Jesus' heart wrenching and intense experience in the garden of Gethsemane gives Him absolute right and qualification to have a deep, raw connection with countless people struggling with mental illness, shares Pastor Wale Hudson-Roberts of John Bunyan Baptist Church through Christian Today.
According to the Pastor, there is a particular text in the Bible that for many years he had wrestled with. Wanting to sympathize with the struggle of Jesus with life and death, he longs to understand what the latter meant when He cried out in sweats of blood, "May this cup pass from me but not my will but yours," as narrated in Luke 22:42 (rephrased).
The context of this verse brings us to the night Jesus was arrested. After the Last Supper, Jesus brings three of his apostles with him to the garden of Gethsemane to support Him in prayer. This could have been the most passionate conversation He ever had with His Father. Knowing everything that will happen to him - the physical, emotional and mental torture from arrest, persecution to crucifixion, He pleaded and cried out to God to stop these from happening, to take these all away from Him. In fact, in the Passion translation, the verse above goes, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me."
As Pastor Hudson-Roberts said, "His Gethsemane experience means that Jesus does more than listen to the groans of those who cry from the recesses of their soul for release from their mental health struggles. He goes a step beyond this and empathises. The intensity of Jesus' encounter in Gethsemane qualifies him to deeply connect with countless numbers of people struggling with their mental health."
More than anyone else, Jesus understands and loves them.
Number of Americans Concern About Mental Health Increases
In a report by Advisory, a recent survey done by CVS Health and Morning Consult showed that mental health concerns continue to rise among Americans from all backgrounds. Fifty-nine percent of the population have experienced concern about their own mental health or of their family and friends, resulting in a 9% increase since April 2020.
Further, the survey's findings suggest that there is not only an increase in the number of mental health concerns among the public but, much more important, there was also an increase in the "willingness to reach out for care."
How do we show we care, especially when faced with the following facts that the survey further shows? There are 112 million Americans and more who are currently living in areas with scarce mental health providers. More so, 52 million people in the country are struggling with mental health issues, and half of them are unable to receive the help they need.
'Church To Assume More Active Role' In Helping Those Who Are Battling Mental Illness
Also the Justice Enabler at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Pastor Hudson-Roberts defined mental illness as a villain that can paralyze the mind and spirit and a thief that can rob the peace of God within us. He even concluded with much disappointment and shame that it is only now that he realized what a great impact mental health has on the soul.
To this, he said that the Church should assume a more active role in helping and bringing light to those who battle mental illness, especially those who have gotten to the point of just wanting to end their lives.
He went on to say that support through prayers is good but not enough. Could it be that the reason Jesus invited His apostles with Him in the garden was not only to have people pray for Him but also for them to be beside Him, to simply be there, during the most difficult moment of His life?
The pastor challenges the Church to "weep with them in their pain, celebrate their journey towards healing, and gently invite God to usher inner peace into their colliding and chaotic worlds", and to listen because as simple as listening is, for someone struggling, it is powerful.