Sunday, September 28, 2014


To help us empathize with mental sufferers, think about the disciples facing the fear of losing Jesus. Their security was threatened by the words of Jesus. The one who they had learned to trust was now speaking to them about disconnecting from them. The future suddenly looked very grim. As we process the emotions and thoughts of these disciples, we can see dread and foreboding grief. Let’s use this as a model of depression, anxiety and exaggerated emotional norms. We trusted God but now we are in great turmoil with shrinking hope.

John 16:
16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 

The disciples heard Jesus telling them that he would leave for a time, but would be coming back. His reminders to them eventually cause them to ask what was the meaning in this. As the forecast of suffering increases, they may have still trusted Jesus, though the questions would be increasing. Faith is in tension with fear. How horrible they must have felt when the darkness increased and they saw Jesus arrested, crucified and buried. How could this happen?

The faith to believe that they would see him again would have evaporated from the well of their souls. The hope of seeing Jesus again is crushed into half of the truth—you will not see me.

Mental suffering often includes the death of faith as you knew it. God must be dead because he did not help me. God may be powerful, but God is not with me. I must have failed to please God and now I am being punished.

How can we help the one who suffers in this way? First, we must acknowledge that there is an inability to control their thoughts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Faith is a two-sided coin. One side is having something to reach for and hope in. The other side of faith involves learning to trust when suffering, loss and fear rush in. 

Though, mental illness is often a physical problem rooted in the brain chemistry, it has spiritual symptoms.

Christians in particular often experience guilt, fear and shame when their mind is not working well. Most know that poor eyesight requires glasses and diabetics need to take their insulin. But the maladies of the mind seem to cause us to question God and our faith. It’s a physical problem, but it has spiritual symptoms.

We can all take comfort in seeing the challenges of Bible characters that suffered physically, mentally and in every way imaginable. As Rielly McLaren said, ‘You are in good company.’

Writer and mental health advocate Andy Behrman has suffered with manic depression. He said,

The guilt I felt for having a mental illness was horrible. I prayed for a broken bone that would heal in six weeks. But that never happened. I was cursed with an illness that nobody could see and nobody knew much about.[i]

Mental pain can actually be worse than physical pain. As much as it can happen, the sufferer needs to let others come alongside them in the darkness and uncertainty of their pain. Sometimes, you have to go along with the wisdom of others bringing you to help, before you can walk on your own again.

Monday, September 22, 2014


In our response to suffering people, we need to understand that there is a complex matrix of things at work and make room for every kind of support, patience, diagnosis and healing practices. We should pray for them. We need to patiently comfort and grieve. We should make sure they get medical treatment and suitable counselling when they are ready.

You cannot talk a person out of a chemical imbalance. In our desire to rescue, we sometimes try to do just that.

For people of faith, a vitally important question is this: ‘Where is God when I cannot feel him and my mind is in a very dark or confused place?’

Why do those who suffer with depression in particular lose their capacity to pray, read Scripture, find hope in God and the comfort of fellowship? All of these are essentially spiritual activities to encourage us, but seem out of reach to the depressed individual. This certainly points to an oppressive darkness that has a spiritual component.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ self-description as the Great Shepherd.

John 10:
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

What good is this picture to a person who is too weak to pray and hope? They may not see themselves as being in the fold or anywhere in proximity to this good shepherd.

It is important not to overly sentimentalize the image given here. This is not a portrait of a kindly man holding cuddly lambs. “Good” (Gk. kalos) can just as well be translated “noble.” The shepherd’s job was severe, tiring, and hazardous.[i]

Sometimes we need to see Jesus in a fiercer light. When the sufferer feels like the lost sheep, they need the shepherd who knows of their anguish and danger. In the broken place, there is no apparent way to get back and no energy to save themselves.

Luke 15:
4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

The one suffering alone may not identify with the good shepherd back watching over the healthy ones. But, the lost one needs the good shepherd who enters the wilderness searching in dark, treacherous places for them.

Jesus shows us that God is more compelled to work with the one who is suffering than the one who thinks they are healthy and safe from all harm. In the matters of the mind, the one suffering faces great peril.

Know that the darkened state of the soul is not the intended permanent state of your mind. The tough shepherd can still find you and bring you back across the rocky miles to the safe place.

[i] NIV Application Commentary

Friday, September 19, 2014


When it comes to understanding strange behaviour there is plenty of controversial speculation about how the Devil is involved. 

There may be two extremes in this regard—one that does not accept the reality of evil and the other that ascribes too much blame to dark forces.

I remember a man who worked with people with exceptional needs telling me that he thought a particular individual must be possessed to make such strange gestures. Out of his need to explain the unexplainable, he gave the Devil credit.

We see the word lunatic used in the King James Version of the bible to describe some people that Jesus encountered.

Matthew 4:24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

Matthew 17:
14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

If we accept the reality of evil forces at work in the universe, we must ask how they affect humanity. The Scriptures do tell us about the Devil’s strategies. Jesus described himself as a shepherd who stayed at the gate of fold to protect his people from the Enemy.

John 10:
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Peter, who was once warned by Jesus that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat, later was known to say,

1 Peter 5:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 

Peter knew first hand how the enemy could affect the mind with crippling fear. Peter knew how the mind could play tricks on you and how the devil could convince you of great falsehood.

It is not fair to say that a mentally ill person is possessed by the Devil. But, it is very possible that in the vulnerability of their condition, the Soul Enemy goes to work to bring a crushing load of accusation, shame and destruction. The debilitated mind is not in a state of sobriety where it can process thoughts in a healthy manner.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Doctor Grant Mullen[i] is a Canadian doctor who has worked extensively with mood and anxiety disorders. As he has treated countless people, his own faith has led him to stretch beyond the paradigm of his clinical training.

He describes mental health as being part of a larger connection of influence in the emotional wellbeing of a person. How do we get free in our thoughts when we experience emotional bondage?

There are 3 giant links in this chain that must be broken if one is to come to emotional freedom.

The three links are:

-Physical illnesses of thought control (chemical imbalances)
-The harassment of Satan (demonization)
-Personality injury (woundedness) 

Treating people in the complex matrix of mental anguish requires recognition of all the factors.

Physiologically, chemical and hormonal imbalances can be treated with medicine. If the only issue is of this kind, you may be able to apply medical treatments and achieve satisfactory healing or equilibrium.

Often, medicine must be combined with counselling to respond to the personality injury. The way that we have been emotionally wounded in life greatly affects our mental health.

In his practice, Doctor Mullen became aware that even some of his non-delusional patients would experience phenomena that seemed to indicate the presence and influence of evil beings. Was the devil at work in some of his patients? What we see as demonic activity in the gospels—is that happening today? Or is that a superstitious, primitive way to assign blame for natural causes?

We will explore the effects of spiritual darkness on one's mental health.

Blog Archive