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All people need desperately to hear they matter

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the church and mental health as I recently lost a person in my congregation.

More than that, I lost a good friend who is gone from this earth way too soon. As I have wrestled with this difficult-to-explain experience, I have been convicted that the church simply must do more to speak into the arena of mental health and the struggles that go along with it.

While I am no expert, I am keen to observe that far too many people are wrestling with the purpose of life and their place in this world. To put it bluntly, there are an alarming number of people who feel that they don’t matter and can’t go on with little to no purpose while dealing with the pressures and stresses this world places on them.

But here is the good news and the heavy responsibility: I believe the church is uniquely positioned to speak into the lives of people to bring hope and good news in a way that no other organization, institution or even individual can. In fact, we have the best news … the gospel news that Jesus Christ came to deliver us from feelings of unimportance.

Jesus went so far as to die on a cross for every single human being who ever was or ever will be. How’s that for meaning and purpose? He valued you so much, God valued you so much, that He gave up everything, even the one person He loved more than anything to bring meaning and purpose to your life.

If we have the greatest news, don’t you think we as the church should want to share that? Absolutely, but the question is, “Are we?”

Unfortunately, it looks like the modern American church and individual Christ followers still have a lot of ground to make up in that area. We may have good intentions, but we have not-so-good implementation.

I recently came across an article in Christianity Today that spoke to the suicide epidemic in our culture and the larger mental health crisis that we face in our country. In a recent study, 55 percent of churchgoers say they hear about a suicide in their community nearly once per year, while almost a full third of respondents have had a close family member or relative take his or her own life.

While those numbers are not particularly shocking, these next ones are.

Seventy-six percent of churchgoers agree that suicide needs to be proactively addressed in their local communities, while 84 percent agree churches have a large responsibility to add to that discussion. And without a doubt, the church can add to that discussion.

Jesus answers the two greatest questions that so many in this world are asking: Do I matter? and Why am I here?

God’s word speaks truth and answers both of those questions in one person: Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1 tells us this: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God … through Him (Christ) God created everything. Everything was created through Him and for Him.” There it is, answers to the two biggest questions that humanity has been asking for thousands of years.

Do I matter? According to Colossians 1, Yes. God created everything, and God only creates because He wants a loving relationship with His creation (which humanity uniquely fulfills) and to take pleasure in that creation.

Why am I here? Again, based on Paul’s conviction, everything was created not only through Him, but for Him. We have all been created to bring praise, worship and glory to God. It may seem like an overly simple thing, but if we have the greatest and most hope-inspiring news, why aren’t we saying something about it. Because as much as we feel it is important to speak into the lives of those struggling mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, statistics show, we are not.

While 70 to 80 percent of people feel like it is the church’s responsibility to speak life to a world that is broken and hurting, only 4 percent said that church leaders and church attenders were aware of a loved one’s struggles or the risk of suicide. Quite simply, the church has a long way to go when it comes to pressing into the lives of others and having the boldness to ask if everything is alright.

We have a tendency in the church to pretend like everything is fine when it most certainly is not. And since we clearly have the answer to life’s greatest questions, we have a basic and God-given responsibility to speak up, speak truth and speak life to a world that desperately needs to hear they matter to the only One who matters and to find their purpose in giving glory to the God who so deeply and faithfully loves them.

Ryan Phelps is the minister of New Heights Christian Church. He wrote this article as a member of the Fayette County Ministerial Association.