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On the Inside: The Church and Mental Ilness

Guest Blogger, Kim Divelbiss, Children's Minister...

One in five children have mental illness (.http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/one-five-children-mental-illness-schools-often-dont-help/).  The latest Center For Disease Control statics show 1 in every 45 children to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  While we could spend hours debating the cause of these rising numbers, what if we just accepted the numbers and asked ourselves what this means to us as Jesus followers, individually and as a church body?  


In guiding the church of Corinth, Paul describes the need for all parts of our physical bodies, including our unseen internal organs, stating “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NIV).  As I recently watched the Olympics, I can see that humanity is pretty good at honoring and rewarding those gifted with physical strength and skill.  We are even sensitive to those physically impaired as we share in the joy of blades rather than feet carrying a runner across the finish line.  But what about the child, and equally as important the family, affected by a suffering brain?  


As we strive to follow the example of Christ, what if we could just offer our hands and hearts to those impaired by a brain that works differently?  Instead of judging the sensory challenged child that licks the church floor at every opportunity, what if we had the courage to ask that child’s parents if we could buy their child his/her favorite snack as a reward and distraction on Sundays?  What if we had the strength to get up from our seat in worship to sit quietly in the hall praying over the parent juggling a child melting down?  Or when the child with reactive attachment disorder comes to us for a hug after rejecting their family’s love, what if we simply said, “I care for you, but your family truly loves you and would really appreciate a hug.”  For the teenager that uses anger to conceal their depression, our smile or kind words might be the only way they feel the love of Jesus in their darkness.  For the mother of an anxious child, the words “I’m so glad your child joined the others for children’s time” can be the reinforcement she needs to get up and parent again tomorrow.    


When a member of our church family has a death, we respond doing our part to help those who are grieving feel nurtured and comforted.  When one of our flock is given a diagnosis of heart disease, Parkinson’s, or cancer, we rally with support.  Mental illness is often avoided, leaving families isolated.  As the church, may we be inspired to let the love of our Heavenly Father pour out of us onto all those we encounter, illness and brokenness is not always visible.  


1 comment (Add your own)

1. Gala Van Eaton wrote:
Thanks, Kim, for such a thoughtful statement. I often think of the child, or the parent, that no one seems to applaud but is left on the periphery--the one without special skills or gifts, the one whose behavior is "out of the box," the one who comes and goes without a hello from the "in" crowd! I know you are thoughtful about this as well.

September 14, 2016 @ 11:28 AM

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