How Does God Feel About Mental Illness?

Some time ago, I began a subscriber survey that has 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." This thoughtful response raises many profound questions. I want to carefully and prayerfully respond. Yet, please understand that I am not an expert theologian or a mental health professional. Instead, I am a believer in Christ who has lived with a mental illness for over 30 years. This doesn't give me all the answers, but helps me better understand the questions. I feel much more confident answering the former question than the latter. The depth of [...]

How Does God Feel About Mental Illness?2019-05-08T15:33:28-04:00

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could I faithfully hear God's voice in the midst of competing voices within and around me? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart.   My mind says yes -- I served as a minister with bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness progressed such that, in 2009, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for health reasons. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, has allowed me to serve in ministry with a serious mental illness.   Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the pit of psychological despair [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness2019-03-10T21:18:29-04:00

Why I Go to Church

{originally published on April 30, 2018}   When I was a pastor I had to go to worship every week. Not only was it expected, I got paid for it. Now that my livelihood is no longer dependent on weekly worship, why do I go at all? Why invest my time and money on something many have come to see as irrelevant to modern living? First, some context. Last Sunday morning I went to worship for the first time in a long while. I did not want to. I did not enjoy it. I do not remember anything but that I left my tithe check at home. Again. But I was there. And being there made all the difference in the world. I praised God within the body of believers. The lungs gave me breath. The feet helped me move. The Head helped me think. That night I wrote a [...]

Why I Go to Church2019-02-27T20:10:21-04:00

Loving “The Least of These.”

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  (Matthew 25:40) I was new to Rochester (NY) and had just connected with a small group at a local church. We were to have a social gathering and I had volunteered to bring the cheese and crackers. On my way there, I was rear-ended and wound up in the emergency room. I couldn't move, but nothing showed up on the tests. The medical providers thought I was faking it. Instead, my mind was betraying my body. My mental illness was the culprit of my paralysis. I tried to tell the staff this and asked that they give me my medicine. Instead, they responded as if I were an addict looking for a fix and ignored me. After sometime an angel arrived. He was an elder from my church, [...]

Loving “The Least of These.”2019-02-11T18:25:26-04:00

Penance: Spiritual Self-Harm

penance: (n) punishment inflicted on oneself as an outward expression of repentance for wrongdoing. ‘he had done public penance for those hasty words’.   When I first separated from my (now) ex-wife, I was miserable. I wrestled with a sense of guilt and confusion, searching my mind for what I could have done differently to make a better marriage. It wasn't as if I had shut God out of my life, or the life of my family. Faith, while admittedly mixed with many of my own flaws, was evident in who we were and how we behaved. My mental illness had certainly played a strong role, but even that didn't seem like an adequate reason. Granted, over 90% of people with bipolar who marry wind up divorced. Yet, I held out hope that God would bless us to be the slim exceptions. My time alone after I left my family behind [...]

Penance: Spiritual Self-Harm2019-01-06T21:22:13-04:00

Weary Walking in a Dark Valley

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;     heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled.     But you, O Lord—how long? (Psalm 6:2-3) The Psalmist agonizes over the anguish that impacts his soul -- body, mind, and spirit. He calls on the Lord to relieve him of his suffering, not quite sure how or when or even if God will respond. S.B. write about her struggle with mental illness: Why is it so exhausting? The mental battle has reeked savagely on my physical self. I battled for years with depression. Always treading water. My spiritual walk though however has gotten stronger. I am a stronger more faithful Christian. Now my battle is trying to make it to places people expect me to go. Church is a big one. The guilt for disappointing is immobilizing. The state of our minds impacts the condition of our bodies. A [...]

Weary Walking in a Dark Valley2018-11-07T17:10:04-04:00

Get Your Personal Delight in Disorder

Since publishing my spiritual memoir, I have been blessed to see the many ways God has used it to reach the lives of those impacted by mental illness. At a library book signing the night it was released, over 100 were in attendance. As I shared some of my story and read portions of the book, expressions of recognition came over the faces in the crowd. In the Q & A section, one man said, I have lived with schizo-affective disorder for over 50 years and I've tried to keep it a secret. Thank you for showing me the value of sharing my story. Also at that gathering was a young Eric Riddle who, like me, has bipolar. Eric had recently been hospitalized and was looking for a way to put his life back together. We agreed to meet weekly for prayer and discernment and from this was conceived our [...]

Get Your Personal Delight in Disorder2018-10-15T15:21:42-04:00

He Was in Heaven Before He Died

I wrote this story about a decade ago. It is not based solely on facts. I did have a Grandpa George and this was pretty much how he lived and died. But I didn't make it to the funeral. Instead, I was in a hellish heaven of my own on the psych unit of Columbia Presbyterian.   I got the call late at night that Grandpa George had died.  He had lived a hard life.  He didn't have the opportunity to get a good education.  He never learned to read or write because his demanding father made him quit school to help in the fields.   He worked hard to get by and managed to scrape together a living.  He met a woman - Maize - at the tomato factory where he worked.  She says he was throwing tomatoes at her, so she knew he liked her.   They were married [...]

He Was in Heaven Before He Died2018-12-30T14:48:02-04:00

Who Are You?

I am a Christian who has bipolar disorder. I cycle from extreme mania to pits of depression, but I am not a manic-depressive. My identity is not in my illness. My identity is in Christ. Where do you find your identity?  This morning my pastor shared a story of a teenage girl who had lost a sense of her she was. Like many her age, she had looked for her identity in relationships with others just as lost as she was. Her self-worth plummeted. Whatever confidence she once had crashed to the ground. She desperately needed someone to pick her up, someone to share with her the hope that was rooted in her faith. Not just some wish for better days, but a genuine hope that would hold onto her when she fell. Somehow, she found her way to the pastor's study. He sat quietly with her. Listened to her. [...]

Who Are You?2018-07-29T21:47:27-04:00

A Church With No Walls

This has been a particularly good week to be part of a faith family that cares and shares. Last weekend, my prayer partner contacted me about how I was coming along in a terribly difficult family conflict. We prayed for each other as brothers in Christ. This week, an elder followed up to ask if I needed any financial assistance. I told him I was holding up so far, but that the offer was a huge show of support. Yesterday, my pastor and his family showed up at an author fair I was featured in. Their smiles made my whole day. Today, a man came up to me to tell me how much he appreciated my article in the local newspaper. Yes, it has been a particularly good week to be a receiving and contributing member of my faith family. A healthy, holy church includes all God's children both by [...]

A Church With No Walls2018-07-22T20:29:43-04:00