The shocking suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams (a recovering alcohol and drug addict) has brought a lot of talk to the forefront about mental health issues. That’s probably the only good that can really be said about something as tragic as this.
At Celebrate Recovery, our leaders take threats of suicide seriously. Every week when we read our guidelines we remind our participants that this is a safe place for sharing, a place where anonymity and confidentiality are basic requirements of the group. We MAKE it a safe place to share because we know how important it is to know that we are accepted and have a place where we can belong.
Depression feeds on isolation.
We want to be known as a place where people can share at deep levels without fear of condemnation or ridicule. Ultimately bringing these kinds of fears and hurts into the light—Jesus’ Light—aids in the healing process. CR is not a replacement for therapy or medication. It can serve as a compliment to either of them.
In CR circles, Robin Williams’ death gives us pause to remind each of us leaders why we do what we do. We know that but for the grace of God, that could be us, or someone we know. So we serve to point people to our Higher Power, Jesus Christ, who rescued us from the darkness we carried within (addictions, compulsive behaviors, grief, anxiety and more).
We keep coming back because we know we’re worth it. And as we say in recovery circles: one day at a time.
Saddleback Church, where CR was founded over 20 years ago, held a historic conference, the “Gathering on Mental Health and the Church” in March, 2014. The conference was a cooperative event between Evangelicals and Catholics. (There are a plethora of articles online about the conference one can read for further information. Here is one from Christianity Today, Can Churches Separate Mental Illness and Shame?)
God never wastes a hurt. Saddleback Senior Pastor Rick Warren, who lost his son to suicide in 2013 after a lifelong battle with mental illness, is now a catalyst for equipping church leaders to care for those affected by mental illness. CR will soon be a part of that as well.
John Baker, pastor and founder of Celebrate Recovery, said the new mental health initiative at Saddleback Church “has opened my eyes to the need to develop material for Celebrate Recovery relating to dual diagnosis.” He explained that he is working on upcoming training conference materials for CR that will include a strong emphasis on mental illness issues.
Following a personal testimony at the conference by David Mandani of living with schizophrenia after committing his life to Jesus Christ, Dr. Warren told conference attendees, “Your chemistry in your brain is not your character and your illness is not your identity. You are a follower of Christ who struggles with mental illness, but your struggle does not define you… Jesus defines you.”
Don’t be fooled by the lies of the enemy. You are not your character defects. Whatever your hurt, habit, or hang-up, Jesus is in the business of redeeming it and healing it. None of our struggles need to define us, including mental illness and the perceived stigma associated with it. Shine the Light on who you really are—a Child of God—and bring your fears into the safety of relationship at Celebrate Recovery.
Contributed by a leader at Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau.