Anxiety and depression is more and more of an issue today among teens. We have been hearing about it in our youth group, and I am sure we are not alone. Perry Noble, at the Orange Conference 2014, addressed these issues in his main session talk.
We are extremely sensitive to our appearance. We have products that will suck us in and tighten us up for the one purpose that people are very self-conscious about how they look. Perry told a hilarious story of how he tried on “spanx.” He struggled to get the shirt on, but he struggled even more to get it off. Many times, people get stuck in their problems, and they feel like they cannot get out of it.
Perry said our goal should be that “we, as leaders, will create an environment where we regularly tell people, ‘It’s ok to be not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay that way.’”
He then referred to James 5, starting in verse 14.
Often, we don’t think about mental illness as an illness in the church. But the following is a progression many people go through:
Worry —> Anxiety —> Depression —> Suicidal thoughts
Perry said, “I don’t know about you, but these things mean you are sick.” He then was very transparent about his own struggle a few years back about his own depression and suicidal thoughts. Perry did a survey a while back, and he found that 16% of Christians have considered taking their life at some point. He urged that this is a sickness, because it is not God’s best for them.
We are told by James to let the church know when we are sick. Perry brought up the fact that many times, we often act like we’re ok in the church. The truth is, Perry said, “Godly people really do get stressed, and anxious, and overwhelmed.” We need to stop putting on a front and faking it. He goes on to share insight he gained from Chuck Swindoll, who said the idea of anointing with oil in this verse is to make sure you take your medication. Perry suggests we need to view anti-depression meds the same as we would heart meds.
So often, we even turn people away from the church and even serving in ministry just because they are struggling. Perry said, “We’ve created environments where even Jesus couldn’t be employed.” Maybe sometimes they should not serve, but other times, we turn them away too quick instead of helping them through their issues.
Everyone wants a pill to fix their problems, but the pill fixes them over time. The same often goes for prayer. It doesn’t always fix things right away. Instead, it takes time, with consistent prayer. Healing is most often a process.
Cutting is not something new in our society. James tells us how to get better. He tells us the environment that we need to be in to be healed. We need to be in the presence of the powerful and effective pray-ers.
James says to confess to each other. There are some people who are not yet healed because they have not yet told anyone. Perry said the way to start the healing process is to actually tell someone what you are going through.
Perry said, “It’s ok to be not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay that way, because that’s not God’s best for you.” He goes on to say, “People will follow you when you’re transparent,” so we, as leaders, need to be transparent (to an extent), so people can relate.
Perry did a really great job addressing this issue that is so often overlooked in our churches today. I know our own church has been talking about how to address it. Our student ministry is hosting a workshop where we are going to help our students and parents know what to do when they hear of these struggles. I know there is more we can do, though. If your church does anything in particular to help those who struggle with anxiety and depression, please share so we can learn from each other.
Perry Noble is the senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. You can connect with him on Twitter at @perrynoble.