"The worst feeling in the world is to cry for help and feel like no one is there for you." - from a friend struggling with depression
The church has an amazing opportunity to compassionately care for those struggling with mental health issues. Many in the struggle turn to the church to find a place of belonging and, as difficult as it is at times to be there for someone trying to balance out their life, the church should prime herself to be that place of welcome without hesitation.
I have had the amazing opportunity and humbled honor of being part of a community where a good number of our population struggles every single day just to be stable. I have learned so much from my friends who deal with mental health issues. I have learned a deeper level of love through my season in downtown Long Beach.
A good friend of our church family went home late last week, after decades of struggling with mental illness and Chronic Stress Disorder. She exhibited nothing but gentleness and a sweet sensitivity. She was mostly all smiles. She was giddy. She loved her son. She had the look of peace. All she wanted to do was gather. She cared for others. So much so, toward the end, she knew her outbursts and aggressive behavior was a burden on others, that she decided to limit her time in public, resolving only to come to our Sunday Gatherings.
Despite the struggle underneath, Maggie had a joyous gratitude toward God and toward her church family. She had her Sunday routine of going to the side wall and plugging in her phone. She would find her seat and was ready to worship God. She loved her fanny-pack. She loved her boat and she loved the water. And she had a zeal for Jesus that matched, quite honestly, the fervor of the Apostle Paul. In fact, it was her, at the beginning of the year, who came up to me and said,
"Pastor, I'm hungry. I'm hungry for the meat of God. Can we start a mid-week study."
It was because of Maggie's desire to dive deeper in the Word that we now have a Wednesday Bible Study. She brought a lot of intrigue to our Bible studies and contributed in many different ways to the discussions during our Sunday Gatherings.
I am so blessed to have known Maggie. She taught me that engagement is key. Engaging in other people's lives is key toward helping those who struggle with mental health issues. It's through engagement that folks looking for a place of belonging actually find a home. Mental illness is a big pill to swallow and embracing those who struggle with it can be difficult. The church at large, unfortunately, doesn't know how to be a place of solace. Ignorance has been the dividing wall, but engaging in the lives who God brings our way is the first step toward being educated. We may not be medically equipped to handle certain aspects of a person dealing with mental health issues, but we, as a community, can engage and be present.
Maggie always told me that she found a home at our church, but Maggie helped me to find a home in our city.
So, thank you, Maggie, for your honesty and sharing your life with me. Thank you for allowing me to see your beautiful side and the side of you that was battered by your mental illness.
Enjoy your freedom. Give Jesus a hug for me. And I'll see you when I get there.