Lisa is going through a divorce and she's afraid to tell her fellow church members. She is slipping deeper and deeper into depression, with no one to talk to. John has lost his job and he's having an emotional breakdown. He's questioning his worth as a man since he can't provide for his family. Sarah is in an abusive relationship and she has developed low self-esteem. Brad is being bullied at school and is suicidal. Laura doesn't like her body and has developed an eating disorder. Sam was sexually abused last year; no one knows, but he's smoking marijuana to cope with the pain. Keisha comes to youth group every week, but she cuts herself every night. Kyle serves at every outreach event, but he's lonely because his wife of 25 years left him.
All these individuals* are Christians and all of them attend church regularly. They all love Jesus and have a relationship with him, but they are hurting. Who should reach out to them? Is it the church's responsibility to help them? Is it the church's job to support them? Is it the church's obligation to walk with these people until they get to a place of wholeness?
I have been through a few traumatic experiences in my life and I went to the body of Christ for help. I was told by some, "It is the past; move on and get over it." I was also told, "You need to pray more because if you prayed more, you wouldn't be so sad." I've known others who were struggling with depression and were plainly told that they must not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I also know people who have been told to read the Bible more and if they did that, they would become emotionally stable.
While I truly believe that studying the Scriptures and prayer are major parts of emotional stability, I also believe that most of the time people need other people in their lives in order to process their personal pain. We need others to help carry the load. If I hear the quote "All you need is Jesus" one more time, I may literally explode…literally. The truth is that God created us for companionship, and nine out of ten people who say things like this have more people in their circle than Jesus did.
How to Help
How do we help emotionally struggling individuals? How do we help melt away emotional pain? First, we offer support. I think it is important to have support groups, counselors, or mentors who can support church members who are fraught with depression, eating disorders, anger/bitterness, low self-esteem, abandonment issues, and addictions.
So often we respond when it is too late! An individual usually hits rock bottom before we begin to take notice. We often say, "I had no idea he/she was going through that." When someone enquires, "Have you ever talked to him?" "Have you helped her find ways to connect with the church?" The answer is usually no. When we greet one another, we usually offer the courteous "How are you?' and we are usually halfway out the door before we get an answer.