It is absolutely amazing how Christians respond to suffering. I think a lot of it has to do with what we are taught about suffering depending upon which Church we attend. Whatever end of the spectrum we find ourselves, our response to those going through prolonged suffering can simply be unhelpful. Very rarely do Christians weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). I have had a lifetime of heartbreaking suffering, and can only count a handful of Christians who have actually wept with me. It is far more common to be corrected for having a negative attitude over the challenges in life. This simply has to stop in the Christian community and be replaced with biblical lament.
I am so thankful that as a society we are talking more about the impact of mental health. In my experience though mental health is still very much a taboo issue amongst some Christians. Those of us with mental health challengers are told that they are possessed by demons, or they are choosing to be naughty and sinful, or they lack faith and trust in God, and on it goes…. Mental illness needs to be seen as an illness amongst Christians, and in response we need to love people like Jesus would. How would Jesus love them? All throughout the gospel we see Jesus showing people compassion, understanding, and serving them in the midst of great difficulty.
As a Christian with a disability, I have first hand experience as to what it is like entering into the church community with a disability. I really do think that although people within the Church do their best to accommodate those of us with additional needs, the institution as a whole unintentionally marginalises and excludes people with disabilities. Therefore, the church unintentionally isolates some of the most desperate people in society who need to know Christ’s love and to be apart of the body of Christ.
I have longed to write a frank and honest letter to Christians because I think some are uncomfortable with suffering, disability and mental illness that they are often at a lost of what to say and do. I hope to write a series of blogs that provide suggestions as to how we as the body of Christ can follow the example of Jesus by loving the marginalised in our community, and making the church a place where they feel loved, supported and cared for.