OP-ED by Bishop Dr. Peter L. Baker, I AM Kingdom Brands, Project Manager
Health issues have always been a relevant conversation in the church. If for no other reason, members suffer from sicknesses. How does the church respond to sickness? From altar prayer and visitation, to total dependence on medical personnel for healing, members respond to compromised health in a variety of ways.
How does a child of God respond in times of sickness? After all, we desire healthiness. Some see healthiness as the absence of disease or pain. Some who use alternative therapies feel this is too narrow of a definition of health. Yet the World Health Organization defines healthiness broadly. “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or pain.” Either way, why do we, as children of God, not enjoy the health described in 3 John 2? God’s will is that we have “good health, just as your soul prospers.” But what we fail to maybe understand is that sickness, in general, came with the fall of man exiting the perfect existence of Eden. I lay these thoughts as a foundation, in order to discuss one particular type of sickness, known as mental health and how it has interfaced with the church.
When we think of mental health, let’s first maybe agree that it is defined as the presence of disease or pain. Better still, as suggested above, it also is the absence of physical, social and mental wellbeing. No matter if we agree or not the causes of mental illness, we can hopefully still agree on the presence of pain or lack of healthiness that results. Too many times the church looks at mental illness as scary, crazy or uncontrollable. This slowly changes when more people understand mental illness, usually as a result of a family member who is challenged with such.
If the non-informed church member operates from a place of misunderstanding, then it can be difficult for the person challenged with mental illness to feel a part of the community of faith. Many may judge them to be a disease (dis-ease) to the community. Therefore the way to exercise proactive measures is to create opportunities to educate the community on mental illness, or better still, all sicknesses.
The question still remains as to why we can’t enjoy the promises of 3 John 2? Notice the text says it is God’s will that we are healthy. Can we identify with something that is God’s will that never comes to fruition? Too many instances of God’s will are never met. No matter the source or belief as to why we find ourselves in an unhealthy place, we still are faced with a need for a solution.
If we believe God to be a healer, and that he can use medical means to heal, then we may be on the right track. Mental Illness ‘healing’, just like any other disease, has advanced tremendously due to medical advances. This healing through medicine, prayer, and counseling often mimics the same approach we have to physical maladies. We also address them with the same remedies. Maybe we struggle to treat them the same as physical maladies because we often see mental illness as having a spiritual root. But, again, as we move towards healing, we know that God desires and wills us to good health. May we continually utilize all the ways and means he has provided for this healing.