Sarah Griffith Lund – Blessed Union (Madness and Marriage) [Review]
Create an understanding of mental illness
at home and in the church
A look back at
Blessed Union: Breaking Silence About Insanity and Marriage
Sarah Griffith Lund
Paperback: Chalice Press, 2021
Buy now: (IndieBound) (Amazon) (Kindle)
Reviewed by Christina Greenwald
As a therapist, I see firsthand how devastating mental illness and trauma can be to a person's wellbeing, and how important a supportive partnership can be in restoring a person's mental health. As a pastor's spouse, I see firsthand how little (and little by little, I often mean zero) pastors train in mental illness and trauma, but people with mental illness exist in church rooms week after week. Sarah Griffith Lund, pastor and disability attorney, seeks to bridge this gap through her literary and pastoral work. Her most recent book is Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence on Mental Illness and Marriage. With a pastoral voice and direct experience of mental illness, she writes her own and the true stories of others about coping with mental illness in marriage.
She writes: “Breaking the silence about mental illness and marriage is an ongoing act of discipleship. We tell these true stories about mental illness and marriage because through freedom from silence we are cured of the stigma and shame that oppress us. When we share our true stories, we realize that we are not the only ones. This too is a blessing ”(127-128).
Stigma and a lack of awareness of mental health issues are improving, but there is still a long way to go for full acceptance and understanding in our communities. Lund's life's work breaks the silence around mental illness. It is important to be prepared as anyone can experience mental illness. What Happens When Mental Illness Occurs In The Marriage? In our churches? Are we ready to talk about it and face the realities of these challenges?
Lund uses the structure of traditional marriage vows: to love, comfort, honor, preserve, and be faithful while the two of you are alive to explore different ways mental illness can affect marriages. She uses the special context of faithful Christians who rest in faith in a loving God to examine how mental illness affects marriage and how the love of each partner and from God can help people in (mental) illness and health to obtain.
Often times, Christians struggling with mental illness know to keep silent about it because fellow Christians give invalid and harmful answers. Lund addresses this dynamic, but points the reader back to a loving God: “Many people with mental illness have been given advice that says, 'You just have to have more faith' or 'just pray more about it'. … Faith may not set us free from mental illness. However, faith helps us seek God's presence amid our experiences of mental illness ”(29).
Faith can also serve as a resource for people who love people with mental illness. “Even though they are the same person you have always loved, they can be difficult to recognize. Looking through God's eyes helps us see beyond the label and diagnosis ”(35). Mental illness can change a lot about a person, but they are still the same person under it all and they will always be unconditionally loved by God.
The book tells the stories of people in marital relationships who grapple with various mental illnesses. Lund tells their stories and reflects on pastoral care. He keeps reminding readers of the presence of an ever-loving, ever-faithful God. Being in a marriage that involves mental illness is far from easy, and often the happy days feel elusive. Lund shares how she used therapy, her support system, and beliefs to support her through the darkest of times.
Lund covers challenging topics like depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, psychotic episodes, and even suicide. Each chapter begins with her personal reflection on life in a marriage with mental illness, tells the story of a couple she interviewed who have developed mental illness in one or both partners, and provides information on the mental illnesses mentioned in the chapter . In order to really help people with mental illnesses, lay people and churches need to understand how mental illnesses work, how different mental states exist, and be aware of the resources available. Blessed Union is helping to fill these gaps.
Blessed Union is an essential resource for anyone in a relationship that involves mental illness: It's a warm, encouraging way to say, “You are not alone. Here's what we can do. "It also serves as a pastoral counseling resource. Many religious people rely on the pastor or faith leader as their first source of support when something goes wrong in their life, including marital stressors. The Blessed Union will provide pastors with an opportunity to draw on some of the Prepare difficult issues that community members may address.
It would also be useful for church leadership. Just because a person acquires a Master of Divinity or works for the Church does not exclude them from mental illness: many of the respondents in Lund were college graduates and pastors. (Spoiler alert): In a heartbreaking story in this book, church leaders fired a pastor after suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth to their child and even recommended giving up the child from the mother. It is gaps in understanding like this example that do more harm than the insanity itself ever.
It is important that we all improve our knowledge, compassion, and preparedness when mental illness strikes someone we love, or even ourselves. Blessed Union is a book that helps create understanding and justice for mental illness To support people who suffer from mental health problems.
Christine Greenwald is a rural Ohio psychotherapist married to a pastor and mother of a toddler. She is currently looking for a publisher for her first book, Wall to Mosaic: Dismantling the Evangelical System and Finding a Cure. She mainly writes about the deconstruction of faith, religious trauma and the intersection of culture and religion. Her passion is to help people nurture a liberating, inclusive, and compassionate spirituality. Christine's website is ChristineGreenwald.com.