When I first met Chris Morris at a convention, he struck me as a kind, funny guy with a passion for people. The more I’ve gotten to know him online, the greater this passion has shown. So, when I learned that he struggles with mental illness, as so many Christians do, I was shocked.
You’d never know it unless you talked to him. About it.
So when I learned he was assembling a collection of true stories by people suffering from mental illness and the impact the church has had on these people, I knew I wanted to read it. Chris has insight that many don’t. He has the compassion to speak boldly for those who need a voice, while lovingly to those who need to understand.
I also wanted my eldest daughter to read it.
As the wife of a husband afflicted by mental illness, I knew she would have a more educated opinion of what Whispers in the Pews shares and the helpfulness quotient contained within. So, I asked her to read it. She devoured it. I saw her sharing quotes on Facebook and Instagram.
When it came time to write this review, instead of writing it myself, I asked her to do it. If you know Challice from her Sodbuster Living blog or YouTube channel, this is her take on Whispers in the Pews.
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Listen to the Whispers and You’ll Hear the Pain
In Challice’s words:
In Whispers in the Pews, Chris Morris collects the voices of several individuals who have gone through some kind of mental illness and explores how the church responded to them.
Depression comes in various forms, from PTSD, to PPD, to clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and much more. For centuries, the church has been considered a haven; yet for many, dealing with these mental illnesses is a secret that must not be spoken of.
Chris Morris endeavors to enlighten the church by using the stories of several individuals and their varying circumstances and giving them a voice that will help the church as a whole, know how to offer Biblical help and support.
One of the best lines in this book that I think really brings home the idea of separating illness with spiritual weakness says,
I can’t treat my soul with medication. That’s Jesus’s work. But I can treat my body with it, and thankfully, that makes a difference for me.”
Many within the church take the Pharisaical approach of nailing down Scripture while forgetting the person who needs the gentleness and compassion that Jesus gave many of the sick.
These essays from various voices are not always the easiest to read. You will hear raw, but clean, details of verbal abuse, rape, PTSD, from the spouses’ perspectives, and more. Some are straightforward in their writing, while others have found a way to share beauty in the ashes.
Chris Morris even included an experience he had when he admitted himself into a mental hospital.
Whispers in the Pews is one book that I would hand out to anyone. I want the word to get out, and I want there to be a change. This isn’t just happening in the church, but everywhere. People wear a mask of perfection. The church should be where we can be raw and real and still be welcomed as members of Christ’s body! That is what Chris Morris tried to do when he assembled the stories in Whispers in the Pews.
As a spouse of someone who has dealt with severe clinical depression, it was encouraging to read that we are not alone and have something tangible to wave in the air and say, “YES! People, this is what I’ve been trying to say!”
I wept with some of the writers, as one living in a similar situation and knowing what they have gone through and remembering some of our own battles. But I think this book is not just to enlighten others and help the church realize where it needs to change. It’s for those of us who feel alone at times as we battle this. We may not have depression ourselves, but it still affects our families. Reading this book was like getting a cup of coffee with a friend and being able to say, “me, too.”