Ever since The Fall I have tried to wear you down, picking off your people one by one, but you have built an army against me. I feed lies to my victims, and take away the identity God gave them in Him. I tell them they are useless, I rob them of their motivation, drain their bodies. I sit on their chests in the mornings and invade their dreams at night. I distract them at their desks at work, I store up secrets within them and choke them on their words. I cut them off from friend and foe.
But you, you provide the love I tell them they cannot have. You make more cups of tea than I can make burdens. You stay up later, work harder, pray more earnestly and defend more triumphantly every time I try something new. I take people away, into the depths of my thoughts, but you walk down with them, stay as long as I can hold them, and then guide their path on the way out.
When they cannot speak, you speak up for them. When they want to speak, you listen with open ears and hearts. When they scream, and cry, you cry with them. You don’t let the people I take away stay away. You keep them warm by the glow of your coals, and fan their flame when it threatens to go out. I target individuals, but you share me around until I’m spread too thinly and can’t continue.
You place no blame on them. You accept that I’m there, in whatever form I choose to come, and you don’t rush me away, so I’m fooled into thinking I have ownership and belonging. Then, something slowly but surely pushes me out and replaces me, and I have to try again. That peace surpasses even my understanding. When I do win out, you don’t give up.
The world shouts about me, they make my name known and they scare others with my track record. They claim that they will be stronger, but maybe they do not know how. You, the Church, you know how. You know Jesus. His name alone has power over me.
I fear your coffee mornings, your house groups, your Bible studies. I fear the people who offer support without question, I loathe those who accept their own weaknesses and step in to help anyway, and I despise those who commit themselves to my victims and make them feel welcome and known and loved.
Most of all, I fear your prayer over one another, because I have no entry there. You pray even when you haven’t been asked, when my victims don’t know it, when you sleep and when you rise, before I set in and after I go. Worst of all, I know God works through you. You carry with you a light that invades even the deepest darkness that I can bring.
I will not give in until your King returns, but I fear He works on earth through you already.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by The Mental Health Foundation. Nothing has ever floored me and challenged me like depression has. In my darkest moments, I felt unreachable, and although it took me a long time to feel it (nor was I convinced it was there or applicable to me) the church’s warmth seeped into my veins and kept me going until I was ready to stand again.
As the church, I believe God has equipped us with the very things that those with mental health challenges need – unconditional love, unlimited support, family, community, peace and joy. I don’t believe we need to try anything new, we just need to prayerfully commit to give out more and more. More what? More relationship. More coffees to chat over, more phone numbers on fridges, more meals cooked, texts sent, prayers prayed and laughs shared, even in the hardest times.
Mental health and illness is a huge and growing issue, and my hearts weeps for those that suffer because I know the pain they have felt. Although we as the body of Christ are far from perfect, I believe we offer what they world cannot – hope based on perfect truth, relationships based on the Trinity, and love like that shown at the cross. We need to repent of the times we haven’t stepped out in faith to help, become frustrated rather than motivated, and given up instead of given out. Jesus has given us what we need and will continue to do so, so let’s challenge ourselves to us it.
Let’s not be conformed by the way the world handles things. We don’t need a social media campaign, a celebrity advertisement or a motivational tag line. Instead, let’s do what Jesus showed us how to do. Let’s walk alongside each other, share our burdens, be honest and open, pray relentlessly, love unconditionally, open our lives and homes to one another, and know that Jesus never gives up.
Ailsa McKinlay is a medical student at Oxford University