On Dealing with Mental Illness

If you’re here because you googled mental illness, you came to the wrong place. There are mental illnesses that need professional, medical treatment, and there’s others that require deliverance by Christians that are close to God and able to drive out demons.

I’m not talking about those mental illnesses. I’m talking about the ones that come from being human, which most of us don’t realize are mental illnesses.

This is a little more light-hearted than most of my posts, but no less important in my eyes.

Swollen head Syndrome

God’s called me to a be a teacher. He’s given me a gift. Sometimes that means it’s really easy to teach and really easy to know what God’s saying. Sometimes that means that people walk away saying wonderful things about me, and other times they just walk away amazed, just a little bit more open to God in their lives.

I don’t want to talk about being a teacher. I want to talk about what it took for me to write the last paragraph.

Just saying that God called me to be a teacher sets off alarm bells inside. Numerous parts of me start speaking:

  • The part that catalogs what other people think so that I can make sure to follow all the rules for life says, "That’s not a very humble thing to say."
  • The part of me that is scared of what other people think—the part that wants me to follow polls like a politician—says, "Think of a way to tell them you’re a teacher http://rosecreekvillage.com/shammah/wp-admin/post.php?post=837&action=edit&message=1to get your point across, but find some words that make you look humble."
  • The part of me that wants to affect what other people think of me, says, "Be bold! You can’t be humble by acting humble, anyway. Cross lines fearlessly, like all those guys you admire, and then maybe others will admire you, too!"

All that happens inside me in a split second.

Shrunken Head Syndrome

Worse, I’d love to acknowledge that I’m astounded at the revelation God gives me sometimes. It comes down from heaven, fills me with joy, makes my insides quiver, and always gives me power to dispel anything that comes up against what I’m saying. When that revelation comes, I can see inside of people, and it’s no problem cutting right to the center of a matter, nor to speak fearlessly yet with care and compassion.

That’s a gift of God. It’s incredibly delightful, and I think it’s a good thing to talk about because every one of us has a gift from God like that, and every one of us can experience the thrill and the inexplicable confidence that comes from operating in that gift.

But it’s exceptionally difficult to talk about the gift of God in me.

The fact is, when it’s happening, it’s very easy to be really, truly proud in a sinful way.

But then, afterward, this other gift of mine rises up. It’s the ability to condemn, and especially to condemn myself.

"Got arrogant again today, didn’t you? There’s people who ask you now and then just who you think you are, and they saw you today, puffed up and full of pride. Today, they know they’re justified in paying no attention to you because they’re right. You’re too big for your breeches."

The voice goes on:

"And what do you have to be proud of, anyway? It’s not like you deny yourself the way Hudson Taylor did. Are you scraping aside every bit of extra money? How about selling your furniture for missions support like Carol Vezey did? Amy Carmichael had her eyes set on the Gospel all the time. She wasn’t unmoved, and she sure wasn’t spending any time thinking she just gave a wonderful message. She was too busy being spiritual."

Your Voices

Do you ever go through that kind of thinking?

I’m 49. I’ve been walking with God for 28 years. I’ve paid a lot of attention the advice that’s been given me over the last 28 years in hopes of overthrowing those voices and thinking properly.

And I’ve found an answer.

The answer is that there is no answer.

No, the answer is that no answer is needed.

My mind’s going to be like that forever. Maybe it’s a mental illness. I’ve lived long enough, though, to know that if it’s a mental illness, it’s a mental illness that afflicts a lot of people.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Those voices make a lot of noise, and it’s slightly uncomfortable, and sometimes I feel bad for a little while, but those voices don’t deceive me. I know what’s right, and if I ignore what I feel about a situation and do what I know to be true about a situation, those voices don’t get in the way of that.

By the way, I’m not talking about really hearing voices. I heard voices for a couple years as a teenager after doing some LSD, and it took the prayers of the saints for those voices to go away … and they didn’t go away without a fight, nor without my choosing to do what’s right.

A 2nd-century Christian once wrote, "The evil demons … subdue all who do not put up a strong opposing effort for their own salvation." (Justin, First Apology 14). Don’t think that it’s all about God’s call. There’s God’s call, but he only chooses those who take the kingdom of heaven with violent effort.

The answer God has given me is to ignore all those thoughts and feelings. Who cares if I’m insecure, shaken by circumstances, and my feelings are driven around by what others think about me? My job is to ignore all that and get about my business serving God. I’m too busy to spend time fixing inadequacies that are impossible to fix, anyway.

What would be worse is if I used them as excuses.

To this day the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. Maybe God will deliver you from your insecurities, but he’s never delivered me from mine, nor from the utterly ridiculous thoughts that accompany them.

I don’t argue with those thoughts, anymore. I just ignore them, and I get on about my business.

You need to do the same because I’m pretty sure God thinks you can rise up and serve him despite how you feel.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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8 Responses to On Dealing with Mental Illness

  1. Kitty says:

    Yea it helps me. golly. Praise God that we can do this together. It is amazing the way our minds work, so complex, we can laugh or cry. I am learning to laugh. Thanks be to our friends that God gave us. I always feel as thou I was the man laying in a stretcher outside where Jesus was teaching, my friends lifted me to roof and made a hole in it and lowered me in front of Our Lord for Him to heal me. Thank you friends. Our minds take so long to mend and heal. Thanks Shammah for being one of those friends.

  2. I debated to reply or not…did! The Bible says to bring every thought captive to Jesus, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds-to become new, bold creatures in Christ seeking God of an urgency…
    Our human nature is at constant odds with the divine because human nature is selfish not God centred. Confusion results when our focus shifts from God. Simple or complex-decision is ours. The Bible is my ultimate authority. Read it and be transformed…to be in the world not of it. With Secret Power (Holy Spirit) guidance- there is clarity and discernment of all truth.

  3. jeremiahbriggs says:

    Looking forward to having you back here. Hope you have a safe trip.

  4. Pingback: My Kind of Violence -or- Disposable Jesus? « "And now… it is your block of wood."

  5. John Cullimore says:

    Yeah, this stuff, especially from a trusted teacher, helps all of us out tremendously.

    I especially was inspired by the ending and the thought of us violently going after God.

    I'm posting about that tomorrow…

    Thanks friend!

  6. Jennie S. says:

    It's funny to imagine what angels must think of us, as they see our 'utter ridiculousness' . It must be pretty amazing though, to see what happens when we walk by faith. I hear you, in between the voices in my own head 🙂

    • shammahbn says:

      Thank you, Jennie. I wrote that post 3 days ago, and I scheduled it for today. Then I considered deleting it for 3 days, worried about looking stupid or, worse, weak. It took everything I had to take a deep breath, let what I think God wanted me to write go up, and risk looking weak or silly publicly.

      • Jennie S. says:

        Well, you just look human. And I can really relate. Here's one example: I'm proud because I'm humble; no, I'm humble because I'm proud; no, wait, I'm proud because I'm humble…Oh, Lord, help me!!!

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