Let’s just go ahead and get this out there: Christians suffer from depression, anxiety, and other various mental illnesses. It does not mean that they are corrupt or have done something awful to deserve this. There are literally thousands of ways to end up struggling with these illnesses. For those struggling with their depression, it may be that their view of hope is challenged and changed by disease and pain. Those suffering from anxiety may have their hope obscured by fear. Yet, the hope is still there. Christ isn’t ineffective in their lives, so it is fact that hope is still there.
“I hate people.”
That phrase resonates in my mind over and over. I used to feel that way. I indeed used both my depression and social anxiety to cop out of social events. I truly believed that I was a lone wolf and I felt better when I could sit alone and do whatever I want. Yes, counseling helped but there was only treatment and no progression. I was constantly neglecting the Gospel and the importance of community. I felt better with my depression and anxiety under control but I still believed I didn’t have to interact with people. No progression in that area. However, this is life, I want to be a counselor, and there are people everywhere… I’m going to have to deal with them eventually.
Note: I know the severity of these illnesses and how sometimes certain situations can be detrimental to one’s health. However, I believe there needs to be progression in finding where your comfort (or un-comfort) lies.
My challenge is this stop using the guise of depression and anxiety to justify your comfort in being alone. Why? I firmly believe that we aren’t meant to find comfort in being alone away from the social context of community. I also believe the Word makes that clear as well. In my experience I found that when I felt comfortable avoiding people to be alone that I was also comfortable neglecting the Good News.
We aren’t even called to be comfortable in the first place. I would rather you and I be uncomfortable in investing and being invested in the social context of community than comfortable being alone away from it.
What if I’m wrong and you claim to hate people but you’re really using that as an excuse and reason to falsely analyze someone and develop passive aggressive tendencies? Guilty. I am actively trying to correct that right now. I’m leaning into it. There was no point. I did it to mask my insecurities and my depravity. That is very bad habit. I suggest that you lean into that as well. It is a process but we’re flooded by God’s love and grace every second. For me, I became vulnerable in the uncomfortable place of community. Since that has happened, I’ve been in process not only with God’s love and grace but with earthly friends going along with me.
I was on the verge of finishing this post when Blake Jenkins, an associate college pastor I’m under while here at the UofA, delivered an awesome point this last Wednesday. It shifted the direction of this post only slightly. He talked about 1 Thessalonians 2:8 which the ESV reads:
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Blake’s challenging point was that Paul wasn’t content with just sharing the gospel. He needed to share himself. He needed to interact with people! Why? They were very dear to him. In fact that’s why I’m delivering this to you now. You are dear to me. I fully believe that God appoints someone to walk through the valley with Him, come out, and go back to the beginning of the valley to walk through it again but this time with a friend. So, if you aren’t struggling with this now but have in the past and you know someone who is, go back to the beginning of the valley. Even if this isn’t what you’ve struggled with, you know what the valley and the leaning in process looks like. Be together!
I hope this doesn’t offend or point fingers at the readers but simply challenge them. I, too, believe that the wound from a friend is much greater than the kiss of the enemy.
Please, don’t be content with just sharing the gospel. Share yourself. Start becoming an individual in community not independent from it. Our life in community is the manifestation of the mind of Christ. If you are involved in the context of community, have compassion for everyone because: they are dear to you and you are dear to them.