How Does God Feel About Mental Illness?

Last week, I began a subscriber survey that has thus far proven very fruitful. I've learned more about who my readers are and what they are looking for when they come to Delight in Disorder. Some of the most revealing content came from the comments provided in the "other" category. When asked what sort of posts would be most helpful, one reader replied: "... how God feels about mental illness and why He allows it. I know cancer patients, for example, feel the same way, but you won't hear anyone abandoning them. Instead they receive love, prayers, and casseroles. Living alone with a debilitating illness is so hard." This thoughtful response raises many profound questions. I want to carefully and prayerfully respond. Yet, please understand that I am not a expert theologian or a mental health professional. Instead, I am a believer in Christ who has lived with a mental [...]

How Does God Feel About Mental Illness? 2017-11-10T11:31:36+00:00

Worshiping with a Mental Illness

It is in the nature of all humanity to worship. Worship lies at the core of human beings, written into our DNA. The question is not do we worship but who we worship.Many of my friends with mental illness claim to reject God. As I dig further into their stories, however, I discover that it is not so much God they reject as those who claim to represent God. In my Christian faith family, we have many who fail to understand the nature of mental illness and who have made very wrong and damning statements about the subject. Mental illness has been described within the church as demon possession, as a lack of faith, as an attention-seeking illusion. It is little wonder folks with mental illness would feel shunned by the church and be discouraged from worshiping God in Jesus Christ.So, where does one who feels shunned turn to for [...]

Worshiping with a Mental Illness 2017-10-31T11:47:28+00:00

Prophet for People with Mental Illness

True prophets speak the truth no matter what the cost. The Word of God burns inside them until they have no choice but to speak and to act. Through stories, dreams, visions, God speaks through prophets that others may hear and hold onto the promise or heed the warning. In the Bible, true prophets are a mixed breed. Some are royal advisers. Some are outlaws, opposing unjust rule. Some are simple farmers, or shepherds, like the prophet Amos. The credential for becoming a prophet is not wealth or intelligence or popularity. For each prophetic occasion, God hand-picks the prophet who will deliver the authentic message from God to the people. At times this was a message of hope, reminding the exiled community of God's covenant promise. This message was encouraging, uplifting words like: "Keep moving forward. God is with you." Other times it was a word of warning: "Change [...]

Prophet for People with Mental Illness 2017-10-26T14:02:31+00:00

Does Suicide Destroy Faith?

I just received word today that a family member died by suicide. I didn't personally know this young man, but each time I hear of someone who has suffered greatly and lost hope for this life, I feel sick to my stomach. I didn't used to feel this way. I used to feel angry. I used to believe suicide was a terrible act of cruelty against one's self. I used to believe it was horribly selfish against one's loved ones. I used to believe it was an ultimate act of ingratitude against God. I used to believe this. No more. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin named in the Bible as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."  It is more a symptom of our human condition than a sinful action. It is far from a selfish act. Instead, it is more a desire to unburden loved ones of the suffering [...]

Does Suicide Destroy Faith? 2017-10-23T14:50:53+00:00

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse 2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness

I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1991. I told only my wife and one trusted friend. Four years later I had a manic/psychotic episode that essentially made it necessary for me to tell the members of the congregation I was serving. By God's grace, they responded with amazing love and tremendous support. I was given unlimited paid leave and told I could resume my work whenever I was ready. Women provided meals and childcare so my wife could visit me. An offering was taken to pay off the gigantic cost of health care. On the flip side, both my therapist and psychiatrist respected my faith and the role it played to promote healing in my life. They appreciated that I did not use my faith as an excuse to refuse medical treatment. They saw the two working hand-in-hand to guide me towards well-being. Certainly, there were [...]

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness 2017-08-17T13:17:18+00:00

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission

My Story In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church.  One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words: When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives. The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of [...]

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission 2017-08-28T20:14:23+00:00

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The Message, Eugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a hunted poet king, surrounded and scared. God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!” (vv. 1-2) David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to – But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God; His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4) [...]

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms 2017-06-26T22:36:53+00:00

Van Gogh & Me: Pursuing Our Vocations

Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh is not only a fascinating art history, it is also the story of a spiritual quest by two brothers who love each other dearly. Van Gogh originally set out to follow in his father's footsteps as a pastor, but for reasons that are only somewhat revealed, it didn't work out.  During this period of preparation for ministry, Van Gogh describes a foreboding sense - These are really happy days I spend here, but still it is a happiness and quiet which I do not quite trust.  Man is not easily content: now he finds things too easy and then again he is not contented enough. Though not terribly dissatisfied, Van Gogh senses something is missing.  Something is not quite right.  He wonders if this "dis-ease" could have a spiritual basis. There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything [...]

Van Gogh & Me: Pursuing Our Vocations 2017-06-12T17:29:35+00:00

A Mixed Response to “Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness”

Over this past weekend, I posted a piece ("Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness") on a Facebook page for mental health advocates. I posed the question, "I am a former pastor who has wrestled for over 20 years with bipolar 1. Here is part of my story. I would love to hear from you on how faith has impacted your mental illness, or, how mental illness has impacted your faith." The responses were very thoughtful and uplifting: "The only way I became as stable as I'm proud to say I am today is because of the right meds, a good therapist & learning to have a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. Of these three things I believe my faith is the strongest saving grace for me." "I pray that more people with understanding of mental illness will enter the ministry on their behalf. I watched my son pray for and [...]

A Mixed Response to “Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness” 2017-06-12T17:27:57+00:00