A Time for Everything?

Articles June 30, 2024

Source: The Health Connection Newsletter | 2nd Quarter 2024

“There is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1 NIV),” said the Wiseman. He did not specifically say there is a time to come and a time to leave, but I believe he would agree. For me, after having served in the Health Ministries Departments of the Trans-European Division and General Conference for more than eight years, it is now time to return to clinical work as a psychiatrist in a small village in my home country, Norway. As an advocate, I’ve sought to make a small difference for many. As a clinician, I’ll seek to make a big difference for a few. I am grateful for the chapter about to close and the new one about to begin.

I was invited to promote a balanced and educated understanding of mental health and integrate it into the bigger scope of our faith community’s health work. It was time for that. I appreciate the many leaders and church members who saw this need, wanted it, and demanded it. The pandemic experience further emphasized the need for a multi-dimensional perspective on health and illness. A strong emphasis on mental health has been timely and will be increas- ingly timely.

I sense that progress has been made in the world and the church in acknowledging the existence of mental health issues and understanding their nature, impact, and treatment. But there’s a frontier we haven’t conquered yet: stigma. Can we accept that illness is an inevitable and inescapable part of being human as long there is sin around and within us? Can we acknowledge that there is “a time to be well and a time to be sick?” Can we dissociate illness, including mental illness, from the assumed guilt of personal failure and imposed shame of inferior worth? There is no time for stigma and prejudice.

I pray we all, wherever we are called upon to serve, find that now is the time to “carry each other’s burdens” rather than adding to them and, in this way, “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2 NIV).