“A person without self-control
is like a city with broken-down walls.”
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7
There is no harder subject for me to broach than this one. It splits wide open a Number 10 “can of worms.” The issue is this: what is my mental illness, and what is my “flesh?” I suffer from Bipolar Disorder (and a mild form of epilepsy). But I am also an evangelical Christian believer.
So what is what? If this BP is causing extreme behavior, am I somehow exempt from the control of the Holy Spirit in my life? (Now this maybe easy for some of you to figure out, but I’m still contemplating here. Please bear with me on this.) I like things explained to me.
People are very complicated, and there are seldom any lines drawn between emotion/spirit/body. At any given time we all operate on different levels. For instance, my body maybe cold; but I’m praying quite fervently in the spirit. I can have a toothache and be really angry at Lynn (my wife). I never feel the need to analyze these actions.
Having zilch self-control is one of many bipolar symptoms. Believe me, my life has been completely devastated by snap decisions that carry terrible implications. I also habitually excuse my impulsive behavior by…
- compartmentalizing, (categorizing everything as different)
- rationalizing, (reasons behind ‘bad’ behavior)
- and justifying my bad choices, (The devil made me do it).
My Bible tells me that the Holy Spirit is present to give me self-control. I believe this truly. But way too often (actually, most of the time) I’m focusing on trying to eliminate the negatives like bingeing, isolating, obsessing or plotting. I completely ignore the positives, like worshipping, praying, reading devotionally, or fellowshipping.
The vaunted “fruit of the Spirit” cannot be found in my carnal life. (If I may, allow me to change metaphors on you.) Suppose you had a real nice car sitting in your drive-way. It’s a real beaut. But since you don’t have the key, you must push it to make it go. It’s really tiring and you feel like giving it up all the time. (A trip to the store takes hours and hours.)
Silly you say? Yes. But no sillier than trying to live a Christian life without the Holy Spirit. You see its his presence that allows you to live an impossible Christian life. My mental illness causes me a lot of grief. It affects me tremendously, as well as my friends and family. I must take meds to ease the worst of its disturbing symptoms. But there is supernatural help.
16 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
Galatians 5:16-17, NLT
To be guided into the “fruits of the Spirit” is imperative (see Gal. 5:22-23). We’ve a tendency to accentuate the “deeds of the flesh” to our own detriment. As mentally ill people we must turn this on its head and invite the Holy Spirit to energize us.
My BP symptoms are no match for His presence. If anything they force me to helplessly call out to Him. This is a supernatural transaction that is mandatory to becoming Christlike. My physical weakness can be the backdrop for walking out convincing discipleship. Trust me, to live like a “receiver” is far better than trying to live like a “generator.” (But you probably already knew that.)