Shooting the Wounded
"Praise be to the God … the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."1
Someone has facetiously said that Christians form the only army that shoots its wounded! A sad commentary but too often too true. For example, some church people still judge people suffering from depression and other emotional problems saying they lack faith, have unconfessed sin, or are not involved in enough Bible study and prayer.
According to the author of the book, Beyond Seduction, "There is no such thing as mental illness; it is either a physical problem in the brain … or it is a moral or spiritual problem." Another well-known Christian leader basically agrees. In his book, Our Sufficiency in Christ, he writes, "There is no such thing as a 'psychological problem' unrelated to spiritual or physical causes. God supplies divine resources sufficient to meet all those needs completely."
Whew! Can you imagine what it does to a person who is mentally ill to hear that there is no such thing? It makes him or her more depressed. Certainly some depression is caused by a physical (biological) or a spiritual problem, but certainly not all by any means. Some is caused by psychological or emotional problems and needs to be resolved with psychological tools just as medical problems need to be resolved with medical tools. Even Paul said to Timothy, "Take a little wine for your stomach's sake."
And, how about Moses, Elijah, Job and Jeremiah who all experienced times of depression.2 David, too, was often downcast and depressed. Martin Luther also suffered from long bouts of depression as did Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, and J.B. Phillips the great Bible scholar.
What I believe God wants us to do when we are depressed or mentally ill is to get the help we need (professional if necessary) to find and treat the cause/s. What we don't need is judgmental "friends" who Christianize complexes and condemn us when we are down or tell us we shouldn't feel the way we feel. What we need is supportive friends who will listen to us, give us their understanding, and help comfort us with the comfort they themselves have received in their times of trouble. Isn't that what Jesus was all about?
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please deliver me from being cursed with the affliction to give unsolicited advice to, or to be judgmental toward, those who are emotionally down, depressed, or mentally ill. In all situations please give me the grace, compassion and understanding so that I will be as Jesus to friends and neighbors who hurt. And please use me to be a wounded healer. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV).
2. See Numbers 11; 1 Kings 19; Job 3; and Lamentations 1-5.