I thought I was well prepared to preach on marriage last Sunday.
My sermon was done, I did a run through the day before, and I felt no stress
of any kind when I stepped up to the pulpit.
But after reading the first few verses of Scripture, I noticed that I couldn't breathe.
And it was only getting worse.
So, I panicked.
Me- a pastor, someone who is supposed to have his life together, someone who has preached 200-300 times; had a panic attack at the front of the church. It was so bad that even a full day later, I am feeling it's effects.
I still don't fully understand what happened. Did an asthma attack produce anxiety, or did a panic attack make it so I couldn't breathe? And why did it happen at that very moment?
I'm still trying to figure this out for myself.
Other than the fear I felt in that moment, I'm also struggling with some other emotions.
I know I shouldn't feel this way, that God loves me, and that I have a gracious church I'm thankful to be a part of.
But I still struggle with these feelings.
Why does there seem to be such a stigma attached to mental health issues like depression and anxiety? Especially in the church?
I think there is a few reasons for this.
Bad theology: I think because so many churches have been sucked into the false teaching of the prosperity gospel; they (a lot like Job's friends) begin to assign blame to people for their sicknesses. "You must not have enough faith", "well it must be the devil, so let's pray it away". But sometimes we do have faith and are walking under the Lord's protection. What do you do then? What happens when we're walking faithfully but these things still happen?
Misunderstanding: I think for those who have not struggled with mental illness don't understand what it's like to experience it. Often if we haven't experienced depression, for example- we give bad advice or say things like "just get over it, man up". But for the person struggling with depression, it isn't that simple. Often, they want to be better but can't.
Humans are made up of body, mind, soul, and spirit. There is sin inside of us, the devil is real and can attack us, the world is incredibly stressful, and our bodies because of the fall are imperfect and break down as we get older.
We can't always know why things happen to us the way that they do.
Maybe God is disciplining us, maybe the devil is attacking, maybe our diet is bad or we need more rest. It could be any, all, or none of those things. Sometimes we just don't know.
What am I trying to say? As it should be with everything else, mental health issues need to be treated graciously. It's easy to judge. We should have love and understanding for the people who struggle with these issues.
Often what people need isn't a diagnosis or a solution. They just seek to be understood, to be heard, and to be prayed for.
Mental illness should not be a hidden battle among folks in the church. But sadly, it still is in many ways.
Maybe God wants to take me through this time of struggle so that we will all learn to show more grace to other people who are struggling through the same thing.
If you need help, don't feel ashamed to reach out. You aren't alone. Chances are there are many others who struggle with the same thing.
Especially in this time of covid, this is a huge struggle for many people.
I don't know what happened to me on Sunday. And part of me is terrified that it will happen again soon. I don't know if this was a year of stress coming out suddenly, a spiritual attack from the devil, or just an asthma attack.
Maybe I'll never know, but one thing is for sure.
God can even get glory from this.
God can use even my suffering to be an example for others who are going through the same thing.
God is teaching me that every breath is a gift from Him, that my life is short, and that I should live it for Him.
Even in suffering, we can learn and grow.
Even struggling with mental illness, I can give glory to God and shine forth the gospel through my suffering.
Resting in His grace,