Guest post: Chad Jones “Church, Grow up.”

Chad Jones is a friend of mine. I’ve gotten to know him mostly over this last year, and he is good people. The words he shares today are honest and heart wrenching.  Bottom line is this: Church, we are failing people within our own congregations. Listen to chads words. Let them make you angry, let them challenge you, let them change you. We really can’t afford to have things remain the same.

***

This year, my wife has been sick. It’s been a struggle for her to simply breathe. It, however, is not something easily explained. If I say she has allergies, then I’ve shaded the conversation in ways that are detrimental to the one thing she wants:

To be heard.

To be understood.

But what we’re bumping up against is the harsh reality than very few understand. We don’t know why she has the extreme swelling, and congestion, which occludes her airways. We don’t know why recent surgery hasn’t brought the hoped-for improvement.

What we do is this: everyday, her condition flares up, brings on gut wrenching anxiety, leaving her shaking, and in tears.

What we also know is this: overtures to the church have been met with one visit, some (following her surgery, and much appreciated) meals, and that’s about all.
When she asked about visitation, she was told, “We don’t have that.”

We don’t have that.

The church, that light on a hill, charged with doing it unto the least of these, doesn’t have that.

You know who does?

Mormons.

Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jehovah’s Witnesses visited my wife while I was at work, and she got more compassion, more understanding, from them than she did from orthodox, Bible believing Christians. Even those that dropped off meals were very quick to leave.

As if her condition would somehow rub off on them.

Her closest friends have basically written her off, indicating that they’re praying, but that (for all intents and purposes) she’s too much work. This needs to be over now.

Do you think she wants to be this way?

She wants to be normal–not wracked with anxiety, not weeping when I leave for work, not shaking uncontrollably.

Yet, at her lowest point, she feels abandoned. Cast aside by the institution, and the people, that are supposed to care. In fact, and I wish I were making this up, our church–the one to which we signed on as members, wants her to come for a meeting to determine if she actually needs the elders to come out and pray for her.

WTF?

We thought, naïvely now it seems, that James was clear on this: “if any among you is sick… let them call for the elders.. .”

We didn’t realize there was a worthiness clause anywhere in there.

The fact is: we’re reaching out for whatever solace, comfort, understand, compassion we can find.

But you know where we’re not finding it?

In the church.

The church is failing us.

This institution, and its people, of whom we have so long heard: we have the answers. We’re finding out that isn’t true. The church has the Answer, but apparently only if one fits a certain demographic. What is the criteria?

Simply put: the root of your problem must be a moral, or sin-related, one, or one risks running smack dab into something the church can’t do: help you.

If the root cause of your problem is mental, emotional, biological, physiological, then one is up crap creek. Without the proverbial paddle.

Because our experience has been that when someone’s condition doesn’t fit a nice, tidy spiritual paradigm, the church–and her people–don’t know what to with you.

Others over the long years have written more eloquently of this, but Job ran into this very thing: his friends spiritualized his woes when there was no call to do so. Life rarely fits our tidy evangelical categories.

Certainly God Himself, and thus Jesus, refuses to fit into our neat little boxes. I’m here to tell you, church, that not every malady is spiritual. So knock it off!

Mental illness, anxiety, depression, et al, are not demon possession. Especially if one is a Christian. “Greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world.” Ring a bell? Christians can’t be demon possessed. Knock it off! Stop stigmatizing your precious brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.

I could go on, but will leave you with this:

Grow up, church! Do the hard work of actually giving a shit. And not just offering some half-baked platitudes like “We’re praying for you.”

***

Chad Jones is a Christ-follower, husband, dad,  and a writer. He lives in the Arizona desert with his wife and two kids. He works in IT by day, and writes feverishly by night. Check out his blog at Randomlychad.com, and catch him on twitter.

  • Pretty bold, but probably right on for many churches in America. Thanks for the challenge, Chad.

    • Thanks for reading, Jon! It wasn’t an easy post to write, but it reflects where I’m at. Where Lisa and I are at.

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  • the fact that this archaic notion that if we are in pain or our lives aren’t “perfect” that it is somehow sin-related or our fault is still around and accepted by so many today literally blows my mind. seriously, i’m seeing gushy brain matter on my carpet right now from the explosion a moment ago.

    the world is broken and we are in pain. god has the ability to take it all away yet chooses not to. sure, i wonder why, but any answer eludes me. he is in our struggle and in our pain. i firmly believe god heals. he does not punish our sin by putting us in pain. we saves us from our sin by his sacrifice on the cross. why do some insist on shaming and judging those who are rapt with disease and pain for their “sinful” nature? argh!

    i’m sorry – i’m probably rambling. you are constantly in my thoughts, chad. i wish i had answers for you, my friend but i do not. other than that the lord of hosts, creator of the universe knows everything that’s going on – and he’s weeping with you.

    • Tim, I know right? It’s like the entire Book of Job gets glossed over.

      I’m right there with you: I believe God is with us, but instead of the answers we seek, He offers Himself. Which can feel like cold comfort. That’s the hard part–when we want deliverance more than we want God.

      Regardless, the duty of God’s people is to come along side, and love.

  • Chad, I wish I could get in the car and come visit you and Lisa. Just to sit there and listen and talk, bring you something you need.

    • Larry, we sure appreciate that! Would likewise love to sit a spell with you in the Holler. You’re good people.

    • you’re awesome, larry!

  • Chad,
    I feel your pain. I am not trying to act as though it’s easy, so don’t hear that. We are as a family walking down that same road right now. Our church is at least trying to help, but they just don’t know how.

    Wish I had a good excuse for why we have never met in real life. For goodness sake, we live in the same metro area, but it just hasn’t happened. Know this though — I AM PRAYING for you, and it’s not trite. It’s birthed out of my own pain and sorrow, and understanding the isolation and grief that brings. And once we do actually meet, I commit to not bring “easy answers” or judgment…just the presence and kindness of a friend grieving your pain alongside you

    • That’s awesome, Chris! Thanks for your heartfelt prayers! I’m likewise praying for you.

      Easy answers are just that: easy. Meaning cheap. Thanks for not offering any.

      We will meet IRL soon.

      Blessings, my brother.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Chad, I’m so sorry to hear you and Lisa are not getting the support, the comfort, the shoulders to lean on that you so need from a part of the church body. It’s saddening and frustrating. We do need to learn how to help bear one another’s burdens without always giving in the urge to try to “fix” them.

    • Thanks, Michelle! I appreciate folks like yourself who’ve been there with prayers and a kind word. God has raised up a great online community.

      That said, it’s still not quite the same as flesh-and-blood, up close and personal interaction.

      • Michelle Woodman

        There is something about physically having other people there to talk with, pray with, and vent to — even to sit in a companionable silence with them. I hope you and Lisa find that and *soon*.

  • Powerful – yet painful words Chad.

    It’s difficult to post an appropriate comment given the situation. The words, “I’m praying for you and your family” get tangled in my throat and don’t want to come out.

    However, I am truly praying for peace and strength through this challenge for you, Lisa and your kids – even if your home church isn’t.

    • Thanks, Tor! That means so very much! Blessings to you and your family.

  • samcarter44

    Amen, amen, and all kinds of amen!!!! My husband and I have experienced this in previous churches, and it actually drove us out of the church for a long time. Fortunately, we are now in a church that ministers to everyone. Our pastor calls it an incarnational versus an institutional model for the church. We are a community of broken people coming to worship our Lord and Savior, and he (our pastor) says he’s as much of a “dirtbag” as the rest of us. Our church has walked with me ever since I was diagnosed with clinical depression in February. It is not considered abnormal that I’m on meds, and I’m also in counseling with my pastor. He has me journaling (I’m a writer), and I have made tremendous progress. We are very blessed to be at this place. Please know that I am sincerely praying for you and your wife. Alisa

    • samcarter44

      Oh and just to clarify, Alisa is my real name. I wanted to use that so you would know who was praying.

    • Alisa, thanks for sharing some of your story. That’s a large part of why I do what I do–to know that I’m not alone. I’m so glad that you have a great community around you that you can be real with.

      Thanks so much for your prayers! The prayers of those who’ve been there, who know, mean so much more.

      • samcarter44

        Subscribed to your blog. You’re a great writer. Can’t wait to read more.

        • Gosh, thanks! Haven’t been writing as much as I used to, but I am trying to make it count.

  • troy mc laughlin

    Chad I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure the pain of rejection and misunderstanding from the one place you should have acceptance and comfort. Thank you for sharing your wife’s struggle and pain. Thank you for allowing us to share in this journey. You can contact me anytime for prayer and support. Troy Mclaughlin @thenofactor

    • Thanks very much, Troy! That’s very kind. It’s taken years to apprehend, but I’ve come to the place where I feel like it’s better to expose things to the light, rather than hide, and pretend it’s alright.

  • debra elramey

    I find this heartbreaking but sadly true, Some churches just have tunnel vision and only see the building, not the people.

    • It’s been an eye-opener for us for sure. We’ve been hearing all along, “Come, we have the answer to everything…”

      Not so much.

  • I hate to hear this. I also strongly encourage you to find a new body of believers. I’ve been in far too many churches just like the one you refer to. Finally, I’m in a church where people don’t just talk about Christ’s love, they LIVE it. There are churches out there like that. You just really have to look. My continued prayers go out to you and your family.

    • Thank-you, Kevin! We’re working on it. Just not sure of our place in the body right now, you know? Just gotta get back out there, and try.

      It’s just that the trying is so hard right now…

      I’m so glad you’re a part of the online community that found me.

  • Thank you so much for sharing.

  • harrisco

    Chad – I am sorry you and your wife are having to face these struglles without the embrace of a supportive community. You deserve better. Our churches can do better. Your post is a call to step up and, as you put it, do the hard work of actually giving a shit. I hope we do. We have failed too many times, left too many people not just isolated from community but actively forced out of it. To anyone who came to you with the mental-illness-is-spiritual line, I say Bunk. I hope you and your wife forgive them for their ignorance and lack of empathy. Like I said, you deserve better. She deserves better. Pain is pain–and saying you brought it on yourself or somehow deserve it only adds to it. I am sorry you were treated this way.

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