“The heart is so hard, the will is so obstinate, the passions are so furious, the thoughts are so volatile, the imagination is so ungovernable, the desires are so wild, that the man feels that he has a den of wild beasts within him, which will eat him up sooner than be ruled by him.”¹
When I read the quote above about ungovernable imaginations, wild desires, and the feeling of wild beasts within a man I thought about schizophrenia. The author Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from severe depression, did not once bring up “mental illness” in his den of beasts discussion. He believed something worse plagued the minds, hearts, and emotions of men (including himself)—something almost hypnotic and evil: sin.
“Alas ! I am easily fascinated with the basilisk eyes of sin, and am thus held as under a spell, so that I cannot escape from my own folly.”
A Double Whammy–
Spurgeon ranked sin as the most destructive of all the ills of mankind. His wording about his hell-bent inclinations sounds so similar to the battle with what we call mental illness. One cannot help but think that two similarly weighty wars rage in a Christian diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar depression. Two tortuous battles – do you not have pity on such a soul?
If Spurgeon is correct about sin being the worse of the two conditions, with its beasts gnawing at the inner man, we can at least be certain of its cure. I remember the point in my Christian walk when I felt relief to know that some of my torment resulted from sin and guilt.
My battle with guilt over besetting sins (and imagined sins) caused almost as much grief as depression itself. The two intertwined, at times appearing as all sickness and at times appearing as all sin. It would take a truly wise soul to separate the two in a way I could understand and believe.
Still, even though I thought sin would be easier to mortify than a sickness of the mind I could not agree with the saint who declared,
“And when God the Holy Spirit thus imprints a sense of pardoned sin upon the troubled conscience, all other sorrows in comparison dwindle into insignificance. ‘Strike, Lord,’ said Martin Luther, ‘I bear anything willingly, because my sins are forgiven.’”
I did not have the same attitude as Luther. At the time, my feelings of suffering outweighed any joy from redemption. If I had to rank which affected me more, the score would have been: Suffering, +9. Joy over great salvation, +4. Thank God we grow in the knowledge of Christ and of grace and of God.
The gospel of Christ tells us God has healed the worst sickness found in every man. Sin. He can also minister to any other diseased condition of our life since he has already shown his willingness and power in dealing with the worst and most insidious.
His compassion compels him to become involved in our misery and to lead us to reliefs, if we will but follow. If we cannot follow very well because of a weakness or disease of mind or body, do not think he becomes stymied about what to do to grace our way. As J.B. Phillips would say, “Your God is too small” if you think so.
Lord! Nothing seems greater than this battle with schizophrenia. I am offended that you would rank my misery second to the grandeur of salvation, a grandeur that I have not yet seen or understood. Make me willing to see and rejoice in the majesty of what you have done. Part the bewildering tangle in my mind and soul as surely as you parted the Red Sea, so I might walk right up to you with songs of praise on my lips. More of you Lord, less of me, open up my eyes to see.
“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10
¹ “Concerning Deliverance From Sinning” by Charles Spurgeon http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=7584&forum=45&0