Loving the “Least of These” with Mental Illness

By Katie Heid
My day job forces me to dissect stories like this one.   I  laid awake two nights mulling the demons this mother faced, and the ones her young children stared down in their final moments.  My heart is grieved greatly for their family and friends who are forced to piece together a life now that part of their heart has been broken apart by murder-suicide.  Documents now reveal a social worker filed court papers five months ago alerting authorities to this woman’s mental state.  She was a danger to herself and others, exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia.

In Matthew 25, Jesus commanded us to love the “least of these.”  That means we are called to love and serve those who look, live, and act differently than us.  That includes those living under the cloud of mental illness.  What is a Christian’s response to such unspeakable tragedy?  Here’s a starting place:

Be aware.  Depression, anxiety, and mental illness are not buzzwords.  They are a debilitating darkness some of us know all too well.  If someone confides in you about their struggle with the above, don’t judge their thoughts and feelings.  Listen to them, pray with them, and and refer them to a counselor.  Follow up, lather, rinse, and repeat.

Tell someone.  If you genuinely believe someone is suffering with mental illness and their behavior makes them a danger to themselves or others, tell someone.  Report it through the proper channels in your community.  Police and social services are good places to start.

Be involved. Unfortunately, people fall through the cracks, as it did in this case.  People aren’t perfect.  The system isn’t perfect.  In some cases it’s unbelievably tragic.  What are some ways we can fix it?  How can we come alongside those who are working in these fields and support?  We don’t have all the answers, but together, I believe we hold some of them.

Pray.  Ask God to protect and guide your community’s police officers, firefighters, first responders, and social workers.  They walk into appalling living conditions and horrific crime scenes regularly.  They carry those images with them the rest of their lives.  Do not let them carry those burdens alone.

Open Your Eyes.  Look for the stressed-out mom in the grocery store, the man with the furrowed brow eating lunch, and the co-worker who is alwa ys unloading on others. Find the parent in the drop-off line at school who’s always in a flustered rush.  Offer a smile, and encouraging word, and a “Hey, I’ve been there!” or “Need some help opening that door?”
It may not seem like much, but human connection makes a difference.  Do not sneer, roll your eyes, or look the other way.

Give Grace.  People fight private battles that give others a sneak-peak into their entire story.  Often, we only get to read a sentence or half a page.  We judge that moment instead of stepping back and inquiring about the big picture.  Let us be slow to judge and quick to extend mercy. (Mt. 7:1, Luke 10:37)

Jesus spoke of the inevitable trouble and sadness we would face on earth, but offered us this hope in John 16:33 “I have overcome the world.”  Our prayers to Him do not go unnoticed, nor are they an exercise in futility.  Christ came to set us all free. (Galatians 5:1)  May we continue to extend that freedom to others, no matter the bondage we’re wrapped in.  God has this messed-up world in His hands.  Go to Him with all its troubles.

 

Uncomfortable Grace

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About the author:                                                                                                                                                 

Katie Heid has spent the better part of her career talking.  Whether it’s been as a women’s retreat speaker, member of her church’s speaking team, radio and television reporter, teacher, or a mom who has to repeat things one too many times, it’s clear she’s got the gift of gab.  She also loves Jesus and people.  Her lifelong journey with Jesus has shown her that since His greatest passion is loving people, that should be her passion, too.  Katie lives a chaotic life in Michigan with her husband and two sons.  It’s a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. (Although, she would rent it out in exchange for a good nap.)

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