Bearing With Each Other
by Chandra Lee
I lived on a military base that experienced a hospital mass shooting. It was horrific and the shooter used an AK47. A close friend from my church was a Physician Assistant in the facility. She was consulting with a patient when the murdering and maiming commenced. A bullet traveled through the wall and through her elderly veteran patient. As my friend jumped on her desk, the bullet continued between her parted legs and jammed into the concrete wall behind her, ripping through a quilt from her church family back home that adorned her office. She kicked out her office window and jumped out to safety, running far enough to clear the campus of the hospital. When the killer was finally shot to death, he had murdered 4 and wounded 24.
My friend, as well as a number of people, suffered emotionally that day. She had a tremendous amount of guilt that as a military officer, she had lived and ran while her patient and 3 others died. She felt horrible that she saved herself and ran out of her window to safety. She began to have other regrets for ways in her life she deemed she had failed people. Some of these misgivings even dated back to her elementary school years. Her angst and depression grew.
She came to my house with her young kids and told me she was going to kill herself. I asked her what would happen to her kids. She told me she was going to take them with her as she didn’t want to leave them behind to be sad without her. This alarmed me, because as close friends, I knew that suicide and attempts at suicide were an issues in her family.
I told her to wait a minute while I got her and the kids something to drink. My house was not open concept back then so I went through my kitchen and out my backdoor then across the street to the commander of the hospital’s house. He and his wife happened to be home. I told him what my friend told me and he spared not a second. He ordered a car to my home and within 5 minutes he had her picked up, taken to an airport with only the clothes on her back and sent her to a special mental hospital in another state. I kept the kids until their dad was off work.
She railed against me and she would call to tell me I had ruined her life and military career. She would tell me how she would never be promoted, and then she would say that her life was nothing and she would return to the talk of wanting to kill herself. After going through this cycle, she would just hang up in my face.
I stopped hearing from her, but finally I heard she had returned home. She didn’t call me. I finally saw her at church, and it was odd. She sat far from me and avoided all eye contact. She finally smiled at me a few weeks later, but from across a room. Then eventually she gave her testimony in church about how God had healed her in the midst of her mental illness. I was proud to be there when her family put on her new military rank. She did get promoted. She did advance in her career. She did get better and getting help for her mental illness was not held against her.
While my friend was able to overcome, mental health is still a taboo topic for us in the church. We have people that suffer from mild to severe cases. For some reason, we believe in the misconception that God uses doctors and medicine for illness, just not mental illness. And yes it is hard to define. There is no blood test for mental illness. It is, for the most part, observational and subjective, but we still need to be vigilant in helping out families and friends with issues.
God’s grace is big enough to carry us through any issue, including depression and the varied forms of mental illness. This grace is what not only saves us (Titus 2:11), but sustains us (Titus 2:12) to walk in Christ throughout our lives. We should face mental illness and support each other through these problems as we would through any other illness or hardship.
We need to be more available for each other. This summer with election season and angst between African Americans and police officers, a lot of people will be under stress. This stress can trigger a lot of emotional instability. There’s a meme that has been circulating recently online after two Black men were killed by police officers, that said, “if you say you have Black friends but you have not checked on them in the last few days, they are not real friends.” This is a simple but profound statement. We must check on friends, loved ones and other believers when life is stressful. People are important. They are all we carry with us into heaven besides our efforts for Christ. Even if they don’t agree with us on every issue, Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear each others burdens.
God does heal and restore. Often we only think of this for physical illness or if we experience difficult circumstances. We need to expect these miracles from God for people that have emotional problems also. God is there to heal, strengthen, help and hold us up in all ways that we feel troubled. (Isaiah 41:10, Psalms 46:1–3)
As a side note — — I had a very different out look on guns after experiencing this mass shooting. It is one that people who have not lived through it cannot have. Once you see the damage and size of the wounds that certain weapons can cause, you understand why they doesn’t need to be in the hands of people that are not trained professional soldiers. Listen to people who have lived through these experiences more than what others demand to be right.