church Must Offer Hope for Mental Health

The Church Must Offer Hope for Mental Health

God never wastes your pain. In fact, your greatest ministry will come out of your greatest pain.

It was in my role as a father that I heard the call to be an advocate for people living with mental illness. Our youngest son, Matthew, struggled terribly with mental illness almost his entire life; his suffering was immense. Then, in 2013, in an impulsive moment of despair, he took his own life. As a family, we were crushed and devastated.

Over the difficult months that followed, Kay and I decided to not waste our pain, but to allow God to use it to help others.

In Luke 4:17-21, Jesus talked about his model for ministry, which he has passed on to the church today:

“The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.’ He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!'”

If we who follow Jesus are going to become like him, we have to decide to stand with people who suffer, and some of the people who suffer most greatly in our society are people living with mental illness. So if Jesus’ mission was to stand with and for those who suffer, and the church is carrying out the mission of Jesus today, then one of the greatest ways the church can serve the world is by taking an active role to come alongside those who live with mental illness.

We’ve built our mental health ministry around a church-based strategy using an acrostic of the word CHURCH.

C – Care for individuals and families

The church should be the safest place in the world, emotionally speaking, for those who live with mental illness to go for help. It should be known and understood that we care about everyone’s pain.

H – Help with practical needs

Often, mental illness can be debilitating. Often people living with mental illness have vocational and physical needs that are quite unique, and the church can help.

U – Utilize volunteers

While trained professionals are essential to the mental health field, the Body of Christ itself is filled with people who have been changed by God’s grace and who are a source of wisdom and encouragement. Lay counseling is another form of discipleship. Saddleback Church takes volunteers through a 52-week training course and then walks them through an initial observation period. It has been one of our strongest on-campus ministries.

R – Remove the stigma

We absolutely have to begin treating mental illness as an illness like any other. Just as any part of our bodies can suffer illness such as diabetes or cancer, our brains can suffer illnesses as well. That illness can be caused by trauma, chemical imbalances, or hereditary factors. Being sick isn’t a sin, and neither is living with mental illness.

C – Collaborate with the community

The church can often be a bridge between hurting people and caring professionals in the community. It’s a good idea for church leaders to get to know local mental health providers and counselors for those who need more than an ongoing conversation about life.

H – Offer hope

Suicide is never God’s choice for a person’s life, but suicide rates are alarming because too many people are giving up hope. Because God loves every person and has a purpose for every life, there is always, always hope! Keep preaching it and sharing it!

Every church can play some role in the lives of people who live with mental illness, and there are few opportunities that come before the church as great as this one in our present cultural climate. The local church is the hope of the world, even for those struggling under the weight of mental illness!

Explore The Hope for Mental Health Ministry, HERE!

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