David, was the greatest king of Israel, and ancestor of the Kind of all Kings, Jesus. Many find it hard to comprehend how such a loving and devoted follower of the mighty God, could fall so badly, and sin so grievously in his life as God’s king.
As we read the Psalms of David, we are lifted high into the presence of God, and our souls delight in the glory that we see there. David loved the Lord his God from a small boy. He spent protracted periods of time tending his father’s sheep, where God prepared him to lead His people as the nation of Israel. David cared for the sheep and protected them- even from wild animals that would have torn him apart. He was delivered from them and certain death. David was emboldened to face Goliath and conquer him with a small stone and massive faith. David had no inkling of the future, but rejoiced in the presence and creative gifts of God his Saviour, which we now enjoy.
David was left out and overlooked when the time came for the important work of choosing a leader, but God did not forget him. David was chosen to be the king- God’s king of Israel, with a character like God and a picture of Christ Himself. When we read David’s words, we see a man consumed with His God and familiar with His ways. As we observe David and how he dealt with ungodly Saul, we see a man conversant with respect for God and the commandments laid down. A man willing to wait on God’s time and for His will to be brought into practice.
David was dead-set against the enemies of God and those who refused to follow Him earnestly. David had plenty of time to know His God in the fields, and as an outcast on the mountains. When the time was right, he took the crown of leadership, given to him by God. He was without doubt Israel’s greatest king and his exploits defy belief. David knew where his strength came from and trusted in the Lord and overcame his enemies and brought peace to Israel.
“The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.” Psalm 10
There were incidents in his life, which showed his human weaknesses and failings. In a time of indolence and backsliding and ungodly complacency, he fell in love with a beautiful woman and was unfaithful to God and his family, as he pursued her. He then had to cover his sin and caused others to commit murder for him. He seems to accept this situation for some time, until the prophet, Nathan, spoke out to him about his great sin. David repents when he sees his sin, and is restored.
When I read the book of Psalms, especially David’s Psalms, there are sentiments expressed that cause me to question whether David was particularly called to carry an illness that most do not seem to have to bear. I believe David was a Bi Polar person, and it seems obvious as I read the Psalms, especially the early writings.
David suffering significantly in his inner life. He knows what sleeplessness does, he asks for rest, he values rest and sleep as a gift from God. And yet it eludes him. His Psyche is full of sorrow and his tears and weakness is uncontrollable. We feels the close proximity of his foes and paranoia dogs his days and nights. It seems he is tasting the bitterness of his future unfaithfulness to God, and God is preparing him for this time. David hates sin, as he sees it in his own life and in others. He is jealous for the holiness of God.
“Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.
17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7
David has had time to consider the ways of God and the outcome of not living in them. His grasp of depressive mind set and thought processes is clear. He knows that thoughts lead him down into the grave. He asks God to protect His mind and soul from the onslaughts of the enemy- he knows the work of Satan, and recognises his work in his mind. God clearly has given David “insight” also known as wisdom. David values this quality and it helps him to identify and fight the weakness within.
“Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
2 or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” Psalm 7
The writer has been very aware of his own sins and has spent time languishing in sorrows and searching his heart in the depths of the night. He finds solace in the night, and yet it is painful and full of torment as he considers his many failings. He recognises this as not evil, but tells us we should tremble before the Lord, and stay away from sin. God teaches His people in dire circumstances.
“Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4
It is therefore shocking that such a person should fall down into serious sin. David indulged himself in things that were out of character for him. He found himself in a time of less anguish, and let himself be dragged into temptation and sin by the foolishness of his own mind. He was so out of fellowship with his God that he seemed not to notice, or to excuse himself. He had to be confronted with the enormity of what he had done. David repented.
We again see the heart of God. A soft heart that baulks at sin and runs from it. David repents in dust and ashes, and finds his God to be his Redeemer.
The abject lows of a once depressive mood in younger days, were replaced with self-belief and grandiose ideas that David could do what he liked and get away with it. The highs and the lows indicate someone who suffers at both ends of the spectrum of mind illness. David knows them both, and we see that reflected in his writing.
This does not seem to be acknowledged in historical analysis of these texts. The stigma is such that we refuse to believe that someone who suffers in their mind, could be anything to God. Many refuse to think of mind illness as any other illness, but load it with spiritual negativity. People who suffer are marked down as “unworthy” and even evil. The mixture of thinking about mind illness and evil spirits is supremely unhelpful. Many Christians will not talk about their suffering because of this reality. Spiritual lessons are therefore lost, and abilities are side-lined and the person reduced to almost nothing.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” Psalm 13
The constant forwards and backwards flow of endless thoughts that cause such anguish. David calls on God to intervene, before he should be defeated by the inner enemies that grieve his soul. The enemy seems to get the upper hand, and the only escape is death. David asks that his enemies will not triumph over him. This ebb and flow is a constant battle for Bi Polar sufferers.
The Apostle Paul speaks of being out of his mind for Christ… Paul talks about being “out of his mind” in his thoughts and deeds for his Master, but being “in his right mind” for the sake of the people of God. Paul knows there are other ways of knowing than the cultural equivalents of his day.
“ If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5
Paul states the “madness” of being dead to this world and alive to Christ. He sees no shame in being thought “out of his mind” indeed it is the Christians reality in a dead and sinful world.
The Lord Jesus Christ suffered ultimate spiritual and emotional anguish, but no one would ever say He was suffering in His mind or was “out of His mind.” We have become very influenced by the rationality of Western Education and our post-modern thinking and this has affected our interpretation of Scripture. The Prophets were all men and women of deep spirituality and had experiences from God of visions and understandings, messages and dramas to speak to Gods people. They were considered “rubbish” by society and rejected as out of touch. Paul also tells us of his experiences with God-
“And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12
Could Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” have been an emotional and thought-centred disability? This would explain his devotion and dedication to Christ and His church, and his willingness to suffer such ignominy for the sake of Christ, and his monumental passion for lost souls and God’s kingdom. Paul felt deeply for the person of Christ and for His people, and went through deep troubles for their sake.
The Lord who made the body, also made the mind, and He knows it well. He knows how mind sufferers suffer, and identifies with them. Our modern day, Christian attitudes are at best, murky, and our reticence to see that kind of suffering in the Scriptures is curious. David sinned and failed, but he was still “a man after God’s own heart” He is an encouragement to all who suffer and a lesson, that mind illness is special and God asks only certain people to carry this burden.
It is a privilege to suffer after the great lives of faith, revealed in the Scriptures. It is Christ-like to suffer as the Saviour of the world, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree and suffered anguish like no other. In His sufferings He bought forgiveness and peace for all who come to Him. We need to be careful what we ask for. To become like Christ is a universal expression of devotion, but also a seeking to identify in His sufferings, which is a deep and serious commitment. David knew it. It was his delight, and also Christ’s to draw near to God in that way- in faith knowing the Father in heaven is in control.
10 “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4
We should not look down on mind sufferers, but see them as people who are sensitive to the Spirit of God and who seek the face of the Father for comfort and joy. They know for sure that the help of other people is no use. When the chips are down, only God is sufficient. Paul knew the power of God in his ability to fight and control his thought life…
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10
The way mind sufferers think is helpful and can be a help to those who don’t suffer. The problem is no one wants to know about mind illness, in case it should affect them. So all is kept quiet. How wonderful to have the record in the Scriptures, which is such an encouragement to those who suffer in their thinking and feeling. That the Greatest King and the “man after God’s own heart” should understand their every treadmill and depression and manic episode, is no less than their Saviour God.