Saturday, March 7, 2015

Are you ready to come out of the closet?

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When I was a case-manger I discovered that social workers and even psychiatrists were hiding the fact that they had some kind of mental illness. I would say in staff meetings, "If we really want to fight stigma why don't we take all of our antidepressants and mood stabilizers and put them on the table in front of us." They never did. I did witness though when Robyn and I were doing one of our seminars that a well known, highly educated psychiatrist said in front of the group, "I have bipolar 2 disorder and I have finally come out of the closet."
When I first was depressed as a pastor in Florida one of the leaders from my college spoke at a pastors' conference. He presented depression as being a sign of emotional weakness.  I was stuck in the middle of a row in the church. I wished a sink hole would just open up and remove me from my humiliation. Most people with mental illness who attend church refuse to broach the subject. Why the silence? They are ashamed. The result is a person who suffers from one of the most painful diseases known to mankind, faces it alone and then because of these feeling of embarrassment, inadequacy, inferiority and shame, the devil gets an advantage. The end of this scenario is suicide. Remember, the devil is a liar and a murderer and has been from the beginning.

One reason for this misplaced stigma is that many in church leadership regard the roots of mental illness as moral and/or spiritual. This non-shepherding approach assumes that spiritual people do not get depressed, have anxiety or hear voices. This approach breeds a critical spirit. It also drives the person away from the church and discourages transparency.  Job said, "For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty" (Job 6:14).  Good pastors who berate or neglect the mentally ill may be held responsible at the Judgment Seat of Christ for hurting one of the Chief Shepherd's lambs


The Lord Jesus Christ and a weak spirit.

Another reason for this misplaced stigma is a failure to listen to what Scripture says about believers in a weakened state. It was said of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:20; A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He leads justice to victory ( NIV). A bruised reed represents a person who is emotionally damaged. This emotional pain could stem from problems with assurance of salvation, it could be from a strong Satanic attack or it could be the result of a mental illness. A bruised reed is almost broken, a smoldering wick is one that is flickering and its flame is almost out; while both are "almost" destroyed, they will not be because Jesus Christ makes sure they will survive. If He is so generous to His weak ones, why should others try to break the spirit of the depressed?

God has chosen the weak to confound the wise
Scripture tells us in I Corinthians 1:26-29 that God has chosen the weak and
foolish of this world to confound the wise. The apostle Paul said that he gloried in his weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:9-11. No one really has it altogether. We should glory that we have a vital union with Jesus Christ. We should also glory in our weakness.

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Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

A third reason for this misplaced stigma is a failure to look at the experience
of the God/Man Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Mark 14:33, 34 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch . The word for distressed in the Greek is ekthambeho. It means to, throw into terror or amazement. Please notice the word is preceded by "very." He was very terrified and surprised at his suffering. The word, troubled, in the NASB  is ademoneo in the Greek.
Thayer who was a Greek scholar says about this word. It means to be troubled, in great distress or anguish, depressed.This is the strongest of the three Greek words in the NT for depression.
Jesus Christ was wholly God but also wholly man, the God/Man. He felt depression; like the writer of Hebrews says, He was touched by the feelings of our infirmities. He is the One who understands your suffering and He does not condemn you or blame you; Christ is not ashamed of you and your illness. Take heart; He knows.