Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” Jesus replied, “you are worried and upset about many things” (Luke 10:40-41, NIV).
If a sister among us is physically ill, we tend to be sympathetic and helpful. We pray for her, encourage her to seek medical attention, and offer practical assistance: “May I run to the pharmacy for you or babysit your son after school today?” But if a sister is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, depression, or some other mental malady, does our sympathy evaporate? When Martha is worried and upset, she should “snap out of it.”
This is an ignorant and unhelpful attitude. The Spirit of the Lord anointed Jesus, sending him “to bind up the brokenhearted, […] to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa. 61:1-3). As true followers of Jesus, we too must relieve emotional suffering whenever possible.
Psychiatrist Elaine Leong Eng, author of the book “Martha, Martha”: How Christians Worry, suggests several ways in which the church may help the person dealing with mental issues: Attempt to learn more about mental illness instead of speculating or making spiritual judgments, be patient and encouraging, help the sufferer fight the stigma attached to mental illness by making her feel wise for seeking professional help, encourage and assist the individual’s immediate family, and respect confidentiality.