Where can I flee from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (Psalm 139: 7-8)
I had the good fortune and the awesome burden of growing up in a family that taught me the fear of the LORD. Though this fear was not always healthy (or especially Biblical), it did anchor me through rough waters and kept me growing in a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Since before my birth, God has been busy pursuing me. I’ve been allowed to stray yet I’ve always been kept within view and range of God’s never-failing love.
While we all experience ups and downs in life, as a person with Bipolar Disorder, my highs have been dangerously high and my lows critically low. At both extremes, I have flirted with disaster – coming very close to ending my life and doing great damage to those around me in the process. For no good reason but the mercy of the LORD, God has kept me alive, saving me from certain destruction – emotional, physical, and spiritual.
In the midst of my reckless life, I have found (as one great hymn puts it) “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” in the Psalms. For over two decades now, the Psalms have played a key role in my devotional life.
As a student chaplain, I recited Psalms in community each morning during the chapel service.
In my personal quiet time, I’ve regularly read and reflected on the Psalms in writing.
In weekly worship, Psalms shine through the hymns and praise songs I’ve selected and sung.
On retreats, I’ve joined brothers and sisters in Christ as they’ve used the language of the Psalms to fill times of prayer or provide background to a sacred meal.
My purpose in writing this book is principally to give glory to God for bringing me through this crazy life no matter how much of a mess I make of it. I pray that the sometimes profane details of my life don’t cause you to stumble as you take a journey with me to discover the goodness of the Lord in the land of this living soul.
While I have written this devotional with an eye toward the illness I share with almost 6 million Americans alone ( according to the National Institute of Mental Health), my hope is that anyone who picks it up will find in these pages words of encouragement to pass through your own personal Sheol and not become so caught up in your highest heavens such that you can’t function well on earth as a simple servant of God, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Note: I would be interested in hearing your experience with mental illness and how it has impacted your faith.