Last weekend, I was honored to be part of a panel on mental health and the church. A friend’s church is exploring ways they can support those affected by mental illness and encourage mental health as a community. It was a deep encouragement to see the room full, more chairs being pulled from the metal racks to accommodate those entering the church basement. We need more conversations like this.
One reoccurring theme throughout the evening was the importance of relationships. To say such things has become a cliche, I suppose, but that does not remove the truth. We need meaningful, invested, agape-love relationships. We need them to prevent crises. We need them to survive crises.
A friend on the panel said that we need people who will be honest enough to tell us we’ve forgotten our trousers - and who come prepared with an extra pair because they know we might need them. This applies to mental health, surely, but it applies to all of life’s twists, turns, and trials.
This talk about friendships brought to mind my current research-friend, William Cowper. Cowper struggled deeply with depression and suicidal thinking. He was also the 18th-century poet who brought us poems like “The Task” and hymns like “God Moves In a Mysterious Way.”
Once, during an episode of depression, he managed to get himself out of bed long enough to walk to his friend John Newton’s house (of “Amazing Grace” fame). He didn’t leave for sixteen months. What a house guest. Many would cripple under the sudden prolonged household addition or the effects of debilitating depression.
But John said this about his friend: “The Lord has given us such a love for him … that I am not weary, though to be sure his deliverance would be to me one of the greatest blessings I can conceive.”
Do you have people in your life who are willing to the bear the weight when life gets messy? Who have come prepared with “trousers”? Treasure them. And tell them how thankful you are they exist.