Unfortunately, stress and other mental health illnesses are subject to stigmatization more than any other illness and hence not openly talked about. In fact, most patients suffer the devastating effects of the illness as well as the attached social exclusion and prejudices. Stigmatization of Mental related illnesses has a long tradition with ancient Greeks, using ‘stigma’ as a brand to mark slaves or criminals, while millennia imprisoned, tortured or killed mental illness sufferers.
The Middle Age, viewed mental illness as punishment from God where sufferers were thought to be possessed by the devil and were burned or thrown in madhouses where they were chained to the walls or their beds. Likewise, the Christian circle struggles to deal with or to address stress and other mental health illnesses. This is probably due to Christianity’s ‘perfect image problem’ that can sometimes lead Christians to view stressed or struggling Christians as weak, failing to trust God or living in secret sin. This unfortunately creates guilt and a feeling of condemnation which leads to isolation.
But what does the bible say about inclusion and support of those who are weak and perhaps not performing as we would like ?. Jesus, the most inclusive being ever, knew that the ultimate solution when experiencing burnout and distress is to find rest and refreshment in Him. He called out to All, with no exceptions when he declared
“Come to me, All you who are weary, burnt out and distressed, and I will give you rest”. Matthew 11:28”
I broke this verse down and learnt a lot about what Jesus was trying to say here.
“Come to me”, this is an invitation of love, commonly used when calling to a child who is upset or sick and who needs a cuddle, sympathy or mercy. The child usually comes and receives the cuddle, its a healing experience where they can tell all their distress or just rest their weary souls onto the adult shoulders. They usually leave with a smile and feeling much better and restored. Similarly, Jesus is calling to us and our response should be one of expectation because he has promised.
“All” nothing can be more inclusive than this calling “all” anyone and everyone is included in this invitation.
“who are weary”
“I will give you rest”, The promise of Jesus when we answer his call is that he will give us rest, relief, vacation. It is an assured end result to all those who come to him, they receive his rest. No one is excluded, no stigma.
I watched a program on TBN called When Faith Gets Shaken. It’s an amazing programme, albeit hard to watch. It features people who have gone through huge struggles with different circumstances in life, it also tells how they have progressed and overcome burnout and depression with the help of God. This programme has opened my eyes and heart to another world where humans can survive huge pressures and where they can fall so far down and still get up and find rest and refreshment in Jesus.