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  • Writer's pictureIan Ferguson

God's Strength Through Weakness and Pain

“Your greatest ministry always comes out of your deepest pain’ Pastor Rick Warren, Saddleback Church California, and author of the best seller The Purpose Driven Life

As Rector of Westhill Community Church I led the whole congregation in a 40 Day Lenten Study using the PDC material. Like many churches who likewise used PDC resources we saw fresh growth in ministry.

If someone were to tell me, at the start of my training for ministry, that my greatest effectiveness in ministry would come from my deepest pain and weakness I am not sure I would believe them. I think I may well have doubted the veracity of such a statement. But these words are not from some theological textbook or training for ministry manual, but from a pastor who experienced deep pain and brokenness when his 27-year-old son took his own life.

Pastor Rick wrote in the letter to the Saddleback congregation.

"…. only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counsellors and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided”

Since Mathew’s death in 2013 Rick and Kay Warren continue to encourage people to seek help if they are struggling with poor mental health. Kay says, “Mental illness is an illness. When you start to understand that then you can start to fix the stigma. When someone is courageous enough to start talking about it, then it opens the doors for treatment and healing.”

In recognising the crucial role that church leaders play in eradicating the stigma around mental illness, Rick and Kay Warren have set out on a mission to educate others about mental illness. Their goal is to equip churches and families so we can better minister to people living with a mental illness while shining a light on topics that are traditionally taboo in the church.

May I commend a helpful resources, easily accessible for those suffering poor mental health and for churches in their Pastoral Care ministries.

Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries equips the Church to support mental health and wellbeing.

SMH website says,

“We provide resources that meaningfully engage the topics of faith and mental health. Our content is developed in collaboration with theologians, psychologists, and people with lived experience of mental health challenges. These resources prepare communities of faith around the world to raise awareness, reduce stigma, support mental health, and promote mental wellbeing”

I have found their Sanctuary Course to be an excellent resource.

I have also found encouragement from those who have shared their personal stories.

“Listening to someone’s story can broaden your perspective, reframe your understanding, and awaken empathy. For this reason, the stories of people of faith with lived experience feature prominently in our resources. At Sanctuary, we believe it is important for individuals with mental health challenges to speak for themselves, and it is equally important for church communities to listen”

Rick and Kay Warren speak about how faith and trusting in God helped them through those very dark days and nights,

Kay writes, “We all need hope to cope – and the emphasis on a caring, loving God who offers hope for today as well as tomorrow, offers encouragement to hold on in challenging times. Prayer and meditation offer connection with God, reminding us that we’re not alone in the universe.

For me, faith in God has been an anchor in hard times, keeping me tethered not just to life, but to the people I love, the work I enjoy, the relationships that sustain me, and to the hope that better days are ahead. Depression is easier for me to manage when I remember God is always with me, and my growing faith practice builds my resilience one day at a time.”

If you are struggling with poor mental health, please do not suffer alone. There are people and organisations that can help.

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I tried to run away, to escape the darkness, the messed-up mind and raging thoughts Useless Broken Sinking into that deep dark pit of despair. Where did it come from? How did I end up here? With fear

1 Comment

May 12, 2023

I re-read this blog post again and appreciated the reminder.

Thanks also for the link to good resources.

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