IT’S SCARY WHAT A SMILE CAN HIDE
I titled my message after a post a friend put up on his Facebook. A personal friend who is going through what we are about to venture into this morning. A quick disclaimer… we are only dipping our foot into an ocean over the issues of mental health. It is very scary thing to think about “What a smile can hide” and not have some form of brokenness over the possibility of people who have smiled to you and me, and inside they are screaming “for the pain and suffering to stop.” I don’t claim to have the answers, but I hope to bring awareness you, so we can navigate and not ignore and override the truth behind mental illness. As Paul said “take heed least he fall.” none of us know what tomorrow brings. We know where we will spend eternity, but we do not know whether we will go through these issues ourselves.
The feeling of stress and uneasiness goes with being a human. You and I can attest to that when we woke up this morning getting ready for church. The Christian life is not a series of mountain top experiences or that satisfying drink you get from a natural spring of water. The bible is very clear when Jesus said this to His disciples, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:32-33. According to Jesus….the Christian life is filled with days that are disappointing, days that you don’t feel exhilarated or even days to don’t even want to wake up. Life choices and struggles are going to happen in this present life. As one writer said “The Bible presents life as a process of suffering before glory.” How that looks for the Christian is going to vary from person to person. Having the blahs or blues from time to time is a normal part of life and also in the Christian life. If that’s not true in your life here is a test for you tomorrow morning! When you alarm goes off for you to get up for work, what is your first response? Is it filled with joy and excitement to start another day of work? Or is it hitting the snooze button for an extra 5 minutes of sleep?
The point I’m trying to make is this! It’s normal to feel and respond this way whether you’re a Christian or not. Why? We can’t expect to have constant highs when we live in a fallen world. That’s the normal of life, but mental health is altogether different beast that drags a person down, that drags a Christian down. In general, mental illness is considered to be a disorder affecting one’s mood, thinking, and behavior. The term mental illness covers a broad range of disorders from mild depression to schizophrenia. It is said that by Canada Mental Health Association “In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults between 15-34 years.
Mental health issues like……
Schizophrenia and Psychotic disorders
Feeding and Eating Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
We/the church need to have an awareness of these issues. They need our attention and care, not you/me, trying to fix or understand why? But being there for them. Why? Many live like this every day… We’re scared you’re going to leave, even when things are good. And we hate it too.’ ‘It feels like going through life with third-degree emotional burns; everything is hot and painful to touch.’ ‘Everything is felt more intensely: good, bad, or otherwise. Our reaction to such feelings may seem out of proportion, but it’s appropriate in our minds.’ ‘It’s exhausting and frustrating. And it’s really hard to find quality, affordable treatment.’ ‘We aren’t unlovable and we love big.’
See, with mental health, the alarm clock goes off,
and that person cannot face life.
They don’t want to even leave the house. They struggle and many times cannot sleep, eat and they feel like the world is crashing around them. A very close friend to mine shared what he goes through on daily basis and it breaks my heart to see him go through this. He said, “One of the symptoms of cPTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder) is not being able to access any good memories from your brain. Pause and think about how devastating that would be/is.” He also wrote and said, “It is a strange darkness when those you need to give light only bring more darkness. When you beg for mercy and receive none - ask for grace and receive law.”
This is the problem in the church and we treat all other problems naturally, but something like this we shun or say it must be because of sin in their lives. The general opinion indication when it comes to mental issues is that they are not “being right with God”. If this is how people in the church respond to mental issues, how are those who struggle with this going to come and seek help, if we automatically condemn them? We saw this happen in the disciples asked Jesus this question. “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3. This attitude towards mental illness makes it difficult for members of the Church who struggle with some variety of it to admit to themselves they are struggling, and to seek help from within the Church.
Maybe we need to stop pointing and talking about others, and come alongside those whose lives are devastated by mental health. Understand! Mental illness is very much like physical illness. It is often not the result of a specific sin or weakness, but a general result of the Fall and a reflection of human brokenness. Paul warned us about this. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2 Cor 11:3. Like asthma or dementia, it often just happens to people without them doing any specific thing to cause it.
C S Lewis wrote, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
So This Is Where We Need To Walk Gently. It’s not about you giving them a Bible verse and say go home meditate on this and all will be better tomorrow. Though they are wonderful aids to help as a person goes through this, but it doesn’t solve the ongoing issues they face. We need to invest in one another’s lives, because there is a greater problem inside the church that we tend to ignore and override. There are people sitting in the pews of churches screaming from the inside for help and nothing is coming out.
And there are people in the church ignoring the ones who screams are not heard. Just because this isn’t happening to you, your spouse or family doesn’t mean you ignore others who might be struggling with this. What are some things we can do to help those around us? I think one of the basic needs is to remind one another this truth found in the Heidelberg Confession. The first question to their catechism is. What is your only comfort in life and death? Answer: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
Charles Spurgeon reminded himself this truth, “I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.”
If we took a tour through the Scriptures Spurgeon wasn’t alone
David….”Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11
Elijah….. “And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." 1 King 19:4
Naomi….. “She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.” Ruth 1:20-21
Jeremiah….. “Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!” Jer 20:14,18
Jonah…… “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." Jonah 4:3
While some of these things can be attributed to spiritual warfare,
it can be of a physical nature.
Since we know that our bodies are prone to the conditions of the fall, it’s possible that what we are experiencing is related to chemical imbalances or other things happening within our brains. Heath Lambert said “Caring for people means being alert to physical problems that require medical treatments and spiritual problems that require Christ and his Word.”
The most loving thing that we can do to a person struggling with a mental illness is to honor them enough to acknowledge their struggles.
We should love them enough to listen and acknowledge their struggle. There is freedom knowing that we can’t fully understand each other’s stories, but in Gospel community we find a way to connect. We are to walk with them, shouldering one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ. “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal 6:2 Acknowledge their struggle and comfort them that God is close to those who are suffering. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 Gentle comfort them that it’s outside of God’s character to senselessly torment those He loves. “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lam 3:31-33
What we/they go through, may not be revealed in the moment, but its producing something in us as we continue down the road He has placed before us. James said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3. We know that the trials that we are experiencing on this earth while difficult and uncomfortable are for the testing of our faith.
For the Christian who struggling with mental illnesses, know that there is a weight of glory that is exceedingly greater than what you can see. Know that Christ deeply loves you. Know that Christ intimately knows and understands you because He experienced your battles. Know that these things are helping you to rely upon Him and experience the sustaining power of His grace. Know that your mental battles are creating a precious unimaginable glory. Continue to press on and fight. Follow the lead of the One who has already won the battle. Paul said “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
Remind yourself though the darkness, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Rom 8:18
In the letter to the Romans we are reminded to joyfully wait for the day when Christ will return and we will receive our new, redeemed, resurrection bodies. “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Hang in there because we will one day be completely transformed. “Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Phil 3:21
For those struggling in the silence....I am sorry we/church has failed you,please let me encourage you to persevere nonetheless.
I encourage you to be vulnerable before the Lord daily because He is near. I encourage you to get plugged into a strong community of believers and get “trusted Christian accountability partners.” I encourage you to continue to look to the splendor of Christ and remember this. In this world we live in imperfect bodies. Psalm 18:18-19 declares God’s unceasing love over my life no matter what I go through. “They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”
Isaiah wrote, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Isaiah wrote, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Paul comforted Timothy with these words as he struggled in ministry. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7
Just as we have compassion on those who are physically ill, we must also have compassion on those who are mentally ill. Just as we seek help when we are physically ill, we should also seek help when we are struggling with our thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. We need not judge the specific cause of mental illnesses in others; rather, we are to.. pray for them/over them and offer support for them. We are to do what Job’s friends intended to do when they left their homes to comfort Job. “And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” Job 2:12-13. Recognize that their suffering is great….and all we need to do is comfort and demonstrate the love of Christ.
You’re not being asked to fix it, figure it out,
and overcome it for them.
All they are asking…… is you that truly care and listen and know they are loved by you, and most of all by a holy God who redeems flawed human beings.
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room.
Pre-Covid and Covid 2021 has produced numbers that continue to rise and take its toll on Canadian’s mental health. Stress and anxiety have increased. The effects of Physical distancing has done a great amount of damage. Struggling with addiction and loneliness has taken its toll. These and more, have taken their place in the increasing rise of mental health, then it was during Pre-Covid. The greater pandemic is "Mental Health" not Covid-19. We as the church need to be sensitive to those who are hurting and still are hurting. This is a time for the church to demonstrate humility and grace to others as they battle what is going on in their heads. Let’s not turn a blind-eye and walk with an arrogance and say, “That’s their problem not mine” Let’s do exactly what Paul expressed to the church in Philippi. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Phil 2:1-5
It is very scary thing to think about
“What a smile can hide”
We cannot override and ignore others mental issues as sin or none of my business. People may be smiling but on the inside they are screaming “for the pain and suffering to stop.” Seek, invest, love others above yourself and comfort those who need you more than you could ever imagine. That’s what grace looks like and we are to extend that grace to others.