Friday, August 19, 2016

The Unseen Disease Devouring The Church From Within

By and large the church in the West, at least in America, has a really hard time dealing with people who go off script. People who don't dress the right way or who don't smile on cue or who don't always say that they are "fine". I have been part of way too many churches that are nice, middle class, white, suburban churches, which is fine in and of itself but it also was clearly uncomfortable for many people who didn't fit into the mold. People who are poor or who are poorly educated or who have a physical infirmity, these make a lot of people uncomfortable. It is a huge problem but there is another problem, one that is at least as destructive and all the more so because it is not obvious to the naked eye. This problem is mental illness and many Christians would rather spend hours in endless debates over the church budget than try to deal with fellow believers who suffer in silence and anonymity. Someone in a wheelchair might make us uncomfortable but someone who looks "fine" but clearly is struggling amplifies that immensely.

There are a lot of forms of mental illness but the one I am talking about today is the various strains of anxiety disorders. It is of interest to me because I have to deal with it, often with very little success, personally on a daily basis. I am not ready to lay out online the events that led me here other than to say in general that over the better part of the last decade I have been slowly but inexorably unraveling. It has grown more acute over the last 2 or 3 years and the sudden drop in blog volume is one of the ways it has impacted me. Honestly though for myself and for my family that is the least of our issues. Often this illness is met with uncomfortable silence in hopes it will go away or with a out of context verse, like Philippians 4:6, to make those who suffer from anxiety disorders to feel like they are doing something wrong. That really doesn't help.

What brings this up and why I have chosen to give the tiniest glimmer of a look at what I have been dealing with is a very powerful guest post at the blog of Tim Challies. It is written by Adam Ford who does comics and the almost always hilarious Babylon Bee which is a must read site for me. Adam wrote Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety and a lot of it was like he was talking about me. It sounds as if this is a lot more widespread than you might think and as I said above it is often the case, completely unintentionally I believe, that the very mechanism God created to provide us support, the church, has actually made things worse because so many of us feel like we have to hide what is going on in order to fit in. Believe me when I say that in short bursts I can be completely OK. I can speak eloquently and comfortably and look like nothing is wrong. It only lasts for a short time. There are also times when making a phone call or going around the corner is as insurmountable for me as dunking a basketball.

Just writing this is pretty hard and I wouldn't have done it at all if I wasn't able to point you to a website that houses one of the most widely read bloggers in any sphere of life. I hope at some point to be in a place where I can write more personally and more comprehensively. I am not there now. Even writing what I did feels like a cheap ploy to get sympathy which is the last thing I want. All I really want from others is to understand that there are a lot of people who are really struggling and often it isn't visible. They might not "skip church" because they are an anti-authority slacker but because they can't leave the house. It is something the church needs to grapple with because it doesn't seem as if it is getting better, rather it seems to be getting worse.

Give Adam's post a read. If you also suffer from similar issues it might bring you some comfort. If you don't it might give you some insight. Either way it was an encouragement to me and I hope it is to you.

1 comment:

ARadicalforJesus said...

Hey Arthur,

I'm not an anxiety disorder sufferer, although I have definitely struggled with fear due to years of spiritual abuse and other problems. I just wanted to give you kudos for having the courage to talk about your problems. It's helpful for those of us without anxiety disorders to realize that there are people like you who have problems and can't function the same as everyone else. Blessings to you!