A Slice of Bryan

slice-solutions-pie-pan-divider-creates-perfect-slices-4The ‘Annex’ is an out-patient facility providing support for the mentally ill in our community right here in Homer, Alaska. It is one of the service components of ‘the Center’ which oversees psychiatric services to our peninsula. There are full services for just about anything that might arise. This includes crisis issues that may happen on occasion. An on-call therapist is available 24/7.

The Annex is primarily a day ‘clinic’ that shuttles clients into a therapeutic environment. Therapy groups and ‘providers’ are available for almost 30 people who come in, (or not, as attendance is voluntary). But can become quite busy. A daily lunch is prepared, and activities are numerous. Each client has a case manager for counseling. (They are overworked in my humble opinion).

I’ve been attending for quite some time now, coming in two or three times a week. I’ve learned a lot by going. Socially, mental illness can be terrible, as you can imagine. I find I isolate myself; lapsing into bouts of bipolar depression.

The Annex is a means of ‘common grace’ for my beleaguered soul. People understand my quirkiness there. And although it is not a ‘Christian’ ministry, it often acts like one. I frequently feel more sensitivity and care from those who understand the ‘ins and outs’ of having a mental disorder than those in the Church. Now, I’m not bashing the ‘fellowship of the saints,’ I just know my time spent at the Annex connects with my specific personal needs.

I regard my time there as my ministry. 

Very few of my ‘friends’ have met a Christian believer who has a mental illness, much less a former pastor. I’m aware of being watched, or evaluated all the time. I endeavor to be both salt and light to these who have become ‘my ministry.’

I still have issues: Bipolar, Epilepsy, HCV. These are each in themselves significant, but together can make life a real challenge at times. But they make me aware of who is weak (me) and who is strong (God). I’m also learning that He loves “tax-collectors and notorious sinners.” Jesus welcomed these whom society scorned. If we follow him, won’t we do the same?

You matter. You matter very much to Him. Nothing you face “can separate you from the love of God, (Romans 8). Stop fretting about the things you can’t change, you are His intense concern. He fully intends to show His strength in your weakness,whatever that might be.

bry-signat (1)


Should I Take Medication?

by John Piper

What’s Your Take on Christians Using Antidepressants?

Pastor John Piper

In the end I’m going to say that there are times when I think it is appropriate, but I want to go there cautiously and slowly, with warnings.

Depression is a very complex thing. It’s got many layers. I think we all would agree that there are conditions in which nobody would deny that certain people are depressed in a pathological way, because they’re immobile. They’re not even able to function.

And then there’s a continuum of discouragements and wrestlings with having an ‘Eeyore-type’ personality, which may or many not be depressed.

So that means that I want to be so careful not to have a knee-jerk reaction. When you come into my office and describe to me your discouragements, I don’t want my first response to be, “See a doctor and get a prescription.”

I fear that is way too quick today. The number of people on antidepressants as a first course rather than a last course is large.

And the assumption is that you can’t make any progress in counseling unless you get yourself stabilized or something.

So I just want to be very cautious.

As a Christian who believes that Christ is given by the Holy Spirit to deliver us from discouragements and from unbelief and from sorrow and to help us live a life of usefulness, what makes me able to allow for antidepressants is the fact that medicine corresponds to physical realities.

And the physical realities are that we get headaches that make us almost unable to think. Migraine headaches can put a man out. And we are pretty much OK if the doctor can help us find some medicine that would not let us get these immobilizing headaches.

And the headaches clearly have a spiritual impact, because they’re making me unable to read my Bible and function in relation to people that I want to love and serve. And so medicine becomes spiritually effective in that way.

So we apply this principle that we all use to depression, and then the fact that the body is included in depression. Whether we should use the terms “chemical imbalances”—I’ve read both sides on that. Some people say that there is no scientific evidence for such a thing and others say that it is a given. Whatever. Everybody knows that there are physical dimensions to depression.

If that physical dimension could be helped by medicine—in the short run especially, sometimes long term—then I think, in God’s grace and mercy, we should take it as a gift from his hand.

© Desiring God, desiringGod.org

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

When Our Troubles Help Us Find Jesus

“When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death”.

John 4:47

Without his troubles, it would be highly improbable that this man would go find Jesus. His son is very ill, and close to dying. Undoubtedly the father has tried all of the conventional methods but to no avail. Somebody has mentioned that Jesus has just arrived in Galilee, and that remains the best option. He will find Jesus, the healer, and bring Jesus to his son.

Very often this is how it works for us. Life is good and there is no reason for us to go to Jesus. We’re content and reasonably happy with how things are going. But this man– a royal official, is desperate. Life has detonated in his face and he is completely undone. He is in a good place, although he can’t see it.

Believe it or not, our trials and troubles are often our wonderful guests.

Without these we would not look for Jesus. They are frightening and they are difficult, but they are necessary for us. Over the years, it is likely that this man has been insulated and protected from life’s difficulties. There has been nothing to cross him as his life unfolded. He believes that he has an immunity to suffering.

This official desperately seeks out Jesus. His son is dying. He must locate Jesus and bring Him back. He is frightened and frantic. Jesus is his only hope. But even this is not automatic.

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful- “severe mercies” at times, but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better”

Elizabeth Elliot

The answer is not what this man was looking for. He wanted Jesus to return to Capernaum with him, but instead Jesus decides to stay right where He is. Instead He speaks, and the boy is healed, long-distance. As we seek the Lord’s grace, forgiveness and healing into our own lives, and our family, let us let the Lord be the Lord. Let Him decide how to do it. This man simply trusted, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” But he would never, ever be the same.

For those of us afflicted, with either physical or mental disabilities, we discover Jesus who leads us into a special place. We may find ourselves serving others in a new way that our illnesses have opened.

“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of His grace, power and love.”  

Hudson Taylor