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

All the Difference in the World

In 2008, my mental illness progressed to the point that I became unable to work in my profession. I had served as a pastor for over 20 years. It was more than just my job. It was my calling. My vocation. I did not work as a pastor; I was a pastor. I delivered God's Word week after week to help people, my people, see their stories in God's story. I led Bible studies at a local addiction treatment center, extending the hope of Christ's forgiveness for those ready for a new path in life. I prayed with wailing women as they sat beside their dying husbands. After I resigned from pastoral ministry, I didn't know what I would do. I tried many things. Weeding. Cleaning furnaces. Roofing. Volunteering at the VA. Building mini-barns. I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to stay busy, but I [...]

All the Difference in the World2019-05-01T19:03:24-04:00

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 Mushrooms2019-04-12T21:29:31-04:00

When Good Things Happen to Grandiose People

...  in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(1 Corinthians 12. 7-9) I was on the fast track to spiritual success. My ministry was producing fruit. Lives were being changed. I was on a mission from God and I knew it. God told me. This came crashing down when I had a medication-induced manic episode. I spent the better part of a year in and out of the psych hospital and recuperating at home. My primary mission reverted from bringing salvation to others to staying awake long enough to eat and take my medication. With the help of God working through others, I returned to pastoral ministry and [...]

When Good Things Happen to Grandiose People2019-04-08T08:57:58-04:00

When All Else Fails, Hope Endures

There is nothing like a dream to create the future. ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables   In my teens, my life was full of hopes and dreams. Or so it seemed. On the outside, I was a star athlete, a stellar student, a charismatic leader, and a champion for the underdog. On the inside, I was battling with voices telling me I was a worthless impostor who would never amount to anything. In my twenties, I tried to abandon hope. When I envisioned living the American Dream, the eyes of my mind saw only a bleak, meaningless existence dark and dreary. I sabotaged my success by embracing thoughts and engaging in behaviors that kept my hope at bay. Yet hope is not easy to do away with. In spite of all my efforts to snuff it out, it was continually ignited in spite of myself. I read voraciously and wrote incessantly. I [...]

When All Else Fails, Hope Endures2019-03-27T22:27:29-04:00

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

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50) "Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne. Someone once said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written." My experience is far from this. I delight in writing. Many times in my life it has been the sole thing to keep me sane. As I write, the voices within and around me are orchestrated through my fingers, inspired by the Spirit, and guided by the Scriptures. My writing is by no means God's Word. It is one saintly sinner's attempt to say something that gives glory to God and uplifts God's people. I've been struggling to write this week. Daily devotions. Encouraging emails. Blog posts. Nothing is coming to me and it is terribly frustrating. Often when I have struggled in the past, I draw from current experience. What have I found joyful? What [...]

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder2019-03-03T20:09:31-04:00

Meet Rev. Tony Roberts, Faith & Mental Health Advocate

On January 7, 2019, I was introduced to the staff at St. Peter's Lutheran (Columbus, IN) as their new Faith & Mental Health Advocate. This position is both an extension of what I do with Delight in Disorder ministries, and a big step forward for St. Peter's. I believe God will bless us both and others as we work together. Why is such a position needed? In spite of perceived improvements in the mental health care system, we still have a long way to go. St. Peter's already has a staff of quality, trained counselors responding with Christian care to the needs of many with emotional, relational, and behavioral issues. Pastors, principals, teachers, a social worker, support staff, and volunteers work hard to better understand those impacted by a mental illness. My role will not be to replace any of them, but to enhance what they are already doing with insights [...]

Meet Rev. Tony Roberts, Faith & Mental Health Advocate2019-01-09T20:47:33-04:00

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire

2018 began with modest expectations. It is ending with endless possibilities. Along the way, God has blessed me with new new opportunities, new friends, a new life partner. I still experience chaotic mood swings that require diligent treatment such as medication and therapy; but with a caring network of family and friends and a strong connection to Christ's body, my sanity is maintained and I can contribute to the common good. Most particularly I offer friendly counsel to those like me who have troubled minds by sharing the inspiration of God's word and the encouraging Way of Christ. Now that the year is winding down, I thought it would be good to look back at the journey. Below I have 12 featured posts (one/month) with a brief excerpt. The titles contain a link to the posts. I hope you will review these and enjoy reading through the blessings of 2018. [...]

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire2018-12-30T15:38:54-04:00

Honoring God by Loving Others

One of my faithful readers sent me some thoughtful questions. First -- How does one differentiate between experiencing emotional turmoil in their life, and experiencing mental health issues that may require additional aid? (Medicine, Therapy, etc) This points to a very difficult and sometimes controversial distinction in mental health care. Some people are sad by virtue of their circumstances. Time, while it may not remove the sadness, helps to heal. Others, however, have chronic depression that can incapacitate them for weeks, months, even years at a time. Some become anxious in social situations. With the help of proper relaxation techniques, they can face their fears and persist. Others have acute panic attacks that are often confused with heart conditions. Some persons are moody, experiencing highs and lows that seem beyond what is normal. Others have debilitating lows and dangerous highs. How can we determine who is in emotional turmoil and [...]

Honoring God by Loving Others2018-11-15T18:30:24-04:00