Thinking About Mental Illness

“The Thinker” bronze statute, by Rodin, c.. 1880

“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)

Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead, I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith that is becoming real at long last.

This really isn’t a “one and you’re done” experience.

The Bible describes a slow growth into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).

This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill Christian believer:

  • Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that come with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family, and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship.  It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not being with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time. 
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
  • Marriage—  A good spouse is often key to managing your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping your discipleship to Jesus. 
  • Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonder!)
  • Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
  • Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally, there is someone who understands my battle.
  • Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, do not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heartbeat” of heaven.

We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.

This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should add to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him for over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace.

He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

— Alan Redpath

These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend, or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6, Message

 

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Grabbing On to Psalm 27

This is a bit of a longish post. My apologies.

This post is a perfect Psalm for broken believers and rascals–those who struggle to believe. We can understand because we each have encountered very difficult things–hard things. So buckle up, here are my comments on Psalm 27. I really hope that they might help you through your personal mess:

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
    ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
    fall flat on their faces.

Man alive, we tolerate so much darkness. But the believer understands that God not only chooses him/her, but protects them. And yes, there is going to be a difficulty, that much I understand. I can’t or won’t sugarcoat this.

“Vandal hordes;” and “bullies and toughs” are motivated by darkness–Satan’s kingdom. The psalmist David sees trouble up ahead, he’s very real here and definitely not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ optimist. But he’s very much convinced of their defeat.

When besieged,
    I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
    I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.

There exists a place of safety for David. He’s being blasted by the enemy, but in that place, he finds “calmness.” He’s protected and wears spiritual body armor. Wearing that we discover that he’s bullet-proof, for he wears a vest of spiritual steel.

The house of God is crucial, and he wants to live in it, to “contemplate” the wonder of the Spirit of God. David sees it as his castle that stands in resistance against all those who want to destroy him. And believe me, it is his complete focus.

He injects the word “study” which tells us that he’s found Someone that teaches him the things he needs.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
    above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
    that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
    I’m making music to God.

Outside the Church, there is very little that can protect a straying believer. David is very much aware that the world is a noisy place (v. 55). But he knows that the very presence of God is a place of quiet and security, it’s “the perfect getaway,” that exists for everyone who believes.

Worship is critical here.

I think it not only exalts and glorifies God but it also is the best way of protecting himself. David is exuberant here, he can hardly contain himself! Perhaps we really don’t understand–it seems rather excessive–may be too zealous for us.

In v. 6 we see the spiritual effort of God holding David in place. He understands that there are many who are trying their best “to pull” him away from the security of God.

7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!

9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.

Wow! “the top of my lungs” is pretty intense. The passage speaks of seeking–that’s the key of this whole thing. To be an authentic seeker has to be a “heart” issue, and never a brain thing. Heart followers know the difference.

And the presence of God is David’s entire focus. There’s a very real plea for us as well. One of his petitions here is “don’t hide from me now.” As a New Testament guy, I know that it isn’t really possible. See John 14:15-17.

What incredible security we have!

If you’re struggling, like David did, you’re in good hands. Even though it seems like God is distant, He’s not. “God took me in” is a statement of real faith. David knows that the Father’s love is beyond the love of a father or mother.

And now the comes the finale!

11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
    direct me along a well-lighted street;
    show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
    those liars who are out to get me,
    filling the air with their threats.

13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.

“Point me” and “direct me” is David’s discipleship to his Father’s ways. He speaks of enemies (“dogs” and “liars”) who are trying very hard to destroy him. “Out to get me” is David’s assessment of the hard things that come.

David is convinced that God is always very good to him, he understands this. It’s the same for the NT believer, although Satan nips at our heels, God protects us–He’s on our side.

He exhorts us twice to “stay with God.”

Maybe that’s where a lot of issues come. “Don’t quit” is David’s plea. This is stated throughout Paul’s epistles written for us.

What a wonderful Psalm. So much security here (as well as the opposition). Psalm 27 is written to us rascals and inconsistent believers in Jesus. I exhort you to spiritually digest this passage. It’s yours!

Illustration: Solomon’s Temple. I’m using “The Message,” a translation by Eugene Peterson.

The Dangers of Porn

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.”

Matthew 5:8

“The righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger.”

Job 17:9

We live in a time when impurity threatens many men and women. Pornography is easily accessible in our generation. The internet is flooded with sites that’ll hurt believers. It will ruin our relationship with our heavenly Father. It affects our marriages and destroys our connection with others.

There is intense guilt that comes from using porn.

It covers us with a shame that hurts us deep inside, something detrimental to intimacy with our spouses, family, or friends, and as well with other believers. We’re guilty of hidden sin. Satan uses it to further isolate the Christian.

Porn causes us to be secretive. We want to hide it from others. We learn how to delete “cookies” on our computers. We want to hide the things we are doing. We must understand that using porn becomes addicting, it’s sort of crack cocaine to our spirits.

Masturbation is common to those viewing pornography.

Our view of naked men or women in sexual acts objectifies them. Subconsciously we start to evaluate our closest relationships. We compare others to the things we see.

  • It’s addictive. We can’t imagine life without it.
  • It seperates us from others. It begins to isolate us.
  • We have a secret life, hidden and masked.
  • Porn is easy to find, and it latches itself in our minds and hearts.
  • It often leads us into further and deeper perversions.
  • We see others as objects, not people who God loves.
  • It often leads one into a life of hypocrisy and deception.
  • Porn can lead one into masturbation and wrong relationships with others.
  • It weakens our God-ordained relationship with our spouses.
  • Viewing porn is a form of adultery.
  • We start to compare our spouse to the things we’ve seen.
  • It instills us with guilt and shame. It will destroy your discipleship.
  • The time we spend in porn can be better used for the Word, worship and prayer.
  • It desensitifies our relationship with God’s Spirit.

There’s so much more that can be added to this list. But this dear one is just a start. Perhaps you’ll discover more that should be added.

“I have made a covenant with my eyes.
How then could I look at a young woman?”

Job 31:1

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”

Philippians 4:8

Only the Spirit of holiness can make an impure heart pure. However, we must do the ‘leg work” and make it to free ourselves from this sin. Our minds and hearts are our battlefields. To recognize this constantly is necessary. We must take solid steps to take the victory He gives. I realize that the demonic forces are very intense, but God’s power is far stronger.

Your desire to be pure is evidence of God’s care and grace.

If you’re struggling it’s really helpful to share your problem with someone you trust. Becoming accountable will help. Please don’t be afraid of being judged. Quit lying to yourself (and others) that you can overcome this on your own. You can’t hide it any longer.

If you wish you can contact Linda or me. If anything we can pray.

“Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned?”

Proverbs 6:27


	

The Prayer of a Minor Prophet

A prayer by A.W. Tozer

Every now and then, I come across something that will not fit into the scope of Brokenbelievers. This is one of those times. I share it with my brothers and sisters who serve Jesus in any leadership capacity in the Church. I think it’s fitting that this be shared as we step into 2022. These are challenging times to serve him; but not dangerous–at least not yet.

The Prayer of a Minor Prophet was originally written on August 18, 1920. It still means a lot to ordained/non-ordained serving in the ministry. I suppose it still speaks to every leader in every Church. You may want to copy and keep this for those hard times that will come to each of us. Could it be that you might want to share this word with the leaders of your local fellowship?

The article was written on the day of Tozer’s ordination into the ministry.

O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou has called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou art about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, my Lord, Thou has stooped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man taketh this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

1897-1963

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine, but Thine. Thou has said, “I knew thee – I ordained thee – I sanctified thee,” and Thou hast also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou will honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should be come a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.

Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee, therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with Thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.

AMEN.

Written in 1950, Aiden Wilson Tozer was 23 years old when he was called to pastor a new church in Clarksburg, West Virginia. On August 18, 1920 at a campground a few miles outside Cleveland, Ohio, leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance scheduled an ordination service.

After the formal ceremony, Tozer slipped away from the crowd and found a quiet place to be alone with God. He never forgot what he prayed that evening and years later as the new editor for the Alliance Weekly, Tozer published his prayer in an article “For Pastors Only: Prayer of a Minor Prophet” (May 6, 1950).

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