Mental health seems to be a topic of concern nowadays. While the sphere of discussion is broad, there is a point of contact for me in the whole area of grief and suffering, stress and transition.
I recently listened to a mental health webinar (a seminar on the web – without the interaction and sense of presence found in an actual face-to-face session – an information session and not an interaction time – a rant for another day!).
One speaker made the point that the church should be a “safer place to suffer.”
Tullian Tchividjian (in an article in the latest Prairie’s Servant Magazine, p. 12) makes the following statement about being in “church”
When an admission of suffering or weakness is interpreted as a lack of faith, honesty soon falls by the wayside, leaving the sufferer lonelier than before.
The church (the people, not the building) needs to be as safe, or safer than the bar, or the local service club, or the neighbours next door. We need to believe that God is not surprised by pain and suffering and their consequences. We don’t need to deny them either. A listening ear is paramount. A recognition of the anger and trauma of loss is necessary.
We have heard that for some time. Hopefully our practice is improving.
The other side to this is when a sufferer quickly steps out and returns to a “normal” approach to life. Corney’s wife died, and within a very short time he was again greeting people at the door to the church. His enthusiasm was catching and he was the encourager, instead of the one needing encouragement.
Soon an underground discussion started, trying to find ways to “help” Corney deal with his loss. He should be grieving, he should be sad, he should be . . .
Corney was fine – the others weren’t. Sometimes a safer place to suffer means letting go of our ideas of the timeline of sorrow, and exploring with honesty a person’s current life.
That’s when we can be a safer place to suffer!