Mental Illness and Guilt – Snap Out of It or Eat With Me?

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I can’t say this unique site gets thousands or even hundreds of hits each day but those who come here from small and large countries around the world (Hello Croatia, Taiwan, Qatar, Fiji, Guam, beloved Ukraine, Norway, Japan, Nigeria, Australia, Russia, Brazil, India…) search the same themes over and over.  How to deal with hearing voices.  How can the church help?  Famous people with schizophrenia.  Those who have recovered.  The beasts of schizophrenia and sin.  One theme I haven’t written about enough, based on your searches, is guilt.

Guilt over treating others horribly.  Guilt about presumed laziness.  Guilt about besetting anger.  Guilt about not ‘snapping out of it.’  Guilt over a ‘wasted life.’  How many ways do you carry guilt?

Constant Indigestion

At a chain restaurant where I live customers can order chili three ways: plain, 3-way, or 5-way.  You can choose to add onions, cheese, spaghetti, or extra beef to the plain batch, but always, always, basic chili sits in the bottom of the bowl. The more ingredients you add, the higher the heap you have to consume.  Guilt comes in layered heaps, too.

For Christians, falling short of God’s revealed glory and law induces guilt.  The guilt comes when we transgress a specific scripture, though some Christians have an overactive self-condemning guilt that hangs over them no matter what they do or don’t do.  (I think we need a post on scrupulosity.) Either way, the basic chili in our bowls is spiritual guilt, between us and God.

On top of breaking the commands of specific scriptures, we might also have a sense of guilt from:

  1. Disobedience to earthly authority .  The law of man says don’t drive with a suspended license and you do.  You know the law.  You know you’re wrong and the truth stings.   Call this a spoon full of onion.
  2. Disappointment. Other people are displeased because you didn’t “get a grip,” “toughen up,” “try harder,” or “do something with your life.”  You’re disappointed with yourself, too.  You feel condemned, whether you did something wrong or not.   Weigh the bowl down with two servings of beef.  Too much.
  3. Deferral.  You keep putting off something you know will help someone else or yourself.  You know the results will be good, but you don’t take the next step.  Bury the pile of food under a tangle of spaghetti.

All angles considered, who wouldn’t end up guilty on some level?  Then what?

Heaven’s Banquet

Guilt can sit in your stomach and sour you or you can receive grace.  First, I have to admit that I didn’t grasp what ‘grace’ meant for years.  God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense is the definition many pastors taught but I’m slow to process and need a whole lot more description than that.

Three way chili works as a model for guilt but for grace we need angel food.  “Man did eat angels’ food; he sent them food to the full.” (Psalm 78:25)  The scripture refers to manna.  Free, mysterious, sustenance from heaven.  Unearned.  “This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.” (Ex. 16:15)

The sweet ‘bread’ foreshadowed the spiritual bread of Christ’s life that would come from heaven for you and I to eat—partake of— daily.  We don’t earn this bread any more than Israel earned manna.  It came, they took it in to their homes, they ate.  Christ came, we take his life and work in by faith, we eat.

In the gospels Christ told the people they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood, which offended them, but what was he really saying?  Take me in to your heart and soul, full gulp, and sup on my teachings and relationship with you. Eat me daily, sure as you eat food.  Angel food, three ways:

  1. Daysman.  Beleaguered Job, harshly accused and suffering badly, cried out for a daysman (Job 9:33) as he searched for a way to communicate with God about the charges laid against him. A daysman mediated justice between two parties in dispute. Christ is our daysman.  He is our mediator who satisfied all charges of guilt based on God’s justice and our intercessor who assures us that the satisfaction is applied day and night, forever.  We have communion with God instead of condemnation from God because Christ stands before Him daily on our behalf.  Not guilty! Beloved!  Take this truth in. What a relief, refreshing us like the sweet honey of manna.
  2. Door.  Christ is the door to our Father’s house of favor, acceptance, and intervention.  As Roy Hession says, “The Gospel does not call us to try to be like Christ, but rather to come through Christ. We are presented with a door rather than an example.”  Our self-improvement or effort or travail is not the door to forgiveness, consolation, and strength.
    God’s face shines upon you, even when you ‘don’t have it together.’ His loving relationship with you is always immediately accessible, even at the moment you blow it, the moment you sin.  “His (Christ) blood has made Him available to the sinner as a sinner,” says Hession, “and to the failing saint as a failing saint, if he will only admit that that is what he is.”
    Acknowledge sin and failure now.  Receive—eat—your cleansing and sonship. Move on, free.
    What an amazing provision, lavishly given to meet each day’s hunger for acceptance and favor and freedom.
  3. Deliverer.  Unlike the pizza delivery man who takes his money and leaves, our deliverer (Rom. 11:26) rescues, saves, preserves and liberates.  There is a growing and continuing deliverance from sin’s power in our flesh. A growing rescue from the ways of a hardened heart, along with a liberation unto the ways of a softened heart.  A rescue from physical dangers, by means that often surprise us.  A preserving of our sonship and faith. Continually trust in this ongoing work that Christ began. What a mysterious process, like manna coming in the dark of night when we do not see anything at all.

I cannot do justice to the fullness of grace but it includes these angles and many more,  all found in Christ.  We grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, which grows loveliness and joy in us.  If you continually live under a cloud of guilt, you have some growing and knowing to receive.  Open your mouth wide and He will fill it–one way, in Christ .  .  . from a thousand loving means.