Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Monday, December 10, 2007

How Can The Church Help The Mentally Ill?

Ministering to the Mentally Ill and the emotionally Distraught

The magnitude of mental illness in this country is staggering. According to the Surgeon General, one in every five Americans experiences a mental disorder in any given year and half of all Americans have such disorders at some time in their lives. These illnesses of the brain affect all of us, regardless of age, gender, economic status or ethnicity. Nearly every person sitting in the pews has been touched in some way by mental illness. And yet individuals and families continue to suffer in silence or stop coming to their faith community because they are not receiving the support they so desperately need. They become detached from their faith community and their spirituality, which is an important source of healing, wholeness and hope in times of personal darkness. THERE IS HOPE!

The Church MUST remember these things about the mentally Ill:

1. Welcome the chronically mentally ill into the life of the local congregation. God CAN use the mentally ill, everyone has a divine purpose!
2. Support the families of the chronically mentally ill in ways that alleviate their heavy burdens of care. Often they are treated with equal distain.
3. Enhance the skills of congregational caregivers in their ministry to the chronically mentally ill.

4. Mental Illness is as much a disease as a physical illness; only in rare cases is demon possession the problem, mental illness can be genetic, from emotional trauma, or from a traumatic injury.

Our Ministry Arises Out of Our Faith:
1. We believe that all members of the human race, the chronically mentally ill not less than others, they have been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We invite them into the fellowship of faith with us.
2. We believe that all people, including the chronically mentally ill, baptized into the community of faith, need to be nurtured by the Gospel within the framework of their special needs.
3. We recognize that the local congregation is a community of God's people, one of whose hallmarks is mutual care and support.

Facts About Mental Illness and Resources For Ministering to the Mentally Ill

Mental illness (brain disorders) strikes one in five families in the United States, according to estimates of the National Institutes of Mental Health. This estimate will tell you the probable number of mental illness cases in your church.
Care Ministry
Ministry to the mentally ill is generally less intentional and consistent than care for physical illness. Remember mental illness can strike ANYONE at anytime!
It is not easy to read the thought world of the mentally ill when loose thought association moves the speaker from one subject to another without logical connection.
Delusions, inner voices, deep withdrawal can make conversation and relationships all but impossible.
Conventional spiritual care is on occasion distorted and disconnected from its Gospel content by the mentally ill person.
Communication is broken off; ministry and relationship, while desired, appear beyond reach.
In the absence of the new knowledge of mental illness as brain disease, older theories: the family's emotional climate, parental relationships, or inheritance persist.
The mentally ill are identified by their disease - he is a schizophrenic; she is manic-depressive--in the minds of congregation members. People do not recognize their talents, accomplishments, or the family name.

What if I Become Sick?

If you are a Christian and you are suffering with an illness (Mental or Physical) of some kind be encouraged. God has not forsaken you. I know it may feel like it but He hasn’t. I have received great comfort from Psalm 13, a Psalm of David. This Psalm has taught me that one of the major problems with suffering is dealing with anger and bitter feelings towards God Himself. We have been taught the new wave message of “positive confession”, but what God really desires from us is an honest confession. Out of all the books in the Bible, the one that has delivered me the most is the Psalms. To many believers Psalms is just a collection of praise song. Many theologians look at Psalms, Proverbs, and especially Ecclesiastes as books without much doctrinal weight or value. How wrong they are! Through all of my trials and tribulations, I have been able to find a point of contact and understanding by reading Psalms. My favorite Psalm is Psalm 13.

After you read it you may wonder, “How can this depressing psalm be someone’s favorite?” This is the most honest prayer in the scriptures. David asked God a question, “How long will you forget me Lord?” This honesty in prayer helped me realize that God wants to hear everything we have to say, the good and the bad. David felt abandoned by God. I can identify with this feeling. For the last three years I have been battling sickness. I have been poked, prodded, and examined. I have had Scarlet Fever. I have been misdiagnosed with Osteomylitis (bone infection). I was on an IV for 8 weeks; my lungs were scanned and X-rayed to find growths. I have granulomas (lesions) in different parts of my body that causes severe pain in my joints and my eyes, and the cause of all of this is an incurable illness called Sarcoidosis. I began to recite Psalm 13 as though I wrote it. The good news is found in the 5th and 6th verses. David obviously recalled how the Lord had been merciful and kind to him in the past. David’s was to continue to trust in the mercy of God and hope in the loving-kindness of the Lord. I feel that many of our prayers go unanswered because we are not honest with God. However David felt, that what he expressed to the Master. This is one of the keys to being a man after God’s own heart.”

13:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? (David felt like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had forsaken him. At times if we are honest, we feel the same way.)
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? (David was going through extreme emotional distress. Chronic illness can cause this kind of emotional trauma in ones life.)
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; (David is not afraid to let the Lord know how distraught he is, and at the same time he makes his supplications known to God. I believe God honors an honest confession more than a positive one.)
4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. (David was able to trust in the Lord’s mercy because he had a relationship with Him. David although discouraged was able to rebound because of his love for the Lord)
2 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (One of the keys to getting through a stressful season is to give God praise through it all)

This Psalm has helped me get through my most painful moments because it reminds me that God has and will continue to deliver me. We must trust in God’s sovereignty as well as His power. Trusting in His ability to know what is best for us takes more faith than running around “naming and claiming” everything. I was at a revival and someone asked me, “Have I claimed my healing yet?” I was really disturbed at this question; I realized that this person really did not know the Lord or me very well. If they knew me they would know I love the Lord with all my heart and whether I am healed or not I still love Him. If they really knew me they would know that I believe in the healing power of God but I also trust in His timetable and sovereignty. Don’t be discouraged saints of God; the Lord is on your case. The grace of God can keep us through all of our trials and tribulations no matter how severe they might be. One of the beautiful things about the Bible is that the characters were just like us. Men and women in the Bible suffered sickness, loss of life, and abuses. I believe God allowed every story in the Bible to be graphic and uncut because we need to see the hand of God in every situation, both good and bad. I love the rawness of the Old Testament, people were not all good and everyone wasn’t blessed all the time. People that were good suffered and people that were bad received mercy. God is sovereign and in control even when it looks like He isn’t.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Cor.12)

About five years I visited a woman from my church in the hospital, she suffered from Lupus and Cancer. Just one of these diseases is enough to destroy someone’s life. I asked her how she was feeling and the usual small talk. Before I left she looked at me and said something that made me well up with tears. She said, “The thing that hurts to most is that the saints of God think I did something wrong because of my condition.” This is what I call the “Spirit of Job’s Friends”; it is wrecking havoc in the Body of Christ. It is causing those that need love, a hug, and understanding to be shunned by the ones that should minister to them. The only time Job’s friends did any good was when they silently sat with him while he suffered. As soon as they opened their mouth, they hurt him. Telling someone that is sick things like, “You need faith!”, “Repent”, or “Stop claiming the sickness” is cold and insensitive. There are times when God renders His judgment on sinful ways, but in many cases the illness has nothing to do with sin. Let’s examine the Word.

15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
12 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 18)

This woman was identified as a daughter of Abraham, meaning she was a believer! Jesus did not mention any of her sins. Was she sinless? Is anyone? Of course not, Jesus healed this woman for two reasons, 1. She was a daughter of Abraham 2. That He might be glorified. What does this mean? If you are a child of God suffering, Jesus sees your pain and will do something about it. Jesus understands pain because he felt it too!

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
3 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9)

The disciples were just as dense as we are today! They ask the question, “Who sinned?” Well if he was born blind, what sin did he commit? Did he kick his mother in the womb? Truthfully all of us are born sinners! (Psalm 51). Why would God punish him for his parent’s sin? I’m glad Jesus answered their question. Jesus said “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” I am a firm believer that many today are not healed because those that minister forget that the glory belongs to the Lord of Host. If you watch the so-called great men and women of God today, they act like they are the healers and not Christ alone. God was very angry with Job’s friends! Why? Because they falsely accused Job and misrepresented God, They were also self-righteous as they bombarded Job with innuendo and accusation. The best thing you can do for someone that suffering is pray for them and keep you mouth shut. A hug goes a lot further in most cases than a lecture.

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12)

These two verses say it all! But focus on verse 16, “condescend to men of low estate.” This means stay meek and humble in your character, because the same calamity could happen to you.

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
22 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (Heb.10)

6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
“Even Jesus got depressed!”

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