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Home > 2014 > April Online Only > Delight in Disorder

In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church in Northeastern Pennsylvania. One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words:

When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives.

The next day, I was in the seclusion room of Clarion psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"Prophetic" prognosis

Over the coming weeks, I was told I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. That was the prognosis for my illness. Some on my treatment team and in my faith community seemed to steer me toward such a "prophetic" outcome as if it were divine will.

I was advised by ministry supervisors to label my diagnosis a form of depression (not technically a lie) because manic-depression (as it was commonly called then) was often envisioned as a recipe for doing the "thorazine shuffle" for the rest of your life in bunny slippers, with permanent bed-head.

Yet, in spite of the fear of that stigma, God's grace was abundant. In the face of chronic mental illness, divine healing started to kick in—not through relief of my symptoms, but through the prayers, support, and encouragement of family and friends, particularly those within the church.

Having experienced God's delight with my community in the midst of my disorder, I can say with confidence that the church can be a place of healing for those with mental illness. It has been that for me. My story is not the story of many, however. Many with troubled minds feel abandoned, rejected, and shunned by the church.

After returning to work, I visited an elderly woman, a long-time member of the church who had suddenly stopped coming to worship. She greeted me at the door with a scowl. "I thought Christians weren't supposed to get depressed." "Well," I said, "There were certainly many godly people in the Bible who did."

I then opened my Bible, and read:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"
(Psalm 42:1-3)

She started tearing up. "I've been depressed all my life. I was taught it was wrong."

Moving toward healing

How do we as a faith community move forward so that folks with a serious mental illness (like me) move toward healing? ...

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Posted: April 28, 2014

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Solomon Olaoye

May 18, 2014  5:33pm

The thief comes to steal, kill & destroy; but Jesus came to give us life, abundant life. That is His promise and it cannot fail. Let us continue to stand on His truth which is constant in the face of changing facts of life being manipulated by the devil and his agents. The WORD is more powerful as God has magnified His Word above His name. Constantly confessing the word of faith plus prayers to break generational curses and/or demonic strongholds like the one prayed for the lady in the comment by Rick Dalbey will go a long way to help and heal the sick. What Jesus did when He came is what we are to do now by His grace & mercy. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit yokes will be broken. Luke 4:18 James 5:13-16

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Rick Dalbey

May 06, 2014  12:39pm

My wife's family has manic Depression in it, my wife was bi-polar and divorced me at a low point. My daughter was doing the thorazine shuffle, on powerful antipsychotics. She and her husband attended a small charismatic home meeting. They spent some time with her one evening, laid hands on her, prayed for healing and broke any generational curses or demonic strongholds. She was instantly healed! It was astonishing. No more drugs, no more Psychiatrists, no more voices or delusional thoughts. She got pregnant a year ago and had a normal delightful girl (they named Amelia Joy). Now they are active in their church and ministering to others. God doesn't always do it the same way every time, but I believe in the power of healing for today!

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