I read a heartbreaking statistic the other day. Forty-eight percent of American Christians believe that serious mental illness can be overcome through prayer and Bible study alone. The people who hold this conviction know very little about mental illness. And worst of all, these believers inadvertently impose on the mentally ill undeserved guilt and shame.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mental illness is not psychosomatic. The clinically depressed cannot just “cheer up.” People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are not able to “snap out of it.” Schizophrenics are not able to force themselves to live in the reality of a normal person. Mental illness is just as real and varied as cancer and heart disease. We wouldn’t tell people with physical diseases that they could be whole if they prayed more or were more diligent in their study of Scripture, would we? I hope not.
Unfortunately, we know less about the brain than we do the body’s other vital organs. Even though psychiatry has come light years recently, there is a sense in which psychology is still a pre-science. Developmentally, it is where chemistry was when it was alchemy. There are still many missing pieces. So when you pray for a cure for cancer, pray also for breakthroughs in our understanding of the brain. And be compassionate toward those who struggle with mental illness.
–“Jim’s Daily Awakenings” are short daily e-mail messages from Jim Jackson. These morning messages are based on Jim’s very successful radio spots heard daily on Houston’s 94.5, the BUZZ.