All around me, I see wounds of war. My closest friends, my peers, strangers even, sharing openly how they have been mentally harmed and the illnesses that they struggle with.
Some people blame the fact that we all use phones and computers. Some blame the breakdown of community and isolation. These are certainly factors that influence our lives, but I don’t believe that they are the cause. I believe the real reason we are seeing these symptoms more, and why we don’t know how to deal with it, is because we live in a generation and a church culture that does not know we are at war.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (KJV)
In North America, I live a very sheltered life. There are no wars, no famines, and almost no threat of losing my home. Yet the truth is still there that spiritually speaking, I live in a war zone. The wounds that I see in my peers are living proof.
It’s important to remember this, especially for churches which are not as comfortable with mental illness, or which expect everyone to be awesome all the time. Mental illness is not mental weakness, it is a wound of war. We would do well in church to understand that for many who deal with mental illness, the fight has taught them mental strength. Many those who are mentally healthy may be mentally weak.
What Gets Lost
A few years ago, I applied for a position with a missionary organization. I was turned down. When I asked why, my interviewer told me that they turned me down because I said that I’d dealt with seasons of depression. They worried that I would have a hard time handling the transition, isolation, and stress of living in another country. They didn’t want to send someone who would fall apart 2 months in.
What they didn’t know, and didn’t ask is that after my first season of sadness, I did move to another country, away from my family and all support systems. That I maintained a B+ GPA in university (after my first really bad winter, because online classes were not my thing). That I had risen to the challenge of living and studying and working all in spite of having incredibly low motivation.
What they didn’t know and didn’t ask is what I learned from every low season I have walked through. If I were the committee that oversaw that process, I would prefer to send someone who knows what it’s like to be lonely and has walked through that feeling before. I would prefer not send someone who has never been sad, because they’ve never been without a support system. The wounds may be ugly and scary, but the wounded ones know the healer. And the healer is the one who gives us strength.