Mentally Ill Christians Can Do Ministry

 

“Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than spiritual life.”

Mike Yaconelli

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.” 

                                                                C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

People with mental illnesses, for the most part, have been diverted underground.  We have been pushed into hiding our true identity;  we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules—their rules. 

We are expected to censor ourselves and say appropriate things at the right time.  Pharisees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [I am not picking on anyone, just a generality.]

If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic, or desperate I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything.  “Truth?  You can’t handle the truth?”, [a line from some movie.]  But if we use our shortcomings as credentials, we have the ability to speak about grace, love, and of self-acceptance, with real authority. 

Christians with mental illnesses have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church.  The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers.  He places us as we are suffering in strategic places. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace. 

If our fellowships become religious, it is usually because of our weaknesses, we have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture.  If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere.  We are not welcome. 

But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine! 

Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness.  Those who receive us, receive Him.  Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it?  It’s interesting to note that those who do not believe yet have often used “legalism” as the touchstone for their evaluation.

I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open.  That we become transparent toward others.  As we do this, we can oh-so-gently guide our fellowships into true grace and love.  They look at me and they see Jesus. 

And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church. 

9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

10 “So because of Christ,  I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

                               2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (HCSB)

Dear friend, the gospel is either radical, or it is nothing.

 

Everything is Broken

I’m really sad today.  There are just too much hurts, too many casualties, too many victims.  Job’s own reflection was that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [not really sure I know what the last part means, but the first part is perfectly clear].

We are all citizens of this fallen world.  It seems we go through life like a bull in a china shop.  We don’t move very gracefully and we break a lot of things just trying to move through it.  No matter how hard we try we always make a mess of it. I’d like to think of it as moving through life sideways. We go through life crashing and smashing.

There is no place in the Bible where God promises us a “trouble-free” journey to heaven, a journey without pains, hassles and the problems of life.  If you are hearing anything else, I strongly suggest finding another voice to listen to.

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.”

— Michael Yaconelli

We all have flawed lives.  Everything gets tangled up and really messy. This is the normal life of being in ministry of some kind.

Our very best efforts give us little hope at resolving these things.  We are agitated by our personal failure and we often feel God is angry with us.  The really hard part is the incessant voices from the sidelines that announce our failures and flaws to everyone. Satan has a cruel and a vicious ministry of hate targeted at you.

Yet these terrible things are redeemed by the Holy Spirit.  He loves failures and weaklings.  When we finally realize we are flawed, he then places something real into our hearts.  In our weakness we finally become strong.  We become authentic.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  (Matthew 5:4).

Be kind to everyone today, to each person you meet. For all of us are fighting a difficult battle. Please, be kind out there.

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The ‘Insignificant’ Church

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“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability. They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.

For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.

We are the weak and fallen

But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time? We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.

But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.

After 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry,) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.) I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

His love is completely undeserved. It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.

It is a relationship and not a religion. We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy. We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.

All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.

I must tell you that God loves you insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.

You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship.

We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken. We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.

There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.

“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “

They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)

A brother who is incredibly loved,

Bryan

I have a new site and I hope you visit: redletterstudy.wordpress.com

Our Very Real Treasure

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As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness, depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life.  So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and then change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. We have hidden our issues really well.
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But I would submit to you that it is we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness. We have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.
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You might say that the Church needs us. An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop said this, “These are the treasures of the Church, these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”
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I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately weak. It’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus.
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Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.
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