“… if you (have) schizophrenia and (you) sin will the schizophrenia get worse?”
My first thought when reading the question was, “If you have diabetes and you sin, will it get worse? How about cardiac disease?”
The actual search term which led to this site was a bit shorter — if you schizophrenia and sin will it get worse—but the underlying fear was clear. I say ‘fear’ because it’s frightening to think schizophrenia or major depression results from sin or will continue until you stop sinning. Will a new sin make your sickness worse? Since sin is a biblical issue, let’s look at its history a bit.
In the Old Testament, yes, you could link sickness directly to sin, if you belonged to the nation of Israel. Deuteronomy 28 lists the curses inflicted upon those who did not “observe to do all his (God’s) commandments.” The effects of disobedience, which we call sin, included physical sickness and many other afflictions. I don’t believe anyone can prove that every instance of sin committed by one person resulted in a curse or punishment every time, but a law of cause and effect did dominate the lives of the people.
(The word ‘testament’ is also translated ‘covenant,’ which means an agreement. This is the simplest definition of the word. As an example, the last will and testament of a person is a legal agreement between that person and those named in the will, as to what they will receive upon the testator’s death.)
In the New Testament, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews states the new covenant offered through Christ’s death and resurrection is better than the first covenant made with Israel (Heb. 7:22). The covenant surpasses the one Israel had and applies to all men and women in every nation who believe its promises and precepts.
Under the new covenant acts deemed sinful get dealt with differently, through forgiveness instead of a curse. Man’s inherent bent to sin—his very nature—gets dealt with also, through new life. (Once again, this is the simplest explanation I can offer in a little post. Romans 6-8 tells us so much more.)
We need all this talk about testaments because you need to know: In the New Testament there is no longer a list of curses for disobedience. Under the old, you earned favor with God through perfect obedience and sacrifice. Under the new, you are given God’s generous favor and blessings without any merit on your part. This is called grace.
When someone with schizophrenia sins, he or she is not cursed with greater mental torment or confusion. He (she) is blessed with the grace of forgiveness if he will accept it. The challenge is to believe God would freely forgive and not punish the very act you and others find so despicable. The act you keep repeating. The act you hate and are drawn to.
When you just can’t believe you’re freely forgiven, you’ll wrestle with guilt. The added struggle in heart and mind might seem like an increase of symptoms of schizophrenia. Don’t confuse spiritual guilt with mental illness. There is a distinction between the torments of disease and the torments of guilt. Perhaps no pill can eliminate all the painful symptoms of your disease, but the gospel can eliminate your guilt. To me, that is wonderful news. [You can read more about the guilt battle here, “The Beasts of Schizophrenia and Sin.”]
Now, let me leave you with strong words from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to urge you along.
“You say, ‘My trouble is that terrible which sin I have committed.’ Let me tell you in the name of God that that is not your trouble. Your trouble is unbelief. You do not believe the Word of God. I am referring to the First Epistle of John and the first chapter where we read this: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
Believe the Word of God, my friend. Do not go on praying frantically to be forgiven that sin. Believe God’s Word. Do not ask Him for a message of forgiveness. He has given it to you.’”1
Believe, my friend, where sin abounded in your life, God’s grace abounds much more. To help you with your understanding of sin, forgiveness, grace, and new life, send your address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a small book called We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession. (I do not have mailing lists nor would I share your address with anyone. Use a made-up name if you feel safer.)
1 Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 2002.