Dealing with Mental Health Issues as a Christian



here with rick warren pastor Saddleback Community Church and author Purpose Driven Life and with Tony Rose my former pastor who is yeah who is the head of the chairman of the Southern Baptist mental health task force and I really appreciate both of you being here to talk about this really critical issue that both of you have been engaged in for quite a while and certainly over the past year about mental health what what should pastors particularly be thinking about when they're thinking about people who are grappling with with mental health issues and with families who are grappling with people who are suffering with mental health issues well first I want to thank Tony for taking leadership on this because it's a big issue that most churches and denominations we don't pay attention to because we're afraid of it really I think the first thing is to realize the phrase of mental health or mental illness is not equal crazy mmm a lot of people think if I mental illness means people out of touch with reality 99% of us and I include all of us struggle with mental health issues and and we're not out of touch with reality depression is a mental health issue worry is a mental health issue compulsion is a mental health a scrupulously there are a lot of different things that fear is a mental health issue and I think the first thing I would say is that for a pastor if I were to say why is this important why should pastors be involved this I think theirs is a biblical reason there's a historical reason and there's a practical reason the biblical reason is Jesus cared about mind body and spirit and the Bible says it twice in scripture says Jesus went into every village preaching teaching and healing one third of Jesus ministry was health care and you know and so he didn't care just about getting people to have it he cared about the mind the body and the soul so we must do our we have a preaching teaching healing faith as Christians mm-hmm and that's why you go into any country in the world the first hospital and the first school we started by Christians because we're preaching teaching healing and faith Jesus said love God with all your mind and and so he cares about how we think he cares about how we feel and he cares about what we do so there's a biblical reason that Jesus ministry is clearly dealt with people who struggle with mental issues I give you lots of examples in Scripture but then there's historical reason most people don't realize the church invented the hospital it's our invention okay somebody else didn't think it up we did and and the whole idea of that that famous phrase see how they love one another happened because when people were fleeing all the big cities of the Roman Empire because of the black plague the Christians were moving in to take care of the sick and they said see how they love one another so as a biblical is historical Christians have always been involved in health care and mental health part of that and then the third is a practical and that is when a family or an individual is struggling with a mental health issue and that always causes conflict in relationships it always causes conflict the first person they call is not an attorney they don't call the police chief they don't call a judge they don't even call a doctor they call their church and and really often church receptionists are triage for mental illness probably more than anybody else on the planet I think another thing Russ for pastors is we've tended to adopt this picture that you have the church and then you have mentally ill people in the church it's not a normalized part of church life point it's not an abnormal part of life it's been with us since the fall right and when we do that we eliminate them out of normal discipleship processes normal worship processes and they're an odd group of people mm-hmm the big one for me is there's a large number of pastors who suffer from some measurable element of mental illness and sometimes we've been told well that's a spiritual problem you need to deal with that but if you know somebody who's ever been over scrupulous puritans for the masters are talking about snow paucity exactly even though some of them more scrupulous right yeah that will drive a person out of his mind literally especially when you mix this mental misunderstanding with the truth of Scripture and I can't read scripture right right isn't it so how would you know there are some people who for instance may be suffering from depression because of a reason it's they've they've lost a spouse or maybe even somebody who does have a spiritual problem he feels guilty for something that's that's happening and you have someone else who's experiencing a chemical issue or a medical issue any number of issues how does a pastor figure out how to address that that that particular scenario when it could be any number of things I think this is one of the things that Tony's task force is really trying to work on is it how do we give pastors tools to be able to do triage in order to make an evaluation depression is simply a symptom of what else is causing it because I could give you 500 different reasons I could be depressed and so there that's a it's like saying I'm hot well there might be a lot of reasons I'm warm or hot and so as you said you've got to go beneath that and just say well what are you going to do you the old standard idea of well just pray about it okay or be closer to the Lord well somebody who's scrupulous over-scrupulous that's the worst thing to tell them sure that they there their problem is is I'm trying too hard right they they're having a problem with understanding grace because that that God loves them and loves me in my brokenness because of the fall everything of a planet is broken every relationship is broken every marriage is broken it's two sinners so you can't have a perfect relationship our bodies are broken our minds are broken so it would be be worried about this are surprised by it you know if you care about mental illness then you're going to care about a lot of the other problems in society for instance you can't care about returning vets without start without caring about mental illness because post-traumatic stress disorder is probably the number one problem in vets that's a mental health issue you can't care about the homeless without caring about mental illness because most of those people in the home who are homeless the vast majority are struggling with mental health issues so well they're drug dealing with drugs and alcohol no that's self medication it's not the real issue the real issues they can't keep a job and their family doesn't know what to do with them and so they're out on the street and so there are a lot of other issues that we have to care about we now know that that 1 in 5 children will have a struggle with mental illness in childhood it's less for adults children actually have more problem with mental health issues than adults do and and yet in my area for instance I'm working with the hospitals there there's not a single bed for pediatric psychiatric care in all of Orange County County 3 million people and in LA there's 12 million people in that city and there's 75 beds for kids under 12 who would be struggling with a super major depression my own son was diagnosed clinically depressed at 7 and 7 that's pretty young I didn't have any idea that you could have that kind of problem that early I just thought he was sad all the time mm-hmm average onset of depression not that many years ago was in our 30s he was now 14 Wow yeah well I've often said through my years of experience in learning both from reading and personal experience in some ways the church needs to go backwards to go forwards pastors hundreds of years ago used to have a natural scheme they followed when a troubled soul would come to them the very first thing they did was they they talked to them about the gospel in Christ they didn't look for a point in time conversion they ask about do you love God do you hate sin when they felt like this guy's in love with Jesus right but he's having troubles the first that place they went was the broad category they called melancholy and they were Richard Baxter's a classic kid he said things like preaching a man a sermon with a broken head and telling him to be right with God is equal to telling a man with a broken leg to get up and run a race or a bird with a broken wing well just believe you could fly yeah exactly his directory by the way is about that thick you know the first book on it one of for ya the first uncreate director was the original pastoral counseling manual I have a first edition of that do you really I do well I can't in me so let me finish they would they would go straight from there then they would go to sin yeah he was very biblical theological II thorough and they would deal with sin issues which might be the cause of their depression or their other struggles many times it is frankly I find those the easiest in pastoral care if the person will be honest and he trusts me enough to be telling me where he's struggling with sin then I find that's the root of a depression that to me is the easiest one to deal with and but then they they dealt with Satan something that we don't talk about it yes and finally the most insightful was they dealt with the spirit hmm the Holy Spirit's work and they were bold enough to deal with what they called the sense of desertion mm when I do not feel God's known presence and I have to walk in the dark Isaiah 50 10 and 11 mm-hmm Jeremiah Widow not Jeremiah Burroughs one of the Puritans has a hundred page treatise on Isaiah 51 through our 10 and 11 I've only heard one sermon in my lifetime Wow about the child of light while ian dory's yeah and don't you think that there's a critical role in teaching and preparing people in churches not to be afraid of people with mental health I have a son on the autism spectrum shirt and I remember reading an article about a shooter in the country I mentions he's he's autistic oh no that's so stigmatized for everyone and that happens I think so how do you how do you teach people in the congregation this doesn't mean that that people are crazy or dangerous or those sorts of well I think first and Tony is alluded to this is that we have to create a safe place where it's okay to talk about mental illness and the easiest way to do that is for the pastor to talk about his own struggles okay I've talked about this widely for thirty years I was born with a brain disorder that actually when adrenaline hits my system I nearly go blind hmm and it's like looking through a cheesecloth and and and and so like if you were to come out of a I would open the door people say happy birthday and surprise me and adrenaline in my system I get dizzy and kind of cheesecake blind well for a pastor Adrenaline's your best friend if you don't have a drillin you're boring right okay you need adrenaline to to be able to deliver now so the very thing that God is calling to be a public speaker is actually incredibly painful for me to do now I'm not talking about stage fright I have spoken in front of two million people and a million of several times so it's not that it's not butterflies that's actually a good thing because it gives you it but but when I started Saddleback Church I said God I could do one service but I could never do too because like because the the high and the low and I mean and then I could do too but I could never do three and I can do three but never for and then I could do five but never six then I did six or ten years and and I have told this story to Pastor many times that at the on the last Sunday of the first year Saddleback Church I stood up speaking faded mmm and because the adrenaline hit me so hard I just fainted well I developed a phobia of what if that happens again for the next year the second the first second-year sidewalk church I was depressed whole year and it wasn't Oh God can I build a great church it was God can I put one foot in front of the other I'd go and preach one service to services and go home and get in bed it would leave me so drained and it took almost 20 years for that to be dealt with now I went to Christian counselors I confessed my sins I did all the things the Baxter would say to do i rebuked the devil you know I I did everything and you know I actually came up a little thing I said you know when the problem is my fault I need to repent when the problem is an attack from Satan I need to resist but in every situation I need to relax and trust God and realize that but when I start staring stuff like that that that then that causes my church to be able to open up about okay and so they don't Oh in fact for years I used to keep a wet handkerchief at the pulpit and I actually told my people do you guys see me wiping my face I mean start praying for Rick I actually brought them into my pain that kind of authenticity and realism really binds you and bonds you to each other there are four levels of fellowship and in a small group at the top is the fellowship of just sharing hi how you doing Tony what's going on Russell what's happenin you know at they at the religious liberty and Ethics Commission not sharing a deeper level is the fellowship of study when you study the word together you there's more Koinonia a deeper level than that is service when we be in a Serbia but the deepest level is the Fellowship of suffering and that is when we bear one another's burdens and if the church could be a Church of mercy we would have no evangelism problem because people are looking for mercy amen and then you mentioned the fear factor we're kind of put on edge if anybody could think of the first time they went into a nursing home facility and they saw people with drool coming out of their mouths people that babbled and they'd never been in that before that sense of discomfort is what I think a lot of folks have around the mentally oh it's out of their element and they don't know how to do it so normalizing and as I said earlier these are just people like us yeah just like you are not exactly they're wired a little different their experience has been a little different and stepping into that with a boldness that overcomes our fear yeah it's just so helpful and what Rick said about authenticity there's that that proper pastoral leadership authenticity that doesn't just rip the curtain back and show everything but is so has that ring of truth sure yeah that shows these people you're human like they are please do not follow me follow Christ and there's there's some kind of identification that is unexplainable when the Holy Spirit is speaking through an authentic representation that's why I'm really glad that God has raised up both of you to address this issue in our churches and I really thank you for being here and having this important conversation with us today thank you Russ you

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