Christ Church Mequon Podcast

Peace of Mind: Part 1 - Mental Health & Faith

January 07, 2024 Pastor Andrew & Dr. Melissa
Peace of Mind: Part 1 - Mental Health & Faith
Christ Church Mequon Podcast
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Christ Church Mequon Podcast
Peace of Mind: Part 1 - Mental Health & Faith
Jan 07, 2024
Pastor Andrew & Dr. Melissa

During this series, Pastor Andrew will be joined by local mental health professionals as we debunk bad theology around mental health and embrace the fact that even strong Christians can suffer from anxiety, depression, and other struggles. We'll take a look at how traditional and Christian tools can work together to restore and support mental health. 

We hope you’ll share these encouraging messages with those you know who are struggling or have loved ones who are.

Thanks for listening to the Christ Church Mequon Podcast. Find your next step and let us know how we can be praying for you at ChristChurchMequon.LIFE/Podcast. Hit that subscribe button and, until next week, God bless.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

During this series, Pastor Andrew will be joined by local mental health professionals as we debunk bad theology around mental health and embrace the fact that even strong Christians can suffer from anxiety, depression, and other struggles. We'll take a look at how traditional and Christian tools can work together to restore and support mental health. 

We hope you’ll share these encouraging messages with those you know who are struggling or have loved ones who are.

Thanks for listening to the Christ Church Mequon Podcast. Find your next step and let us know how we can be praying for you at ChristChurchMequon.LIFE/Podcast. Hit that subscribe button and, until next week, God bless.


Hi Christ Church, it's my privilege to be sitting with a dear friend, a truly dear friend, a sister in faith, and an incredibly skilled in her field, Melissa Nelson, who is a doctor. With a lot of letters behind her name, I'll allow her to introduce her specialty and her own person to you now. Melissa, would you please introduce yourself to us? Yeah. I am Melissa Nelson. I am a member at Christchurch and have been for the last seven years. But in my professional world, I am an outpatient therapist who's worked in a lot of different

a lot of different populations. Some of my specialties are in the realm of cognitive behavioral therapies. So knowing that we are spending as a church body a particular attention around faith, seeking to better know and serve and love each other and ourselves related to our mental health. Can you just share with us anything that you would love to share with the broader Christian church just about mental health and faith

space for conversation. As a whole, therapy is not incongruent with theology. And in fact, most secular models of therapy align heavily with biblical principles. And it doesn't.

a lack of spirituality or a lack of faith. Absolutely. That you can be a faith-filled believer who struggles with mental illness. That you can be a strong Christian who has depression. That you can have absolute faith and trust in God and still feel anxiety, right? Like... Just somehow think that because you're a Christian now, you are exempt. Right. From...

realities of mental health. Right, and a large number of individuals in our church body will struggle, right? Like the current rates are one in three teens are struggling with a mental disorder. And at some point one in four adults will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. And those rates speak to the fact that we will face mental health in some capacity. So even if folks are listening to this message and they themselves have not yet had a, you know,

or any other number of mental health disorders, they will be affected by it at some point in their lives. I can confidently say that. Can you tell us about some of your research related to...

how therapy and theology correspond and relate. What are the predominant models out there? Yeah, there are four main theological models that are pretty broadly accepted within both the world of theology and the world of psychology. So the first theological model that's out there looks at the experience of mental illness as a result of an individual sin, right? That they must have done something and therefore then that's why they're struggling with mental illness. The

struggle with mental illness out of a lack of faith. Yeah. Right, a lack of, you're not praying enough, you don't trust enough, you doubt too much. Believe more and you will suddenly be healed. The other model that we kind of look at is mental illness occurs as a result of demon possession or...

the spiritual influences. The fourth, which is what we tend to espouse to as Christ Church, I tend to espouse to as a therapist, is that mental illness occurs as a result of the brokenness of humanity. That we live in a broken world, we are a broken people. The first three models tend to elicit intense judgment or shame or oversimplifications, or really unhelpful comments like pray more. We are broken. And so

is such a danger to taking on those first three, those three theological models in a way that.

has the potential to cause immense harm within our body. And when I say the body, like our church body, our larger interactions with the community, I don't want to be the person that chooses to perpetuate those false theologies or stigma or anything along those lines. Whereas if we take on that brokenness kind of model on a broader base, we tend to respond in a way that is a lot more like Jesus.

Thank you.

All right, good morning and welcome to Christ Church. So glad to have you here this morning. Christ Church is a church about lifting lives, elevating Christ, a church for those who aren't here yet. Pastor Andrew, one of the pastors here on staff, and it's wonderful to be with you this morning, particularly here in the East Auditorium as we're celebrating together. Maybe you're in West this morning, good morning, if you're in West celebrating with us this morning, and maybe you're online. Thanks for tuning in. If you are joining us online, we are all together. We make up Christ Church, and it's wonderful to be church this morning together,

a day where we are undertaking something rather unique over the next couple of weeks. You see, over the next few weeks we're starting this new sermon series, and a series is where we talk about a particular topic over a sequence of Sundays. And the topic that we're undertaking for this series is that of mental health. What is the corollary? What are the connections? What are the relationships as it pertains to our faith as Christian people, for those of us who ascribe to the Christian faith, and the reality of mental health in our world, in our lives, in our relationships?

and how can we see these two things as being related? How can we understand in a more healthy and constructive way mental health and its role in this world? This is one of those series that we've been looking forward to. We've been anticipating as a church body. It's something that we've actually been preparing for over two years. There have been a decisive move within the leadership of Christ Church to begin cultivating conversations around mental health at a variety of different areas and environments, not least of which we arrived now on Sunday.

And it's because mental health increasingly is becoming prevalent as a point of conversation and an awareness not only within the church but beyond and outside the church. Is it fair to say that when you look on TV, when you go within the context of wherever you work or have recreation, there is an understanding right now within our culture that increasingly we should be attentive to and having conversations about mental health. And as a church body we should be a part of those conversations as well.

sacred conversations over the next four weeks. As we do that though, because this is such a unique series with a higher level of attentiveness and to be transparent with you, a higher level of risk for me as a communicator. This is one of those series that as a communicator I am particularly sensitive to in how I say what I say. I mean you guys know I talk off the cuff, you just get me and where I'm coming from and the study and the preparation I've done, but

measure of thoughtfulness as we approach it. So I got a couple caveats for you as we begin a conversation together about faith and mental health. Here are some of the caveats as we go into this conversation. First off, this conversation you need to know is going to be incomplete from the get-go. That there is not going to be the chance to say everything that perhaps could be said or even everything that should be said. Simple example for you.

just saw a wonderful video with Dr. Nelson up there. We actually sat together for over an hour and we just boiled it down to four minutes. It's actually one of our goals, side note, to get a long form of that conversation to you guys as a YouTube playlist. We had a series of conversations. I had the chance as well as others to sit down as church representatives with a variety of mental health specialists. And so we're gonna try to convey the fullness of those conversations, not just the small snippets.

example to say these conversations are going to be incomplete from the get-go and so we need to curb the way that we have expectations around our time together. There's no way in 21 minutes and 17 seconds I'm gonna be able to answer all of your theological questions related to mental health okay but we're gonna do our best on the things that matter that we can this morning. Second progression.

This is one of those unique series where it's really good if you can come as much as you can. And that's because they will build every week.

where we start is not gonna be where we finish. There's a movement to this particular series that's advantageous. If you do miss a Sunday, that's okay. I just give you a word of encouragement to go and listen to it online. We post all of our stuff online. You can go back into all the different media platforms and catch up. And so if you wanna be a part of this conversation, I'd encourage you to do that because there will be a very purposeful progression.

grace required. I mentioned I speak off the cuff, therefore please have a little extra mercy and grace with me in this series as a communicator. I felt like, and the pastoral team felt like it was worth the risk to talk about such a sensitive topic. I am not unaware of the fact that when we talk about mental health, we are talking about a subject that intertwines with people's lives in significant and

truly significant and truly impactful ways.

I will do my best to communicate as clearly and thoughtfully and carefully as I can, and yet, there is still the risk of reality that I might miscommunicate on something. And so I'm asking for an extra measure of grace from you in these four weeks. You should know I'm biased as we start this conversation. You should know I'm biased for a variety of reasons, not least of which is I am actually married to a mental health professional.

I don't know if you knew that or not, but I am. My lovely and beautiful wife is a mental health professional who specializes in children and family therapy. She has a career that has taken her from everything from intensive hospitalized situations and settings to schools to outpatient therapy. And so it's part of our narrative as a family. Even more than that, me as a specific individual and as a person, I meet on a regular monthly basis with a therapeutic space.

medication with my doctor as it relates to my mental emotional health and I have a variety of practices that I actually practice daily in order to make sure that I maintain a healthy mental and emotional state because I have a biochemistry genetic predisposition to struggling with mental health and so I have to navigate my mental health very carefully and very purposefully and I've been training myself over the years to access various tools and resources to maintain a healthy mind and healthy set of emotions. But that all goes to

that I'm kind of biased when it comes to these types of conversations and I want to be transparent with you as we do it on the forefront. Lastly, I'm a pastor.

not a therapist and I'm going to stay in my lane. Okay. You know it's one of those things that as a pastor I am trained in some counseling. I can do some measure of counseling but I also know my own limitations and it is important that you understand as a pastor. I am called to love you. I'm called to shepherd you.

to protect you, to correct you, and to walk with you, and to help foster an understanding of who Jesus is and how he cares for you.

And so I'm a pastor first and foremost, even as I preach and teach through this series. Please bear that in mind. And therefore as a pastor, what I'm gonna do is begin where I am most comfortable, my wheelhouse, and that is in the area of theology. Theology is a fancy term, we've used it a couple times in the last few Sundays. It's the study of God. And what we're gonna try to do is take our study of God, our understanding of God in Jesus Christ

our Christian faith and we're gonna take that and enter into the conversation and see how it relates to our mental health. So we're gonna create a theology of mental health, an approach to how we think about God and our mental, emotional well-being. And theology asks different questions than a lot of other areas of study. A lot of other areas of study ask questions like how or what or when.

the question why a lot. That's kind of that's that's the question that we we like to gravitate towards as theologians. Why? Why did this happen? What is the purpose? Oftentimes we will sometimes get into who who is connected to it, who is responsible for it, but why and who are much more the tools of a theologian. Like for example, why do people suffer?

Or more specifically, why do we suffer and see people struggling as it pertains to mental health?

That is a very good theological question. And in fact, we saw earlier in the video, Dr. Nelson showed us how there are a number of theologies or modalities, there are four of them, that kind of cross over and are mutually accepted within the theological world as well as within the psychological world. And we see parallels between them and how they influence. Here are the four that she mentioned. The first modality or framework that sometimes people will think about mental health or specifically, why do people struggle?

with mental health is because of individual sin. That is to say that they did something, there was something that they did and that they are therefore responsible for that has ruined their mental health or that they did something and therefore God struck their mental health down and somehow in his wrath has chosen to discipline them by giving them this difficult reality of mental health. That's one modality. Like the idea that somehow the sum total

Well, mental health issues are simply because of stuff that we chose to do. That is one framework that people actually carry. Here's another one. You don't have enough faith. Here's one. I literally had this happen, whatever, 25, 28 minutes ago, a mom caught me in the atrium and said, my daughter was at school and heard this.

because she struggles with mental health. And the idea here is if you had more faith, then you wouldn't struggle. If you had more faith, if you prayed more, read your Bible more, believed more, then you wouldn't have any problems, let alone mental health problems. That people actually espouse these things, right? This is another modality. Here's another one, demon possession. This one's a little bit more tricky.

It often is because it's an oversimplification as it relates to how humanity approaches the world. Here's what happens. People like to parse apart and make simple rationales for mental health by saying, oh, it's all because of demon possession and spiritual realities.

There is no such thing as mental health, biochemistry, therapies, or none of that stuff. It's strictly demon possession.

Or you get the other end of the spectrum which says that our spirits have no connections to our minds That we as spiritual beings and spiritual persons have no no no realities that we wrestle with beyond and outside Instead it is strictly a biochemical thing within our genetic makeup and demons in spiritual stuff is a bunch of fooie-hooie And it's just this

And people do this. They simplify by gravitating towards either everything is demons or completely rejecting any spiritual reality and saying it is strictly biochemical. Okay? The last one is brokenness. And it is the one that we ascribe to as a church body.

Brokenness has to do with the idea that not one, but many facets, many realities are at play, often simultaneously as it relates to what we struggle with as people.

that you can in fact do things that do erode your mental emotional health. You ever done something that makes your mental health worse? I have. I'll admit it.

And also at times I've done things where I have pushed my faith away from myself and disregarded the spiritual practices that are connected to my body and my mind and I've disregarded my spirit and that has a corollary effect on me. My wife always says are you cranky. Did you read your Bible today. If I'm cranky. That's how it manifests. If I'm short with my kids probably because I didn't pray much that day. Right. There's a there's a reaction to it. So.

and even demon possession. I acknowledge as a Christian person that there are spiritual realities and forces in this world alongside all of these other factors. The danger comes when we oversimplify and espouse one and attribute one theology as being

contributing component. Now take this to your mental health.

Brokenness is a willingness to say, gosh, it's complex. People have context. People have genetics. People have situations that happen to them and because of them. Brokenness happens because we zoom out. And instead of focusing on one particular, we look at the sum total of creation and say,

The whole thing seems pretty messy, not just one thing, but everything seems pretty broken and messy. And all of these various factors can contribute to a messy, broken mental health. It's not just one thing, it's a bunch of things.

And by doing this, we debunk, we get rid of bad theology. Anybody who's hung around with me for very long has probably heard me say, bad theology hurts badly and cause is true. Bad theology hurts people and it hurts badly. So what we need to do this morning,

is actually strip away some of the bad theology that we might initially buy into so that we can approach a conversation about mental health in a right and proper way. That begins by debunking a lot of this stuff. And we're not alone in doing it. In fact, Jesus does.

I love that guy so much. So just like we struggle with these theologies today, believe it or not, Jesus struggled with the same theologies in his day as well. The idea that someone did something and therefore had bad things happen in their life as a corollary. The idea that they weren't blessed enough because they didn't have enough faith enough and therefore God was striking them down. Those were theologies present in Jesus' time too. So I'm going to take you to a gospel lesson.

first-hand eyewitness accounts life death resurrection of Jesus that's in the Bible and there's one particular passage that we're gonna pull out and this is the kind of passage that when you pull out yeah you read it and you're like what what was that if you've ever read this before you probably just glossed over it because you're like that don't make no sense but it does when you pull it out and look at it in the proper conversation this is that conversation

Here we go. About this time, Jesus was informed that Pilate, Pilate was a Roman governor. He was the guy in charge. You might have heard of him by the time Easter rolls around, he plays a big role in it. Easter's coming quickly, by the way. So, Rome.

Pilate powerful, okay? About this time, Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the temple. Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee? I mean, did they do something that made them horrible and bad and as a result, they deserve to die? Jesus asks, why is it that they suffered? Is this why? Is it because they've done something to...

make God mad and they've done things that are betraying who God is. Jesus is asking is it because of individual sin or a lack of faithfulness? No, not at all. Then he says something really weird, and you will perish too unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.

And what about the 18 people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? I mean, did they die because they were the worst sinners? Did it happen because of that? No. I tell you again, that unless you repent, you will perish too.

Jesus is saying, hey, these Galileans didn't choose to die. It wasn't because of anything that they did. It was because of something Pilate did.

Evil was done unto them.

It wasn't a matter of faith. They were literally giving offerings at the temple. They were at church, striving to be close to God and worshiping Him. That wasn't the case. Demons aren't even mentioned. Demons aren't even brought up. It's not a case of demons at all. The tower fell not because a demon pushed it over, but because accidents are real in our world.

and we are frail people whose bodies decay and we are subject to pain and suffering and accidents and violence and we are prone to the reality that all of this is happening at the same time in our world and any one of those reasons can contribute to the fact that these Galileans suffered.

If we buy into any one of these, it is a mere oversimplification that Jesus simply rejects.

Not at all, he says. But then did you notice what he does do? He says this, no, I tell you again that unless you repent, unless you repent, you will perish too. What?

Jesus is speaking to his listeners, which would include us today. Jesus is speaking to us today. He's referring to us and he's zooming out. Rather than saying this is a situation of an isolated individual, he's saying, look, these bad things happen because of the broken world that we're a part of. And that means it's going to happen in your life too. That you will suffer. You will struggle.

You will have difficulty and pain. You will have violence done unto you. You will both be a victim and a perpetrator of sin and brokenness in our world.

and he allows us a bigger picture.

He allows us to see the complexity of our lives and our world.

If I just simply ask you, is our world simple or complex? It's complex. I know that's scary. I know it's daunting and overwhelming to think about all the complexity of our world and mental health specifically, but I can tell you right now, if we choose to opt for simple, it will cause more damage.

If you go up to somebody with mental health and say, well, you just need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you need to figure it out, you got yourself into this mess, you gotta get yourself out of this mess, that will not help.

It's more complex than that. Their situation and context is more complex and you depreciate what they're going through by not acknowledging it. And Jesus is saying, don't oversimplify, acknowledge that we all, all of us, you too, live in a complex and broken world. This means...

This is true of us physically, this is true of us spiritually, this is true of us relationally, this is true in terms of our finances. This means it is true in terms of our mental and emotional health. Our mental and emotional health can and often is broken by us and what we do.

by what others in fact inflict upon us and do to us, and simply by being part of a broken creation. I did not choose to have a genetic predisposition to struggling with mental health, guys. But I'm stuck with it simply because I'm born. I'm born into a broken world.

and I'm willing to acknowledge the complexity of my mental health and mental health of others.

Great, now what? This is the point in the sermon where I was gonna try to come up with some sort of joke to bring some levity, but you can't joke about mental health. Like, what do you say?

It's a serious topic. So instead of telling a joke.

Instead, what I will do is I will share stories with you.

When I was a chaplain and I was just starting off and I was trying to become a pastor, they put me in a hospital for a series of months. And I went into a woman's room and she was dying. And a group of people had just left her room. And when I walked in with my little collar and my Bible, she looked at me and said, "'They all just told me if I had more faith, "'I could be healed.'"

I walked in, I sat next to her and I said, I'll believe for you. And I literally held her hand and read the Bible.

I, I, down the road, there's a cafe down the road, down Port Washington Road, and I remember, this would have been two years ago, I sat with a man who sat across from me, and he was struggling, and he was hurting, and he looked at me, and he said he had demons. And I said, whoa, I'm so sorry. That's so hard.

Who and what are you doing? Who are you bringing alongside of you as you battle those demons? Have you engaged in any therapeutic environments? Have you been seeing a therapist? Have you talked to your doctor about accessing medications that will come alongside of you? Have you been praying and going to church and do you have people that you can engage with? And he looked at me. And he said, therapy? I'm not gonna go see some quack.

Medication? I don't need no pills. And he literally stood up and left.

I have sat and I have cried with moms and dads on park benches because they have to deal with the reality of trauma in their household, not because they wanted it, but because it was done unto their children.

I share those stories because these oversimplifications are real. And they can hurt people. And if you have been hurt before by one of them, I want you to hear, I'm sorry. As a representative of Jesus Christ and His church, I'm sorry. And I want you to know that Christ Church, we choose to do better. We as a church body choose to understand the complexity.

We have complex theology alongside our simple faith. That's who we are as a church.

So we acknowledge the brokenness that's among us. Now so far I have taught you, give me just one minute to preach to you. The good news is that Jesus actually does care for broken people like you and me. Regardless of whatever brokenness you've got in your life right now. You could have physical brokenness, you could have emotional brokenness, you could have spiritual brokenness, brokenness manifests in all sorts of ways. We just celebrated Christmas.

Jesus came because he cares and loves broken people. And that means he loves you and he cares for you. And we can see the evidence that when Jesus engages with broken people, he moves them towards healing, towards restoration. In fact, right after the Tower of Siloam and the pilot thing in the Galileans, he actually heals a woman who's struggling with demon possession and physical ailments.

We see him healing the lepers, reaching out and touching them and engaging them. That's not just like a physical touch healing of a disease, but he's also healing them. I mean, can you imagine the loneliness, the depression, the heartache? He's reaching out and he's engaging them. And he's actually welcoming them into a community of followers to say, be part of what I'm doing. He's welcoming the people who are isolated and alone and feeling down. And you imagine being a tax collector back in that day, totally ostracized and hated by your entire community. And Jesus actually says, hey, tax collector, yeah,

hang out with me. I love you, I care about you, and I include you in what I am doing.

Jesus even goes to the length of promising, making promises to broken people to say, look, I know you're broken right now, but I'm giving my life so that one day the old will be gone and the new will come and all of creation will be remade. Behold, I am making all things new.

means He will make you and your bodies and your spirits and even your mind and emotions new.

because he heals and he restores, and that's the kind of Jesus you have.

Jesus says healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do. And in fact, I came, I have come not to call those who think they're righteous, right? That they have everything together, that they have a perfect body and a perfect finances and perfect relationships and perfect minds and emotions. No. That they are right in all things. No. I've come.

I come to call those who know they are broken, know that they participate in this sinful world that they are both a victim and a perpetrator of missing the mark. That's the little definition of sin and that they are turning to me for hope and healing and restoration and newness of life. I came to be a doctor.

and to heal the broken and the sick who realize their need for me.

So Jesus came and he cares for broken people.

That includes you.

It even includes you if you are struggling with your mental and emotional health. He came for you.

Now that we've done the work of deconstructing some of our bad theology that is out there, we are going to next week pick up by constructing a more healthy approach to how our minds are a gift and our emotions are a gift. And what does it mean as a Christian person to steward that gift? I invite you to join us back next week for that. But for the moment, let's conclude with prayer. Please pray with me.

Gracious Lord, we do pray and worship you. And we thank you that we can come before you in our brokenness. We can come before you with whatever's going on in our lives, whether we're facing a brokenness physically, spiritually, or indeed mentally, emotionally. We come before you with our hurts and our pains, whether it's something that we've done to ourselves, whether it's something we've done to others, or whether it's even something that has been done unto us.

for you as we are. We repent, that is to say turn to you. We turn to you Lord seeking your healing and your restoration. So we ask use this time, use this month, use these this sermon series to build us up, to edify and educate and allow us to be more healthy.

healthy people for you in every aspect of our life particularly and our mental and emotional well-being. Grant us sensitivity to one another, to those who are beside us who might be struggling. Help us to see them with your eyes and to respond Jesus the way you do. Help us live fully into what it means to love you and be loved by you in our brokenness.

We ask this Jesus in your name.