Walking Through Mental Illness – A Spiritual Journey
An interview with author Tim Colborne
Mental health is something that we are becoming more and more aware of as a crisis in our society. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), one in five people in Canada will experience a mental health issue or illness. They also state that by age forty, 50% of people will have or had an experience with mental illness. These are huge numbers which bring many questions to mind, one of which is how does mental illness fit in with our spiritual journeys? As Christians we believe our strength and joy come from the Lord; when you’re battling depression or other forms of mental illness it can be hard to see how the two fit together.
Timothy Colborne tackles these questions and many others in his book; Directions for Getting Lost: The Spiritual Journey Through the Wilderness of Mental Illness. Tim served the CBWC as the pastor of four churches over the course of his career. He also served as the Director of The Ascent Leadership Program and assistant professor at Carey Theological Seminary. As well, he as has led several spiritual retreats and taught seminars on Spiritual Formation and on Social Justice. He earned his Master of Divinity from Winnipeg Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry (in Spiritual Formation) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston MA.
I had the pleasure of conversing with Tim about his new book and his thoughts on mental illnesses and the church. Below is our conversation.
First off, tell me a little bit of what the book is about and how you came to write it?
After my initial breakdown in 2009, I began to journal my experience of losing any sense of God’s presence in my life. I was in a very dark place where I felt that I had been abandoned by God. In fact, I experienced a sense of isolation from everyone and everything, including myself. After a while, I realized that I might be writing a book. The book is not an autobiography, it is a search for a way back from the sense of being lost that many mentally ill persons experience. The book explores the questions: Is it possible to live a deep and fulfilling spiritual life while contending with mental illness? Can the mentally ill find wholeness?
What is something that God taught you through the process of writing this book?
I think that I have learned that God does not provide simple answers and solutions to those of us who struggle with mental illness or with any suffering. Job longed for the opportunity to stand before God and get answers to his questions of why he had to suffer. He never did get an answer, but was given a new perspective on his life in relation to God and all of creation. I’ve come to realize that all I can do is embrace the brokenness in my life as a significant aspect of my journey toward wholeness in God. I will always wrestle with mental illness. And it will always make my spiritual journey particularly challenging, but not hopeless. I have the unique opportunity to be used by God, not in spite of my mental illness but even because of my mental illness.
How would you say the church’s views on mental illness has changed over the years?
There is an openness in our society in general to talk about mental illness, and many of the stigmas with regard to mental illness have been addressed. But the Church has not done enough. I asked a woman who suffered with clinical depression whether her church was supportive. She laughed and said, “My church is the last place I would reveal that I have a mental illness.” The church needs to become more educated about mental illness. It would be as simple as having a number of seminars that address mental illness. Churches need to become sanctuaries for the mentally ill. A place where they feel safe and supported. That can be done by becoming, in general, more open and inclusive, where unity does not require uniformity, where there can be diversity without divisiveness. And the church needs to be a place where lament is normalized. By that, I mean churches need to be places where one is free to be broken and to express that brokenness. We often create an ethos where one is expected to be joyful all the time. If not, one can be made to feel their relationship with God is weak or that they lack faith. In short, the church needs to be a place for all people, because the church by definition is a gathering of broken people.
Often, when we hear people struggle with mental illness, we want to offer get-better-quick solutions, which ultimately don’t end up helping. (i.e. just eat better, get more sleep, read more scripture). What advice would you give to pastors and people of support when others come to them?
The issue is trust. It’s hard enough to gain someone’s trust, but especially to gain the trust of a person who struggles with a mental illness. The problem is that we often think we need to provide an answer, a solution. No mentally ill person is looking to the pastor or anyone else for a simplistic or pat answer as to what they need to do. The advice I would give to pastors and other caregivers is to build trust over time. This may take a long time. Come alongside. Don’t see them simply as someone who has a mental illness. They are people with interests and passions and gifts and lots of other qualities that have nothing to do with their mental illness. Get to know them. The biggest issues for those of us who have mental health issues are shame and vulnerability. They already feel shame and believe they are not worthy of anyone’s attention. So be that person who patiently (and gently) is there for them. But keep in mind that their fear of vulnerability may cause them to hold back. That’s why trust needs to be built slowly. One thing pastors can do is to find that person something to do, a way to contribute to the church’s ministry. Doing all you can to instill in them a feeling of self-worth and a place of belonging are huge factors in ministering to the mentally ill.
What is one thing you hope people will take away from reading your book?
I think the book will have accomplished its goal to the extent that it affirms the mentally ill person as having a place of belonging and value in the Kingdom of God and the Church. I want people to come away with a true sense of hope, both as mentally ill persons but also as people who have a loved one with a mental illness—to know that spiritual wholeness is attainable for the mentally ill.
If you would like to read Directions for Getting Lost: The Spiritual Journey Through the Wilderness of Mental Illness click on the Amazon link below.
Embracing the Darkness of Winter
By Jenna Hanger
January is officially here! The Christmas season with all its lights, glamour and hope has passed and we have finally entered into the year of the vision puns.
Unfortunately, January also brings on a whole host of other things when you are blessed to live where we do—darkness, cold weather and icy roads—which can lead to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as The Winter Blues. In short, people tend to feel a bit depressed in the winter months, often complaining of feeling tired all the time, battling with mental health, trouble sleeping, etc. It can be a very trying and lonesome part of the year.
There is a way to combat this, and it is effectively summed up in one word; Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). Hygge is a Danish term that gained some popularity in North America over the past few years. There isn’t a clear English translation for it, but ‘cozy’ is close. It also can mean ‘comfort or to console.’ Put simply, Hygge is the practice of embracing the darkness of winter. It encompasses all the things you might imagine; warm socks, candles, lattes, sitting by a fire, wool sweaters…basically it means celebrating the coziness of the season instead of the bleakness.
It can be used as a noun, verb, adverb or compound noun, and while you can practice Hygge by yourself (say by sitting with a heated blanket, your favourite hot beverage and a good book) it is actually meant to be celebrated with others. The truest form of Hygge is to spend time in an intimate and cozy atmosphere with loved ones. The perfect Hygge scenario would be sitting with a group of friends around a fire, drinking hot chocolate or playing a board game. In other words, spending intentional time in fellowship with one another.
There are many books that cover this subject, along with How-To guides, but honestly the best guide of all is in scripture. The Bible urges us to walk in relationship with one another, to spend time in fellowship and to take care of those around us.
We are called to practice hospitality and love our neighbours as ourselves. Winter is actually the perfect time to do this. So many people spend the winter months at home watching Netflix and waiting until it is warmer outside. Why not take this opportunity to really show God’s love to others?
It is very easy to do this practically; invite people over for a meal and a games night, spend time learning about someone’s life over a latte by the fire, or sit around with friends and listen to a sermon or audiobook with a fuzzy blanket. We are all stuck in the same boat anyways, we may as well take advantage of this time when we are all forced to slow down and be indoors.
So, instead of letting the minus degree weather get you down, let’s try and take a page out of Denmark’s book. Let’s make the most of this season and enjoy all the warm comforts around us in fellowship with others. I guarantee you will be a lot more fun than the alternative.
Heartland Regional Newsletter
Note from Mark | Finding What You Weren’t Looking For
Start Small to Live Big
Doing Life Together in a Small Group
The start of a new year is the perfect time to evaluate where you’re at and what might be missing in your life. An important part of our walk as Christians is not only attending church but really plugging in to it and developing deep relationships with those around us. A practical and fun way to do this is by joining a small group. Sometimes it feels like we don’t need yet another weekly commitment, but there are so many different formats for small groups; there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
Ashlyn Faber, the current Worship Coordinator at Brownfield Baptist Church has had a lot of experience with small groups and has shared with us how it has impacted her life, and how they use a unique format to make it easier for families:
My husband and I have been very blessed to have small groups as part of our lives. From being involved as a teen, to helping lead a youth group in our college years, to gathering a cohort of people around us as we raise our own children. There is something beautiful about gathering together in a living room around the fire, or around a table full of food, or even just being on the same text thread throughout the week. It’s not that we don’t see each other Sunday at church, because we do. But this is different. This feels like we get to do life together each week. And when you do life together, you get to know each other in such different ways. Starting off can be a bit awkward, and maybe even feels like work at times. But quickly these people have become some of our dearest friends, and people we wouldn’t want to journey without.
Carving out a time to meet isn’t always easy when you’re melding many busy schedules together. Our group right now consists of five families- ten adults and thirteen kids (ages ranging from nine months to fifteen)- but we’ve found a routine that works for us! We have a four-week rotation:
Week 1 Ladies’ Night
Week 2 Men’s Night
Week 3 Couples’ Night
Week 4 Family Night
Practically, this means that we only need a babysitter one night out of the month. A bonus in this particular season of life! But it also creates and provides a rhythm of down time for the one that gets to stay home and tuck the kids into bed. Most nights we meet in the evening, with the exception of Family Night. It’s special because we share a meal together and our kids are all involved. Each night can be completely different, with its own unique flair, but we always try to incorporate praying for each other. Nothing fancy. Just meeting together.
There isn’t a magic formula, just get a group together and find a routine that works for you. Journey with each other and see what God will do!
If you have been interested in being a part of a small group but haven’t taken the plunge yet, don’t let this year pass you by without giving it a shot. There is no time like the present for trying new things!
Coming in 2020 we are excited to launch another aspect of our #weareallcbwc campaign on our social media platforms. Twice a month we will feature different profiles of people from our churches (think of Humans of New York format). If you or anyone you know has a story they would like to share we would love to hear it! It could be part of your testimony or what God is has done or is doing now in your life. Contact Jenna Hanger at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Please feel free to put this information in your bulletin to spread the word!
Curious about Kurios?
Don’t miss the Dessert Info Nights coming soon!
Vancouver Island – Jan.25 7PM – New Life Community Baptist
Lower Mainland – Jan.26 7PM – Trinity Baptist Church Vancouver
Okanagan – Jan.11 7PM – Summerland Baptist Church
Edmonton – Feb.2 7PM – Leduc Community Baptist Church
Calgary – Feb.1 7PM – Westview Baptist Church
Regina – Feb.8 7PM – Westhill Park Baptist Church
Saskatoon – Feb.9 – 7:30PM – Emmanuel Baptist Church
Winnipeg – Jan.19 7PM – Filipino Evangelical Church
Virtual – Feb.9, 7:30pm – RSVP for link to join via webinar
Go to https://www.kurios.ca for more information and to RSVP!
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Making Connections is the Monthly Newsletter of the CBWC.