Mental Health and Making Disciples of Jesus

One way to love a person that has a learning disability, mental disorder, or who is neurodivergent is to help him attach to his heavenly Father, who is love. (Neurodivergent is a term that describes people whose brains develop or work differently for some reason. People with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, or other mental disorders would be neurodivergent.) God can seem distant to a person that is neurodivergent because the usual means of connecting to God by reading the bible, reading a Christian book, journaling, memorizing scripture, church attendance, and listening to a sermon are not easily accessible to him. The good news of Jesus is that God draws near to all people, even those that are neurodivergent.

Christianity tends to assume that a lack of spiritual desire of a person is because he is indifferent, rebellious, hardhearted, stubborn, or lazy. We suppose the problem is the person’s heart condition rather than asking the question, “What might I be missing in the life of my child or my disciple?” As a child cannot self-diagnosis a learning disability so you cannot expect that your disciple can self-diagnosis if they are neurodivergent.

A neurodivergent person’s relationship with God can frustrate him as a child can be discouraged when he is punished for poor grades when, unknown to his parents or himself, that he has a learning disability. “Why can other people connect to God, but it is so difficult for me?”

Some evidence that your disciple is neurodivergent:

• Little desire to read the Bible or spiritual books.

• Have trouble remembering or understanding what he read.

• Do things without stopping to think about the consequences.

• Addiction to alcohol or drugs.

• Read something over and over and not understand the message.

• Avoids going to church services, youth group, a bible study. (“What if they ask me to read something out loud?”)

• Relationships are difficult for her.

A couple of possible ideas to help a neurodivergent person:

• Help her/him find a therapist and get a diagnosis. (This can be very intimidating for the individual. I have driven folks to their first appointment just so they did not have to be alone.)

• Explore together ways of connecting to the heavenly Father. Read the bible together. Pray together. Listen to scripture. Listen to audiobooks.

• Engraft your disciple (or child) into a spiritual community that is sensitive to those that are neurodivergent.

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