Scorn-full

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4) While modern medicine has come a long way in helping us understand and explain mental illness, people’s perspectives can lag far behind. Many people still think that with more faith, a stronger will, and a better attitude, such things as depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia can just go away. This outlook often leads to pinning the blame for the illness on the person struggling to overcome it. It can also lead to contempt and scorn on the part of the accuser that the accused may internalized. “If you only had more faith.” “If you weren’t so lazy.” “If you just kept a positive attitude.” Like the [...]

Scorn-full 2017-05-30T14:04:21+00:00

Out of the Depths

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:1-4) When I am in the grip of depression, the last thing I want to hear is that I’ve done nothing to deserve it. My mind busily rehashes old regrets. I am convinced of my guilt over many things. I see my depression, no matter how severe, as but a small price to pay for my sin. The good news that saves us from the darkest corners of depression is not that we are “good enough” on our own. It is that in spite of how horribly we mess up, God has a word of grace to speak to us. [...]

Out of the Depths 2018-05-24T00:03:39+00:00

Escaping the Pain

In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain”? (Psalm 11:1) When I first began to experience the symptoms of bipolar, I tried to escape them with drugs and alcohol, what some call self-medicating. As you might expect, this only made things worse. Treating a mood disorder with non-prescribed mind-altering drugs is not something I would now recommend. I then tried to treat my symptoms with only talk therapy and self-help techniques. While it was good to get off un-prescribed drugs, talk therapy alone was ultimately ineffective. It wound up being another form of escapism from my full problem. It was bipolar disorder causing a chemical reaction in my brain, and I needed something more than encouraging words to re-establish balance. One thing I’ve discovered in my journey through bipolar is that faith and medicine can, and often do, [...]

Escaping the Pain 2017-05-30T14:02:54+00:00

The Healing Power of the Psalms

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2) People like to display their family Bibles when the pastor comes to visit. On one such visit in my first pastorate, my hosts opened up their Bible and showed me a unique treasure I’d not seen before or found since. Written in the margins of the Psalms were folk remedies detailing how one could find healing. The instructions were very specific – “Say this Psalm five times for sore throat.” “Good for gout.” “Heals dizziness.” At first I smiled at the gross superstition of those who applied Scripture in such an ignorant manner. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate, instead, how simply profound their faith may well have been. It takes courage to trust that the God who created heaven and earth takes pains even to heal my headaches. Healing happens. Can you believe [...]

The Healing Power of the Psalms 2017-05-30T14:02:42+00:00

Even Me

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14) I learned growing up the importance of being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was taught to maintain this relationship with daily prayer and Bible reading, weekly worship, and regular fellowship with Christians. In spite of this, I often pulled away, turning inward in times of trouble, becoming reclusive when my feelings and beliefs didn’t line up. I believed I was made to praise God with my whole heart, mind, and being. Yet, my feelings were far from God, and I instead obsessed about all that was wrong with me and with the world. Over the past several years now, I’ve often wondered how I could be in a personal relationship with the LORD and [...]

Even Me 2017-05-30T14:02:24+00:00

Sin and Sickness

Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. (Psalm 25:18) Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the relationship between sin and sickness. The Bible clearly connects the two, but it is not always clear exactly what the relationship is. There are times when sickness is caused by what someone does or fails to do – as when the foolish Nabal’s inhospitable demeanor leads to a heart attack (1 Samuel 25). Other times, sickness is not caused by a person’s sin but rather is a test of righteousness, such as when Satan tests Job. Sickness can result from - the transmission of sin (generational sin or a genetic flaw). - the commission of sin (rebelling against God’s commands or making unhealthy choices). The relationship between sin and sickness can become particularly controversial when it comes to mental illness. Over the years, people [...]

Sin and Sickness 2017-05-30T14:01:49+00:00

Discovering Delight in Disorder

For almost twenty years, I served as a pastor with bipolar disorder.  I have journeyed with this illness from manic (even psychotic) peaks to dark valleys of despair.  At both extremes, I have flirted with death—coming very close to ending my life and doing great damage to those around me.  For no good reason except the mercy of the Lord, God has kept me alive, saving me  from certain destruction. Yet, I have also found genuine delight in my disorder and this is the story I tell in Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. How can we delight in an illness that has contributed to a divorce rate of more than 90% and leads over half of those diagnosed to attempt suicide? Countless times, when I have been driven to the edge of a cliff, God has rescued me and set me on level ground.  Why would God do this?  Because [...]

Discovering Delight in Disorder 2017-12-28T21:26:55+00:00