This Psalm was penned by David, in response to his attempt to fool Abimelech that he was suffering mind illness. Abimelech realised David was fake and drove David out of his region.
David was familiar with mind illness because He himself was a sufferer. In this Psalm he rejoiced in the deliverance of the Lord from his foes. David sees that it is the intervening hand of God who rescues him in all circumstances. He identifies some states of mind – troubles, broken hearted, concern about personal safety, condemnation, need for refuge, oppression, disappointment, depression, paranoia, persecution, need for asylum – these all on the list. David understands the elements of illness and uses his knowledge to try to dupe Abimelech. David is not squeaky clean…
King Saul also became progressively ill in his mind. He rejected the Lord and the Lord rejected him. It is easy to associate the presence of mind illness as an indicator of the absence of the the Spirit of God. We tend to link the pain of mind illness to a lack of the Holy Spirit, in a way that we don’t link physical illness. There are always those who associate any illness with God’s rejection. The acute sufferings of Job teach a different lesson. God permits the righteous to suffer, as Jesus suffered, and is a mark of godliness and rejection of worldliness.
In the life of the Christian, suffering moulds us into the image of His Son, Jesus. Mind illness is particular. It is fearful and hurts us with little hope of relief, but it causes us to turn to God in a way like nothing else. David was known as a man after God’s own heart, and such internal and deep suffering would make him to have such a mind. The suffering Saviour also had such a mind.
Mind suffering strengthens a person in a way like nothing else, and shows us the heart of God like nothing else. God draws close to a sufferer of mind illness and teaches lessons that cannot be learned any other way. He reveals Himself to sufferers. Their inner eyes of faith and insight, see God and know God in a profound way. The mind has so many labyrinths that it is impossible to sort out without insight. The mind sufferer often has this gift of insight that teaches and strengthens the psyche.
Wisdom is insight and God offers us this rare gift, if we just ask. He will teach us wisdom’s way, but it will not be as we expect. His way is the fight with sin and self. His way is a life coping with suffering that we hadn’t bargained for. It is a life long close walk with God where we will learn from Him to trust and obey. We will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us: we will learn His voice and not the voice of another.
To walk with God involves saying goodbye to our heartfelt desires and wishes, and following the narrow way. Suffering is part of that and mind suffering the most difficult. Many don’t get through and spend life trying to just cope with life. Others find the key and the insight they are given, enables them to examine thoughts, and courage gives the ability to face fears and doubts. With the power of the Spirit and the truth of the Word, they become strong and bold for the sake of Christ.
Mind illness is greatly misunderstood, especially by groups that have a wrong view of the Christian life. We run from it because it is scary. We ignore it because we can’t face the stigma. We keep it quiet because it is regarded as shameful.
David was a sufferer. Christ also suffered for us in that way. Many great and prolific Christian writers, artists, missionaries all suffered this way. Maybe it is not so much a disgrace, as a glory. Maybe it is an indicator of deep spiritual abilities. Maybe we need to turn our mindset around and change our attitudes. Maybe the people at the bottom of the “regarded” pile are not what we think…
Calvin, Luther, Cowper, Newton, Crosby, Spurgeon and very many more suffered deeply in their minds and emotions. It seems anyone who stands up to work for God whole-heartedly, will probably struggle with mind illness. Christian sufferers are not pathetic weaklings but people who have huge fights with the mind, and who can have the power to do great things for God, even as they struggle and overcome. The Christian community needs to change its views and realise that these kinds of illnesses can be overcome, and sufferers have so much to contribute. The nature of the illness and the strength of the stigma, probably means they will suffer alone, but step out for Christ in their own way.
There is no limit to the power of God. There is no limit to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. To seek Him and His daily filling of our thoughts and therefore our words and deeds, is the path of power, for those who will claim it… It involves suffering, for those who act in courage.. 2 Chronicles 19:11 “Act with courage and may the Lord be with those who do well.” What ever God has put on you heart to do, you must do. “He will show you great and unsearchable things that you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3