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Internet Monk is one of the highest-ranking religious blogs on the ‘net, and Jeff is one of its gatekeepers. In this post, Quitting Christians, Jeff discusses his frustration with his depression and the lack of support at church:
One person. One person from my church cares enough to show me love when I need it. What about other Christians I know? The short answer is No. A little longer answer is Hell No. One good friend, for instance, refuses to say or show love because it might be inappropriate.
Jeff has experienced what so many of us have experienced – an “I’m sorry you’re struggling” with little or no follow-up, and wonders why it seems to be easier for non-believers to be more compassionate towards him than the people who have been commanded to love him:
I’ve mentioned a coworker I call Smokey. She is a young agnostic tatted-up woman who wants nothing to do with Jesus. But once I explained to her that I was struggling with depression, Smokey has been there daily to tell me she loves me. She asks me what she can do to help me. She gives me little gifts, like a cup of ice water or a handful of yogurt-covered almonds. She volunteers to do extra work, work she wouldn’t have to do, to take a bit off of my plate. Smokey shows me more love than just about any Christian I know.
Three more elders, three more “I’ll pray for you” responses, then nothing. I spoke to our senior pastor, telling him I even had suicidal thoughts (fleeting; but still) in my despair. I stood there crying as I shared what had been going on in my life and how it had stripped me of just about everything. Our pastor told me he was proud of me for hanging in there. Excuse me. Did you hear what I just said? I despair of life so very much I thought about ending it all. That was my unspoken thought. Surely he’ll call me this week to get together for coffee and talk about this some more. No call. No coffee. No talk. No care.
The Christian 12-step group Celebrate Recovery has a rule when it comes to small group sharing time: if somebody is crying, you may not hand them a tissue. Why is that? Is it because they want to point and laugh while people snot all over themselves? No, it’s because handing someone a tissue stops their emotions and their train of thought, and they need to get all of the pain out and in the open. Maybe we should institute this sort of thing in churches, because think about what some of these comments actually mean so much of the time:
I’m proud of you.
Meaning: I don’t really know what to say right now and I’d be more comfortable if you walked away.
I’m sorry you’re feeling depressed.
Meaning: What do you want me to do about it? AND/OR I don’t know how to help you.
Please don’t misunderstand – there is nothing wrong with saying those things. It’s when that’s ALL people say that it’s not enough, that it’s impersonal, that it’s all about their own personal comfort level and not others’. Many people don’t understand that a simple “call me if you need to talk” may not be enough. People with depression tend to isolate themselves and need people who are willing to be a bit more persistent. When you’re too depressed to pick up a phone, you need help to come to you.
All of this brings me to a question. I’m asking you, my readers, for your input.
What, in your view, could churches do to help people with depression and other emotional issues? I’m not just referring to being more concerned or more persistent. What could churches and ministries actually put in place to assist people? Leave me a comment, drop me an email, or shoot me a tweet. The info is below. God Bless you guys.
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Last reviewed: 19 Mar 2013