A man, much my senior, and someone I consider especially wise, once reminded me that followers of Christ “are called to be “saints”, but not necessarily “sane”.
Looking back, I believe his provocative comment reflects the complexity of life in this broken world. The few words that stuck in my mind seem to reflect the wonder of the Gospel of Christ as it is extended to people whose minds are clouded by real physical, emotional, or social factors that do not respond to prayer, Bible, and worship. The result is that in response to their faith they may end up forgiven and adopted by the Father– but misunderstood, neglected, or rejected by the Family.
The Apostle Paul seems to acknowledge that people often come to Christ, and to one another, with problems that require special and individual attention rather than “normal solutions”. He wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1Thessalonians 5:14). That is more than a quick spiritual fix approach to the human condition.
Over time it’s become apparent to me that, within the family of God, there are problems that deserve more consideration and support than a “trust and obey” approach to faith.
Start anywhere, from our soldiers returning from the terrors of battle with “post traumatic stress”– that is far beyond their ability to just walk or pray away from– to those struggling with deep rooted addictions, violently, abusive behaviors, or a long list of other physical and mental conditions.
In what seems to be a countless list of problems, there are those among us who need not only prayer, the words of Scripture, and encouragement from the family of God, but also wisdom of those who have had similar experience and, or, special training in dealing with biologically rooted depression, life-threatening eating disorders, sexual predation, domestic violence, autism, schizophrenia, bi-polar, etc.
I know I’m repeating now– But at times I feel so overwhelmed by the thought of how many troubled people–caught in such problems– and repentant as they may be of their harmful choices and behaviors, fall through the cracks, or cannot find a place in our hearts.
Too often the plight of such persons becomes even more complicated when such persons seek help only from spiritual sources, or only from the medical and therapeutic community.
Too many are misunderstood and mistreated. Too many end up losing faith in pastors who try to treat their problem as only “spiritual.” Or, by contrast– too many end up in the counsel of someone who tries to treat the body, or heart, without prayer, the wisdom of the Bible, or the compassion of a patient Christian community.
But I need to stop now, and listen to you. Because there are dangers on either side, I’d like to know whether you have seen what happens when those with special needs seek spiritual help that lacks understanding of complicating factors, or when such people seek medical, social, or psychological help without adequate spiritual understanding, counsel, and support?
Or, to be fair, has anyone seen such persons consistently helped and honored by a Bible-and-prayer-only approach?