EMAIL INTERVIEW for the upcoming show on faith with Michael Sanders BTh, MA
Maladaptive Daydreaming- Faith Interview
ME: Intro: give any information you want on yourself, background, contact, website, etc. Anything you want to share.
Michael: Michael Sanders BTh, MA; Biblical Counselor; Association of Biblical Counselors; Director Bruised Reeds Ministries, Sheepdog ;-}
ME: 1. It seems faith communities continue to turn a deaf ear to those who suffer from mental illness. From biblical times they have regarded it as a punishment from God or a demonic attack. What are your thoughts on these assumptions?
Michael: We have to accept that some of what we classify as “mental illness” can very well be either demonic activity or a punishment from God (for unbelievers) or even a trial from God (for believers). But we can’t afford to assume anything before we carefully discern what is before us.
The bottom line is that there is “mental illness” – even just “illness” because the creation is subjected to the corruption of the Fall. So, sin is at the root of all “illness” but not necessarily the specific sins of the specific individual. I like to say – “I take full responsibility for my depression – and i want to thank all those who helped me achieve it!”
Fundamentally what we call “mental illness” is a condition which has either a physical cause (neuro-chemical imbalance) or a “psychological” cause – severe or long term trauma – usually.
In the case of a chemical imbalance of dis-function the appropriate medication can be a real blessing in restoring the balance – but not “healing” it. In the case of “psychological” conditions medication may be of short-term assistance but the key here is compassionate and biblical restoration of the mind and the heart.
Faith communities not only turn a deaf ear – but they often turn their backs on folks dealing with either form of “mental illness” BTW – I hate the term “mental illness” as it is not very clear. One either has a medical condition or a psychological condition. Certainly the “mind” or mentality is affected but some of the most brilliant and insightful people I know suffer from one of these conditions or the other.
Why do not faith communities take good care of these folks? Well, it can be messy, difficult, frustrating, and even scary. But these communities have no real problem with other “messy” circumstances – so why shun “mental illness?”
It’s hard work – with no prospect (except a miracle) of a “cure” so it’s a long-term ministry. The big thing is that the faith communities have no idea what to do – they feel an unrealistic responsibility to make it “better” when that is not always going to happen.
Remember – when we talk “psychological” we’re actually talking about the “soul” – the Greek word for soul is psuche. We know how to care for a reasonably healthy “soul” but a deeply wounded one – the faith communities at at a total loss. Now, add to that a medical factor and the communities are at an even greater loss.
It’s interesting but some of the best works on ministering to these folks is found in the writings of the old Puritans. Richard Sibbes’ books, “Bruised Reeds” and “The Soul’s Conflict With Itself,” are real treasures of insights and understanding. Example: At one point Sibbes writes about the “melancholy” (that’s clinically depressed_ believer and basically says not to worry about not being able to “cheer them up,” they’re depressed.
OK – a little tongue in cheek here – the Church worries about the “roots,” she worried about the “branches,” but she’s not so concerned with the “nuts.” She just lets them fall to the ground.
“Mental illness” is messy – behaviors can be disturbing, confrontations can be difficult and how they see the world can be just weird – and it’s scary – so the church just leaves them alone hoping they’ll go away and not make a fuss.
Why do faith communities ignore, reject or repulse men and women suffering from these issues — real simple – SIN – the communities sin.
ME: 2. With your background how do you see faith and conventional treatments working together to help people cope?
Michael: OK – we’re talking believers here.
Psychiatry – a real medical profession – can determine the characteristics of the neuro-chemical imbalance and suggest medication – supplements if you will – to help restore that balance. But since that’s a treatment and not a cure the individual – family and friends need understanding, appreciation and respect for the things that can come with that imbalance.
Take clinical depression – a good Dr. will not prescribe “feel-good” medicine. He or she will seek to find the medication that will restore enough balance for the individual to function well and have a relatively regular life.
BUT – the individual, with the help of counseling, their family, friends and especially their faith community need to be attentive the behavioral and relational issues that these conditions have attending them.
I put it this way – the patient their family friends and faith community are not responsible FOR the condition but they all need to be appropriately responsible in regards to the condition. They don’t avoid it or pretend it’s not there BUT neither do they define the person’s ife by it! I personally sufffer with clinical depression – it is not me – it just, to one degree or another – affects me. I take my medication, eat right, get enough sleep — I do all the things that help me be responsible in this condition. I don’t do those things that make it worse. I HAVE clinical depression but I am not clinical depression – there is a big difference.
Now, “psychological” conditions which have no medical root are different. Typically they come from either sudden great trauma, short term big trauma or long term trauma. In other words – there is a reason for the issue/condition. The “ab-normal” behavior or thought processes we see with this is the individuals attempt to deal with the wound-the trauma.
Now – setting aside the medical issues – there is opportunity here for a wonderful and biblical ministry with both types of “sheep.”
I’ve found that a fundamental issue is (as you mentioned above) whether this is a punishment or demonic. Well if they are believers and it is demonic – it is harassment not possession – but I have rarely seen that to be the case – Satan and his little helpers really don’t need to attack folk who are wounded – that’s what he wants us all to be.
As to punishment — NO NO NO – to say it is some king of punishment in the life of the believer is to say that the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient! Either He took all the punishment for our sin or He took none!
Can these conditions be God’s “discipline” – maybe – maybe not. But that’s not the right question.
The right question is: Can I serve to glorify and honor God even though I’m crazier than a bed-bug? The answer is a resounding YES. I have a client who hears voices when they are not on their medication. They work with others in a similar circumstance – what a ministry – who better to understand, correct and encourage? Of course I tell them that as long as everyone’s voices don’t start talking to each other there’s no problem.
A couple of quick points: 1. Although it certainly affects your walk with God, your circumstance is not definitive of your walk with God (or of you – you may have depression but you aren’t “depression.” 2. If God loves His children who struggle against being jerks – He loves His children who struggle with some psychiatric or psychological issues they didn’t create. 3. Romans 7 and 8 are very important for all of us to understand. Our problem with God is sin – not our psychological/psychiatric conditions. 4. Can a “mentally ill” person be a good Christian? God calls us to faithfully serve Him – that’s faithfully – He says nothing about crazy of wounded. But the point is He made you His – did He forget something? Did He leave something out? NO – you are and will be forever His – even when it doesn’t “feel” like it. 5. It may well be that you are as you are so He may use you in ways He can’t use others – that’s a tough thing but it means that you have a place and a role in His Kingdom – don’t waste it! 6. Of course you feel different – you are. So??? “Others” need to get a grip and repent of their sinful issues concerning your condition/circumstances. If they don’t feel they can “handle” it then they can just stand there and smile! 7. For the believer, hopelessness is really a choice – hope isn’t a feeling as much as it is an informed confidence!
ME: 3. Do you have any suggestions for those who may feel isolated from God and their faith due to the onset of a mental illness?
– You are set apart. It may feel isolated and that’s regrettable – but you are never alone –
– Find a good doctor – find a good therapist – preferably believers – but if you can’t find that – add a Biblical Counselor to your team.
– If you feel isolated from God – quit it – repent – Oooops = really though, you need to study the scriptures – God is always near – let what you learn in the word “inform” your feelings. but don’t eat yourself up for the feeling – it’s actually common.
– Faith?? My faith?? Faith is a gift from God and He gives with finality. Oh, it’s “my” faith in that I have it but it is from Him – completely.
OK – so I don’t get redundant – feelings are not facts! The FACTS need to inform our FEELINGS. So when dealing with “feelings” we HAVE to ask, “Is what I’m feeling true based upon what God tells me in His word?” – Of course you have to get into the Word to know – but what you want to do is examine your feelings in light of scripture – if your feelings are out of sync with the Word – just pray about it – Feelings are fickeled things – they are not truth – let the truth slowly and gentle teach your feelings.
BIG TRUTH TO KEEP START WITH God can never love you more than He always has. God will never love you less than He always has.
If you are facing – or suspect you are facing – these issues – quit hiding – quit pretending everything is OK. Seek help – but demand that you be taught about your condition and your treatment – you are not a Chevy and therapy is not an oil change.
Read in the Psalms – I do _ “WE” are not the first and we won’t be the last to live with these conditions.
Find a group of believers – even if it’s just to hand out with.
Write me or call me – firstname.lastname@example.org –also – blog = http://tc2v1.blogspot.com