My heart breaks and my knees weaken for the loss in the Warren family. My prayers are with them and those who have walked this devastating road ahead of them.
Matthew Warren's tragic decision has catapulted the topic of Christians and mental illness into an uncomfortable light; One which we would rather stay out of. On the whole, Christians are deep-down afraid to discuss mental illness.
We feel an added pressure to hide or deny our own mental illnesses. Somehow it feels like we're not "selling" Jesus to the unbeliever if we struggle with something so significant as manic depression. The realm of psychological/psychiatric illnesses is under more scrutiny than the physical. If a Christian is diagnosed with cancer, the reaction is more direct: A very small minority will wonder if this is some form of punishment, but most will respond with sympathetic prayers. After all, as ugly as cancer is, these things just happen. We hear diagnoses such as schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar or dissociative identity disorder and suddenly an ominous black cloud rolls in and the speculation begins. It's a sin issue at the least and demon possession at worst. We automatically connect mental illness with a spiritual sickness. There's no doubt that it's harder to diagnose and treat that which is largely unseen. To make matters worse, we lack a concrete cause to blame. We blame chemicals in our food for behavioral disorders, and nature for physical disorders. If we find a lump, or struggle with sensory input the solution seems so much more straightforward, and the cause non-spiritual. Paranoia cannot be pinpointed with the same accuracy and it feels like it goes deeper than brainwaves and dopamine levels. It feels like it invades to the soul. And we squirm in our seats, afraid to pull at that thread.
Dear ones, we need not fear. This is a level playing field. All sickness is spiritual. From the insignificant sniffle to every single cancer cell, all is a result of evil loosed on this earth. From thyroid imbalances to chemical imbalances, all creation groans under the weight of falleness. All sickness is spiritual, because it is the result of sin-ness, but not all sickness is the direct result of one's rap sheet of grievances. Christians are no exception, and that is OK. We have allowed a dark church history to automatically marry mental and spiritual health. Are there instances where the two are intertwined? Oh, to be sure, but to suggest that Christians should never suffer from mental illness is like claiming that marrying a doctor will ensure you never get sick. We need not assume there is or is not a connection between someone's sin and their mental health and instead love the spiritually wounded, wherever they are and whatever their diagnosis.