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?
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.
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.