5 Things the Church Needs to Know About Mental Illness

Guest Post

Sitting in my Church pew, dressed in my Sunday best. I could play the part like an Academy Award-winning actor, with face all aglow. But inside panic and sadness flooded my being to a point of just wanting to run. When I unveiled my mask, the truth came pouring out; DEPRESSION and Anxiety. But how could that be? I’m here sitting in Church. Christians cannot feel what I’m feeling. Aren’t Christians supposed to be happy, joyous, and have perfect peace all the time? But I was broken, the pieces of my mind falling apart. If only someone saw through my facade; the stigma, the shame, the humiliation I would have to endure.

Sitting in the pews of many of our Churches today are people just like that, so never judge a book by its cover. People are searching for hope, acceptance and understanding.

You would think that the one safe place that a person suffering from a mental illness (such as depression) could find support, would be the Church. But sadly to say, that’s not always the case. Just as prejudice, stigma, ignorance, misunderstanding, and lack of knowledge is found in our society today, so it is found in our Churches.

Harris Tucker, someone who blogs about his struggle with mental illness, shares the following 5 things that every Christian needs to know about the struggle.

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Simply Living Like a Child

3 Things My Daughter Has Taught Me

Sharing our faith is easy, right? God has transformed my life and I should want to share that with so many people! So, why is it so difficult? The truth is, we make sharing our faith so overwhelming that we just don’t do it (here are some reasons why). It doesn’t have to be so complicated though! If we simply shared our faith ‘like’ a child, I think we would be much more excited to do so.

Simply Living Like a Child

I read a blog post from a friend of mine recently (Evangelism in 3 Easy Steps) and I thought about how simple evangelism really is. It’s almost humorous. God simply wants us to be who we are and live out that faith. I don’t always do well in that category, but I know who does — my daughter.

Rae is three. She can be quite the handful at times, but it’s amazing what she learns and understands about God. Yes, sometimes it means she walks around the house wearing her blanket over her head and calling herself Jesus. But many other times she simply has child-like faith.

Here’s what I mean…

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Faith and Doubt [Guest Post]

Kathy Stock Shares Her Journey of Faith

I’d like to thank Andrew for inviting me to participate on his blog. Andrew is a great writer and a passionate leader. I’ve read his interesting thoughts and teachings and have personally benefited from the discussions I’ve seen afterward between people on different sides of many different issues.

Faith and Doubt - Kathy Stock

I am a lover of conversation. As a flaming extrovert, I thrive off of the company of others. Drop me in a room full of strangers and I’ll leave with a long list of new friends.

This temperament of mine has served me well, especially as a musician and public speaker but it has its downside. I share a bit too easily, I care a bit too recklessly and I am dramatically affected by the thoughts and feelings of others.

Wearing my hungry heart on the outside of my sleeve has served me both well and negatively in ministry. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I am told I came to know Jesus at the ripe ol’ age of two when I knelt beside my mother and wanted to do what my five-year-old sister did at church that day. So, at five and two, we surrendered our sin-laden lives to the Lord, knowing full well the gravity of that decision and went forth, sinning no more.

Just kidding.

We had no idea what we were doing!

Yet, I remained ingrained in Christ, and He in me, from then until now…sometimes fervently on fire for the gospel, sometimes gripping tightly with white knuckles while doubt all but swallows me whole.

Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. Click To TweetWhat I have learned is that faith isn’t a black and white issue. Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. It’s complicated and beautiful and terrifying and filled with unknowns.

I’ve done a lot of living for a thirty-three year old woman. I was married at twenty, a mother at twenty-two and again at twenty-six. I’m a published author. I have lived in two countries, three states, two provinces, and have changed addresses thirteen times in the last thirteen years.

I’m a musician who performs (unapologetically) secular music during the week and joyfully leads worship in a congregation I love on Sunday mornings (Spruce Hills).

I had cancer while my children were two and six years old and have been in remission for three and a half years.

I recently went back to school, where I sit in classrooms surrounded by other students who are closer to my son’s age than my own.

What has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus. Click To TweetLife has been more interesting than I can properly articulate in one blog post and I have had some high highs and some low lows along the way but what has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus.

Ironically, (and perhaps I’m over sharing here, in true Kathy form) I am writing this during an intense season of doubt.

Some do not believe that faith and doubt can co-exist but I am living, breathing evidence that they indeed can. I embody both. The disciples embodied both. John the Baptist embodied both, and he saw the sky open up and watched a dove appear out of nowhere, landing on Jesus and then heard God audibly say, “This is MY SON” and he STILL questioned who Jesus was from the darkness of his prison cell. If John the Baptist can doubt, and still be labeled by Jesus as one of the greatest human beings ever, certainly we can too (Luke 3:21-22; 7:18f).

This truth has brought an enormous amount of comfort to me as I navigate life, especially in my thirties. For the majority of my twenties, I lived in the Southern USA or the ‘Bible belt’ as it is sometimes referred.

I was so entrenched in church and church culture that I didn’t have one friend that wasn’t a Christian. I worked at church, sang at church, socialized at church…and the energy that I should have spent going out into the world and being Jesus to people was instead spent arguing about theology with other Christians.

My faith was very, very strong during that season but I wasn’t fulfilling the great commission. I wasn’t being Jesus.

When I was twenty-eight, my little family of four immigrated back to Newfoundland with nothing but the clothes on our backs and six suitcases in our hands. We settled swiftly and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the ‘Bible belt’ anymore…and I was quite honestly relieved… so I set out to meet as many different people in as many different places as I could.

I began playing music at events and restaurants, eventually landing a permanent gig at a piano bar in downtown St. John’s (The Fifth Ticket).

After I finished chemotherapy and began my remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I set out to meet as many young adult cancer survivors as I could, and pour into their lives in a way I so desperately needed when I was sick. No hidden agenda, no bait and switch to evangelize…just living out love in the way that Jesus has asked us to and seeing what happens. Faith, usually, naturally comes up in conversation.

Through all of this, I have met so many different kinds of friends. People from varying spiritual, religious, socio-economic backgrounds, same sex couples, single parents, transgendered men and women…I’ve met ex-cons and CEOS, reconnected with people I knew from high school and been blown away by how we have all developed and evolved throughout the years.

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story. Click To TweetAnd through all of these encounters I have learned one very valuable lesson: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story.

Breaking through the Christian bubble that I had created for myself has opened my heart and mind up to a world of doubt and questions that challenge me on a daily basis.

They challenge how I raise my children and the words I speak behind the microphone on Sunday mornings…but it has also allowed me the powerful opportunity to be Christ to people who haven’t experienced Him in a real way. Not by preaching at or fighting with or segregating myself from them, but by doing life shoulder to shoulder with them and seeing what God does through relationship.

I’m finding the older I get, the less I can claim to know for sure but the more O.K. I am with not knowing.  As exhausting as it is, doubt is worth wrestling with.

There are many days when I wonder whether any of this is legitimate at all, but I rest in the words of John 6:68, when Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave and Peter responded, “Lord, to what person could we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

When doubt creeps in...I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. Click To TweetWhen doubt creeps in, or bursts the door down, I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. When I am challenged by the non-sense that is grace, the arrogance that is self-sufficiency, the ridiculousness that is child-like faith, I cling with both hands to Jesus!

I recently heard someone say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt.  The opposite of faith is certainty…because what do the certain need with faith? The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” and my hope is in Jesus (Hebrews 11:1).

There is no one else for me. None but Jesus.

Facing Melanoma with Faith [Guest Post]

Darren Murray’s Story

I knew. I just knew, when I received the call from my dermatologist office just a few short days after having a biopsy done on a spot on my back, I knew that is was cancer.  I wasn’t supposed to hear back for a few weeks, but they called to have me come in to see the dermatologist right away.

Facing Melanoma with Faith - Darren Murray’s Story

I knew exactly what he was going to say.  Sure enough, he explained that I had a sizeable melanoma and that surgery would be required to remove it.  He would refer me right away to a plastic surgeon and they would do everything they could as fast as possible. I thanked him and went on my merry way; not really getting a sense of the seriousness of my situation.

I told my wife when I picked her up from work that it was cancer and that a plastic surgeon was going to just cut it off.  To give you some perspective, I am very naïve when it comes to health matters.  I told her that it wasn’t a big deal and I wanted to stay positive.

I told very few people, but those I did tell greeted me with the same reaction – “I am so sorry to hear that.”  I would respond with a smile and say, “It was no big deal – just slice it off and put a Band-Aid on it! I will be fine.”

Within a month, I met with the plastic surgeon and the date had been set to have my surgery.  He explained that he would remove the melanoma along with taking my lymph nodes in two different areas.  They would test the lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread to those areas.  I remember asking him, “How serious is this anyway?” He looked at me and said, “This is as serious as it gets for me.” He said that I was his top priority and the surgery would be done in 3 or 4 weeks.

The surgery came and went and I was now the new owner of 3 scars.  I still, at this point, had no real concept of how serious this was.  I then met with the surgeon and he gave me the great news that the lymph nodes came back negative.  He said that I was very lucky as the melanoma I had was very deep but they were successful in removing it.  “Thank you God,” I reacted!

A few weeks later, I ran into my family doctor at the grocery store.  She immediately gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was.  She is not the touchy/feely type and this reaction from her surprised me.  Wow, this must have been more serious than I thought.  I went right home and researched the cancer.org website.   I was not prepared for what I read:

Really…I have only about a 40% chance of living past 10 years?!1

The next few months we very difficult for me.  Physically, I was spared from any pain as a result of my cancer.  Mentally, however, it was a painful process. What do I do with my life?  Do I continue to save for retirement?  Will I see my children graduate?  I had many questions!

As I gave God more of me, His plan for my life began to reveal itself. #faith #Melanoma Click To TweetAs I went through this journey I gained perspective and I began to let God into more of my life.  As I gave God more of me, His plan for my life began to reveal itself and I began to listen instead of trying to figure things out on my own.  I had been running from God’s plan for many years but even though I was running away, He was still preparing me for His plan.

You see, having cancer gave me the opportunity to get closer to God.  He had to do something dramatic so that I would fall to my knees and surrender to Him.  God called me to full-time ministry with Operation Christmas Child.  I am thankful for His grace, patience and His hand of protection over me.  I am now closer to Him than I have ever been in my life and I have a strong desire to know Him better every day.

I now have the privilege to lead an amazing group of Christians spreading the Gospel to millions of children through the simple act of packing a shoebox.  I can think of no greater joy than this! I can honestly say that I am grateful to God for the cancer scare.

I do not know what the future holds, but my trust in Him grows stronger every day and my resolve to serve Him until my last breath could not be any stronger.  I pray each day that He will use me as He desires.  “Here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Your turn…

If you’ve been inspired by Darren’s story, please share this post so others can be inspired today!

If you, or someone you know, has an encouraging story or testimony of how God has helped you in your journey, I’d love to help you share it!  Please send your story to andrewholm@gmail.com, and we’ll post them throughout the year!  Blessings!

References   [ + ]

Betty’s Story [Guest Post]

A True Journey Of Faith

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91: 1 – 2)

bettys-story

My story begins with the greatest miracle that I could ever receive.  It was the day when I began to know Jesus Christ on a personal level; the day when the “New Birth” (described in John 3) became a reality in my life.  Before that, I had an understanding about God, knew lots about Him but there was nothing intimate about our relationship. It was as if He was far off. That was over thirty years ago, and as I look back, I often wonder what I would have done without Him beside me every step of the way.

June 14, 2005 began like any other day as my husband, Wayne and I drove to the Health Sciences Centre to meet with a hematologist.  This appointment was arranged to discuss a bone marrow biopsy I had undergone a month before.  That day, however, turned out to be unlike any other day.  My life would be changed forever as I was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML).

The hematologist explained the disease in detail and how only one option would extend my life – a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.  As the pros and cons of a transplant were outlined, I understood that I had 40 – 50% chance of survival.  And if I did survive, I would have two years, three at best, to live.

A horrible feeling of helplessness and loneliness swept over me. Although I had known the Lord over twenty years at that point, and had proven Him all my life, at that moment I felt alone.  That day, as I looked out the window of the Health Sciences Centre, I saw life going on as usual outside: traffic moving, people walking about – I thought, “How could the world keep on going? Surely it should all stop.”

#Peace slipped quietly into my brokenness & calmed my fears, even while they were still new and raw. Click To Tweet

I had always known about the peace of God which “transcends all understanding”, as the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:7, but never quite like I experienced that day.  Peace slipped quietly into my brokenness and calmed my fears, even while they were still new and raw.

At the end of the day, Wayne and I knelt and placed our petition before the Lord, asking Him to take control of our situation and somehow make things right in our world again.  It’s amazing how God quiets me and enables me to rest, regardless of the circumstances each new day brings.

As I read my Bible the next day, I suddenly realized why I had been reading Psalm 91 for over a year.  No matter which part of scripture I read or studied all those months, I always felt compelled to read Psalm 91.  I felt God telling me that I could rest in Him, that I could trust Him and not fear, that angels would be around me, and that He would protect and deliver me.

I proved this over and over in the months and years ahead.  I went through a transplant in 2007, which involved intense chemotherapy, and experienced the complications arising from that process.  During that time, I learned to Rest in God. I learned that His Word is greater than any medical report, and I could trust Him in everything.

In April 2015, nearly eight years post-transplant, I was feeling quite well.  It was quite a shock, however, when it was discovered during a check-up for influenza, that I had leukemia again.  This time it was Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

The news was very upsetting, to say the least, and I wondered what God was doing.  I thought about all I had gone through previously and how He had healed me over and over and here I am again!  God healed me, this I knew to be true.  But I felt the peace of God even though the odds weren’t in my favor.

The hematology team felt that I needed intense chemotherapy administered very quickly followed by another three more rounds (weeks) of chemo.  If remission could be attained, then another stem cell transplant would again be my only option for extended life.

I went into the hospital April 10, 2015 and started the chemo treatments.  After the first treatment, I contracted the Norwalk virus due to my weakened immune system.  I was to the point where it was highly unlikely I would live. I had developed an intestinal blockage as well as several internal bleeds and my heart was very, very weak.

In this weakened state, I needed regular blood transfusions and even breathing was an effort at times.  I was unable to eat or drink for six of the nine weeks I was hospitalized. It came to a point when we knew the hematology team could do nothing more without causing even more complications.  The team of doctors called a meeting with our family to decide the plan of action.

Our pastor was called for prayer around the same time that I was having yet another scan done and I really was too ill to undergo any more tests.  I knew it was enough.  I said to the doctor, “Don’t do anything else with me; I don’t want any more testing done.  You can’t fix what’s wrong with me, I know that, so just let me be. I know where I am going and I’ll be fine.”  The doctor looked at me and said, “You don’t know what you’re saying.”  To which I replied, “Oh yes, I do know. I’m going to be ok.”  And it was during this time that heaven was where I felt I was going and I was fine with that. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t think this was what would happen. He felt that if he could take me home, then I would get well.

Even in my weakness I knew that “no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand.” (John 10:28) Click To Tweet

Even in my weakness I knew that “no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand” (John 10:28). I knew God was in control and it was a safe place, no matter what would happen. Verses of scripture, that I had memorized years earlier, would rise up within me and I knew He was with me.  What would happen?  I wasn’t sure, but His presence was enough.

I was made as comfortable as possible in a palliative condition for a number of weeks. Healing came very slowly and then it was decided to try feeding me by intravenous.  Miraculously, I was able to tolerate it and strength started to come back into my body again.  It was June 7, 2015 and we felt it was time to go home. Everyone was amazed that I was well enough to go but it was months before I could eat well and moving around was a challenge.  The AML would come back, I was told by the Hematologist, probably within three months.

After the first week at home I had to get another bone marrow biopsy and the result was 100% remission.  The doctors were happy with this result after just receiving the one round of chemotherapy, and we were so thankful for God’s intervention once again in my life.

After only months of recuperating the medical team talked about next steps.  This meant that a transplant was a possibility, now that I was well enough to undergo this procedure.  Wayne and I met with the hematologist in charge of transplants and we discussed again, the pros and cons relating to another transplant.  He told me I would have a 20 – 25% survival rate and that, should I survive, my quality of life would probably be poor.  So, again we had a decision to make and, with much prayer and seeking God, we decided that I would not go that route this time.  I didn’t feel like it was the right thing for me.

Will I change my mind in the weeks and months ahead? I’m not sure. I just wait upon Him for direction, and for right now, I stay as I am.

As I look back over the past ten years since transplant (June 2007), I can only marvel at how God has shown his faithfulness and how God has a plan and a purpose in this journey.  I’ve seen Him work through the wonderful medical practitioners, who have played such a vital role in my treatment and recovery process; through my loving husband and family, who walk this road with me and who never cease to amaze me with their tenderness and abiding faith; through the love and support from my extended family and friends; and through our faithful pastors and church family who continue to pray for my healing even today. I feel so blessed and thankful to have each of them in my life.

There have been many obstacles, but there have also been many joys as I’ve gotten to know others who are going through similar situations. I have seen God orchestrate situations so that someone’s life could be touched through me, and vice versa.  I’ve had the opportunity of sharing my faith with those who had no hope and seeing them develop the peace which surpasses all human understanding.  I’ve learned that someone without hair and a face swollen from medication is no different from anyone else and just needs to be loved and accepted despite their looks.

Above all, I’ve learned that I can trust God in everything, that He loves me beyond measure, and that, no matter what I have to deal with, He’s right there to guide me every step of the way.

My focus has changed as I have experienced His goodness: to be more about Him and less about me. Click To Tweet

My focus has changed as I have experienced His goodness: to be more about Him and less about me; the more I get to know Him, the more I want to know Him.

Currently, I am being tested every three weeks. My results are excellent and I feel very well.   My Hematologist is always so pleased at how well things have gone, but she always cautions me that the disease is lurking within my bone marrow – it just hasn’t shown itself yet!  It’s a little disturbing at times to hear this repeated when I visit the doctor, but I understand where she’s coming from. It is at those moments when I have to intentionally focus on who I am in God and how faithful He has been all my life.

I am still on the journey that began June 14, 2005.  I live in remission, but some days I face uncertainties and doubt.  I continue to learn that there is rest for those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High.  I pray that my testimony may help others in the battles and conflicts of their own lives.  In scripture, God provides all the answers we need to face life’s challenges with courage, faith, and hope.  We give thanks for each new day He blesses us with and rest in the assurance that, whatever battles might come tomorrow, He will fight them for us if we will just trust Him.

[“This Is My Story” was first published in a local church magazine (Engage – Bethesda Pentecostal Church).]

Your turn…

Share this story, so others can read about God’s faithfulness!