Depression- the state of mind that dare not speak its name. So it’s refreshing to see a Christian speak of their own battle, openly and honestly. I think whenever mental health issues rear their head in the life of someone trying to follow Christ the biggest of conundrums is faced: Do I stay silent (in the church), hope it goes away and maybe take medical treatment as a last resort? Or do I run the risk of being labelled a problem person (never to be taken seriously again) and say it like it really is? Emotional dishonesty is never a good route to take- we would probably all agree with that in our more stable moments- yet it sometimes seems the only one available. Why, though, is it like this? My hunch is that often what comes across from the front of church is unrealistic and unhelpful. It’s not that (most) leaders and preachers set out to deceive their congregations about their struggles in life. It’s just that they dare not for what hornets nests might be disturbed. Many leaders may feel that being open gives their congregations the opportunity to say good bye, a little too quickly with less than Christian charity. But we must be open else we set up one of these two scenarios:
‘the man (as it usually is) at the front is sorted. And I’m not sorted. So he can’t relate to me- I feel isolated without support’
‘the man at the front has convinced himself (for the sake of public consumption) he’s sorted. I’m not sorted but at least I know that. He’s not prepared to be emotionally honest so I’m not telling him anything deep or meaningful about myself. I feel isolated.’
Knowing and experiencing God’s grace is the most real lens through which to examine ourselves.- and it frees us to be radically open. We’ve moved on from one man ministry- which is a good thing- but we should not underestimate the power of personal sharing from leaders at the front. I once heard this definition of a preacher: ‘someone whose problems are all in the past’. Bear that in mind if you’re wondering what to share of yourself in Sunday’s talk. And think about the Caroline Hardmans in front of you.