Updated: Dec 1, 2019
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
The eighth Station represented at the Magnificent Cathedral de Sal (The Salt Cathedral) in Zipaquira stands out. It seemed unremarkable to me at first, there are several similar displays before it. But something about the 2 halite sculptures and the cross they flank seem unique. The real story is that this display is a representation of Christ’s Journey to Golgotha carrying a cross, He meets sorrowful women (disciples) on the way and despite His own anguish ‘consoles’ the women. How can one experiencing such pain even think of consoling others in arguably less pain? Yet, Christ did. In John 19 vs. 26-27, Christ looks at His mother and John and joins both as mother and child – out of compassion.
Jesus demonstrates compassion in His life, as much as He demonstrates His love for God His father. He chooses to die for sinful man, just out of compassion. Christ asks his church to align to the ministry of compassion. He commands to Peter (the leader of the church) “Feed My Sheep” John 21 vs. 17.
It’s interesting that Christ’s words were not to heal the physiologically sick, even though physiological illnesses also require healing and Christ did heal them. There is a difference between being physiologically (physically) ill and psychologically ill. The Church is obsessed with physiological illnesses, they are more common and visible, fortunately medical practice is well equipped to deal with physiological issues. The church must continue to participate in healing the sick but must recognize that God has given men & women in the medical practice the wisdom to treat physiological conditions at a larger and more progressive scale. Progress made in medicine, especially in the last century, has been nothing short of miraculous.
On the other hand, there are those who are broken-hearted, going through mental distress. Although there are psychiatrists trained for mental illnesses, there are many phases to mental illnesses. First is the diagnosis of a mental condition. Conditions like anxiety & depression can be easily excused away or rationalized from an external perspective, yet they are serious and can be life threatening to people suffering from them. Professional help is often needed to identify these conditions in people. Quite simply, more churches need trained counselors that listen without judgement or bias and identify mental health issues in cases of serious conditions or just provide a listening ear in other cases. But the counselors must be properly trained and spiritually discerning. People suffering from mental conditions require both medical, social and very importantly spiritual support for full and permanent recovery
Then there is the stigma associated with living with a mental illness. Even when sometimes people figure out something is wrong mentally, such as having suicidal thoughts, feeling sad or down for extended periods, hallucinating, worried or sad etc. they refuse to seek help because they are afraid of being stigmatized. Christ in Matthew 11: 28 – 30 says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. The church should be a succor for those who are weary. We must not judge but always be willing to offer a helping hand through encouragement.
Finally, there is treatment. Except a church has a certified professional, the right thing to do is to refer members with mental health issues to properly trained psychiatrists. The church should then participate in the monitoring process (through visitation and intercession) to make sure sick individuals get better, just like follow-up. Follow-up is necessary for new converts; it is also important to follow-up closely with those among us who are challenged. This is fulfilling our duty to care.
In summary, every church must set up a care and support structure. A counseling unit, a caring community and a follow-up culture that lasts beyond short term interventions. Otherwise, only visible situations are attended to, leaving behind a trail of people who are invisible, but they matter so much to God. We all matter so much to God that He sent His son to die for us. For All of Us.
More info here: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/global-mental-health-five-key-insights-which-emerge-from-the-data