Joni and Friends Blog

Compassion That Dignifies

My heart really goes out to friends who struggle with mental illness.

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada, and I’m often asked if our ministry at Joni and Friends addresses the needs of those who suffer from psychiatric illnesses. It’s a great question, and I can see why people ask about it. Many churches have special-needs ministries to kids with Down syndrome or autism. And these same churches may continue providing support and programs for families who have young adults with autism or intellectual disabilities. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t been blessed by a church choir comprised of boys and girls with disabilities, or people who are deaf using sign language. Our hearts are moved when we watch people who are blind play the piano upfront or read scriptures from a Braille Bible. This is usually what comes to mind when we think of disability ministry.

But what about people who struggle with bipolar disorder? What about the irrational behavior of American warriors who return from the battlefield with severe PTSD and anger issues? What about clinical depression where you have to stay on medication in order to function? These people also have disabilities, and all of us in the church – all of us – are called to show the compassion of Christ. But I dare say that all of us also struggle with knowing and learning how to relate. Psychiatric illnesses are hard on everyone.

Not long ago, I came across an essay by Todd Stryd who writes for the Christian Counseling Education Foundation, and I thought what he said about compassion toward those with psychiatric illnesses really applies here. He writes, “Compassion is not a technique. It is an expression of who you are. A compassionate approach to life’s deepest troubles is a hallmark of the Christian faith and your way forward with people who have psychiatric illnesses. It is the lens by which you will understand and navigate those distressed, and it offers a dignifying and humanizing response to people with mental illnesses. Christian compassion does not hide from reality. It is not hamstrung by the bizarre and the distressing. It is not weak, naïve, or idealistic. Nor does it enable or cater. Rather, the Christian faith provides refreshing perspective on human problems and the possibilities of recovery and even flourishing. But a compassionate approach to care and treatment regarding psychiatric illnesses requires wisdom and power that you do not have. You need God. In embracing this fact, you open the door to both information and assistance as you navigate this journey of helping those with psychiatric illnesses.”

Man, I love what Todd Stryd says here. He says compassion is not a technique. It’s an expression of who you are. It’s the way you approach life’s deepest troubles, helping people with psychiatric disorders move forward with life. Hey, this is the week we highlight the sanctity of life, and if you want to make your church a welcoming place that embraces people with mental illnesses, then contact us at Joni and Friends. We have resources to help your church become irresistible to those who often feel left out in the Christian community. At Joni and Friends, we see a world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity and their place in the body of Christ. So, visit us today, and don’t forget to drop by joniradio.org to get all the details about our new “One Year Pray for Life Bible.”

Oh, and one more thing…when we serve the needy, we also please God. And it’s why I want you to go over to my radio page today at joniandfriends.org and ask for our Joni and Friends newsletter.

© Joni and Friends

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