I have always loved to read. I was given books by my mother, and these books were like gold. I had been a avid patron of the library, but terrible at returning books. I had pretty much been branded as “persona non grata” by the librarians of my hometown library at the ripe old age of 12.
I have fond memories of some fine books. But perhaps the most influential of them all was a title called, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni. It won the ’68 Caldecott ‘back in the olden days.’ It very well could be one of best children’s books ever written. ( I realize now that many of these books that shaped me were prophetic in their own way.)
We see Frederick, who is a young field mouse, off on excursion to find food with his four brothers. They must fill their pantry for the cold winter that’s coming. They are quite successful (it appears) and all seems well.
However, there is a bit of a problem with Frederick. While the other mice are ‘busting their mouse-butts’ he sits quietly thinking. They question him repeatedly, trying to motivate him (or shame him perhaps?) There seems to be a general consensus against him, which is verging on open warfare.
But Frederick insists that he is needed to do this. He says that he is ‘working’. He is collecting sunlight, absorbing it until it’s needed. He takes in colors, and then words. He just seems soak up these really wonderful experiences, and he seems a bit “clueless” (that’s not the right word), maybe a bit “preoccupied.”
Finally in the dead of winter, sheltered deep underground, their supplies are running low. One of the mice turns to Frederick, and asks him to share what he has collected. And he does precisely that. They sit in a circle and Frederick shares the sunlight, and the rich colors and the beautiful words he has stored up for them. Their little ‘mouse-hearts’ are deeply touched by Frederick’s contribution.
In so many ways, this has become a parable, or metaphor of my life. As a eight year old, I could hardly have foreseen how my life would unfold. I do however had a deep sense of being different, even then. My mental illness, mixed with being “gifted”, and then combined with being isolated and dirt-poor, worked in me.
Essentially, we all are products of our personal history. What we have experienced good or bad develops us. It did me. I think what “Frederick” wants to do for us is to process uniqueness, gifting and steadfastness. One of the things that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me for the last few years is this, “Bryan, can you receive from the giftedness of other believers?”
We really must make room for “Fredericks” and what they can bring to us. We will be drastically weakened if we won’t– or can’t. Jesus faced a ton of resistance as He began to minister. There is nothing new about that. But it didn’t touch His spirit.
“Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”
“I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6, CEB
I was ‘saved’ in my early twenties. With that salvation came a sense of what really was true. And perhaps a real hope of what life could become. I’m now 55, I can only shake my head. It certainly has not been as rosy as I first thought. I blame myself, and go on to understand that maybe this is the way it was supposed to turn out.
But my walk with Jesus has been real. I haven’t given up on my pitiful faith and I haven’t apostatized. And yet I am aware of a confusion, and a disconnectedness that is a bit odd. I sort of realize that my soul has been hunted, and that I’m vulnerable.
But I can’t let go of Him who I call Savior. It certainly has not been easy. Sometimes it seems that I am perhaps the most troubled of all His followers. I’m sure some of you might understand.
You see, I have a disease called “loving Jesus” from which know I will never recover.
The promises that have been given to me can’t be diminished or revoked. He has dedicated Himself to reaching me. I’ve been told that He not only plucks me out of my darkness, but His intention is to heal and balance me. My confusion is not enough to sidetrack His will.
I don’t know what my future holds. But to be honest, I don’t anticipate anything magical, or some fantastically creative spirituality. I do not think things will suddenly get bright all of a sudden. But I can tell you this much, that I will never turn from His grace or goodness. I hang on them as a shipwrecked man clings to a log, out in the middle of the ocean.
I am most unorthodox, I know. I do not fit the mold of the average believer. I am too blunt, direct and disconnected. I have considerable issues, compounded by my mental illness. But I do know Jesus. He has come to save the broken-hearted, and come as a physician to a very sick soul. I trust Him to fix me. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul writes us:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
It seems we stand on the threshold of a real and authentic life. For some, we must work especially hard to understand this walk of authentic discipleship. Unquestionably, we must trust in His love. But being stable and established will not save us. (Although, it would be nice). Salvation has always been by grace through faith.
My dysfunctional life doesn’t incur His rejection, the opposite is true. He loves losers, and looks especially on losers who know they are very lost.
I especially want to encourage my brothers and sisters who struggle with a mental illness. You’ve been dealt a severe blow. Others will never understand your “limp.” But Jesus does. You have a gift to bring to the table. He can pour much more grace into you. Don’t be discouraged by the resistance coming out of your thinking. You are especially His. He holds you with a transforming love.
The following is Psalm 16:3 in several different versions. They differ from each other but all express the same fundamental thought. The variation is refreshing and allows for a stronger development of thought.
3 As for the saints who are on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” (NKJV)
3As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. (NASB)
3 The godly people in the land
are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them! (NLT)
No matter how we look at it, the Psalmist knows the value of other believers. He exults in their companionship and rejoices in their presence in his life. He knows that they have an excellence in them and about them. He savours all contact with them.
We could say the psalmist has struck gold. Whenever he has contact with them, good things start to happen. A joy is awakened in him and bubbles to the surface. ( This Psalm 16 should be read in its entirety, I am only pulling out a single verse because of the light within it.)
Friendship, or companionship is a critical necessity for us, especially when the momentum of our culture is towards isolation. I’ve been told of a certain kind of rock will begin to resonate, becoming warm in the presence of a rock of the same type. (IDK if this is true but it is a great story).
I need brothers and sisters to awaken me. As a man who struggles with physical and mental illness that connection brings me healing and wholeness. I in turn through this same connection transmit grace and wisdom to them (or whatever).
There is not a lot of things better, and more invigorating than coffee with a Christian friend. In heaven, there will be a Starbucks on every other corner serving up Vanilla Lattes for disciples wanting to visit and share their hearts (that is my personal theory anyway.)
The Psalmist puts our relationships into the light and evaluates them by the encouragement they bring. We need to have that awareness as we contact each other. As a “closet-hermit” I need that extra push. I would anticipate or even expect it.
The Holy Spirit works in the specific area of relationships. That is His strength and forte’. I believe that the way the Kingdom of God works, flows and advances is in large part because of godly relationships. The more we cultivate them, the more the Church grows.
This should supply direction and dialogue on the issues faced by every church member. It is a great opportunity we have been given— to minister to every person in the Body of Christ. —Bryan
by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press —
Living with depression — or any other form of mental illness — is like viewing life “through a glass darkly,” according to Jessy Grondin, a student in Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. “It distorts how you see things.”
Like one in four Americans, Grondin wrestles with mental illness, having struggled with severe bouts of depression since her elementary-school days. Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness, along with bipolar disorder, another mood-altering malady. Other forms of mental illness include schizophrenia and disorders related to anxiety, eating, substance abuse and attention deficit/hyperactivity.
Like many Americans with mental illness, Grondin and her family looked to the church for help. And she found the response generally less-than-helpful. “When I was in the ninth grade and hospitalized for depression, only a couple of people even visited me, and that was kind of awkward. I guess they didn’t know what to say,” said Grondin, who grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Alabama.
Generally, most Christians she knew dealt with her mood disorder by ignoring it, she said. “It was just nonexistent, like it never happened,” she said. “They never acknowledged it.” When she was an adolescent, many church members just thought of her as a troublemaker, not a person dealing with an illness, she recalled. A few who acknowledged her diagnosed mood disorder responded with comments Grondin still finds hurtful. “When dealing with people in the church … some see mental illness as a weakness — a sign you don’t have enough faith,” she said. “They said: ‘It’s a problem of the heart. You need to straighten things out with God.’ They make depression out to be a sin, because you don’t have the joy in your life a Christian is supposed to have.”
A Baylor University study revealed that among Christians who approached their local church for help in response to a personal or family member’s diagnosed mental illness, more than 30 percent were told by a minister that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness. And 57 percent of the Christians who were told by a minister that they were not mentally ill quit taking their medication.
That troubles neuroscientist Matthew Stanford. “It’s not a sin to be sick,” he insists. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the doctoral program in psychology at Baylor, acknowledges religion’s longstanding tense relationship with behavioral science. And he believes that conflict destroys lives. “Men and women with diagnosed mental illness are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon possession, weak faith and generational sin,”
Stanford writes in his recently released book, Grace for the Afflicted. “The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.” As an evangelical Christian who attends Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, Stanford understands underlying reasons why many Christians view psychology and psychiatry with suspicion. “When it comes to the behavioral sciences, many of the early fathers were no friends of religion. That’s certainly true of Freud and Jung,” he noted in an interview.
Many conservative Christians also believe the behavioral sciences tend to justify sin, he added, pointing particularly to homosexual behavior. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association famously removed homosexuality from its revised edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As a theologically conservative Christian, Stanford stressed that scripture, not the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, constitutes the highest authority.
But that doesn’t mean the Bible is an encyclopedia of knowledge in all areas, and all people benefit from scientific insights into brain chemistry and the interplay of biological and environmental factors that shape personality. Furthermore, while he does not presume to diagnose with certainty cases of mental illness millennia after the fact, Stanford believes biblical figures — Job, King Saul of Israel and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, among others — demonstrated symptoms of some types of mental illness. “Mental disorders do not discriminate according to faith,” he said.
Regardless of their feelings about some psychological or psychiatric approaches, Christians need to recognize mental illnesses are genuine disorders that originate in faulty biological processes, Stanford insisted. “It’s appropriate for Christians to be careful about approaches to treatment, but they need to understand these are real people dealing with real suffering,” he said. Richard Brake, director of counseling and psychological services for Texas Baptist Child & Family Services, agrees. “The personal connection is important. Church leaders need to be open to the idea that there are some real mental-health issues in their congregation,” Brake said.
Ministers often have training in pastoral counseling to help people successfully work through normal grief after a loss, but may lack the expertise to recognize persistent mental-health problems stemming from deeper life issues or biochemical imbalances, he noted. Internet resources are available through national mental-health organizations and associations of Christian mental-health providers. But the best way to learn about available mental health treatment — and to determine whether ministers would be comfortable referring people to them — is through personal contact, Brake and Stanford agreed. “Get to know counselors in the community,” Brake suggested. “Find out how they work, what their belief systems are and how they integrate them into their practices.”
Mental-health providers include school counselors and case managers with state agencies, as well as psychiatrists and psychologists in private practice or associated with secular or faith-related treatment facilities, he noted. Stanford and Brake emphasized the vital importance of making referrals to qualified mental-health professionals, but they also stressed the role of churches in creating a supportive and spiritually nurturing environment for people with mental-health disorders. Mental illness does not illustrate lack of faith, but it does have spiritual effects, they agreed. “Research indicates people with an active faith life who are involved in congregational life get through these problems more smoothly,” Brake said.
Churches cannot “fix” people with mental illness, but they can offer support to help them cope. “The church has a tremendous role to play. Research shows the benefits of a religious social support system,” Stanford said. They stressed the importance of creating a climate of unconditional love and acceptance for mentally ill people in church — a need Grondin echoed. “There needs to be an unconditional sense of community and relationships,” she said. She emphasized the importance of establishing relationships that may not be reciprocally satisfying all the time.
People with mental-health issues may not be as responsive or appreciative as some Christians would like them to be, she noted. “Others need to take the initiative and keep the relationship established. People don’t realize how hard it can be (for a person with a mood disorder) to summon the courage just to get out of bed,” Grondin said. Christians who seek to reach out to people with mental illness need to recognize “they are not able to see things clearly, and it’s not their fault,” Grondin added.
Mostly, Christians need to offer acceptance to people with mental illness — even if they don’t fully understand, she insisted. “Just be present. Offer support and love,” Grondin concluded. “You won’t always know what to say. Just speak words of support into a life of serious struggles. That means more than anything.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.)
For more information: National Alliance on Mental Illness (800) 950-6264 Anxiety Disorders Association of America (240) 485-1001 Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (800) 826-3632 American Association of Christian Counselors (800) 526-8673 Stephen Ministries (314) 428-2600
“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”
Ephesians 4:25, NLT
I intend to be simple. I am worried and distressed by my own confusion and a simple disorientation about my own detachment to what is spiritual. I confess a trust in Him, but am wary of an evil attachment to things that take me away from Him. I know this sounds confusing, please bear with me.
I turn to Him, and yet I know that I know that a small part of me does not really belong to Him. I want to belong, but am conscious that I just don’t work into the Kingdom. I am a liability. I quickly will admit to some confusion, but I have no real intention to deceive anyone. I desperately want to be His, but I’m aware of issues that would defy such a connection.
I have an incredible infatuation with Jesus, and His teaching. He is the most amazing man to step out out of the ‘river’ of the human race. I see in Him so much, and deep down I want to fall on my knees and worship Him. The things He did are honestly the most sublime in the history of man. He is astonishing.
And yet, I continue to struggle. I see all of this and yet I’m confronted with my own issues. I know what I would like to be. But if I press, I begin to short-circuit. I do, certainly turn it over to Him. But I also am aware of a certain antipathy or rebellion (although that word seems too harsh) against the whole idea of grace. I can not figure ‘grace’ out. Grace perplexes me. It is the ‘Gordian Knot’ of the entire human race.
But I do connect with Him. My bipolar would quickly render me a traitor. I vacillate much more then the average person. Ultimately, I do turn and trust Him. He has led me to a wonderful place. If it is all a delusion, then so be it. But I will still believe in Him who gave Himself for me.
If that makes me a disciple, then so be it. But I know I am the least of His. I guess faith would venture more. But I scrape up all that I have and a saving hope it is enough. I look at the accounts of Him and am pretty much astonished. Jesus did things, consistently, above others before Him and after Him. He is quite exceptional.
I am a follower. I will struggle, and then have to deal with that sin. But I do believe and intend to keep believing. I only wish I was more consistent. I sometime wonder that in the “Book of Life’ if my name would include an asterisk. (“Made it, but by the skin on his teeth.”)
Don’t fret, I am under His hand. He deals with me, and fully intends to lead me, home. I so do want that. If on that Day, you hear someone hollering, it will be me back in the 715,426,488th row, shouting ‘I am finally here”, in the fellowship of heaven.
Some will understand this:
“He who has this disease called Jesus will never be cured.”
Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) is a condition of involuntary, repetitive movements of the jaw, tongue or other body movements. It frequently is a side effect of the long-term use of antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is almost always permanent. I’ve been told Vitamin E might help a bit. Benzodiazepines have also been used with mixed results on a short-term basis.
Some examples of these types of involuntary movements include:
Pursing of the lips
Excessive eye blinking
I recently was diagnosed as having TD after the use of Zyprexa. My version is my lower jaw moves from side-to-side, unless I concentrate on not doing it. I quickly revert to this involuntary movement when I’m not aware of it. I recently saw a video of myself (with my family) and sure enough there I was, doing the ‘jaw thing.’ It was very obvious. It was also very embarrassing. (I have the ‘lithium jitters’— where my hands always shake, but TD is different.)
There are a couple of things I might mention:
1) I’ve discovered that there is a real social isolation with this TD stuff. To be doing this in public is “not acceptable.” I have had people come up to me wanting to know what’s my problem. Since I can’t control the movement I just say, “It’s my meds— they affect me this way.” In a way it’s like wearing a neon sign saying, “I’m a fruit cake.” Having a mental illness is stigma enough, but the TD just puts a new edge on it.
2) As a natural introvert the isolation has only deepened. (I avoid crowds and most social engagements.) I guess if the truth be told, I’m uncomfortable when others look at me strangely or whisper to each other. My standard ‘paranoia level’ has taken a new twist. I feel like I’m always compelled to explain. I guess I’m embarrassed when others are embarrassed.
3) I settle myself down in my faith to cope. I know I’m not alone in this– the Lord Jesus is always with me. He holds me tight through all these twists and turns. Since I isolate myself so much, I savor the connection I have with a few friends who have become inured to my condition. Social media helps out— Facebook is a gift.
4) One of the things I try to remember are the issues of selfishness and pride. I keep reminding myself it’s not about me all the time. One of the significant areas mentally ill people deal with is self-absorbed thinking. It seems it comes with the illness.
5) I try to keep a sense of humor everyday. It breaks down the mental pain to tolerable levels. We can take ourselves too seriously sometimes. Be more patient with yourself.
I certainly ask that you remember me in prayer. I’m in ‘uncharted waters’ (it seems) and I sometimes feel all alone with my mental illness and all its tangents. I want good to come out of this. (An instantaneous healing would be o.k. too.)
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.
Romans 8:14-17, NLT
As mentally ill Christians, we are often a mixture of good and bad things regarding our faith.
The Good: we don’t have to be convinced of our sin. We live in a broken world, and we’re pretty sure that we have formidable issues. We’re needy.
The Bad: our consistency fluctuates from day-to-day. We never know what our state of mind will be. Some of us have problems socially that hinders us. Attendance at our local church is hard.
From one day to the next many of us struggle. The existence of this ‘flightiness’ is painfully evident. And it is hard to maintain anything, much less spiritual things. But I believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes an allowance, but even pours out extra grace on the afflicted believer. The Lord loves His misfits.
But we must put no confidence in our flesh. We do bounce around; our salvation is not of our own doing. We must seriously commit to the promises in the Word of God.
The engine must pull the other cars. We must look to the promises of God (the Bible) to stay on track. Both faith and feelings must come behind the engine. Some struggle a great deal because they are led by their feelings. Confusion will follow if we get the proper order mixed up.
First facts (the Bible),
and finally feelings.
The Word of God is our only safety. Even our faith is to be connected to the promises of God. For those with a disability, we are to link up to promises that God has made to us. When you encounter the truth we’re to hook up through our faith to them.
Read the Word: Psalms or the Gospels. I also draw much strength in the Book of Romans, chapter 5 through 8, especially.
We have been adopted by the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters. We are deeply loved by God Himself. He has gone and made us ‘heirs’ without any of our effort at all (Romans 8:14-17). These are examples of taking up the promises by faith. We are a people in need of stability. What God gives us is His own constancy. Read the Word, fresh just for you.
“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
2 Peter 1:4, NLT
“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.”