As a mind gymnast, I have had reason to think about my mind in ways that perhaps “sane” (there is no definition of what this is…) people have not. I have spent many difficult years fighting this illness, with which I have been born, and can never really escape from. I have been tempted to think of it as a kind of “straight jacket,” but it is not. Even in the throws of mind illness, God is there (although he seems not to be.) There have been dramatic visits to psychiatric hospital, crushing depression, dangerous mania, to name but a few things. Through it all, God has kept my mind safe and enabled me to use it to benefit both myself and others. Even after all this time, with of drugs, alcohol abuse, stress and massive doses of adrenalin, psychiatric medications, God has won through. If you would permit me to ask you a few questions which might make you think about some of these issues, which cause so many of us pain in these difficult days.
Have you ever wondered at the power of your mind? Do you know the power of your own mind? Do you have any realisation of what you are capable of? Does the spectre of mental illness fill you with dread? Do you even know what it is?
Questions, Questions. Is it a sign of someone who suffers mental torture? The Psalms are full of evidence of a person suffering in such a way and asking desperate questions from God. In these pages, is found someone searching for reasons of why they are in such mental and emotional agony. Past sins are thrown up as evidence that they are finally lost. Nights are wracked with fears and dreams of unbelievable horror. The body wastes away because of the wretchedness of the physical symptoms of the inner turmoil. “My heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.” (Psalm 109 v 22-25.)
“Save me, O God for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help…. (Psalm 69)
The Lord Jesus knew all about it. These are his words written before he was even born. No matter how bad it gets, he really understands. Remember Gethsemane? The Lord suffered there more than anyone ever has before him or since. The horror of it makes me wonder what hell will be like for the unrepentant. It does not bear thinking about and should cause us to toil to save our race from that fate. In many ways it is a privilege to suffer mentally, as Christ suffered. Maybe mental health patients know a little more than most about what the Lord suffered. Mental health patients also have an insight into the realities of hell more than those who have not suffered in this way.
Our enemy hates us with an almost perfect hatred. He will do anything to make you as uncomfortable as possible. He will wait until you are at your weakest and then throw at you every probable reason as to why you are not safe in Christ. He usually waits until the dead of night, when you are already struggling with the weakness of the flesh. Then he starts the steady stream of circular thinking which leads you down to death. You need to be ready for him. “I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.” (Psalm 77)
What are you going to do? He is too strong for you. The greatest remedy is, of course, the Word of God. You need to have it ready in your heart so that you can use your mind to defeat him. Also, hymns are concentrated ideas and doctrinal themes, which are a superb help in times of trouble. You need to have them ready for the fiery darts, which will come. One of the best is “Be gone unbelief. My Saviour is here and for my relief will surely appear…..His love in times past, forbids me to think, he’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink…” (John Newton 1725)
Why do we have to suffer in this way? We all have it to some extent. God is training your mind to work in the way he knows is best for you. You are using the armour, which he has already provided and you are being skillfully trained in its use. “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” (Psalm 144) Only he knows what is ahead and you will need all his strength and training to be a conqueror.
Keep the mind in gear; fight until it goes away. The Lord himself will give you the victory. You are training your mind to fight. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30 v5)
“You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. (Psalm 18 v39+40) As we immerse ourselves in God’s word we gain ammunition for the fight. “Here springs of consolation rise to cheer the fainting mind.” (Anne Steele 1717)
The minds of people in our world are being held in slavery and are being deliberately kept dull by the enemy of our souls. If the mind is set free, then so will the soul and body be also free. How can we do this? Many think Education is the answer and to some extent it is. It is a wonderful gift to be able to mould minds to think and reason. It is an example of how we are like the great mind sculptor. However the problem is a supernatural one and needs a supernatural remedy.
When you become a Christian your mind is fundamentally changed to be like the mind of God. “Let this mind (attitude) be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2v5) Somehow God works with us and in us to conform our very thinking into the ways of the Spirit. There is such a thing as mind control and you can control the things you think about. You can fight gloomy thoughts with the word of God. You can divert the mind from thinking unclean thoughts by thinking pure thoughts instead. It is our responsibility to think the right thing.
As Christians it should concern us how our minds are being moulded in our society and indeed in our world. The political mindset of the day colours how the educational system works and this in turn effects evangelism. How can we free the minds of people from the tyranny of this worlds programming? We need to claim back the territory of the mind. The mind is dulled by the constant stream of drivel which we hear every day incessantly from any number of sources. As Christians we should be influencing the world around about us, and the people in our lives, to think.
The highest powers of the mind are that of creativity, the aspect of humans as created beings, which are made in the image of God. He is the ultimate creator and we are creative beings. To be able to think creatively is the hallmark of a great person. To be creative is not just being able to make Artworks. A great scientist is a creative one. A great mathematician is a creative one: someone who thinks above and beyond what others think. Creative people push barriers and boundary lines and break through them, showing another level of thinking. We all have it because we are all made in the image of God. This should affect our outreach. We are above and beyond this world. Christ has the answer to every problem that people face. He can free the mind and hence the person.
In what state is your mind? Is it a rigid, set, routine system or is it rich, vibrant and hungry? You do not have to be a university professor to have an agile mind: the youngest of children have it.
The Christian’s mind should be a creative entity, thinking the thoughts of God after him. How do you read your Bible? Do the same old thoughts occur to you again and again? Or do I read it with a searching mind full of desire to know more? As we read the words of God our minds should be in gear as we apply it to our lives and the situation in our complex world.
Generally we don’t like to be made to think. We prefer pet beliefs and attitudes and convenient stereotypes, which dictate our speaking and actions. If we really used our minds, there’s no telling what we could do: not just in traditional academic achievement, but in the almost unending selection of intelligences. The natural mind is set on the things of this life and needs to be freed from these shackles. We are feed from the tyranny of sin to new created life in Christ. Christians should be the wisest people in the world.
The surest way to widen the mind is the contemplation of God himself. It is the finite dwelling on the infinite. “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90) We can never comprehend him, but that should not stop us trying. His revealed word is the greatest revelation of him and only by toiling there can we unearth the treasures of the truth. Only then will our minds be sculpted and made into the works of art they are intended to be. You do not get wisdom without digging for it.
“My God how wonderful Thou art, thy majesty how bright! How beautiful thy mercy seat, in depths of burning light!” (Frederick Faber 1814 ) No wonder the writer uses exclamation marks. However this is never to be encouraged as an ascetic exercise, but for a purpose, that is, the fight. Peter tells us to “prepare our minds for action.” (1 Peter 1) This is not just an intellectual exercise, but steps we take to fortify the walls of our souls and psyche, against the enemy of our souls and the desires of the flesh. The Christian life is not meant to be an intellectual and aesthetic outworking of a set of ideologies; it is an experience, a relationship with a person, the mind sculptor.