I was reading this blog about the connection between mental illness and divorce. That was certainly a key issue that led to my parents’ divorce. And if the letters sent to Rod Dreher are any indication, undiagnosed emotional or mental disorders might be part of the reason for the decline of many Christian marriages. How prevalent is the problem? And does Free Grace thinking make a difference to it?
For example, I wonder if Lordship Salvation makes the problem of undiagnosed mental illness worse.
Mental illness is difficult enough as it is. But how often have Christians worsened the problem by saying things like, “A real Christian would never act that way.” Or, “If you really believed, God would heal you.” Or, “Genuine believers don’t struggle in their marriages or get divorced.”
In other words, Lordship Salvation might present mental or emotional disorders as salvation issues which then leads you to be ashamed of the struggle or to try to cover it up, or worse, to ignore it. In a Lordship Salvation setting, you must put on your best “show” at being a good Christian family. As one of Dreher’s readers wrote:
When you said about your own divorce that people should be careful not to judge, because nobody knows what really goes on inside a marriage, that really resonated with me. Most people who see us probably think my wife and I are a respectable middle-class Christian couple. They have no idea how bad it is behind the walls of our nice middle-class house. I can only imagine that our kids are going to spend years in therapy because of what they saw growing up.
By contrast, in Free Grace thought, we should be able to be open about “how bad it is.” We have nothing to prove or to hide. We know we could never earn our salvation by being good. We know God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:1-15). And we know the freeness of everlasting life means it doesn’t depend upon you (or your spouse) being emotionally or mentally healthy. Eternal salvation is a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus for it (Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16). And once you have it, you will never perish, be cast out, or die spiritually, no matter what disorders you have, or whether your marriage is successful or not.
In other words, Free Grace thought can help by taking some of the “religious” stigma off of mental illness.
Moreover, if you realize these are not salvation issues, then you should also realize they’re not things your pastor is equipped to address. One of Dreher’s readers wrote:
At this point, I have no idea what to do. My pastor advised me privately to “carry your cross,” and I get that we are supposed to do that as Christians, but this is destroying me on the inside, and God knows what it is doing to our children, and how it is making them think of marriage.”
As a general principle, it is certainly true that Christians will have to carry their crosses. But if someone came to the pastor and said, “I can’t see your PowerPoints on the screen because the words are too fuzzy.” I doubt he would answer, “Well, we all have our crosses to carry.” Instead, he would probably say, “Have you seen an optometrist?”
Or if someone complained, “Pastor, I can’t sing because I have a growing lump in my throat.” He wouldn’t shrug his shoulders and say, “I guess that’s just your cross to bear!” He would send you to a doctor.
Isn’t that common sense?
So why isn’t it common sense to send a struggling married couple to see a doctor who might help identify underlying mental or emotional illnesses? Don’t forget that God has gifted children working in the medical and psychological fields. The Body of Christ also exists outside your pastor’s office, so Free Grace people shouldn’t hesitate to seek out medical help as they normally would for other conditions. It may take more than one visit to more than one doctor, but that’s much better than being “destroyed on the inside” in a declining marriage.
At the end of the day, you may find that you do have a cross to bear. But just remember, Jesus didn’t take up His cross a minute sooner than was necessary.