The Healing and Freedom Journey
Mark and Melissa DeJesus

In the last decade or more, the stigma of mental health in society-at-large has gradually reduced. While there is still a great deal of misunderstanding, through various actions more people are now coming forward to talk about their own struggles. People are starting to open up, and it is providing healing, across not only Australia but many countries across the world.

As is too often the case, however, the church has lagged behind. Change is happening though, due in no small part to the ministry of Mark and Melissa DeJesus. Part of their ministry to Christians struggling with mental health problems is their podcast, The Healing and Freedom Journey

The Healing and Freedom Journey

 

"This real, helpful and hopeful podcast (which is only one part of a whole ministry which includes books and online courses) looks at mental health from a specifically Christian point-of-view. Mark and Melissa are often very open about their own mental health struggles and provide many wise insights into how their upbringings and receiving of misguided teaching from the pulpit has impacted their own journeys."

This real, helpful and hopeful podcast (which is only one part of a whole ministry which includes books and online courses) looks at mental health from a specifically Christian point-of-view. Mark and Melissa are often very open about their own mental health struggles and provide many wise insights into how their upbringings and receiving of misguided teaching from the pulpit has impacted their own journeys.

The word “journey” is an often overused one, particularly in Christian circles, where it has become a cliche that is almost meaningless given its overuse. In the case of Mark and Melissa, however, their continual vulnerability takes the listener on what truly is a journey as they describe their own struggles and how they are working to overcome them.

Mark is particularly open about his struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a growing anxiety disorder which still incurs much misunderstanding and even mockery, often unintended but still largely hurtful, and which afflicts many thousands of people.

Overall, Mark and Melissa’s style is remarkably open, helping the listener feel like they are being heard, especially if a particular episode relates specifically to an issue you might be struggling with. When people are willing to be open and vulnerable, it helps you get to know them, and that is certainly the case with this couple. The listener who struggles with their own mental health will find this particularly encouraging, as one of the major struggles of people with mental illness is not feeling heard. And Christians are just as guilty, or maybe even more so, of misunderstanding as anyone else, often spiritualising the problem and thereby making it worse. This is why the ministry of people like Mark and Melissa is so widely needed.



The Healing and Freedom Journey focuses a lot on living a transformed life (one of Mark and Melissa’s oft-quoted passages is Romans 12:2 about being transformed by the renewing of your mind). One avenue that Mark and Melissa use in dealing with this is in dealing with our fears and anxieties and learning to live a life of love, which they say only comes out of a deep conviction that you yourself are loved. 

Mark has written numerous books about the healing journey to a life of love. Probably his most popular is God Loves Me and I Love Myself, which looks at the idea that God wants us to have a healthy self-love based on the conviction that we are deeply loved by God. Much of the podcast’s subject matter is based on this idea.

Much is also based on the further developed idea of accepting the father-love of God. This is, of course, a very sensitive area for a lot of people, as many have had fathers who were anything but loving. Mark and Melissa are aware of this and talk about it in episodes that focus specifically on accepting the father-love of God. I think they could go deeper and talk more about God’s love being like that of Jesus. So many people have been so hurt by their fathers that they simply can’t get past the idea of a loving God being like a father. I have found this to be one of the few drawbacks of the podcast, despite Mark and Melissa addressing the widespread issue of father-wounds.

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One of the latest episodes also deals with mother-wounds, tackling the truth that many, many people have had mothers who were abusive, self-protective and narcissistic. 

The fact that these issues are being addressed in Christian circles through this podcast is to be loudly applauded. There are appallingly few resources in the church for tackling these issues from a perspective that is truly healing, and the fact that Mark and Melissa are doing so is to be commended, especially as they do it from a position of sensitivity and vulnerability.

This excellent podcast could be improved even further by the hosts specifically addressing minority groups in the church, particularly singles, who often feel the most left-out when dealing with relational issues. When talking about father and mother wounds for example, the hosts regularly then discuss how we can deal with these issues with our own children, the assumption being, of course, that the listener has children of their own. The fact that thousands of listeners will not have children of their own will immediately turn them off to what is otherwise a very valuable topic.

Despite these shortcomings, I still recommend this podcast to the listener who struggles with their own mental health, particularly that related to anxiety. There are many other topics that Mark and Melissa tackle including identity, loneliness, performance-based Christian living, perfectionism, a rejection mindset, shame, and bitter-free living.

At a time when mental health problems are increasing seemingly exponentially, especially in recent years as a result of COVID-19, The Healing and Freedom Journey podcast is needed more than ever. It is truly refreshing to see Christians take mental health seriously and not just give pat responses, but talk with authority in a way that most people can relate to.