embracing those who struggle ... and a recommendation for Marcia Webb's "Toward a Theology of Mental Illness"

Yesterday at a funeral for a former student, who for time--temporarily--lost the battle with cancer but who for eternity--forever--embraced the welcome of Jesus, Pastor Dan Brooks of Heritage Bible Church spoke on the death of Lazarus. He pointed out Jesus' great love and intentional working to bring mourners to belief. 
One of the outstanding pieces of truth Pastor Brooks shared was this: 
We so often ask Jesus to write a story of healing and happily ever after, like the disciples and sisters of Lazarus. But sometimes He doesn't write it the way we had hoped. That's only because He is writing a way more amazing story than we can ever dream of. The crises are greater than we wanted to deal with. And the climaxes don't come at the expected times--sometimes they come way earlier and hit way harder; other times, they seem delayed. Yet He writes. And His story, in the end, is worth the struggle of reading ... of living through ... because He is God. He is the Author, and we can trust where He's going. 

Certain struggles are fought together, the Body of Christ embracing the sufferer. Others, though, in our conservative Christian culture, are too often ignored, misunderstood, shut out, or even demonized. 

I just finished reading "Toward a Theology of Mental Illness" by Marcia Webb, and I am convinced that we as Christians--and perhaps especially as conservative Christians--need to read and digest this information, making necessary changes to our conceptualization and response to those of our brothers and sisters "in Christ" who are legitimately struggling--and I use that word intentionally, not lightly, because it is an ongoing struggle--with mental illness.
Dr. Marcia Webb,
photo courtesy of SPU

Seattle Pacific University's Marcia Webb (MDiv & PhD) brings together a personal relationship with Jesus (our suffering Savior), a professional background in psychotherapy, and an amazing amount of research in both history and the Word, to present HOPE to those in our Christian communities who are truly suffering through the agonizing journey of mental illness. 

If mentally ill persons find themselves estranged--abandoned by the community around them, distressed, and struggling with their God--perhaps the Scriptural testimony is that in this estrangement they are, paradoxically, not alone. In the person of Christ, God has taken a seat with the estranged. Christ is, for the mentally ill person, and for all of humanity, truly Immanuel, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). (page 65)

Please take the time to read Marcia's lecture. It is just under 70 pages, so it will take a bit of time. But it is worth our time and consideration. Pray through the passages and determine to understand with an earnest desire toward exercising grace one to another within the Church. 

(I will note that I would like to see a clearer stand on creationism, and a passing reference to Muslim/imams seems like it broadens the scope to religious beyond Christian at a couple of brief points. But, though important, for this topic, they are perhaps more like the couple of pieces of coffee grounds that can be left at the bottom of a cup of coffee that you have to admit is phenomenal.)

Then let us embrace our brothers and sisters along their purposeful journey through which they are agonizing. 

I have no doubt that we have much to learn from those who are struggling. After all, there is a link between those who are highly gifted and those who struggle with mental illness. 
And, after all, we are as the Body of Christ to be intricately connecting, growing together, sharing in one another's burdens, for His glory. 

I would love to hear your feedback on Marcia's lecture once you've read through it. 

Grace and peace, 
with love, 


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