Andy Stevens, a HEART Partner Pastor, has counselled many people together with his wife Margaret, and says the Church has the answers to today’s mental health issues
These days the term ‘mental health’ seems to relate to people with defined and diagnosed illnesses such as bi-polar, schizophrenia and depression.
We say they show signs of unusual behaviour or thinking that it is away from ‘normal’.
But what is ‘normal’ anyway? Who can we take out of history who is ‘normal’ and make the plumb line of ‘normality’? Jesus was the only ‘normal’ human being; so you could say that we all have some state of mental health issue.
What is the Church doing about people with these mental health issues? Many churches seem fearful of any diagnosed states of mind; as though Jesus would not be able to help them. Have we missed the point of salvation? Are we running scared of facing the big issue? Do we only have pity rather than the solution for these individuals who are trapped and need help to break out?
It seems that while most church members feel sorry for people, at best they say, “There, there; isn’t it sad.” Then they turn away, leaving the sufferer in their mental prison cell and thinking, “I will come back again and say ‘There, there’.”
The main problem here is that Bible-believing Christians have the keys to set them free in their back pocket!
There are in fact many keys but the ones we have found very useful are those used in true counselling. People can be set free if they are willing. Counselling comes in many forms and there has been much bad press about it.
Good counselling is entirely led by the Holy Spirit; he is the counsellor, teacher, comforter; he does not judge or condemn. So, we should not condemn or judge those that do not seem to ‘fit in’ or, are not behaving as we think; they are trapped by the work of the enemy and need a compassionate and helping hand to set them free. As counsellors, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us using all of his attributes. Counselling is not just listening although it’s a very important part as it enables the person in need to be open and honest and become vulnerable again in a safe environment.
People are crying out to be heard, to express their pain and anger. As long as listening is active and is directed toward setting them completely free, then it is valuable to encourage people to voice their pain and then be willing to leave it at the Cross.
We must not forget that hurting people need acceptance, teaching and some guidance as to how to stay free once they have been delivered of their mental health issues. We have seen people released from all sorts of prisons; set free from depression, schizophrenia and addictions. More to the point, people who are scarred, mentally and emotionally from various types of abuse.
In many cases, there is no ‘diagnosed label’; they are just struggling to enter into the life Jesus has for them. These people land up more ‘normal’ than others in the Church who think they have no mental health issues.
It’s time to take the talents out of our back pocket and reach out with the power of Holy Spirit and push fear aside and set the captives free. We have so much to offer from prayer, ministry, deliverance, teaching, companionship, let alone powerful, Spirit-filled meetings where the anointing breaks the yoke of bondage.
The world fails them; don’t let the Church fail them too.
Most ministers have a deep longing to help people live in the fullness of the life that Jesus won for them on the Cross.
And they can find themselves fully occupied counselling the ‘bruised reeds’ that a loving church family often attracts. They have to make difficult decisions about how much time to give people, or when to refer them to another ministry for in-depth help.
So let’s start a conversation in the Church about mental health. If you’re a counsellor or have been counselled, write to email@example.com. Please be aware that letters longer than 200 words will have to be shortened. If you have a testimony of how you’ve been set free, we’d love to hear from you, too.
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