Keep the conversation going: Let’s keep talking about mental health

In my country, the phone company Bell has started a movement called Bell Let’s Talk. Over the years, it has brought a lot of awareness to the issue of mental health. Throughout January and February each year the conversation is revived, lingers for a few moments and then disappears. To be honest, it is a commercial for Bell, but at least it’s a commercial that benefits a good cause.

As great as the one day a year is at heightening mental health awareness, it’s more than a one-day event in a person’s life. Mental health is an issue that, for some reoccurs seasonally, others it is situationally, and unfortunately, for many, it is a struggle that will last years or even a lifetime.

Mental health should never be exploited. It is not a publicity stunt, it’s real life.

Bell Let’s Talk day needs to be the beginning of the conversation, not the start and finish. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, and the like affect families, careers, and friendships. It is life and death and not a conversation we should have once a year as part of an advertising slogan.

What we need to do is to keep the conversation going.

It is why I talk about it so much on this blog. Over the last few years, I have had to wrestle with my mental health. Better sleep, physical activity, better eating habits, recovering from injuries, has helped, as well as sharing it openly. The reason I write about engaging in community, having love and grace for others and ourselves, and sharing our heart with God is that it is a must.

The dark feelings that sometimes overshadows our light should never be a conversation but a continual conversation. We need outlets. As long as we hold the words in, they keep us captive. We find freedom when we speak our truth. It doesn’t have to be loud. It just has to be loud enough for a caring person who’s close to us to hear.

We need friends, therapists, and God.

Keeping our broken spirit to ourselves isn’t even Biblical! I’m sick and tired of a “positive confession” faith that says trust in Jesus, believe and it will happen. I once heard a preacher say that if you are Christian there is no room for lament. Well, what a burden that is. It’s certainly news to Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

The Scriptures spell out to us in numerous places that we must express the pain. Moses and Jonah ask God to kill them. David and the other Psalmists mourned, raged, praised, and poured out every imaginable emotion you can fathom. The book of Lamentations, one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever, is a book all about pain and anger. It is a book with no resolve.

Yes, Jesus changes the lament. He turns the cry, the mourning, the rage, but it’s not extinguished.

We must not forget.

You’re not a bad Christian. Jesus wept. He cried over loss. He wept over a city. He mourned in a Garden. King David sang song after song of struggle. Moses travelled through all of the emotions while trying to lead. These stories are not stories that say bottle it up, keep it hidden, stuff it away for one day a year. It is a plea for us to share all the broken pieces of our lives. Kinnaman and Lyons write,

“Pain, brokenness, and suffering are not to be avoided; they are to be endured because God redeems those experiences in order to renew us and bless others.”

Or as the Apostle Paul says,

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

There is no need for shame. Let’s share the pain. When we do, I believe that is when we produce perseverance, character, and, ultimately, hope through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and others. In turn, the shards of our broken soul are formed into a beautiful mosaic that articulates hope.

Check out the resources used in this post

In what ways have you dealt with your mental health?

Tears for my people

Wednesday morning I read the news that Jarrid Wilson, Pastor and advocate, took his own life. He is one in a recent string of Pastor’s being overwhelmed and ending it all.

As I read I wept.

I wept for his church and friends. I wept for his parents, wife, and kids.

But mostly I wept for all the other Pastors out there that feel like Jarrid.

Jeremiah 9 reads

“I wish my head were a well of water
and my eyes fountain of tears
So I could weep day and night
for casualties among my dear, dear people.”

Pastors are my people. As Pastor Greg Laurie, Senior Pastor of Jarrid’s church soberly points out,

“At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day,”

I weep for them because I know what it is like. In fact, I have never spoken about it publically or privately, with the exception of my wife. For nearly two years, with increasing regularity, waves of seemingly insurmountable hopelessness overwhelm me. It takes everything within not to stay there. There are moments I fear I will.

More and more I’m finding my peers, whether only in waves or as a life long struggle, feel much the same.

We suffer in silence.

After all, it’s a nice sentiment that we should be able to be open. What if we were though? Would others still allow us to carry their burdens with them, as pastors do, or would they decide not to contribute to the weight and bear it on their own?

Would it compromise the receptivity to our message that Jesus has come to bring us the fullness of life, hope, and love that surpasses all the anguish?

How does someone like me, an author of a book all about finding our identity in Christ, admit this type of feeling without the vital message I believe God has given me losing credibility?

However, we must.

We must talk about it. Despite the consequences (which I believe should only be good) we must talk about it.

We can pontificate the reasons why this feeling is so prevalent, and while important, in the long term we must yield to something greater. Pastors and all people of faith need to band together and hold each other up.

Just because we know hopes name, it does mean it’s always on our lips. There are times when the worries of life push it away.

Health, family, the past, our vices, work. I’ve been there, and I know how easy it is to let it push hope aside.

This is exactly why we must stick together. We must hold each other up. It is imperative that we speak our pain and help each other carry it. We must know we are not alone and that we are not wrong.

This world does leave us wanting, hollow, and barren. It is only Christ who gives life, hope, and liberty, but that doesn’t mean we will not be overcome. After all, many of the Bibles most prominent characters felt this way.

Moses, David, and Jonah are three of the many who asked God to take their life. Not to mention Samson who did take his life. Yet every single is listed in Hebrews 11 in what we call the Hall of faith. They are men of which it is said, “…whose weakness was turned to strength…” (Heb 11:34).

As we stand together helping each other stand with God, we can have faith that our weakness will be turned to strength. How? When? That’s the mystery, but that doesn’t negate the truth. What it means is that we must stand with each other because if the Scriptures tell us anything, it is that those who struggle are not abandoned by God, but are primed for God to use.

Brothers and sisters who are fighting for the kingdom of love–the kingdom of God–who are also fighting for their lives, you are not alone.

When we weep, let us weep together.

A Pastor’s Lament

I don’t know how to say how I feel.

Have you been there? It seems like I am there every day. Each day I find myself in a fog of emotions, not knowing whether I’m happy, sad, despondent, numb. Waves of joy, sadness, pride, anger seem to crash simultaneousness on all sides of my mind.

BANG!

At these times, I can’t help long to feel something–something other than the whirlpool of emotions. To feel something other than the physical pain from my injuries or the emotional pain from the internal wounds. To feel something other than the constant pressure of having to accomplish more and be successful. The force of merely surviving.

Have you been there?

More and more frequently, I find myself in this brokenness.

God can seem silent.

 I pray and nothing.

Have I lost God’s favour?

Have I done something wrong?

I long for the angel that visited Elijah to come and minister to me. But Elijah didn’t have four kids to keep him awake, nor did he have to worry about a paycheque to feed them.

It leaves me to wonder, what’s next?

For that, I do not know. What is next for me, for my family, for my church?

I don’t know.

I know to whom I belong.

I know what God has called me to.

Yet the waves keep crashing without and end in sight. Each wave pushing me deeper and deeper into a dark sea–clenching for something, finding nothing.

On Christ, the solid rock I stand. Does the fact that I feel like I’m sinking mean I find my feet somewhere else? Or is there more to the story. 

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me? 

King David wrote,

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Psalms 13:1–2

Even Jesus cried out while on the cross,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew–David knew–I know that though all feels lost, it isn’t. Tomorrow the sun will rise. There will be a new day.

 But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, 
for he has been good to me. 

Psalms 13:5–6

So what do you do in moments like this?

Praise anyway. When we do, we remind ourselves and the enemy of whose we are. 

I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound; 
decay crept into my bones, 
and my legs trembled. 
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity 
to come on the nation invading us. 
17 Though the fig tree does not bud 
and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16–19