(October 12, 2006)

Harold G. Koenig, M.D., in New Light on Depression, the book he co-wrote with David B. Biebel, states that “Love – unconditional love – is the ultimate long-term antidote for depression, for at its core love is connected with faith and hope.”

It’s too bad that so many Christians have forgotten the example Jesus set for us. He loved everyone, but especially the outcasts, the stigmatized: the prostitutes, tax collectors, people with leprosy. Followers of Christ are called to do the same thing. It is this kind of love that needs to be shown to individuals who suffer from mental illness. Yet even in churches we are too often snubbed, kept at a distance, judged.

I have been fortunate in being part of a congregation that has been open to learning about mental illness. They have done their best to support me and people like me. I know from experience what it means to have the love of godly people. My church friends pray for me, check up on me, mother me when I need mothering. This has encouraged my faith in God, because I see him revealed to me through these friends. Non-judgmental love like this has been hugely helpful for me. I can relax better; I know I’m not alone; I know someone cares.

But not only do they give their love to me. I am not simply a “victim”. They’ve learned that I am someone who can support others as well when they go through rough times. This may be how I’ve gained my strength more than anything. When I am well there are many things I can do to be helpful in the church. So, not only do I receive love, I have many opportunities to give love as well. Support should always go two ways. We give and we receive.

I have talked about Living Room, the faith-based mood disorders support group I’ve headed up at my church. Tomorrow we have another meeting. This is a place where we can remind each other of God’s love and share our God-given love with each other. We’ll have a place to talk about how our lives are going. We’ll find out that we’re not alone in our struggles. I’m looking forward to it. We have no idea who will be coming or how many. But we’ll be ready.

With this church’s support and encouragement, my faith has become stronger than it ever has been in the past. I have learned to pray better and to walk closer to God. Through God’s love I have become more courageous, more hopeful, and mentally healthier.

Unconditional, non-judgmental love – Christian love – is indeed the best medicine of all. And I’ve found that the more I give it to others the more I receive it.