Here’s something I’ve noticed, and maybe you have too… there are some things that we don’t talk about at church. When I say church I don’t mean Northwood Presbyterian Church in San Antonio or First Baptist Church of Anytown or Hope Bible Church in Largecity… I mean church in general. Any church. Some things are freely talked about and others are talked about in hushed tones, if at all.
I’ll give an example… cancer. Cancer seems to be firmly planted in the “acceptable” camp. When our family members get cancer (and so many do) it seems like something we can talk about. We can say to someone “my nephew has cancer” and everyone will hear it, repeat it, and agree to pray about it. I say, from the pulpit (after getting permission) “Let’s pray for Mr. Jones, Mrs. Garcia’s nephew. Mr. Jones has cancer.”
But what about… say… depression. Depression seems to be planted firmly in the “we don’t talk about it” camp. When our family members become depressed (and so many do) it seems like something we can’t talk about. Rarely will someone say “my spouse is depressed,” or “I’m depressed.” Have you ever heard a pastor say, from the pulpit (after getting permission) “Let’s pray for Mr. Jones, Mrs. Garcia’s nephew. Mr. Jones is depressed.”?
Why is that? We know the answer: it’s because mental illness is hidden from plain view not just in the church, but in society at large. Cancer = acceptable. Mental illness = unacceptable. In the example above about depression, one could easily substitute any one of a number of mental illnesses or taboo things that people struggle with: eating disorders, addictions, phobias, relationship problems, financial problems, family problems, fertility problems, and so many more.
There’s no easy answer or solution to making sure that the things we don’t talk about in church are talked about, but we know this to be true: the things we don’t talk about in church are precisely the things we should talk about at church. They are the things that weigh us down and occupy our minds and hearts. They are the things that make us cry out to God. If God cares about these things (and we believe that God does care about them) should not the church care about them too? Let us continue to work toward a world where every struggle is acceptable to name, out loud.