Brutal Honesty: Self-Control


“A person without self-control
    is like a city with broken-down walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

“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.)


Author: Pastor Bryan Lowe

A repentant rascal with definite issues, but who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher. A brain tumor survivor. Diagnosed with clinical depression, and now disabled. Enjoys life, such as it is, in Alask.a (Actually I have it pretty good.)

4 thoughts on “Brutal Honesty: Self-Control”

  1. I try to remember to pray daily that the Holy Spirit will gift me his gifts. It’s a struggle for all of us, not just those with illness that causes loss of self control. But it is harder for many. I believe the Holy Spirit will give his gifts as we ask and the foundation is Him and his love for God and others which eventually leads to the last, self control. Impossible to do on my own. Thank you, Pastor Brian. It is a reminder for me.


  2. Your post has touched me today also. Thank you for writing. Yesterday was so good up until my oldest son had some weird episode and wigged out on me just before bed. We still haven’t spoken about it this morning and it is going to have to be about respect (of me) and self control.


  3. I live with a BP/schizophrenia/narcissistic person. Both of us are committed believers. Can totally relate to your post. I have the role of ‘caretaker’ in their life and it is a constant mental/emotional juggling act to know what to address and what not to address. It is tiring for both of us. Thanks for your post Bryan.


  4. Good word. :) Thank you for your transparency. I also suffer from BP, not as sever but I can totally relate with where you’re coming from with this post.


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