With the recent suicide of Jarrid Wilson, a US pastor known for his mental health advocacy, much discussion has been stirring on the subject of depression and suicide.
Some say, “He didn’t have faith”. Some say, “He didn’t rely on the Lord enough”. Everyone has an opinion and many of them are insensitive, misguided or false.
Mental illness isn’t about how much we love Jesus
Having suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean a person is not loving Jesus. What does loving Jesus even represent? It’s a mark of a Christian. Suicidal thoughts, however, are the mark of an illness.
Very few people would disagree with the statement that “Being a Christian does not cure cancer”. Yet some would suggest that every person who hasn’t found a cure to their mental illness is somehow not casting all their cares on the Lord.
Jarrid was trying to help others
I don’t think Jarrid ever believed that the Lord couldn’t do something (like take away his depression). It seemed he was trying to encourage those with similar issues.
He and his wife started an organization to help others with mental illness. He was helping them realize that their issues don’t stem from a lack of loving Jesus.
And that even while these issues persist, Jesus is still there. There is a dangerous implication in some that people who struggle with mental illness don’t believe that Jesus can cure them.
Mental illness isn’t just a spiritual issue
Another dangerous view is that mental health issues are a result of spiritual issues in a person’s life. I’m not saying that spiritual issues are completely separate from mental illness though.
Just as a cancer patient who is losing their battle can be spiritually discouraged, yes, of course, mental illness can affect someone’s spiritual life. But a lack of not casting cares on the Lord is not what keeps people from battling effectively against mental illness.
Jarrid Wilson’s suicide is an especially sad situation. I think it’s easy to believe that the people who are talking about mental illness and encouraging others through it have a handle on it. They don’t.
A battle lost
That’s what breaks my heart. It’s not that Jarrid kept it to himself. It’s not that he didn’t seek help. He simply lost his battle to a disease. That’s sad and tragic and yet another reminder to the church community that being a follower of Christ doesn’t solve all our problems.
And yes, when you’re a believer you have a special outlook and strength that certainly helps through life’s hardest circumstances. However, in this case, we’re dealing with an illness where one’s brain chemistry literally makes seeing the positive impossible, no matter how much one might want to or how much one relies on God.
A sensitive and needed discussion
It’s hard to talk about this topic with grace while also not normalizing suicide. We don’t want to make light of a person taking their own lives. It hurts a lot of people and leaves scars for the rest of life.
I pray that the church will learn to be sensitive, caring and encouraging to those who struggle with mental illness. They need our compassion and grace through the deep trials of their lives.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.