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Mental Illness

William J. Prost
Table of Contents
Introduction 3
Many Questions 4
The Nature of Mental Illness 12
Treatment 24
Final Conclusions 41
Appendix 43

Mental illness is a controversial subject, but an important one, because it affects
all of us, either directly or indirectly. At some point in our lives probably all of us will
have occasion to have contact with mental illness, and, of course, any of us may oc-
casionally experience some of the symptoms of it, even if we do not exhibit full-blown
manifestations. During the past fifty years or so there have been many changes in
the way mental illness is viewed, especially in the Western world. The proliferation
of psychotropic drugs has made a vast difference in the treatment of serious mental
disorders. These advances in treatment have brought the matter more and more into
public focus and made people more willing to talk about the subject. In the modern
world, there has definitely been a marked increase in the stresses and strains in our
lives, and as a result such things as psychology, various types of counseling, self-help
groups, and other forms of mental therapy have mushroomed. All of this raises ques-
tions in the minds of many believers. On the one hand, they find themselves, at least
to some extent, victims of the same forces and the same disorders as are seen in the
world at large, but on the other hand, they see themselves differently from unbeliev-
ers. Many are bewildered and confused, even frightened, by the tremendous number
of options in treatment, and many fear (quite justifiably) that some of these treat-
ments may not only be useless, but positively harmful.
Does God Himself, through His Word, offer us insight into and guidelines for this
difficult subject? I believe that He does. He delights to be a light for our path.

Many Questions
Many Questions
In traveling to various parts of the world and interacting with believers of differ-
ent cultures, I find that the subject of mental illness comes up frequently. Many have
relatives and loved ones who clearly need help in this area and are perplexed as to
where to seek treatment. Many questions arise, such as:
1. Should they seek help from psychiatrists and other types of counselors, or is the
matter always a spiritual issue?
2. Is there sometimes a chemical imbalance that can be corrected by proper medi-
cation, or is this an unproven idea?
3. Do we know how drugs that affect the brain really work, and is there a place for
their use among Christians?
4. How responsible is the individual for his behavior in cases of mental distur-
The answers to such questions as these are not always readily available. It is
hoped that we will be able to take up the subject realizing that, as in physical illness,
so also in mental illness, there are things that we do not fully understand. However,
we count on God and His Word for answers to our questions, for on any moral and
spiritual subject, God has given us in His Word the light we need.
We are told in 2 Peter 1:3 that “His divine power hath given unto us all things
that pertain unto life and godliness.” Our hearts need to get hold of this most impor-
tant principle. We may not know or understand everything about mental illness, or
about many other subjects, for that matter, but God has assured us that, “through
the knowledge of Him that has called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3 JND), we
have all the light we need in order to live a godly life in this world. In view of these
and other scriptures, we are confident in looking into the matter of mental illness
in the light of the Word of God, and we will seek to find the answers to some of the
questions that inevitably come up when the subject presents itself. We may not find
the answers to all of our questions, but we know that God has given us all we need to
know in order to live for His glory in this world.
{SH/}Illness and Healing in the Bible
What then is mental illness? I believe there is a scriptural basis for using the term.
In Matthew 4:2324 (JND), we read as follows:
“Jesus went round the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preach-
ing the glad tidings of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every bodily weak-
ness among the people. And His fame went out into the whole of Syria, and they
brought to Him all that were ill, suffering under various diseases and pains, and
those possessed by demons, and lunatics, and paralytics; and He healed them.”
Here we find that the Lord Jesus healed every disease and every bodily weakness.
When Scripture begins to refer to those that were ill, they are grouped under five dif-
ferent categories:
1. There were those who had various diseases, and surely these would include
such things as infections, cancer, inflammations of various kinds, and diseases that
result from aging.

2. Coupled with disease, there were those suffering from pains, which, of course,
would include the pain resulting from such illnesses as arthritis, headaches or can-
cer, but would also include pains inflicted from outside the body. The thought of tor-
ment or torture is included in the word.
3. People were also ill when they were possessed by a demon, and, of course, this
could affect both the body and the mind.
4. Paralytics are mentioned, as those who had lost the ability to use some part of
their body, and thus were unable to function normally.
5. The word “lunatics” is also included in the list, as indicating those who had
a disordered state of mind. The word in the Greek has the thought of being “moon-
struck” or crazy, and it is a general word used for those not in their right mind. The
same word is used in Matthew 17:15 to describe the boy who threw himself into the
fire or into the water. In this case, the lunatic behavior was caused by a demon. Such
individuals are placed along with others who had diseases and pains, and they are
categorized as being ill. The state of being a lunatic was an illness which the Lord
Jesus healed along with other diseases.
{SH/}Mental Illness
How then do we define mental illness? There is really no definition that will en-
compass every aspect of the subject, for we are dealing with a matter that does not
have well demarcated boundaries. To some extent, our view of mental illness is af-
fected by the culture and society in which we live. Also, as there is a variation in what
is generally considered to be normal physical health, so there is a variation in what is
considered to be a normal pattern of thought and behavior. All of us at some point in
our lives may experience some of the symptoms of disordered thinking, but only if the
symptoms go beyond a certain point will we be said to be mentally ill. Accordingly, we
will define mental illness simply as being any abnormal pattern of thought and feel-
ing that results in disturbed behavior, and which thus affects the individual’s ability
to function in his relationships with others and/or in his work.
Here it is important to clarify our definition relative to what Scripture has to
say, as the definition I have suggested is very broad. The Word of God uses the word
“lunatic” to describe those with disordered thinking and behavior, and as we have
seen, such individuals are also included among those whom the Lord Jesus healed. It
is difficult to know how far this word extends in describing those whose behavior is
abnormal and what degree of disturbance is encompassed by it. I quote the scripture
only to show that the Lord Jesus recognized at least some abnormal behavior as a
disease and healed it, as He did other diseases. We might well hesitate to place every
individual with some abnormality of thought or feeling in this category and call him/
her a lunatic. In this book we will discuss a wide variety of disorders that have at
least some component of disturbed thought and/or feeling. The reader may not see all
of them as manifesting mental illness, but rather simply the display of what Scrip-
ture calls “the flesh”-our sinful nature. As we will see, there is often a mixture of the
two. Whatever the cause, I suggest that a consideration of all of these entities before
the Lord is appropriate to our subject.
In dealing with this subject, we will look at what is clearly mental illness-those
individuals with so-called “psychotic” behavior. Those who exhibit such behavior are

not in control of themselves and, to a large extent, are out of touch with reality. They
would definitely fit into the category of “lunatics,” as mentioned in Scripture.
Also, we will discuss abnormal behavior where the individual is still in touch with
reality and not out of control. These behavioral disorders are often called “neuroses,”
as opposed to “psychoses.” As we will see, there is often an overlap between the two.
More than this, in both cases there are aspects of his behavior that the individual
cannot help, but also part for which he must take some responsibility.
At the beginning of this book, I mentioned that I was going to approach the subject
in the light of the Word of God. I trust this will be the case and that the conclusions
arrived at, especially in the moral and spiritual realm, will be in keeping with the
mind of God as revealed in His Word. However, since the author is a medical doc-
tor and has sought the assistance of other Christian medical doctors, there will be
occasional comments based on that training and background. I hope these will be
helpful in “rounding out” the discussion of the subject, but in saying this, I realize
that medical knowledge is constantly changing. Some of the comments made in this
area may be superseded by better knowledge at some point in the future. Also, I will
make other comments from time to time that are based on my own observation and
experience as an individual, not so much as a medical doctor, but as a Christian. Such
comments will be obvious to the reader, and, of course, must be taken as a personal
judgment, rather than having the authority of Scripture.
Mental disturbances may have multiple causes. Some may be primarily organic
(caused by physical changes in the brain), while others may have their origins in the
soul and spirit. Frequently both are involved, and often such causes are intercon-
nected in a way that may be difficult to sort out. There is a great variation of opinion
on the subject, not only among believers, but also in the world at large. Since the
subject does not lend itself to scientific research in the same way as do other medi-
cal disciplines, some of the ideas about the nature and cause of mental illness tend
to be based on theories and concepts rather than on solid scientific evidence. Much
that is done in the way of treatment tends to be empirical (based on observation and
experience) and is, perhaps, framed and determined, to some extent, by the culture in
which we live. Also, the realm of the mind is very interrelated with the spiritual, and
here we are definitely in an area where Scripture and not science must be the final
authority. This principle will have to be kept in mind as we deal with our subject and
will surely throw us back on the Word of God, which “liveth and abideth forever.” It is
very comforting and assuring to know that God has given us all that we need to live a
godly life in this world, while recognizing that there are aspects of mental illness that
are beyond our understanding.
It is not the purpose of this book to discuss in detail all the various types of mental
illness that have been recognized, or to approach the subject through the classifica-
tion used by the psychiatric profession. However, since mental illness expresses itself
in a wide variety of ways, it will be good for us to have some idea of the scope of the
subject. Thus, some consideration of these different manifestations is necessary be-
fore we can proceed. The terms we will use will be the same ones used by those who
treat mental illness, as these terms are commonly recognized and understood. Let us
look at some examples of mental illness and behavioral disorders.

{SH/}Psychotic Disorders - Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Conditions
First of all, we come to the more serious types of mental illness, encompassing
schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions. In these cases the individuals are not
in contact with reality, in that they have lost the ability to tell the difference between
what is real and what is imaginary. Psychotic illnesses are characterized by severely
disordered behavior and speech, with delusions and hallucinations (such as hearing
voices and seeing nonexistent things). Occasionally psychotic episodes can occur in
other mental disturbances such as mood disorders. Similar symptoms can also be
caused by substance abuse, side effects of medication, and general medical condi-
tions. Autism probably should also be included in this category, a disorder character-
ized by language problems, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty with social interac-
tion. Schizophrenia, however, is always characterized by psychosis. These people are
often so disturbed in their ability to think and judge clearly that they may not realize
that they are mentally ill. The following is a description of a typical paranoid schizo-
“A. B., a physician, 38 years of age, was admitted in 1937 to a public hospital
for mental disease following his arrest for disturbing the peace. Specifically, he had
frightened his neighbors by hurling objects at imaginary people who, he said, were
tormenting him, by beating the air with ropes, and by breaking glass in the apart-
ment that he and his wife occupied.
“Upon his commitment to the hospital, his wife described his personality traits as
follows: ‘He has always been a deep thinker. Lately, however, he cannot concentrate.
He is rather aggressive and is the type who insists upon imposing his own ideas on
everyone else. He thinks that people have to agree with him. He is stubborn and
argumentative. This trait was even referred to in his college yearbook. He is an inde-
pendent thinker and is very bright. He had big plans for the future. He was formerly
quite extrovertive until the last few years, when he refused to go out and mingle with
“As the patient’s mental disorder progressed, he developed a great wealth of de-
lusions. He stated that he was ‘the link between the living and dead,’ that he was a
‘universal medium,’ that a certain physician called on him by mental telepathy for
added strength and skill in surgical operations. He believed that someone was hid-
ing in a trunk in his house and so he fired several bullets into the trunk. He accused
his brother of spraying him with chloral hydrate from the third floor of his house. He
therefore sat behind a closed door waiting for his brother, and upon hearing a noise,
shot through the door. He grew a beard because his face, he said, was being changed
in subtle ways by outside influences, adding that if he wore a beard, his true identity
would be known. Following his admission to the hospital, he often spent long hours in
his room where he could be heard pacing the floor, moaning, or making a noise like a
dog, striking his head with his fist, or pounding the wall. When asked the reason for
his behavior, he explained that he was suffering tortures because people abused their
powers of mental telepathy and were directing those powers toward him. He spent
nearly all the day in his room where, during the fourth and fifth years of his hospital
residence, he would frequently be heard shouting, screaming, and uttering noises
that the attendants described as resembling the howling of a wolf.”*

(*Noyes, Arthur P., and Kolb, Lawrence C., Modern Clinical Psychiatry. (W. B.
Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 1963), pp. 348,349.)
(The above description is that of a patient who had to be hospitalized for a lengthy
period of time, as the psychotropic drugs now used to treat his condition were not yet
{SH/}Neurotic or Behavioral Disorders - Personality Disorders
In this category we recognize, first of all, a range of problems that can be called
personality disorders. We all have behavioral traits which are enduring patterns of
perceiving, relating to, and reacting to ourselves and others in a wide range of con-
texts. These traits make us distinct individuals and are spoken of as our personality.
In some individuals, certain traits become exaggerated to such an extent that they
have serious inflexible and limited patterns of behavior. Often the inflexibility of the
personality and its vulnerability to particular stresses results in real difficulties in
social adaptation, leading to significant distress in the individual’s life. Some have
a dependent personality, where the individual has difficulty making decisions, initi-
ating projects on his own, or expressing disagreement. Such people go overboard to
obtain the approval of others and are urgent in seeking relationships. Others have an
avoidant type of personality, where they are unwilling to get involved in anything un-
less certain of being liked. Such people are preoccupied with being criticized and are
inhibited in new situations because of feeling inadequate. The antisocial personality
lacks the capacity to form proper relationships with others. They appear callous and
self-centered, devoid of a sense of responsibility, and are given to immediate plea-
sures. They often lack social judgment, yet they are intelligent enough to devise ratio-
nalizations to convince themselves that their actions are reasonable and warranted.
The obsessive-compulsive personality is preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism
and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness and efficiency. The
following description gives us an example of an obsessive-compulsive personality:
“Mrs. C., a 41year-old grocery store manager, comes for an evaluation at the in-
sistence of the regional manager of the chain for which she works. She has failed
to turn in the last four periodic reports on time, and her store has one of the lowest
productivity ratings in the chain, even though she usually comes in earlier and stays
later than any of the other managers and appears to be busy every minute of the day.
Mrs. C. has frequent battles with her employees and has the highest turnover rate
of employees in the chain. When confronted with these problems, she insists that her
store is being run ‘properly’ and by the book - unlike the others in the chain, which
are maintaining ‘shoddy’ standards.
“It is easy to identify the source of difficulty in the store. Mrs. C. insists that her
employees shelve and arrange goods in exquisitely straight lines. She checks, double-
checks, triple-checks, and quadruple-checks all her figures, which is why her periodic
reports never get in on time. She micromanages every aspect of the store’s operation
and, consequently, her meat and produce managers are always transferring to other
stores. Instead of appreciating Mrs. C.’s constant supervision, her managers find it
annoying and time-consuming. She is constantly drawing up charts, tables, graphs
and employee directives. She spends much of her time each morning constructing an
elaborate to-do list that she never finds time to complete.

“Mrs. C. has been married for fifteen years and has two children in their early
teens. Her husband is a postal worker. Mr. C. reported to the therapist that until Mrs.
C. began working at the store six years ago, they had lots of marital struggles because
of Mrs. C.’s need to oversee and direct every aspect of his life. She had insisted on
knowing where he was at every moment and had tried to plan all his leisure-time ac-
tivities. He said that it was a great relief to him when she began to work at the store
and became too busy to pay so much attention to his life. Mr. C. says that he and the
children have a hard time persuading his wife to take a vacation and that it gener-
ally does not turn out to be much fun when she does agree to go. Mrs. C. plans their
itinerary and activities minutely and insists that everyone must participate in what
she has scheduled. Nothing is allowed to be spontaneous or unplanned, and everyone
is expected to spend their time ‘productively’ even when on vacation.”*
(*Frances, Allen, M.D., and Ross, Ruth, M.A., DSMIV Case Studies. (American
Psychiatric Press, Washington, D.C., 1996), pp. 315-316.)
{SH/} Psychotic Disorders - Anxiety Disorders
Another well-recognized manifestation of behavioral disturbance is that of anxi-
ety disorders. This is one of the most frequently encountered forms of mental illness.
In this category are such entities as phobias, stress disorders, and disorders causing
panic attacks. Some people have a generalized anxiety disorder, where they worry
all the time about almost everything. As may be expected, such individuals have (for
various reasons) a high degree of anxiety, often accompanied by irrational fears. In
addition to the intense and often disabling anxiety, they may experience physical
symptoms such as pounding of their heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath,
and lightheadedness. Anxiety disorders can affect children as well as adults, as the
following example shows:
“Anne-Marie (not her real name) was a 10year-old girl from an intact, supportive
family who was described as ‘anxious from birth.’ She had been a cautious, shy pre-
schooler, but she adapted well to grade 1 and began making friends and succeeding
academically. She presented several times with chronic, diffuse abdominal pain that
was worst in the morning and never present at night. She had missed about twenty
days of school during the previous year because of the pain. She also avoided school
field trips, fearing the bus would crash. Her parents reported she had difficulty fall-
ing asleep and frequently asked for their reassurance.
“She was worried that she and members of her family might die. She was unable
to sleep at all when anticipating a test. She could not tolerate having her parents on
a different floor of the house from herself, and she checked the doors and windows in
the evenings, fearing intruders.
“Her clinging, need for constant reassurance, and school attendance problems
were both frustrating and upsetting to her parents.
“She had not experienced any traumatic events, although she reacted very strong-
ly to the television images of September 11, 2001. One of her grandparents had died
the previous year. A maternal aunt had recently been treated with fluoxetine [an
antidepressant drug] for depression and was described as ‘a nervous person.’
“Anne-Marie has symptoms typical of a childhood anxiety disorder.”
(*Manassis, Katharina, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), Childhood Anxiety Disorders. (Cana-

dian Family Physician, March, 2004), p. 380.)
{SH/} Psychotic Disorders - Mood Disorders
Another very frequent manifestation of mental illness is that of mood disorders. In
this category are the well-known entities of depression and manic-depressive illness.
Depression is characterized by continuous feelings of sadness and emptiness, a mark-
edly diminished interest in all activities, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, con-
stant tiredness, and a feeling of worthlessness. Manic-depressive (or bipolar) disorder
is characterized by periods of depression alternating with periods of elation, racing
thoughts, tremendous energy, a decreased need for sleep, and extreme talkativeness.
Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and an international
authority on manic-depressive illness, recounts her own experience with the disorder.
Here is her description of how she felt:
“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in
this kind of madness. When you’re high, it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are
fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and
brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the
power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting
people.  .  .  .  Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence,
and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas
are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity.
Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friend’s faces are replaced by fear and con-
cern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against - you are irritable,
angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the
mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves
its own reality.
“It goes on and on.  .  .  .  What then, after the medications, psychiatrist, despair,
depression, and overdose? All those incredible feelings to sort through.  .  .  .  What
did I do? Why? And most hauntingly, when will it happen again? Which of my feelings
are real? Which of the me’s is me? The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy
one? Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed, and tired one? Probably a
bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.”*
(*Jamison, Kay Redfield, An Unquiet Mind. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1995),
pp. 67-68.)
Here we have seen a case where neurotic behavior can be coupled with occasional
bouts of psychotic behavior, so that the line between “lunatic” conditions and behav-
ioral disorders is sometimes blurred.
{SH/}Mental Illness in the Bible
Madness or insanity is mentioned a number of times in Scripture, showing us
that such things were present and well recognized in both the Old and New Testa-
ments. We have already seen how the word “lunatic” is used in the New Testament to
describe those who were afflicted with disordered thinking and behavior. There are
many other references, however, in the Word of God. In the following verses, the word
“mad” means a pattern of thinking or acting without reason or judgment.
In Deuteronomy 28:34, Israel was told that they would be “mad for the sight of
thine eyes” when they would see the awful judgments God would bring upon them for

their disobedience. The word here has the thought of raving through insanity, clearly
brought on by adverse circumstances.
Then in 1 Samuel 21:1315, David pretended to be mad so that Achish, king of
Gath, would think that he was insane and not kill him. Obviously the ruse worked,
for Achish clearly regarded David as being mad and out of his mind.
In Ecclesiastes 7:7, we are told that “oppression maketh a wise man mad,” while
in Hosea 9:7 we are told, “The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the mul-
titude of thine iniquity.”
In Daniel 4:137, Nebuchadnezzar tells his nation how God humbled him with a se-
vere mental illness for seven years until he learned a most important lesson, namely,
that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He
will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).
In Acts 26:24, Festus accused Paul of being mad. The word here has the thought
of “mania,” or craziness. Paul replied that he was not mad, but rather was speaking
the words of truth and soberness. Again, in 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul says that if un-
believers came into the assembly when the believers were speaking in tongues, they
would think that they were mad, or raving like maniacs.
These references show us that insanity was clearly recognized for thousands of
years. Sometimes it was brought on by circumstances, sometimes by demon posses-
sion, and sometimes by God Himself. The word “lunatic” is used once in the New Tes-
tament (Matthew 17:15) to describe the state of one who was demon possessed, but
in Matthew 4:24 a distinction is made between those possessed by demons and those
who were lunatics. A disordered mental state might be caused by demon possession,
but such a condition could occur in the absence of a demon. Thus we see that mental
illness of various kinds and from different causes is recognized in the Word of God.
{SH/}The Nature of Man
In considering mental illness, it is helpful to have an understanding of man and
his nature, as given to us in the Word of God. However, since man is a complex being,
some readers may find the subject complicated and the concepts difficult to grasp. For
this reason, this section will be found in the Appendix. However, it may be turned to
and read at this point, if desired.

The Nature of Mental Illness
The Nature of Mental Illness
How then does mental illness develop? Is it a physical thing, brought on because
of chemical imbalance or other changes in the brain which do not allow the soul and
spirit to express themselves properly? Or is it mainly in the nonphysical realm - the
soul and spirit? Is it sometimes a combination of the two? Or does the origin go even
beyond this and involve the conscious “I” that is controlling the spirit, soul and body?
Is the origin always the same, or do different forms of mental illness have different
In seeking to answer such questions from a scriptural point of view, we must
start with the root cause-sin. All of the disorder and confusion in this world stems
from that awful thing that was introduced into the world in the Garden of Eden. In
considering the effect of sin and its consequences in this world, we must take up the
question in at least three different ways. First of all, we must consider sin in each one
of us as creatures of Adam and who thus feel the effects of sin in our being because
we have been born into a fallen race. Second, we must consider sin that may be will-
fully allowed in our lives and which can also have an effect on us. Finally, we must
consider sin as being in the world and thus affecting each one of us from without, as
in adverse circumstances or something that may be done to us.
{SH/}Sin as a Result of the Fall of Man - Physical Effects
First of all, we know that our bodies are affected by sin, sin that was introduced
into the world in the Garden of Eden. God had said to Adam, “Of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest
thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The words “thou shalt surely die” in the
Hebrew original could be read, “Dying thou shalt die.” Throughout human history
man has been made brutally aware of the truth of this statement as he has experi-
enced the disordered function and gradual deterioration of his body. The brain is part
of the body and thus has been affected by all this. Since the soul and spirit (and ulti-
mately the conscious “I”) must express themselves through the brain, they may find
themselves unable to do so properly because of disordered function of the brain. The
imperfect physical organization of man since the fall has rendered the mind (used in
the general sense), through its connection with the body (in this case the brain), liable
to false perceptions and abnormal expressions.
Such things as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, head inju-
ries, and brain infections can all cause disturbances of behavior. The lack of proper
sleep might also be included here. We can place alcohol and other substance abuse
in this category, as they affect the brain in a physical way. Here we are already deal-
ing with a combination of causes, for alcohol and substance abuse involve willful sin,
while head injuries and a lack of proper sleep involve adverse circumstances and the
effect of sin from without.
Most of us have had contact with someone who has developed Alzheimer’s dis-
ease and, as a result, no longer thinks or acts in a normal way. The individual often
has poor concentration, poor memory for recent events, difficulty in planning and
organizing his life, and impaired reasoning abilities. More serious are the resulting

emotional and psychological problems such as changes in personality, inappropriate
behavior in social situations, agitation, irritability, and even paranoia (an irrational
suspiciousness or distrust of others).
In serious head injuries or after a stroke, the individual’s ability to function in-
tellectually is usually damaged, but there are often other changes such as increased
anxiety, emotional lability, and even aggression. In some cases there is an exaggera-
tion of certain traits (such as stubbornness or impulsiveness) that the individual may
have had before the accident and a lack of control over tendencies which may have
been present already.
In addition to these somewhat obvious physical causes of mental illness, we know
that the brain is involved in mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
It is not our purpose to enlarge on what medical science may have discovered in this
realm, but suffice it to say that research has been able to demonstrate a biological
component of some mental disorders. For example, various chemical substances are
involved in the proper action of neurotransmitters in the brain, and when these are
not present in the right amounts (either an excess or a deficit), symptoms of mental
illness may result. This is certainly an important contributing factor in some forms of
mental illness and predisposes the individual to a particular disorder. However, it is
a mistake to categorize someone having a mental illness as simply having a “chemi-
cal imbalance.” The matter is far more involved than this, taking on a complexity in
which multiple genes act in concert with nongenetic factors to produce a risk of men-
tal disorder.
We will leave the matter of alcohol and substance abuse for now, as these are
more in the category of a spiritual problem rather than a naturally occurring one. But
the others that we have mentioned are things that occur because we have been born
into a sinful creation. Although believers have had their sins forgiven, they are still
part of a creation that “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans
8:22). The next verse tells us that “ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the
Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the
redemption of our body.” Only when the believer has his glorified body will he func-
tion in the way that God intended. But again, the problem of mental illness is more
complicated than simply a disorder of the brain.
{SH/}Sin as a Result of the Fall of Man - Soul and Spirit
So far, we have considered only how sin has affected the physical side of man and
how a diseased or damaged brain may not respond in the right way. But do we real-
ize that sin has reached into every part of our being, moral and spiritual as well as
physical? We would readily agree that the tendency to lie, steal or murder is definite
evidence of sin which is in us because of the fall of man. We must recognize, however,
that the soul and spirit are affected by the fall of man, not only in our having a ten-
dency to commit sin, but also in manifesting abnormalities that sin has caused. We
are all born into this world as lost sinners, and while the essential evil is neither in
the body itself nor in human nature and its faculties, yet all of these are spoiled by it.
While the body itself is not sinful, it suffers from the effects of sin, as we have seen.
Also, it is through his body that man commits sin. David could say in Psalm 51:5
(JND), “Behold, in iniquity was I brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive

me.” Paul says in Romans 7:18 (JND), “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good
does not dwell.” The term “the flesh” as used in Scripture sometimes refers to man’s
whole natural being-body, soul and spirit.* (This is developed more fully in the sec-
tion on “The Nature of Man.”) Scripture also tells us that naturally we were “sons of
disobedience: among whom we also all once had our conversation in the lusts of our
flesh, doing what the flesh and the thoughts willed to do” (Ephesians 2:23 JND). I
would suggest that all of man’s being is included in these verses. Thus, the body (in-
cluding the brain) feels the effect of sin in its disordered function and deterioration,
and the soul and spirit, with all our faculties, have been affected by sin.
(*In the same way, we read of the Lord Jesus that He “suffered for us in the flesh”
(1 Peter 4:1), that He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), and
that “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). As our whole being
was involved in sin, so the Lord Jesus suffered in His whole being for sin.)
In his booklet Self-Esteem, the author states:
“Many of you are aware that there are different personality types, and in a gen-
eral way we can all be fitted into one (or a combination) of these different types. For
example, some people are hard workers, well disciplined, and good organizers. These
are the people who can manage anything and who generally accomplish a lot in this
world. No doubt this ability was given to them of God, and it is fair to say that they
would have had this ability even if man had not fallen. But these people usually have
a negative side to them, for they are often arrogant and intolerant of others. They
may be sarcastic and often do not work well with others. They may rise to the top in
the business world and be in managerial positions, but they are sometimes not liked
by their subordinates.
“On the other hand, there are those who are far more open and friendly and are
what we would call ‘people persons.’ They are intuitive, can sense other people’s feel-
ings, and react appropriately. They usually have many friends and are well liked by
others. Again, this is a God-given trait and would have been part of them without the
fall. On the negative side, these people often have a problem with self-discipline and
find it difficult to discipline others. They find it more difficult to keep an appointment
on time, to manage their affairs in an orderly way, and to take responsibility seri-
“What we see in the personalities of men, including ourselves, is partly what God
in His wisdom created and partly what sin has brought in. We see beauty in nature
and recognize God’s handiwork, but then we see the ruin that sin has brought in.”
(*Prost, William J., Self-Esteem. (Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL, 1993), pp.
Some of what is called mental illness or disordered behavior is really an exagger-
ated expression of what are normal mental and emotional responses, but without the
proper integration with and balance of other traits that would enable the individual
to react normally. Just as each personality type has a downside which is, no doubt,
the result of sin, so the effect of the fall on the human soul and spirit contributes to
abnormal behavior which may result in mental illness. The effect of imbalances in
our makeup results in what is conventionally called personality-that combination of
qualities that makes the individual unique. However, if these imbalances go beyond

a certain point, the exaggeration of one or more tendencies results in abnormal be-
havior which we may call mental illness. For example, the imagination is an impor-
tant, useful and interesting part of human personality, but an overactive imagination
which does not distinguish between fantasy and reality may result in delusions and
even hallucinations.
Let us consider a well-known mental illness such as manic-depressive (or bipolar)
disorder. Is it merely a physical condition, or is there more involved? Is it caused sim-
ply by a brain that is “wired” to go off occasionally in a frantic flight, to be followed
by a corresponding crash into depression? No doubt a distortion in brain function is
part of it, and this is the reason that psychotropic drugs can effect some relief of the
symptoms. However, I believe that Scripture would lead us to believe that sin affect-
ing the soul, spirit and the conscious “I” is also involved. As we have already noted,
the soul and spirit interact with the body (the brain) in a way that only God can fully
understand, and since sin has pervaded every part of man’s being, the effect of it is
felt in body, soul and spirit.
Many believers have suffered from mental disorders, and continue to do so. In
some cases, these were largely due to factors beyond their control, as in the case of
William Cowper, the well-known hymnwriter who lived in the eighteenth century.
When he felt well, he could write beautiful hymns, such as “Ere God had built the
mountains” and “God moves in a mysterious way,” and even lighter poems like “The
Ride of John Gilpin.” But when depression overtook him, he was haunted by the
blackness of despair, and several times he attempted suicide. All his life he was sub-
ject to the “highs and lows” of his illness, although he saw clearly the fullness of the
work of Christ for his salvation.
I have known more than one earnest believer who struggled with schizophrenia,
with its delusions and hallucinations. Others have to cope with anxiety disorders, be-
ing subject to such things as panic attacks and phobias, with the mental and physical
anguish that these entities involve. Having known some of these individuals for more
than twenty-five years, I am persuaded that the problem is neither purely physical
nor purely in the soul and spirit. Rather, we must understand that, just as the body is
subject to disorder and disease through sin, so the soul and spirit are also affected by
it. Beyond even all this, sin has affected the conscious “I”-the essence of the individual
himself that ultimately controls the spirit, soul and body. While this may sometimes
be a spiritual problem and may always have a spiritual dimension, the tendency itself
is the result of sin distorting the soul and spirit as well as distorting the body. Often
sin distorts both the physical and the nonphysical at the same time, resulting in a
complex origin for the particular mental illness. This brings us to a consideration of
the second aspect of sin and its consequences, namely, sin allowed in our lives.
{SH/}Sin Allowed in Our Lives-Willful Sin
We have already seen that we have all been born as members of a fallen race, and
as such we are subject to the effects of sin in our spirit, soul and body. In addition,
because sin has entered this world, we also have a sinful nature that Scripture often
calls “the flesh.” Scripture uses this expression to describe man’s sinful self that can-
not please God. (This is also explained more fully in the section on “The Nature of
Man.”) In the New Testament, especially in Paul’s epistles, it refers to man’s moral

condition without God and the principle of self-will that governs the actions of the
natural man. When our sinful nature, “the flesh,” is allowed to act, it can certainly
contribute to and sometimes be the main factor in mental illness.
When sin is allowed in our lives, it is at once more serious, for it brings our respon-
sibility before God into the picture. This is clearly seen in the case of Nebuchadnez-
zar in Daniel 4, whose mental illness was allowed of God because of his pride. Such
sin is obviously different from a tendency to mental illness that is inherited, for it
involves what Scripture calls “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1).
While there is no doubt that the tendency to these besetting sins is often passed on
in families, yet we must draw a distinction between that which is the result of sin
and that which is sin itself. The tendency to a particular type of behavior is clearly
an infirmity, the result of sin, but bad behavior is sin itself. Sinful thought patterns
and bad behavior can precipitate mental illness, and here it is definitely a spiritual
problem. There is, however, encouragement in dealing with it, for as believers we can
know deliverance from sin because the Lord Jesus has died to sin. We will say more
on this subject when we discuss treatment.
For example, suppressed anger which is kept in the heart can bring on depression,
and the depression will not lift until this is recognized and dealt with. Many stories
about this could be told. A man walked into the room of a friend who had fallen into
depression again and again, so as to need hospitalization, and bluntly asked, “Okay,
what are you angry about this time?” It worked. The patient blurted it out and began
to recover. Another example is given by E. C. Hadley in his book, You Can Have a
Happy Life. He comments:
“We may not be fully conscious of the fact that sin and self-will are the cause of
our anxious fears. It is so easy to deceive ourselves and make ourselves believe that
someone or something else is responsible. However, we will never get rid of our fears
or have any real peace until we admit the truth and get things right with God.
“A young lady, brought up in a Christian home, began to do things that her con-
science condemned. Unwilling to admit them and confess them to God, she began
to persuade herself first that God didn’t care, and then that there was no God. For
several years she claimed to be an atheist. But the sin in her life gradually developed
into anxiety and fear.
“She finally felt as if she were losing her mind and ended up in a mental hospital.
Many remedies were tried, but no relief came until she faced the fact that she was
trying to rule God out of her life. Once she confessed her sins and surrendered to God,
she was able to leave the hospital with her anxieties and fears gone, and her mind
Sometimes we try to blame bad behavior on some physical cause, such as an ab-
normality of the brain. One such case involved a prominent politician who was hold-
ing a press conference. Here is the account of what happened, written by someone
who heard him:
“This anti-drug politician had been a Teflon man through his two terms of office.
Although he had faced constant legal charges, none of them stuck. Embezzlement,
selling political favors, drug use -he was always accused but never found guilty. Now
he had been caught in the act of buying and using illegal drugs. It was all on tape.

How was he going to get out of it this time?
“As he was moving toward the podium, a reporter called out, ‘Why did you do it?
Why did you lie to us all these years?’
“His response was immediate. ‘I didn’t do it,’ he said. ‘My brain was messed up.
It was my brain that did it. My disease did it!’ There wasn’t a hint of remorse - only
indignation that someone would ask such a question.”
(*Welch, Edward T., Blame It on the Brain. (Phillipsburg, NJ, P & R Publishing
Co., 1998), p. 13.)
This man was assuredly not mentally ill in the real sense of the word, but rather
he was excusing his sinful behavior by saying that he was not responsible because his
brain was supposedly messed up!
We are all familiar with the well-known case of Judas Iscariot, a disciple of the
Lord Jesus who betrayed Him for the money involved. When the Lord Jesus did not
use His divine power to escape but rather allowed Himself to be arrested, it is record-
ed that Judas returned the money and then committed suicide. No doubt he was sorry
for what he had done, but his sorrow was rather for the consequences of his sin than
for the sin itself. Scripture tells us that “godly sorrow worketh repentance  .  .  .  but
the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Poor Judas felt such re-
morse that he “went and hanged himself  ” (Matthew 27:5). Such was the awful result
of sin allowed in his life!
So far we have mentioned some examples of mental illness where willful sin was
the primary cause of the problem. However, willful sin can be a serious factor in
mental illness that has its primary origin in sin as the effect of the fall of man. The
predisposition to mental illness may be inherited, but the outward manifestations of
such tendencies may be the result of sin allowed in one’s life. A propensity toward
mental illness that would otherwise remain dormant can be brought out by willful
sin. Episodes of mental illness are sometimes a specific reaction to severe anxiety
arising from inability to meet the demands of adult adjustment. Such a difficulty may
have its roots in a permissive upbringing, where there was a lack of the necessary
discipline to shape the individual properly. A medical doctor (a believer) who treated
a large number of college students made this observation:
“Children who have never been conditioned by some frustrations during the first
fifteen years of life will not be very fit to meet the demands of adult living without
experiencing unusual stress.”*
(*McMillen, S. I., M.D., None of These Diseases. (Fleming H. Revell, Westwood,
NJ, 1958), p. 124.)
Dr. Douglas Kelly, the chief psychiatrist at the Nuremberg trials, made the state-
ment that we have raised “a generation of children who have not been taught the
discipline required for getting along with the world.  .  .  .  We have been overenthusi-
astic in our refusal to teach control lest we traumatize.”* If he made this statement
more than fifty years ago, what would he say today? Children who have been disci-
plined mentally and physically to work, to accept restrictions on their behavior, and
to direct their emotions and energies outward instead of inward will not be nearly as
likely to develop mental illness, even if they have been predisposed to it by heredity.
We will say more about this subject when we consider circumstances and the effect

of sin from without.
(*Psychiatry at Work. (Time Magazine, July 18, 1955), p. 55)
In our discussion of the scope of mental illness, we have mentioned personality
disorders and how sin has sometimes distorted the “makeup” of the individual so
that his patterns of behavior deviate markedly from others. Sad to say, this effect of
sin on one’s personality sometimes leads to willful sin, where the individual becomes
angry at not being accepted as normal. Instead of admitting the problem and seeking
help in dealing with it, he lashes out at others. He may deny that he has a problem,
choosing rather to regard himself as normal and others as abnormal. Such people are
doomed to lead most unhappy lives until they face the problem, admit it, and seek the
Lord’s help. In other cases, the individual is genetically predisposed to his bad per-
sonality structure, but then his will takes that tendency and allows it to act in open
sin. This is particularly true in the serious disorder sometimes called the antisocial or
“psychopathic” personality. Left to themselves, such individuals often end up living a
life of crime, unless the grace of God reaches them and saves them.
Addictions, too, are part of this aspect of mental illness, in that they are connected
with an inherited tendency which is then allowed to flourish to the point where it be-
comes sin. Because this is such a large subject, we will reserve it for a more thorough
discussion later in this book.
The question of willful sin also brings us to a discussion of our moral responsibility
in mental illness.
{SH/}Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness
We must remember a most important principle, namely, that God always holds
us responsible for the motives of our behavior. A small child may be more prone to
misbehave because it did not get a proper afternoon nap, but wise parents will not
totally excuse such bad behavior, although making an allowance for the lack of a nap.
In the same way, we cannot altogether blame a physical disease for bad behavior,
although the disease may make it more difficult for us to do what is right. Scripture
tells us “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities” (Romans 8:26), and this includes such
things as bipolar disorder or post head injury emotional problems. Furthermore, a
physical disease, whether affecting the brain or some other part of the body, cannot
prevent us from following the Lord and looking to Him for help in the situation. Paul
could say to the Corinthians, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man
is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Likewise, the Lord Himself could say to
Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Corinthians 12:9). While it is certainly not easy to find one’s natural abilities dis-
torted, reduced or even taken away, yet it is an opportunity for us to recognize our
weakness and look to the Lord for strength and help. Many dear believers have found
this to be true and have been overcomers and bright testimonies for Christ, even with
such disabilities.
In making these statements, we must, of course, distinguish between abnormal
and sinful behavior. As a result of mental deficiency or mental illness, an individual
may exhibit abnormal behavior which is characteristic of that particular illness. For
example, the manic and depressive phases of bipolar disorder are largely beyond the
individual’s control and will cause certain types of behavior that he cannot help. The

lack of memory and inability to reason that go with Alzheimer’s disease are charac-
teristic of that disease and cannot be helped. However, sinful behavior (that which
is morally wrong) is something over which we have control, at least as to motive,
although the distortions of our spirit, soul and body because of man’s fall may make
it harder for us to control such tendencies. No doubt there is sometimes a fine line
between what is abnormal because of mental illness and what is sinful because our
will and wrong motives are involved.
The subject of willful sin and our responsibility before God brings up the question
of addictions, which we will now look at.
{SH/}Addictions - Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Connected with sin allowed in our lives is also the matter of alcohol and other
substance abuse. We have mentioned it already in connection with physical causes
of mental illness, for alcohol and other drugs do have a physical effect on the brain.
There are chemical substances (drugs) that, taken properly and under medical su-
pervision, affect the brain in a beneficial way. Others (such as cocaine or heroin) give
a temporary pleasurable experience but are accompanied by serious detrimental ef-
fects. The ingestion of such substances is almost always done with the full knowledge
that there will be both pleasurable and painful consequences. As with other causes
of mental disturbances, we recognize that there are those who, because of their men-
tal and physical makeup, find it much easier to become addicted to drugs, especially
alcohol. Once he has started to abuse the substance involved, the individual may
become addicted, perhaps both physically and psychologically, and find it difficult to
stop the habit. Symptoms of mental illness are often produced both in the immediate
time frame and in the long term. We have all seen the sad behavior of one inebriated
by excess alcohol, but chronic alcohol abuse may result in mental illness due to per-
manent brain damage (Korsakoff’s psychosis). Scripture warns us about all this, and
Solomon tells us in the Proverbs:
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrows? who hath contentions? who hath babbling?
who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at
the wine.  .  .  .
“Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup,
when it moveth itself aright.
“At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
“Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse
things” (Proverbs 23:2933).
{SH/}Addictions - Other Addictions
It is beyond the scope of this book to speak in detail about every addiction, but a
few comments are in order before we go on. First of all, we must remember that addic-
tions may include many things in our lives. Paul says to the Corinthians, “All things
are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but
I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Scripture specifi-
cally mentions such things as sexual immorality, the abuse of alcohol, and overeat-
ing, but we can be brought under the power of many other things - sports, physical
exercise, gambling, caffeine - even such things as risk taking. We must recognize that
the unruly desires that drive addictions are found in every human heart. The Lord

Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).
Doubtless the tendency to a particular addiction is influenced both by genetics
and by various influences in our upbringing, but then our will enters the picture,
for we like to sin. Then, when we have indulged in a particular behavior repeatedly,
we become enslaved by it so that it controls us. Thus we have purposeful acts of sin
combined with the controlling nature of addictions. In fact, all sin acts like this, but
addictions make it more apparent.
If we deny the slavery of addictions, we must assume that the individual has pow-
er to change himself. This is not true, for man’s will is powerless against sin without
the power of the grace of God. On the other hand, if we deny the willful sin involved
in addictions, then we allow ourselves to put the blame outside of ourselves, much as
did the politician quoted earlier, who excused his drug dealing on the premise that
his brain was messed up. The reality is that a tendency in our hearts - “the sin which
doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1) - finds its expression in sinful choices and
ends up as controlling behavior that resembles a disease. “When lust hath conceived,
it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).
We will now consider the third aspect of sin and its consequences, that of circum-
stances and sin acting on us from without.
{SH/}Circumstances and Sin Acting on Us
We have already noticed that circumstances and their influence on our mental
state are mentioned more than once in the Word of God. The Lord foretold that, as a
result of disobedience, Israel would suffer greatly at His hand. One of the sufferings
they would experience is mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:34, namely, “Thou shalt be
mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.” The word here has the thought
of raving through insanity, in this case the result of seeing the awful judgments God
would bring upon His people. Likewise, we are told in Ecclesiastes 7:7 that “oppres-
sion maketh a wise man mad.” Many individuals can manage to cope reasonably well
in life if things go smoothly and peacefully. Yet if troubles and difficulties come in,
often they are tipped over the brink into abnormal thought patterns and behavior.
Such things as chronic physical pain, bereavement, the loss of one’s job, family cri-
ses, and other stressful circumstances can all affect our mental state. To this list we
would also have to add less common causes like war, torture, and the continuous lack
of proper sleep. (In mentioning a lack of sleep, we are referring to sleep deprivation
as a result of stressful circumstances.) All of these are the effects of sin from without,
sin that has distorted the whole pattern of life in this world.
If one suffers severe, chronic physical pain for more than a month, he will, hu-
manly speaking, begin to be depressed. The loss of one’s source of income or, more
seriously, the death of a loved one can also precipitate a bout of depression. Those
with more serious mental disorders like schizophrenia can sometimes manage to lead
relatively normal lives if most of the stress is removed, but they find that their illness
is greatly aggravated by difficult circumstances. Individuals subjected to the horrors
of war and/or torture frequently suffer such things as shell-shock and even long-term
personality changes. All this is sometimes referred to as post-traumatic stress disor-
der. The less resilient one is and the more fragile one’s emotional makeup, the less
it takes in the way of adverse circumstances to cause obvious abnormal thinking or

All of this has increased greatly in our modern world. At the time of writing this
book, entities like depression and serious anxiety have increased dramatically in
Canada during the past twenty years. Disorders with a psychological component,
such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, have seen an even greater in-
crease. Often stress in one’s life leads to disturbed sleep and ultimately chronic sleep
deprivation. This results in chronic fatigue, increased anxiety, physical pain, and fi-
nally depression. The whole syndrome becomes a vicious circle as the depression and
anxiety lead to further stress. As well, we must realize that stress may be due to our
own will, where our pride pushes us to have our own way. The frustration that oc-
curs when our will is thwarted can produce stress and ultimately all of the problems
we have just mentioned. Another has wisely remarked that “circumstances would
not trouble if they did not find something in us contrary to God; they would rustle by
as the wind.”* Here again we are in an area where different causes of mental illness
overlap one another, making the subject very complex.
(*Darby, J. N., God’s Rest, the Saint’s Rest. (The Collected Writings of J. N. Dar-
by, Vol. 16, Stow Hill Ed.), p. 117.)
{SH/}The Lord Jesus and Depression
It is in this area that we must make some comments about the Lord Jesus Christ.
He, as a sinless Man, came into a world of sin and thus experienced all the awful ef-
fects of sin from without. He went through every kind of suffering that a sinless man
could go through. We read in Hebrews 4:15, “We have not an high priest which cannot
be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as
we are, yet without sin.” All of this rose to an unparalleled height when He went to
the cross, for there He experienced not only all that man’s wicked heart could devise,
but also the wrath of a holy God against sin. As a sinless man He felt it all, and felt
it perfectly. In contemplating all of this in the garden of Gethsemane, His holy soul
was overwhelmed by what lay ahead. Matthew’s Gospel records the scene as follows:
“Then Jesus comes with them to a place called Gethsemane, and says to the dis-
ciples, Sit here until I go away and pray yonder. And taking with Him Peter and
the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply depressed” (Matthew
26:3637 JND).
Here we find sinless perfection in the presence of evil, and such evil as no other
was ever called upon to experience, yet meeting it in that perfection which accepted
it all from the Father. As we have seen, evil tends to depress the soul, and our Lord
felt the evil personally, yet perfectly, because of His holiness. As a result, since Satan
had nothing in Him, the consequence of this depression was only communion with
God. Another has most aptly remarked concerning Christ’s work on the cross, “Scorn,
enmity, perfect depression (He was crucified in weakness; see Psalm 22:14) and Jeho-
vah’s face hidden from Him, these marked His state really there but [He was] faith-
ful, saying, ‘Thou art holy’  ”* (italics mine).
(*Darby, J. N., Notes and Comments on Scripture, Volume 3. (Bible Truth Pub-
lishers, Addison, IL, U.S.A.), p. 86.)
We will have more to say on this when we speak about the treatment of mental ill-
ness, but it is humbling and at the same time encouraging to see our blessed Master

experiencing all the effect of sin from without and feeling what can be called depres-
sion on that account. We walk on holy ground here, however, and would make it com-
pletely clear that, while our blessed Lord had human nature, He did not have fallen
nature. As a perfect man, He could feel as any other man might feel, and because of
His sinlessness He felt the awfulness of sin in a way that none other could. When all
of this was brought to bear upon Him in Gethsemane’s garden, it did indeed depress
Him and resulted in prayer to His Father.
{SH/}Past Circumstances
In addition to present circumstances, we must mention experiences that one may
have had previously in his/her life. We bring up this subject with caution, not because
the phenomenon does not exist, but because there has been so much controversy and
misunderstanding about this aspect of human behavior. It is unfortunate that Sig-
mund Freud championed much of this approach to human behavior, for because of
his atheistic views and anti-Christian ideas, believers have quite rightly given him
and his theories a wide berth. Nevertheless, it is true that past experiences do mold
our thinking and outlook, and painful experiences may cause us to develop certain
coping strategies or defense mechanisms. As long as these coping strategies are good
(such as seeking help from someone or avoiding the cause of the problem), they make
it possible for us to reduce the impact of stressful events and maintain normal behav-
ior. However, if they degenerate into defense mechanisms that are destructive, they
may well provoke mental disturbances instead of avoiding them. Those who repress a
painful memory or deny that something unpleasant really happened may experience
some short-term relief, but they will eventually find that they must face reality. We
may leave a splinter in our finger to avoid the pain associated with removing it, but
the resulting infection and inflammation will create a much greater problem than if
we had taken the trouble to remove it. So hurts and bad experiences that happened
in the past may cast a shadow over our lives, causing us to think and act in ways that
are abnormal.
{SH/}Demon Possession
This cause of mental illness is a most important one, and one which is mentioned
a number of times in Scripture. Because it is a factor in mental illness that is fre-
quently neglected and perhaps not even recognized, it is important that we consider
it carefully. However, because it is in a class by itself and because it is so important,
we will consider demon possession as a separate entity later in the Appendix.
{SH/}Criminal Actions
We have seen how willful sin can cause mental illness and how sin allowed in our
lives can aggravate a tendency that is already present in our beings as the result of
sin. If this is carried beyond a certain point, the individual may be guilty of criminal
activity. This is another case where willful sin combines with sin as a result of man’s
fall. Again, because this is a special type of willful sin, we will leave it for consider-
ation in the Appendix.
In the light of all that we have been considering, it becomes obvious that mental
illness, whether mild or seriously disabling, is very complicated. There are almost
always multiple causes, such as physical, spiritual and circumstantial. It is the pres-

ence of these multiple causes together with our limited understanding of mental ill-
ness which is, no doubt, responsible for much of the misunderstanding and unbal-
anced thinking on the subject.
There are those who would reduce every abnormal mental or emotional response
to a spiritual problem, while others would say that it is all physical, to do with mal-
functioning neurotransmitters and bad chemistry in the brain. We have seen that nei-
ther of these is totally wrong, but neither is totally right either. Some would try and
relate everything to experiences we had at some earlier time in our lives, while others
would say that original sin is the cause of all of these problems. Again, both may be
factors in mental illness, but neither explains the whole picture. Rather, in any given
situation, multiple factors are likely involved and thus need to be addressed. Genetic,
environmental and spiritual factors may all be present, in greater or lesser degrees.
The assessment of the different factors in an individual case together with the choice
of appropriate therapy presents the greatest challenge for those who treat mental
For the believer, the whole subject should foster humility, when we realize the
complexity of man as the highest being in creation - the one who was created in the
image and likeness of God! Surely the likeness was lost as a result of the fall of man,
but the image remains - he is still the head of creation and thus represents God in
this world. We should be humbled, too, when we consider that “by one man sin en-
tered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). It was man’s sin that intro-
duced into this world not only disorders of the body, but also of the soul and spirit,
and all are involved in mental illness. May we always approach the subject with that
holy reverence that realizes that “we know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9), whether in
spiritual or natural things. Let us talk a little now about treatment.

{SH/}General Principles
We are all aware that the treatment of disease can be complicated, even if we are
considering mainly physical disease. It is not enough to treat only the body, for we
know that the spirit, soul and body interact in well-recognized, if poorly understood,
ways. Scripture tells us that “a joyful heart promoteth healing; but a broken spirit
drieth up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 JND). Likewise, we read, “The spirit of a man
sustaineth his infirmity; but a broken spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14 JND).
So the nonphysical and physical influence each other, either for good or bad. This
principle is well-known in medical circles and in the world at large. Even in simple
illnesses like the common cold, studies have shown that happy, well-adjusted people
have fewer colds and of shorter duration than those who are unhappy or under stress.
It is the same for mental illness, for we have seen that, in most cases, spirit, soul
and body are all involved. All the various factors responsible must be considered and
identified, and treatment will not be effective without this. Most mental illnesses
have some physical component, and thus it is a mistake to view all mental disorders
as spiritual problems. On the other hand, it is an even greater mistake to view the
whole problem as physical, for while medication can treat what is physical, it has no
moral effect and can never reach into the soul or spirit.
A most important point must be made here, namely, that there is a spiritual di-
mension to every case of mental illness. There are several reasons for this. In the first
place, we must recognize that God allowed it, just as He allows physical illnesses. The
acceptance of it and the recognition of God’s hand in allowing it is the first step in
dealing with the problem. Second, because man is a moral being with a responsibil-
ity toward God, there are moral and spiritual issues that affect mental illness. The
spirit, soul and body interact with one another, and when abnormal behavior occurs,
sometimes sinful behavior is involved (or potentially involved) too. Finally, there is
the need to recognize the problem of mental illness, and not deny it. As with all sin in
the flesh, man has a tendency to excuse, to deny, to blame others, and perhaps even to
blame God. An individual afflicted with mental illness may have the tendency to view
himself as normal and others as abnormal. Such a denial of the problem makes for a
most unhappy life, as no treatment can have any long-term effect in these people. Of
course, these spiritual dimensions can all be present with physical illness too, but we
would suggest that they are often present to a greater degree in mental illness and
are thus more important.
In considering treatment, we will frequently refer to Scripture. While the com-
ments made will be generally applicable to all who experience mental illness, we wish
to make it clear that we are going to use the Word of God freely, as writing for the
benefit of those who know the Lord and who have trusted Him as their Savior. For
those that read this who may not know the Lord Jesus as their Savior, we would point
out that the only remedy for sin is to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. At Calvary’s
cross He satisfied God as to the whole matter of sin, and now we read that “the blood
of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). On this basis we read

that God “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He wants you
to know the Lord Jesus as your Savior today and know that your sins are forgiven!
{SH/}The Lord, the Great Physician
“We have not a high priest not able to sympathize with our infirmities, but tempt-
ed in all things in like manner, sin apart. Let us approach therefore with boldness to
the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace for seasonable help”
(Hebrews 4:1516 JND).
“Whatever your state, come to Jesus, and you will find that He is always gracious,
that He has always grace.  .  .  .  
“He was despised for it - faithful in love going through all the scene of man, be-
cause He was the faithful Witness, that grace may come to me where I am ashamed
to be seen of men: there Christ comes to seek me out, determined to be the faithful
Witness of God, who is rich in mercy.
“You cannot be in any condition that Christ did not come into. He plunged into the
very sea of men’s misery to help you out. It is a comfort to get man’s sympathy, but
he often cannot help us. What is it to get God’s sympathy, which has power in it?”*
(*Darby, J. N., Fragmentary Thoughts on Revelation. (The Collected Writings of
J. N. Darby, Vol. 34, Stow Hill Ed.), pp. 138-139.)
{SH/}Our Sympathizing High Priest
We have already referred to the Lord Jesus as having passed through every kind
of suffering and difficult circumstance that a sinless man could go through, even that
perfect depression that came from contemplating and eventually going through His
sufferings on the cross. We saw how He accepted it all from His Father and thus, in
perfection, continued in communion with His Father in it all. As a result of going
through all this, He is now able to be a “merciful and faithful High Priest” to those
who are also experiencing the difficulties of the Christian path. Of course, it would
be blasphemous to suggest that our blessed Lord Jesus ever suffered from any ill-
ness from within, whether physical or mental, but in passing through all the circum-
stances we may be called upon to pass through, He experienced from without all the
evil that was in the world. Because of His holy nature and because of His love, He felt
it all as no other could. It was common for men to lose their reason as the result of a
Roman scourging, yet the Lord Jesus endured it all and “witnessed a good confession”
before Pilate afterward. We have already noted that in Matthew 26:37 (JND), it says
that the Lord Jesus became “sorrowful and deeply depressed” in the garden of Geth-
semane, showing that He felt very much the prospect of being made sin for us. Yet He
could, at the same time, think of the spiritual welfare of others, telling His disciples
to pray that they should not enter into temptation. So our blessed Lord is there for
us, not as One who has not experienced any of our trials, but who was tested in all
that we are passing through, although without sin. He wants us to come to Him with
our infirmities and weaknesses, in order to obtain mercy and grace to help us when
we need them.
While we would not want to suggest that mental illness is allowed of God simply to
make us more dependent on the Lord, yet it is true that the unique nature of a men-
tal disorder casts us on the Lord in a way that perhaps mere physical disease does
not. Someone has remarked that He reserves His richest cordials (stimulants) for our

deepest needs. Thus we would suggest that the Lord wants us to approach Him first
with our difficulties, first of all in submission and acceptance of the problem from
Him, and then in a spirit of asking for His help in the matter. Ultimately only He can
heal, and only He can direct as to what additional forms of treatment we should seek
out. We cannot emphasize this too strongly, for while man can often give relief from
the symptoms of both physical and mental illness, ultimately the only remedy for sin
is found at the cross. All other forms of treatment must be viewed in this light.
{SH/}He Gives Grace
If the problem stems mainly from a hereditary tendency to a particular behavioral
disorder, He can give us the grace to take it from Him and to live for His glory in spite
of it. He can show us what kinds of treatment might be helpful and can help us order
our lives so as to be able to cope with the problem.
If the matter involves difficult circumstances, perhaps from stress in the family or
the workplace, He wants us to roll the burden over on Him. He has said, “Casting all
your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He will give us the grace to
bear the difficult circumstances, for He has experienced the same. Just as He glorified
the Father in the most trying of circumstances, so He wants to give us the grace to do
so too. If some change in our circumstances would be helpful in alleviating the stress,
He will show us how to do it. This is not to say that He will necessarily take away
the source of the problem, but in bringing the matter before Him we can look for and
expect His sympathy and guidance. He can help us not to “break” under the weight of
the circumstances, but rather give us the strength to be overcomers.
{SH/}Suffering as a Result of Willful Sin
Even if we have caused some of the problem by our own willfulness and sin, let
us remember that if we come to the Lord about it, He will always meet us in love. I
knew a man (now with the Lord) who had wasted his early life and who suffered from
permanent brain damage as a result of the long-term abuse of alcohol. He was obliged
to spend the rest of his life in an institution, and his attitude and behavior initially
made it most difficult for the staff there to manage him. But then he accepted the
Lord Jesus as his Savior, and although his mental capacities were still very limited
and his behavior not totally normal, the change in him was remarkable. He was easy
to manage, always wore a smile, loved to talk about the Lord, and took a prominent
part in hymn sings that were occasionally held at the place where he lived. He even-
tually passed away at a relatively young age, but he was surely a case where “though
our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians
If there is sin in our life that is contributing to the problem, we can bring it before
the Lord and deal with it. Much of the stress in our lives stems from this, and perhaps
we do not even realize it. Again, we would place strong emphasis on this point. Many
dear believers are indeed trying to walk as children of light. As we fail to produce
the fruit of that light, we may become disillusioned because we are driven from deep
within by that of which we have been unaware. Perhaps we have rightly understood
salvation as a free gift, but have not understood that we are to work it out with fear
and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We have not understood properly that sanctifica-
tion (being set apart for Christ) is a process as well as a position. Thus we tend to

press on in terms of managing behavior rather than by the renewing of the mind (Ro-
mans 12:2). Instead of really changed behavior, the result is rather repression of the
flesh instead of death to it. We control evil tendencies while allowing them to remain
in a storehouse of the heart. Then, when behavior erupts which is not Christlike, we
strive all the more to control the behavior or rebuke the devil (who had to have raw
material to work with even if he did trigger the behavior), instead of dealing with the
real root of the problem.
{SH/}Dealing With Sin-the Root
There are many verses in the Bible that show us clearly that the blood of Christ
has put the believer’s sins away. In scriptures like Romans 6, the question of sin is
dealt with, in its root and principle. There we get the further truth that in the death
of Christ, God saw the moral end of the natural man. “Knowing this, that our old
man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth
we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6). God never forgives the old nature - death is
the only remedy for it. Because of the death of Christ, we are now able to obey the
command to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God
through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). Since the believer who is “in Christ”
has died to sin too, he is entitled to take this position practically, for he has been
placed there positionally through the death of Christ. As we have mentioned, the
practical realization of this is a progressive thing in the believer’s life. We must be
ready to give up on ourselves as to our sinful nature, if Christ is to live in us. When we
were saved, we had to come to the end of ourselves, realizing our complete inability
to get rid of our sins by ourselves. In the Christian life we must also realize the total
ruin of the “old man” (what we are as members of a fallen race) if we are to walk as
Christians in the right way. As long as we focus on merely controlling bad behavior,
we will never realize any permanent relief from willful sin.
In saying all these things, we would reiterate what was mentioned previously,
namely, that sin allowed in our lives is only one contributing cause of mental illness.
We dwell on it a little here because it is a major contributing factor that is probably
more widespread than we realize, and it is not always appreciated for what it really
is. On the other hand, we would not want the reader to deduce from these comments
that we are implying that all mental illness is due to willful sin. Rather, we are say-
ing that it is a factor that must be considered and, if present, must be dealt with.
{SH/}Moral Responsibility
Connected with this truth is the important principle that we have mentioned ear-
lier, namely, that we are always morally responsible for the motives of our behavior.
We cannot blame sinful behavior on some biological disturbance in the brain. Like-
wise, we cannot blame it on difficult circumstances or some bad experience in the
past, as if we were not responsible for what we do. (Unhappily, there is much of this
excusing of bad behavior in the world today.) Nor can we excuse our failure to be
Christlike by taking refuge in our bodily aches and pains, as if we could not help it. As
we have said earlier, surely mental and physical illnesses can make us more vulner-
able to an attack of Satan and thus make it easier to sin, but we cannot use this as an
excuse for wrong behavior.
Our behavior may be simply abnormal and thus somewhat objectionable to our-

selves and to other people, and sometimes it may be clearly sinful. As we have al-
ready noted, sometimes the line between the two is a fine one. Ultimately, only the
Lord knows perfectly all the factors that have contributed to our altered mental state
and perhaps abnormal behavior. In the Lord’s presence we can open up our hearts
to Him who knows all things and who cares for us as a shepherd cares for His sheep.
We read in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,”
and surely this includes the sorrows of mental illness as well as the grief that we may
have experienced. William Kelly comments on this verse in a helpful way:
“He was here below in grace, passing through a ruined, needy, sorrow-stricken
world, ready to help any that came, all that were brought, demonized or sick; and a
word was enough for the worst. Thus was fulfilled Isaiah 53:4 (not yet the vicarious
work of verse 5, et seq.). Certainly that was not sacrificial..  .  . It was the power that
dispelled sickness from every patient in contact with Himself; and this withal as One
not in unfeeling distance, but who (in love as deep as His power) took all, bore all,
upon His spirit with God.”*
(*Kelly, W., Christ Tempted and Sympathizing. (The Bible Treasury, Vol. 20), p.
{SH/}The Grace of God
Our blessed Lord wants us to confide in Him, as the One who knows and loves us.
In keeping with this, we would suggest that what is needed by the believer suffering
from mental illness, more than anything else, is a deep understanding in the soul of
the grace of God. We must see that God’s grace is His undeserved favor and that this
was extended to us when there was nothing in us to love. When we see that He loves
us in spite of our sin (sin which we brought upon ourselves by disobedience) and that
He sent His Son to die for us, we realize how much love is in His heart toward us. We
see more and more the truth of Romans 8:32: “He that spared not His own Son, but
delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
This does not imply that God’s grace will simply remove all the pain of mental illness,
any more than He removes all our physical illnesses. Rather, it shows us that the One
who sent His Son to die for us that we might spend eternity with Him is surely able
to help us deal with matters that have to do with our lives down here.
When we really appreciate the grace of God, we will not wallow in self-pity, be-
come angry, or give up in despair. Rather, we will accept it from God, and as the Lord
Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, we will use the opportunity to draw closer to
the Lord in communion with Him. We will seek His strength instead of meeting the
difficulty in our own strength. Another has expressed it well:
“If I hear bad news  .  .  .  it will make me sorrowful and cast me down, as it did
Paul, who had fightings without and fears within. But though thus sorrowful, if Sa-
tan has nothing in us, the consequence of this depression will be communion with
God, instead of having allowed our affections to wander; we are in the presence of
God; we watch with Him in order to speak to Him; but if this is not the case, Satan
will take us unawares in moments of carelessness.”*
(*Darby, J. N., Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians. (The Collected Writings of
J. N. Darby, Vol. 27, Stow Hill Ed.), p. 58.)
We have mentioned earlier the matter of bad experiences or hurts from the past

that may warp our thinking and alter our behavior. While it may be desirable to
address these things with those responsible for them, this is not always possible. I
believe that we can have them out in the presence of God, and in His understanding
and sympathy we can experience healing and blessing. The psalmist could say, “Be-
cause Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee” (Psalm 63:3).
Surely to know and experience His loving-kindness is better than anything man can
supply in the way of healing. We do not have to live under the awful shadow of past
hurts all our lives. We need to be brought back to the cross where we see our blessed
Savior having dealt with all of this for us and where He bore the judgment of God
alone so that we might be healed. In the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus went
through all the agony of the cross in contemplating it, yet did so only with His Father.
No one else really understood, yet the Father’s heart was sufficient for Him. Coming
from that place, He could calmly face whatever the Father’s will placed before Him.
Furthermore, we need to count on the grace of God and ask Him for more of it, if
we feel the need of it. Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, probably something physi-
cal, although the Spirit of God has not told us exactly what it was. At any rate, it
bothered him so much that he asked the Lord three times to take it away. The Lord’s
response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect
in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Another has remarked, “Wisdom and philosophy
never found out God: He makes Himself known to us through our needs; necessity
finds Him out.”* No doubt Paul came to know the Lord in a way that he might not
have otherwise, in the grace that was given to him in connection with that thorn in
the flesh. While we would hesitate to suggest that mental illness is allowed in the
lives of some in order to allow them to come to know the Lord better, yet we know that
in our needs, whether physical, spiritual, mental or material, God makes Himself
more precious to us if we take them to Him. Paul found, as have many other believers,
that God could use him more in weakness than in his own strength, for then he had
to rely more on the Lord and walk in His strength. Just as many saints of God have
had to rely on the Lord’s strength because of physical illness, so the believer can go
to the Lord with his mental weaknesses and disabilities, asking Him for strength to
help him go on. We would suggest that many have come to know the Lord in a richer
and fuller way in seeing how He can give the grace for every infirmity, even mental
(*Darby, J. N., Parables of Luke 15. (The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Vol.
12, Stow Hill Ed.), p. 168.)
We conclude this section with a quotation from Romans 8. In this chapter Paul
asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35).
He then goes on to show us that nothing can separate us, whether things in this life,
such as tribulation, peril or sword, or whether things beyond human control, such
as angels, death or things to come. I would suggest that mental illness is included in
these categories.
{SH/}Help From Other Believers
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies,
and the God of all comfort;
“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them

which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by
Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:36).
It is the happy privilege of many of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ
to be a help to other believers from time to time, and perhaps this is most needed
and appreciated in the realm of mental illness. This is true whether the disturbance
is milder, as in a time of grief or stress, or whether we are dealing with a full-blown
case of severe psychosis, where the individual is out of touch with reality. The verses
quoted above show us clearly that God our Father is the source of all true mercies
and comfort, yet He gives us the privilege of showing the same love and care for oth-
ers as He has shown to us. Thus we are told in Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s
burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
{SH/}Physical Versus Spiritual
We have shown that mental illness commonly involves multiple factors, includ-
ing the body (the brain) and the soul and spirit, as well as circumstances that may
act on these. Medication and other modalities (such as electroshock treatment) may
sometimes be needed to help the brain to function better, while therapy in the form of
listening, interpretation and counseling are needed to help the soul and spirit. There
is an important point to be made here. The physical aspects of treatment (such as the
use of drugs) will need professional supervision, but for the believer, matters of the
soul and spirit are best handled by other spiritual believers. Professional people (like
the psychiatrist) may, of course, be helpful in diagnosing a particular illness, based
on a constellation of symptoms that points to a specific disorder. He may also be most
helpful in recognizing factors that may have contributed to this. But while science
has discovered many things to treat malfunctions in the body (in this case the brain),
it cannot address the moral behavior that is affected by a distorted soul and spirit and
a disordered brain. When the illness involves the spiritual, we are out of the realm of
science and into an area that needs a revelation from God.
{SH/}Scripture, Psychology and Psychiatry
In this area of the spiritual, Scripture and psychology (and psychiatry) may be
in conflict with one another. Scripture is a revelation from God to man and, as such,
does many things beyond man’s capabilities. It gives life through the Spirit, it judges
(but is not judged by man), and it communicates with man, giving to him all things
which pertain unto life and godliness. Thus it feeds his soul. It explains to man his
nature and his behavior, what animates him, and what controls him. Further, it tells
him what his moral relationships are and what his responsibilities are in those rela-
tionships. Psychology, on the other hand, is the study of human nature without refer-
ence to God or revelation, and thus it cannot, in itself, rise above man’s observation.
It cannot discover “laws” which explain the nature of the things as God has designed
them: It can discover only “patterns” which have been observed to be generally true,
but which do not explain the nature of the thing itself.
{SH/}The Gift of a Pastor
Here is where the gift of a pastor comes in, a gift that is much needed but perhaps
most rare. It is a gift that is often not appreciated as it should be. Because of the na-

ture of pastoral work, little human glory is associated with it, for it is exercised, for
the most part, behind the scenes. It is time-consuming and sometimes not appreci-
ated even by the one for whom it is being used. Yet such a gift, properly used before
the Lord, can be of inestimable value in cases of mental illness among believers. The
value of such a gift is expressed as follows:
“I believe a pastor is a rare gift.  .  .  .  A pastor must be like a doctor; he must know
the right food, and the right medicine, and the right diagnosis, and all the pharma-
copoeia, and must know how to apply it too. In one sense, it is a rare gift, and very
(*Darby, J. N., Substance of a Reading on Ephesians. (The Collected Writings of
J. N. Darby, Vol. 27, Stow Hill Ed.), p. 74.)
Another has commented in a similar way:
“It seems to us that a pastor is to the soul what a doctor is to the body. He must be
able to feel the spiritual pulse. He must understand disease and medicine. He must
be able to tell what is the matter, and what remedies to apply. Alas! How few proper
doctors there are. Perhaps they are as rare as proper pastors. It is one thing to take
the title, and another thing to do the work.”*
(*Mackintosh, C. H., Publicly and From House to House. (Things New and Old,
Vol. 19), p. 130.)
There are two difficulties in connection with the work of a pastor. We have already
stated one of them, namely, the rarity of the gift. How often does one long for the
heart of a true shepherd, to whom difficulties could be poured out! Even if one does
have the gift of a pastor, the pressure and hurry of the days in which we live some-
times make it difficult to take the time for the real work that is needed in this way.
Public teaching and ministry may be most helpful, but often miss the mark because
they go over the head of the one who needs it most. It is in pastoral work that the true
nature of difficulties can be found out and the right word given.
{SH/}Confiding in Others
Another difficulty arises, particularly with mental illness, because believers are
embarrassed and hesitant to confide in someone who knows them well and with
whom, perhaps, they live and move on a regular basis. They are ashamed to admit
that such a problem as mental illness exists, and perhaps they fear that they may be-
come the subject of gossip. Unhappily, such fears are sometimes justified. As a result,
believers may seek help from worldly sources instead of being helped by a true pastor.
We should be willing to confide in one another more, for Scripture tells us to “con-
fess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed”
(James 5:16). I believe that this healing includes mental as well as physical illness. If
there were more willingness to recognize such problems, confess them to one another,
and pray together, I believe we would see more positive results. Such confession does
not mean a kind of “grandstanding,” where we deliberately search our heart and
background for as many faults as we can remember, only to broadcast them to our
fellow-believers. No, that is not what the Scripture means, for God never occupies us
with sin and failure except to get us to deal with it. But if a particular difficulty is
present in my life, whether physical or mental, may we have the grace first to bring it
before the Lord, and then to be willing to mention it to others, asking them to pray for

us. Let us remember, too, that we all feel the effects of sin in our persons, in one way
or another. If some have more overt difficulties than others, it is only an opportunity
for the grace of God to abound.
{SH/}Other Ways to Be a Help
In considering the help we can give to others, we should not feel helpless even if
we do not have the gift of a pastor. There are many forms that such help can take,
and the degree of help that one can offer will be determined not only by the indi-
vidual’s gift, but also by his maturity and wisdom in spiritual things. This in turn
will greatly depend on how closely he is walking with the Lord. Just as “the effectual
fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16), so a believer who is
living close to the Lord will have His mind and be much more help in such situations
than one who is merely intelligent in a natural sense. Also, as we have seen from the
scriptures already quoted from 2 Corinthians 1:36, it is often the one who has been
through difficulties himself who can relate to another who is passing through a simi-
lar trial. This is not to say that we need to experience mental illness in order to be
able to help another believer who has this problem, but it does make us realize that
those who have gone through trials with the Lord are often more equipped to help
others than those who may have had an easier pathway.
The help given can take different forms. Sometimes the simple concern and com-
panionship of another, with the knowledge that others are praying for him, can be of
immeasurable help to someone who is suffering from mental illness. Probably some of
what passes for mental illness in this world is related to the lack (or perceived lack) of
love and understanding on the part of others, and the care and expressed concern of
others will often go a long way toward relieving the symptoms. We must be willing to
be a good listener, to accept the person (not his sin), and pray both with and for him.
Of course, wisdom must be used in this, and an understanding of the individual’s
particular problem will dictate how help can be given. For example, people who are
depressed are generally helped most by short visits from those who are upbeat and
positive, while being serious and able to commiserate with the person about how he
feels. They are not helped by long visits and lengthy exhortations from Scripture.
If we feel that we know and understand the individual more deeply and can spend
more time with him, then we may be able gently to probe the difficulties or back-
ground that may be contributing to the problem. This requires much wisdom and de-
pendence on the Lord, for such counseling is a serious thing to undertake and should
not be entered into lightly. We have already seen that mental illness is complicated,
and treatment must be approached with caution. In seeking to help someone in this
situation, we should be careful not to make definite statements about them and their
illness unless we are very sure of where we are taking the discussion. Much harm
has been done by those who, having only a simplistic and unbalanced view of mental
illness, have made quick judgments and rash statements. As a result, sometimes
thoughtless and naive counsel is given rather than godly wisdom. Rather, it is better
to ask questions, drawing out the person and leading his thoughts so that eventu-
ally he will see for himself the point that needs to be made. Knowledge of the Word
of God is needed and the spiritual maturity to apply it correctly, but this too comes
with guidance from the Lord. Often He can give us a definite scripture and thought

to lay before someone that will address the problem and bring them into the Lord’s
presence. Our aim should be, not to have dominion over their faith, but rather to be
helpers of their joy. (See 2 Corinthians 1:24.)
Often individuals suffering from mental illness will need to be “carried” for some
time, as they may seem to improve, then relapse into similar disordered thinking and
behavior again. We must not let them go too soon, and we must be ready to help again
if the problem returns. Those with more severe illnesses may have to be carried to
some extent all their lives.
{SH/}Bearing Burdens and Being Leeches
In dealing with this bearing of burdens, we must distinguish between bearing one
another’s burdens and allowing people to become “leeches.” The word for “burden” in
Galatians 6:2 has the thought of a heavy, intolerable stress or weight that requires
help in order to be carried, while the word translated “burden” in verse 5 of the same
chapter is a different word, having the thought of that which is the normal and proper
responsibility of the individual. There are things in life that are properly our own re-
sponsibility and should not be pushed over onto others. A leech continually sucks out
the strength of another, while never giving anything. Some believers are unwilling
to pay the price of personal prayer and spiritual discipline in order to maintain their
emotional and spiritual well-being, and thus they end up continually drawing on the
strength of others. Such behavior is a taking which prevents giving and ultimately
is of the flesh. Occasionally such behavior may have to be rebuked. But for the most
part, those with mental illness will be able to function, but they may need help from
time to time. It is a privilege to be able to give such help!
We may sum up our observations as follows: On the part of the one suffering from
mental illness, he must be willing to admit the problem, just as with physical illness.
Those in denial about their illness will not be able to be helped very much. Once the
problem is admitted, the individual must be willing to accept help, realizing that
God has provided the help for him. It is gratifying to our natural hearts to say, “I can
handle it myself; I do not need help.” But if God has provided help for us, let us accept
it. Finally, the individual must be willing to help himself. Help may be needed, but it
should ultimately be with the objective of being able to manage with as little help as
possible. Of course, there are severe mental illnesses where this may not always be
possible, but it should always be the objective.
We have spoken about therapy for the soul and spirit; now let us talk a little about
therapy for the body - the brain.
{SH/}The Psychiatrist
The mere mention of the word “psychiatrist” evokes varied and sometimes very
emotional reactions on the part of believers. Some believers, especially those who
have had a loved one or good friend who benefited from psychiatric treatment, re-
spond very positively. Others who associate the profession with the theories of those
like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and with all other anti-Christian ideas recoil in
horror that any believer would even consider being treated by one. Of course, there is
every position between these two polarized views.
{SH/}Recognizing Symptoms
As with many things in the Christian life, balance is needed in our thinking, and

wisdom that comes ultimately from having the mind of the Lord. We have seen that
the human spirit, soul and brain can be deranged by factors beyond our control and
that some people have a constitutional tendency to develop mental illness. Abnormal
thought patterns and behavior can be studied, categorized, and then recognized in
the individual by the particular symptoms that he presents. Such entities as schizo-
phrenia, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders can be recog-
nized and labeled when the appropriate symptoms present themselves. The names
applied to such disorders may vary from culture to culture and the cause attributed
to different things, but the general pattern of mental illness is very similar in various
parts of the world.
In the matter of diagnosis, psychiatry and psychology cannot go beyond the obser-
vation and classification of such patterns of behavior, other than perhaps to associate
them, in some cases, with factors in the individual’s environment, or to recognize that
a particular chemical imbalance in the brain may be a contributing cause. Neverthe-
less, it is good to be able to put a label on the patient’s problem, to be able to recognize
the pattern of that particular disease, and to have some idea of the severity of it. The
psychiatrist can be helpful in all this.
{SH/}Psychotropic Drugs
Also, there have been great strides made during the past fifty years in the research
and development of psychotropic drugs. Beginning with the discovery of lithium and
chlorpromazine back in the 1950s, the last fifty years have witnessed the develop-
ment of a myriad of new drugs that have revolutionized the treatment of mental
disorders. Prior to the 1950s, most severely disturbed individuals had to be man-
aged in institutions, often with locked doors, barred windows, and sometime physi-
cal restraints. (The treatment of the paranoid schizophrenic under the subheading
“Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Conditions” is an example of this.) Today most
psychiatric admissions are brief, with a rapid return to life in the community. Much
of this change is the result of better drugs to treat mental illness, and here the psy-
chiatrist is necessary, for only he knows how to prescribe and supervise the use of
these drugs. It is easy to see that such drugs should be prescribed and managed by
a medical doctor who can appreciate the indications for them, the proper dosage, the
side effects, and their interaction with other drugs. Likewise, someone who is trained
to recognize and classify mental disorders can better diagnose a particular problem
and initiate treatment.
As a medical doctor, the psychiatrist is trained to probe for various causes of the
symptoms he sees and, after putting the information together, to decide what forms
of treatment are likely to be helpful in the particular case. He is trained to recognize
various forces in the individual’s life and to integrate these with the person’s hered-
ity, personality, background and beliefs. Then he tries to map out a treatment regi-
men that may include supportive therapy and drugs, as well as helping to give the
patient insight as to what he may do to help alleviate his problems.
{SH/}Administering Drugs
There are many earnest Christians who have been greatly helped by seeing a psy-
chiatrist and who find themselves able to lead relatively normal lives as a result of
a carefully monitored treatment program that may include psychotropic medication.

Even the visits made to the doctor from time to time can provide support from some-
one who knows and understands, who is able to discuss and advise, and, if necessary,
manipulate medication to achieve the proper effect. Just as, for example, the diabetic
needs his insulin or oral medication monitored and adjusted periodically, so the in-
dividual with long-term mental illness needs someone who can perform this role.
The psychiatrist is necessary in many cases, at least to initiate all this. Sometimes
a family doctor can do some of this diagnosing and prescribing, and he can certainly
monitor a patient when a treatment regimen has been set up.
{SH/}Drugs and Morals
Perhaps some will ask, “Why, then, do some believers have such negative feel-
ings about the psychiatrist and feel so strongly against his role in the lives of Chris-
tians?” First of all, we must remember what has been said previously, namely, that
psychotropic drugs have no moral effect. They make the brain able to function more
normally, but they cannot improve anything beyond the physical (the brain). We will
deal with this subject more in a subsequent section. Second, while the psychiatrist
can certainly give supportive care and psychotherapy, he cannot deal with the spiri-
tual aspect of the illness unless he is himself a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
While medication and man-made psychotherapy may provide some temporary re-
lief, they will not usually provide a permanent solution to the problem, because there
are spiritual issues that need to be addressed. Behavior may be explained and per-
haps excused as being the manifestation of the disease. (While psychiatrists seldom
refer to a certain behavior as sin, they often say, “That’s just behavior,” meaning that
it is voluntary action as opposed to a manifestation of the particular mental illness.)
Certain behavior may be acknowledged to be harmful, but the reference point will
tend to be man. Thus, behavior may be considered harmful to one’s self or others, but
often is not viewed as a sin against God. Finally, it must be recognized that the rela-
tionship between the patient and the psychiatrist is, of necessity, a very intimate one.
The most private information and delicate details of one’s life may have to be aired,
and as such, the psychiatrist is in a position to direct the therapy and perhaps mold
the patient’s thinking in a way that few others have the opportunity to do. Most psy-
chiatrists, recognizing the importance of a patient’s religious convictions, would not
normally give advice contrary to these unless they perceived that such beliefs stood in
the way of a resolution of the problem. It is easy to see, however, that such an opinion
would be based on the psychiatrist’s own perception of the situation, and if based on
man’s wisdom instead of God’s, might well be contrary to Scripture. We must remem-
ber that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and that
on every moral and spiritual subject, our thinking is wrong unless founded on the
Word of God. May we always remember the statement in Isaiah 8:20: “If they speak
not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” If man is to have
a true understanding of himself, he must begin with respect for and the acknowledg-
ment of the Lord who made him and to whom he is responsible.
Thus, we must not rely on man’s wisdom, whether drugs or psychotherapy, to cure
spiritual problems. Rather, they must be faced in the Lord’s presence. Even ungodly
men have recognized this. Consider the following observations by Dr. Carl Jung, a
contemporary of Sigmund Freud:

“I should like to call attention to the following facts. During the past thirty years,
people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated
many hundreds of patients.  .  .  . Among all my patients in the second half of life -that
is to say, over thirty-five - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was
not that of finding a religious outlook on life.  .  .  .
“It seems to me that, side by side with the decline of religious life, the neuroses
grow noticeably more frequent.  .  .  .
“The patient is looking for something that will take possession of him and give
meaning and form to the confusion of his neurotic mind. Is the doctor equal to the
task? To begin with, he will probably hand over his patient to the clergyman or
the philosopher, or abandon him to the perplexity which is the special note of our
day.  .  .  .  Human thought cannot conceive any system or final truth that could give
the patient what he needs in order to live: that is faith, hope, love, and insight”* (em-
phasis mine).
(*Jung, Carl G., Modern Man in Search of a Soul. (Harcourt, Brace & Co., New
York, 1933), pp. 260-262.)
Carl Jung clearly recognized the religious need of many of his patients, and in-
deed within the mature age bracket he mentions, all of them evidently suffered from
a lack that no ungodly man could supply. It is possible that the psychiatrist may be a
worldly man with no understanding of the believer’s new life in Christ, or worse still,
he may even harbor atheistic and anti-Christian sentiments, like Sigmund Freud
whom we have mentioned. In such cases, the psychiatrist (perhaps with good inten-
tions) may give advice and make suggestions that are contrary to the Word of God,
and which, if followed, may do positive harm to the Christian. Humanistic thinking
that places self at the center of our thoughts has pervaded our world in the past forty
years, and we need to be on guard against it. May we be more familiar with the Word
of God, which places Christ at the center of all things!
{SH/}Treatment Considerations
Where then does all this leave us? Once again we are thrown back on the Lord
Himself, who alone can give wisdom in any given occasion. Just as we sometimes
need a doctor for physical illnesses, so we may need a psychiatrist for a mental ill-
ness, particularly if medication is needed. We choose a doctor for our physical needs
carefully, and we should be even more careful in choosing a psychiatrist. How helpful
it is if one can be found who knows the Lord and thus is prepared to treat the patient
in every way! But even the best of psychiatrists cannot take the place of a truehearted
It is striking that Carl Jung would recognize that things such as faith, hope and
love were necessary for the healing of persons and that he further recognized that
no system of human thinking could impart these. Only in knowing the Lord Jesus as
Savior and in walking with Him can they be a reality in our lives. We must also bear
in mind that while others may be helpful in pointing someone in the right direction
and perhaps in giving him insight into the nature of the difficulty, ultimately only
the individual himself can really deal with his spiritual need in the Lord’s presence.
Now let us consider an allied but quite different discipline, that of psychology.

Once again we approach the subject with some hesitation because of the strong
opinions held by many believers on the subject. Books like The Seduction of Chris-
tianity by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon and Psychoheresy by Martin and Deidre
Bobgan have been unsparing in their condemnation of psychology as it is practiced
today and have warned believers against it in the strongest possible terms. Having
read both of these books and others like them, I have to say that these warnings are
needed, for some of what they say is true. No doubt, much of their criticism stems
from the fact that modern psychology has tended to adopt a humanistic, new age view
of man and his behavior and has set aside the Word of God as the only true authority
on the moral and spiritual issues that are being addressed. Having said this, it is also
my considered opinion that some of this criticism, particularly the viewpoint of the
Bobgans in Psychoheresy, is unbalanced and misleading. In seeking to draw attention
to a serious tendency toward wrong thinking among believers, they have themselves
fallen into error and distorted thinking. In their efforts to expose the flawed thinking
behind much of modern psychology, they have assembled an array of negative quota-
tions and opinions that cannot always be supported by Scripture. In their assertion
that Christ is the ultimate answer to the problems of life, they are right. In their at-
tempt to reduce most of these problems to willful sin, I believe they have gone too far.
When they deny the theory that most of human behavior is the result of what we are
thinking unconsciously, they are right. When they deny that there are such things as
unconscious thoughts and motives, they are wrong, for the Word of God clearly recog-
nizes that there may be unconscious thoughts and motives that govern my behavior.
Elihu could advise Job to pray, “That which I see not teach Thou me” (Job 34:32). Rec-
ognizing the possibility of sin working unconsciously in him, David could say to the
Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm
139:23). In another place he could say, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults” (Psalm
19:12). Again, when they suggest that the believer is called to be occupied with Christ
instead of the hurts he has experienced in the past, they are right. When they say
that past emotional wounds really have no bearing on our present behavior, they are
wrong. In seeking to expose one error, they themselves have fallen into error on the
opposite side. Sad to say, man is prone to do this in many areas.
All of this then begs the question, “Is psychology always, all wrong?” By definition
psychology is the study of human behavior. It includes such things as I. Q. testing,
the evaluation of various personality types, the reactions of individuals to various
forces in their environment, and the various ways by which behavior can be modi-
fied. The believer can readily see that psychology cannot be viewed as a science in
the same way as, for example, the study of chemistry, for it involves a spiritual di-
mension as well as a natural one. Here again is an area where Scripture must be the
final authority. In Scripture God explains the nature of man and his behavior, while
in psychology man observes patterns, guesses, and perhaps learns something in a
limited way. However, psychology will never get to the whole truth of the matter, for
that requires divine revelation. In Scripture God states the relationships He has es-
tablished and the moral behavior that man is required to have in them; in psychology
man tries to explain the behavior without a given basis of morality. In Scripture God
reveals what will make a man happy, and why; in psychology man seeks to discover

what will make a man happy, and fails. Scripture reveals that the root cause of most
of man’s behavioral problems is sin and its consequences; psychology, for the most
part, does not have the word “sin” in its vocabulary.
On the other hand, it is sometimes helpful to understand why an individual reacts
in a certain way, even from a natural point of view. For example, suppose a teenage
girl runs away from home. Many factors can be involved, and we want to make it
clear that we are in no way justifying her running away. There may be more than one
reason why she chooses to leave home, but we know that in many cases it is because
her mother has abdicated her proper role as caregiver and homemaker, thus forcing
the girl to undertake a responsibility for which she is not ready and which she thus
resents. Call it psychology or what you will, but an understanding of this mode of be-
havior is sometimes helpful in dealing with the situation and in helping those directly
concerned. Many other examples could be given of behavior that is ultimately sinful
yet has its roots in various forces that have acted on the individual. This in no way
excuses the sin, but does perhaps provide a basis for helping to alleviate the factors
that may have influenced the bad behavior.
We would suggest that it is not psychology itself that is so wrong, but rather the
basis on which behavior is interpreted and dealt with. It is not wrong to recognize cer-
tain patterns of behavior that occur as the result of certain events and relationships
that may have shaped the individual, but to suggest that man’s thoughts should re-
place Scripture as the remedy is a serious mistake. When secular humanism and new
age thinking are the basis on which human behavior is approached, man becomes
the focus of his own thinking, and God is left out. The result is, on the one hand, a
moral irresponsibility and an excusing of sinful conduct, while, on the other hand,
the treatment of such behavior tends to be based on self-help and the concept of self-
worth. This so-called liberty of thought is not bound by any truth, knows no truth,
and doubts all truth. Such an approach puts man at the center of things and is ulti-
mately destructive, for the unbelief produced by confidence in man forces him back
into superstition. Unhappily, modern psychology is so riddled with these ideas that it
is difficult to separate the two.
{SH/}Psychologist or Pastor?
In the final essence, if we have difficulties that are not serious enough to need
medical help, then it is better to get on our knees with the Word of God open before us
and to ask the Lord for His help in overcoming the difficulty. If further help is needed,
perhaps a godly believer can be found who will be willing to listen and offer sugges-
tions. Certainly a psychologist who was not a believer would have great difficulty in
assessing, for example, a dysfunctional Christian family and giving proper advice.
While he might make some good observations, his treatment would always be based
on human wisdom rather than on the Word of God. Surely this is an area where we,
as believers, have perhaps failed most seriously, for as we have already discussed,
there is a great need of pastors in the true sense of the word. How great a need there
is for those who can enter into the problems and difficulties of other believers, show-
ing sympathy and compassion, yet being able to give a “word in season”!
In Ephesians 4:11 pastors and teachers are linked together, showing that the
characteristics of both are desirable in the same person. One cannot be an effec-

tive teacher without a pastor’s heart, and one cannot be an effective pastor unless
he knows how to give sound, scriptural counsel. Such individuals are very rare but
greatly needed in the church today. If more believers with pastor’s hearts were avail-
able to do this often-thankless work, perhaps we would not see so many saints tend-
ing to seek out psychologists and other professionals.
Now let us consider one final aspect of mental illness in more detail.
We have already alluded to the use of medication in our discussion of the psychia-
trist. We have noted that there has been a tremendous proliferation of psychotropic
drugs during the past fifty years. We have seen that while we do not totally under-
stand the mode of action of most psychotropic drugs, yet they have made a great
difference to the treatment of mental illness. Kay Redfield Jamison, an author with
bipolar disorder from whose book we have quoted previously, makes the following
statement about herself and her condition:
“I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have man-
ic-depressive illness. If lithium were not available to me or didn’t work for me, the an-
swer would be a simple no -and it would be an answer laced with terror. But lithium
does work for me, and therefore I suppose I can afford to pose the question.”*
(*Jamison, Kay Redfield, An Unquiet Mind. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1995), p.
We have noted that before the development of psychotropic drugs, most seriously
mentally ill patients spent their lives in institutions, virtually prisoners of their con-
dition. The discovery of drugs that can help individuals control their behavior has
been a major factor in enabling these people to live and function in the world at large.
We would hasten to add that drugs have not been the only factor in this change.
Coupled with the development of psychotropic drugs, there has been a changing at-
titude toward mental illness. Such things as an appreciation of the regressive effects
of institutions, an increased social consciousness, and the growth of community psy-
chiatry have all helped to facilitate the integration of the mentally ill patient back
into society. Nevertheless, it remains clear that without the use of psychotropic drugs
many of these people would find it impossible to function outside an institution for
any length of time.
What then should be the attitude of the believer to such medication? Some feel
that since the Lord alone can heal and since God has said, “My grace is sufficient for
thee,” we should leave off the use of medication, counting on the Lord and His grace
alone. Others may feel that since they have been given medication, they can rely on
it and do not need to be concerned about any possible spiritual dimension to their ill-
ness. May I suggest once again that both extremes are wrong?
In the Old Testament, when King Hezekiah was seriously ill, God sent the proph-
et Isaiah to him with the message, “I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go
up unto the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 20:5). Clearly it was the Lord’s power that
did the healing, yet at the same time Isaiah told Hezekiah, “Take a lump of figs. And
they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered” (2 Kings 20:7). Again, in the New
Testament, Paul could tell Timothy to “drink no longer water, but use a little wine for
thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23).

In both of these cases it is definitely the Lord who is in control of our bodies and
our illnesses, as evidenced in His words to Hezekiah through the prophet, “I will heal
thee.” Likewise, in both cases the instruction was given to use the means at hand to
treat the problem. So today we should trust the Lord and look to Him first with our
mental as well as our physical illnesses, for ultimately only He can help us sort out
the various causes and the reason He has allowed them. However, it is not wrong to
use those remedies that God has enabled man to discover, as we see in the examples
we have mentioned.
There are some dear believers who need medication to keep them “on an even
keel” mentally, just as an epileptic needs medication to keep him from having sei-
zures. If the epileptic neglects to take his medication or the diabetic stops his insulin,
the results are serious and can be disastrous. So also those who find themselves in
serious difficulties without a regular dose of a psychotropic drug that helps them
function normally should accept this and be thankful that it is available to them. It is
no more a sign of weakness or lack of spirituality to do so than it is for the one with
heart failure to take his digitalis and diuretic (water pill).
On the other hand, wisdom is needed in this, for sometimes we as believers can
use medication as a crutch, when what is really needed is for us to deal with the root
of the problem. Surely every individual and mental illness is different and must be
assessed and dealt with before the Lord, taking every aspect into consideration.

Final Conclusions
Final Conclusions
In making some concluding remarks, let us remind ourselves of several things.
First of all, let us emphasize again that God has allowed mental illness in the lives
of believers, just as He has allowed physical illness. Often His grace is shown more
in overcoming such problems than if we had never experienced such a difficulty. The
words of a poem come to mind:
“Full many a rapturous minstrel
Amid those courts of light
Will say of his sweetest music,
‘I learned it in the night!’
“And many a rolling anthem
That fills the Father’s home
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
In the shade of a darkened room.”
How many have enjoyed the hymns of those like William Cowper, whose name
we have already mentioned. Yet such hymns were written with the background of
manic-depressive illness. How many saints of God have suffered under serious dif-
ficulties, yet have found the grace of God sufficient to help them overcome them and
have borne a bright testimony in spite of them!
Second, let us remember that “the things which are seen are temporal” (2 Corin-
thians 4:18) and that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a
far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The difficulties
of this life may seem overwhelming at times, but the believer can view them all in the
light of eternity. Such things are not only temporal, but, as our verse tells us, work
for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. No doubt such difficulties are
most trying at times, but if they are accepted from the Lord and gone through with
Him, they can produce an eternal weight of glory. Only in this life can we learn God
as the God of all comfort, the God of all encouragement, and the God who can give us
the grace to go through the hardest circumstances. We cannot learn such things in
heaven, for there will be nothing there for which we need comfort or encouragement.
We can have such experiences only down here, yet the weight of glory thus worked
for us is eternal.
Let us close with a quotation from C. H. Mackintosh:
“Look at yonder bent and withered frame - that body racked with pain and worn
out with years of acute suffering. It is the body of a saint. How humiliating to see it
like that! Yes, but wait a little. Let but the trumpet sound, and in one moment that
poor crushed and withered frame shall be changed and made like to the glorified body
of the descending Lord.
“And there, in yonder mental hospital, is a poor patient. He has been there for
years. He is a saint of God. How mysterious! True; we cannot fathom the mystery; it
lies beyond our present narrow range. But so it is; that poor patient is a saint of God,
an heir of glory. He too shall hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God and
leave his illness behind him forever while he mounts into the heavens in his glorified

body to meet his descending Lord.
“Oh, what a brilliant moment! How many sick chambers and beds of languishing
shall be vacated then! What marvelous changes shall then take place! How the heart
bounds at the thought and longs to sing, in full chorus, that lovely hymn:
“Christ the Lord will come again;
None shall wait for Him in vain;
We shall then His glory see -
His who died to set us free.
“Then when the archangel’s voice
Calls the sleeping saints to rise,
Rising millions shall proclaim
Blessings on the Savior’s name.
“‘This is our redeeming God!’
Ransomed hosts will shout aloud:
‘Praise, eternal praise be given
To the Lord of earth and heaven!’  ”
(Little Flock Hymnbook, #266)
(*Mackintosh, C. H., “Papers on the Lord’s Coming.” Things New and Old,Vol. 15, pp. 7576.)

{SH/}The Nature of Man
In discussing mental illness, it is good to have an understanding of man and his
nature, as given to us in the Word of God. It is because man is such a complex being
that mental illness is so complicated. Two verses in Scripture that tell us clearly how
man is constituted are found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12. They read
as follows:
“The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and
soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1
Thessalonians 5:23).
“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
These verses tell us clearly that man is a tripartite being, composed of spirit, soul
and body. The body is the physical or material part of his being, while the soul and
spirit are the spiritual or nonphysical part of man. This same truth runs throughout
the Word of God and is also found in the Old Testament. Different words are used in
both Hebrew and Greek to distinguish “soul” and “spirit.” Creatures in the animal
kingdom have bodies, and in one sense they also have souls, for a “living soul” is any-
thing that lives by blood and breath. Thus, in the flood at the time of Noah, Scripture
says that “all in whose nostrils was the breath of life  .  .  .  died” (Genesis 7:22). But
while animals are living souls, they were not created by God’s breathing into them
the breath of life, as is said of man (Genesis 2:7). This is an immense difference and
clearly marks man out from the lower animal creation. Sometimes the soul is called
the “inner man,” distinguishing it from the body, or “outer man.” The soul of man is
immortal, as is clearly seen in the case of the wicked man in hades after death, in
Luke 16. So Scripture speaks of “your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11) in contrast with
the soul, which is immortal.
Scripture tells us in Psalm 139:14 that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The following observations show us something of the magnitude and wonder of the
body’s formation:
“Each person at the moment of conception begins life as a single cell. How does
that cell know what to do to construct a body composed of trillions of individual cells
of different kinds and different functions? Most schoolchildren know the answer: Im-
printed in that original cell are instructions for the construction and operation of
the human body - instructions which will be followed unerringly. DNA replicates this
blueprint onto every cell produced. And every cell, amazingly, will know which part
of those directions it is to follow.
“Today’s schoolchild also knows that DNA has an incredible capacity for storing
information. The information contained in DNA the size of a pinhead would fill a
stack of books 500 times as high as the distance from the earth to the moon! [This
would be a stack 120 million miles high!] It would take tens of thousands of desktop

computers to store and process that amount of data.
“But the lesson of DNA points far beyond.  .  .  .  The three billion chemical letters
[in the human genome] express information in a language which must be read to be
usable! A language necessarily involves ideas framed within grammatical rules and
can be created and expressed only by intelligence.  .  .  .
“Language expresses thoughts - and thoughts are not physical! They may be ar-
ticulated in physical form, such as sounds or words or sentences on a page or the
coded chemical letters in DNA. Obviously, however, the thoughts being conveyed
by the language are independent of the material upon which they are expressed. A
sentence may be written on paper, wood, sand, a computer chip, or audio tape, but
none of these originated the message. It must have an intelligent, nonphysical source
independent of the physical means of storage of communication.”*
(*Hunt, Dave, The Berean Call, January, 2001. (P. O. Box 7019, Bend, OR), p. 1.)
The human body is extremely complicated, and perhaps nothing in it is as com-
plicated as its brain. Here is the organ where all of the functions of the body are co-
ordinated, whether voluntary or involuntary. In addition, all thought processes must
be mediated through the brain, and memory must be stored there. Any injury to the
brain may have profound effects, not only on bodily functions and thought processes,
but also on one’s personality. Although the brain has been the subject of much study
and research, it is still poorly understood.
However, man is not only body, as we have seen, but also soul and spirit. Let us
see what Scripture says about them.
{SH/}Soul and Spirit
Soul and spirit are often used for the same thing, when Scripture speaks of the
nonphysical part of man as contrasted with his body. Depending on the emphasis,
sometimes the word “soul” may be used, and at other times the word “spirit.” In 2
Peter 2:8 we are told that Lot “vexed his righteous soul,” while in 1 Samuel 30:12,
concerning the servant of the Amalekite, Scripture says, “When he had eaten, his
spirit came again to him.” Thus, while Scripture distinguishes between them, the
soul and spirit are never separated - rather, one is the higher part of the other. As
the lower part of man’s immortal being, the soul is connected with his appetites and
emotions - that which makes each one an individual, distinct from others in personal-
ity. For example, Psalm 107:9 tells us, “He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the
hungry soul with goodness.” The spirit, on the other hand, is the higher part of man’s
being. It has more to do with the active intelligent consciousness and includes the
God-conscious part of man. In the believer, the spirit is often connected with the Holy
Spirit which dwells in him and which acts on his spirit to produce activities suitable
to our new life in Christ. So we find in Romans 8:16 that “the Spirit itself beareth wit-
ness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Much more could be said on this subject, and space does not permit us to go into all
that Scripture gives us concerning man’s soul and spirit. For a more detailed consid-
eration of the subject, the reader is referred to two excellent pamphlets, “Body, Soul,
and Spirit,” by J. R. Gill, and “Man: A Tripartite Being Composed of Spirit, Soul, and
Body,” by H. C. A.*
(*Available from Bible Truth Publishers, 59 Industrial Rd., Addison, IL 60101,

{SH/}“I” and Personality
The subject is far more complicated than even these considerations would indi-
cate, however. We have seen that man is a tripartite being composed of body, soul and
spirit. While each is distinct from the other, we know that each communicates with
the other, and each affects the other, either positively or negatively. The soul and
spirit must work in and express themselves through the body, and the body cannot
function without the soul and spirit. Thus Scripture tells us that “the body without
the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). Just as the body cannot do anything without the soul
and spirit being in it, so the soul and spirit cannot express themselves in this world
without a body. The three must work together.
But how do they work together? What is it that orchestrates the union of spirit,
soul and body so that they can function in an integrated way? We have already noted
the verse that tells us that Lot “vexed his righteous soul” (2 Peter 2:8). In Proverbs,
Solomon speaks of one that “ruleth his spirit” (Proverbs 16:32). Paul could tell the
believers in Rome, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12). It
is evident that there is a conscious “I,” that essence of the individual that influences
and directs the spirit, soul and body but is not part of them. All three-spirit, soul and
body-are united under one personality, yet the “I” is above them and thus is more
than the sum of spirit, soul and body. The following excellent quotation summarizes
the subject for us and delineates the difference between the conscious “I” and spirit,
soul and body:
“Furthermore, we judge that Scripture distinguishes between ‘personality’ - the
conscious ‘I’ - and spirit, soul and body, inasmuch as it does not definitely, and much
less exclusively, identify personality with any one of the three. We read that ‘the
spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets’ (1 Corinthians 14:32). We have the
verse in the Old Testament which says, ‘He that ruleth his spirit’ (Proverbs 16:32).
In connection with the soul, David said, ‘I humbled my soul’ (Psalm 35:13); ‘I lift up
my soul’ (Psalm 86:4). Solomon speaks of a man destroying his soul and wronging
his soul (Proverbs 6:32; 8:36). In reference to the body, Paul can say, ‘I keep under
my body’ (1 Corinthians 9:27). These and many other Scriptures of a like character
would show that in man there is the union of the material and spiritual under a
single personality, as one has said, ‘Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute we
observe, each within himself, a central authority, directing and controlling, on the
one hand, the movements and operations of an animal frame, and, on the other, the
faculties and efforts of an intelligent spirit, both of which find in this central author-
ity or person their point of unity. How this can be we know not.’ To this we may add
that if death supervenes, the ‘I’ is identified with that which is immaterial - the spirit
and the soul - yet when in the body, whether now or in the resurrection state, the ‘I’
is surely identified with spirit, soul and body.”
(*Smith, Hamilton, The Son of Man-His Deity, Incarnation, and Manhood. (Bible
Truth Publishers).)
As the author of the above quotation says, all this is beyond human understand-
ing. It should be noted, however, that in the above quotation, the author uses the
word “personality” to describe the essence of the individual himself, not merely the

particular traits that distinguish one individual from another. We are reminded of
what the Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 11:5: “As thou knowest not what is the way
of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so
thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” We notice in this verse that both
the spirit and body (bones) are mentioned, showing us that we do not really know how
the spirit comes into the body, nor even how the body itself is formed. Man may have
discovered DNA, but how it all works is still a mystery. As we cannot understand the
“way of the spirit” and “how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child,”
so we cannot understand exactly how the physical and nonphysical parts of man’s be-
ing interact with each other.
Many questions arise at this point, some of which cannot be answered. How does
that thing we call “will” energize the soul and spirit, and how do the soul and spirit
communicate with the brain (the body) so that voluntary acts can be executed? How
does the body influence the soul and spirit? What is pain, and why do we feel it? Why
do we interpret one odor as being pleasant and another offensive? Such questions
may be interesting, but again are ultimately beyond our comprehension.
Because of the complex nature of man, we will find that some aspects of mental
illness will likewise be unable to be explained. The disruption that sin has introduced
has affected man in every part of his nature and has resulted in disorders that in-
volve all three parts of his being-spirit, soul and body. While we may be able to make
some observations and draw conclusions, we are ultimately in a realm that God alone
can understand fully.
At the same time, let us not allow what we cannot understand to spoil and per-
haps obscure what we can understand. Let us again be reminded that “His divine
power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
If during this discussion we find things that are beyond our understanding, let us not
be discouraged. If God has not told us something, then we may rest assured that it
is not necessary for life and godliness. God has not chosen to satisfy all our curiosity,
but He has given us what we need to live for His glory in this world.
{SH/}Other Terms
There are several other terms that will be used when we are dealing with the
nonphysical part of man in the light of the Word of God. Scripture uses the words
“heart,” “mind,” “conscience,” “flesh” and “will” to describe various aspects of our be-
ing. We will also define the word “intellect,” although the word itself is not found in
the Bible. However, in better translations of the Bible (such as the JND translation),
the word “intelligence” is used a number of times. These terms all describe that which
is nonmaterial, except for the word “flesh” which can refer to both that which is ma-
terial and what is nonmaterial. These terms are not synonymous and have different
meanings that need to be understood. It is important to understand what these words
mean within the context of Scripture, for if we use these words in this book, we will
attempt to use them with the meaning that Scripture attaches to them, unless oth-
erwise stated.
The “heart” is a very general expression for all the inner man. Sometimes it is
spoken of as the seat of the affections and will, while at other times as the sinful self

with its evil desires. When Scriptures says, “If our heart condemn us” (1 John 3:20),
then it encompasses the conscience. When we read, “My son, give Me thine heart”
(Proverbs 23:26), it is our affections. In Jeremiah 17:9 we find that “the heart is de-
ceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Here it is man in
all his sinfulness as a result of his fall. When we read, “The veil is upon their heart”
(2 Corinthians 3:15), it is spiritual perception or lack of it. Thus, the heart refers to
all moral exercise within us, but the word must be interpreted to some extent by the
context in which it is used.
The mind is that which thinks, perceives and reasons. According to Scripture, we
have some control over it, for we are told to “have your mind on the things that are
above, not on the things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2 JND). My heart (as
the seat of affection) goes to what is important to me, but I have the ability to set my
mind on something as an act of my will. Thus my will, while in one sense being part
of my mind, also controls it and directs it in different ways. So the man in Romans
7:25 says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh
the law of sin.” Here his mind wants to do what is right, but his flesh, his old sinful
self, can only sin. In the unbeliever his mind is influenced and is ultimately under the
control of his flesh, his sinful self, and Satan uses this to manipulate his mind in an
evil way. So we read of Nebuchadnezzar that “his heart was lifted up, and his mind
hardened in pride” (Daniel 5:20). Romans 12:2 speaks of the “renewing of your mind”
as a result of the mind’s being under the control of the Spirit of God instead of Satan
and the flesh.
The intellect may also be said to be part of the mind, as being that which man uses
to reason and which enables him to use acquired knowledge to make deductions. In
another sense, it is also part of the brain, in that it is connected to the ability to learn,
and then to use what has been learned. Thus, an intellect may have ability in one
direction or another, as one may be clever in mathematics while another’s intellect
excels in creative writing. It is important to recognize that the intellect can never dis-
cover anything in divine things: It may deduce correct conclusions, but it can never go
above itself. Man, as to his mind and intellect, is always a discoverer, never a creator.
He can use his intellect to reason with knowledge and thus reach right conclusions,
but the knowledge itself is always the product either of testimony or experience.
Conscience is that which man acquired at the time of his fall in Genesis 3 and
which gives him the knowledge of good and evil. It is an innate sense in us that a
thing is right or wrong. Before his fall, man was innocent and was not conscious of
the difference between good and evil, but after eating of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, he acquired a conscience that reminds him of right and wrong. Not that
conscience by itself is always a reliable guide, for like the eye, the conscience needs
light to operate properly. When man gives up the moral light that God has given
him in His Word, his conscience may mislead him and allow him to do wrong things.
Scripture speaks of this as having a “seared” conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). But man al-
ways has some sense of right and wrong, and it is his conscience that gives him this.

The animal kingdom does not have a conscience, just as it does not possess a spirit.
{SH/}The Flesh
Another term that we need to define is what Scripture calls the “flesh.” The word
is used in several ways in the Word of God. Sometimes it is used simply to mean the
body as distinguished from the soul and spirit, as, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:50
where we are told, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The word
can also be used to describe man’s nature in general-man in his whole being. Refer-
ring to the incarnation, we read that “God has been manifested in flesh” (1 Timothy
3:16 JND), and surely this implies more than simply that the Lord Jesus took a body.
He had a human soul and spirit (without sin), for He was a man in every sense of the
word. In the same way, when Peter and the others fell asleep in the garden of Geth-
semane, the Lord could say, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mat-
thew 26:41). Peter’s conscious “I” wanted to follow the Lord, but he did not realize the
weakness of his natural flesh. His whole natural being was involved in this weakness,
not merely his body. But the word is also used to describe that sinful self that man
acquired when he fell - that sinful nature of man which can do nothing but commit
sin. So we read in Romans 7:18, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no
good thing.” Paul could say to the Galatians, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the
flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8). William Kelly makes the following comments
concerning the term “the flesh”:
“I employ the expression ‘human nature’  .  .  . abstractly for humanity, without a
question of the state in which it was created originally or into which it quickly fell.
Just so the word ‘flesh’ is used sometimes in Scripture for man’s nature simply, as
in ‘the Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14), God ‘was manifest in the flesh’ (1 Timothy
3:16), Jesus was ‘put to death in the flesh’ (1 Peter 3:18), ‘Jesus Christ come in the
flesh’ (1 John 4:23). The special doctrinal sense of the term, as characterizing the
moral condition of the race, particularly in the epistles of Paul, looks at the principle
of self-will in the heart.”*
(*Kelly, William, Christ Tempted and Sympathizing. (The Bible Treasury, Vol.
20), pp. 173-174.)
{SH/}The Will
We have already seen that the will is connected with the conscious “I”-that part
of us that is above spirit, soul and body and which ultimately is able to influence and
control all three. The will has been affected by sin, in that fallen man now wills to do
evil. So God could say concerning mankind at the time of Noah, “Every imagination
of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). In fact, every
exercise of man’s will is itself wrong, for as a creature, man’s responsibility is to obey.
The word used for sin and iniquity in Scripture could really be translated as “lawless-
ness,” simply meaning the exercise of an independent will. An independent will is
always wrong, even when doing things that may not be wrong in themselves. But this
will also wants to do positive evil, because of man’s sinful nature. The believer pos-
sesses a new life in Christ, a new nature that wants to please God. It cannot sin, for
its will delights in that which is pleasing to God. So in 1 Peter 4:2 we find the “lusts
of men” contrasted with the “will of God.”
Because the will is affected by our sinful self, “the flesh,” as Scripture calls it, we

find that the mind is affected too. Colossians 2:18 speaks of one who is “vainly puffed
up by his fleshly mind,” while Romans 8:7 reminds us that “the carnal mind is enmity
against God.” Paul could speak of the Ephesians before they were saved as “fulfilling
the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). The mind has been made the
servant of our sinful nature, and Satan uses man’s evil lusts to induce him to commit
{SH/}Demon Possession
It was Satan (in the disguise of a serpent) who first lied to Eve and tempted her
to disobey God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We learn from
other scriptures that Satan was once one of God’s angels, but that he rebelled against
God, wanting to have a place that did not belong to Him. Other angels evidently re-
belled with him, so that now there are thousands of demons who constitute Satan’s
hosts. They are constantly seeking to thwart God’s purposes and often do so by living
in men and women, influencing their minds and bodies in a wrong way. Sometimes
this bad influence involves taking control of the human soul and spirit (and ultimate-
ly the body) and producing symptoms of mental illness. There are several examples
of this in Scripture.
In Matthew 17:1421, we have the story of a boy who was possessed with a demon
and who, as a result, was described by his father as “lunatic, and sore vexed: for oft-
times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.” When the Lord Jesus cast out
the demon, the child was cured. In Mark 5:120 we read the story of a man who was
possessed with demons and who lived among the tombs, naked, crying, and cutting
himself with stones. When Jesus had cast out the demons, he was “clothed, and in his
right mind” (Mark 5:15).
There have been many other accounts from eyewitnesses who tell of those who
have acted in very abnormal ways, evidently because of the influence of demons who
possessed or harassed them. Often the hallucinations and bizarre behavior exhibited
by these people is attributed to other causes, until the true nature of the problem is
recognized. People in African and Asian countries know well how that bewitchments
and the casting of spells can affect not only the bodies but also the minds of people. An
American psychiatrist working in Zimbabwe for a year recounts the following, con-
cerning a patient he was called to treat. (The term “sister” simply refers to a nurse.)
“‘Can you make out what she is saying, Sister?’
“‘Yes, some of it,’ answered Sister Chimhenga. ‘Amai is saying that her great
grandmother, Ambuya Zezuru, is speaking to her and possessing her. She is called by
Ambuya to suffer for her sins.’
“I knew what the Shona word ‘ambuya’ meant and that ‘amai’ meant ‘mother’ or
‘missus,’ but I did not catch all of the cultural significance of Sister’s interpretation.
‘Sister, I’m sorry, but what does all that mean?’
“‘It means that Amai believes that she is being bewitched by her great grandmoth-
er, who may have been a prophet in her time. An important ancestral spirit.’
“‘A bewitchment?’
“‘It could be,’ she said, pausing. ‘Her family must have thought so.’  ”*
(*Linde, Paul R., Of Spirits and Madness. (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2002), p. 105.)
Sadly, while much of the world languishes in captivity to such evil forces, many

people in Western countries deny that Satan exists. Satan’s power is increasing in
previously Christian countries, as God and His claims are being more and more set
aside. Consider the following incident that occurred in the practice of a Christian
physician whom I know well:
“About six years ago, I was interviewing a woman in her hospital room. She was
severely depressed and was not responding to medications. As I was asking her ques-
tions about her thoughts, she suddenly developed a ‘glazed’ look, and I knew that she
was no longer able to hear me. She seemed to be frozen in her own thoughts while
staring into the distance. Moments later she spoke in a mechanical, unnatural voice
and said, ‘Leave her alone; she’s ours!’
”It did not take much discernment to realize that I was no longer speaking to my
patient and that an evil, supernatural force had pushed her aside to directly intimi-
date me.”
(*Mullen, Grant, M.D., Emotionally Free. (Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, MI,
2003), pp. 103,109.)
As the doctor had already noticed in this case, the usual medications used to treat
depression were not effective in this woman. A power greater than she had taken
hold of her, and only by the casting out of the demon could she be healed. Sometimes
those under demonic power will hear voices or see unreal things, and occasionally it
is difficult to know, at least in the beginning, whether the individual is suffering from
a psychotic illness or is experiencing a demonic attack. Sometimes professionals who
are not believers will not recognize what is happening and put the patient on medica-
tion at first, only to find out that it does not work predictably.
Since the time that the world rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, Scripture calls Satan
both the god and prince of this world. (See 2 Corinthians 4:4 and John 14:30.) He is
the god of this world religiously and its prince politically. He knows that he is a de-
feated foe, but in this time of God’s grace, he continues to be “the prince of the power
of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), going about his evil work. He may indwell an unbeliever,
taking over his person and forcing him to do whatever the evil spirit commands. Al-
though he cannot indwell true believers (because they are indwelt with the Spirit of
God), he can and does harass them, especially those who may have been involved in
occult practices before they were saved. Reading sinful (such as pornographic) or oc-
cult books or watching entertainment that contains evil themes may open the door
to these demonic attacks. As well, deliberately dabbling in occult practices (such as
using Ouija boards, chanting a call to the spirit world, or becoming involved with
fortune-tellers) may invite these evil spirits into our lives.
The only remedy for demon possession is the authority of the Lord Jesus that can
command the demon to depart from the person. The Lord Jesus did this many times
during His earthly ministry, and certainly the apostles did it too. The Lord Jesus has
made this power available to believers, through His name. Before He ascended back
up into heaven, the Lord Jesus said, “These signs shall follow them that believe; in
My name shall they cast out devils” (Mark 16:17). Now it is possible for demons to
be cast out of those afflicted by them, because of the power in the name of the Lord
Jesus. The following true story shows how this happened in the case of a demon-
possessed woman:

“Mrs. K.  .  .  .  came to see me about a long-standing depression. She was very
vague and nervous during the early part of the interview. After a few minutes of
superficial small talk and preliminary questions, she said to me, ‘I’m having trouble
listening to you since there are three people talking to me continuously in my mind.’
Well, this was a new experience for me. She was clearly not schizophrenic, so I knew
that this was not a psychotic illness causing her to hear voices. She was totally sane,
though depressed.
“I wasn’t sure what to do, but I wondered if she was having one of those occult
experiences that I had spent so many hours inquiring about. This interference was
going to make the interview very difficult, so I paused and made some simple notes in
my chart to buy time. In my heart I said to God, ‘I don’t know what’s going on here.
If this woman is hearing from evil spirits, in the name of Jesus could you please shut
them up so I can finish this interview?’
“When I then looked up from my notes, she looked at me with an intensity that
I had not seen in her before and said, ‘What did you just do?’ I explained that I had
just noted her last statement in my chart. She would not be put off by that answer
and persisted, ‘No, you did something else.’ I was confused by this time and again
stated that I had only been writing in her chart and asked what made her think that
I had done anything else. Her answer changed the course of my spiritual and profes-
sional lives when she stated, ‘You did something, since the voices stopped for the first
time in twenty years. They are now hiding, and they are afraid of you. What did you
do?’  .  .  .
“My mind was suddenly opened to the fact that yes, indeed, she was sane and she
was being tormented by the voices of demons. They stopped speaking to her because
when I prayed the authority of Christ filled the room and they were afraid.”*
Mullen, Grant, M.D., Emotionally Free. (Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003),
pp. 90-91)
It is important to recognize demonic power as a very real cause of mental illness,
not only in such obvious cases as the one just cited, but also in other manifestations
such as evilly distorted thought patterns, insomnia, nightmares, and panic attacks.
As the Word of God is given up and Christian values and principles are more and
more ignored, I believe we are seeing increased activity of Satan in countries where
his power was formerly restrained to a large extent by the light of Christianity.
For the believer, the best antidote to such attacks of Satan is a life lived in com-
munion with the Lord. The Ephesians had been heavily involved in occult practices
before they heard the gospel, but after they were saved it is recorded in Acts 19:19
that “many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and
burned them before all men.” In his epistle to these same believers some years later,
Paul could say to them, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). To the Colossians he could say, “The Fa-
ther…who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into
the kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:1213). The believer has been delivered
from Satan’s power, but if he persists in living a worldly life and engaging in sinful
behavior, he again places himself in a position where Satan can harass him. Let us
remember that we have been delivered from Satan’s evil kingdom and that we are

now called to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). If we obey this exhortation,
we will not give Satan an opportunity to gain an influence over us.
{SH/}Criminal Behavior
The believer recognizes that all criminal behavior is the result of the activity of
what Scripture calls “the flesh” -that old sinful self that is part of us as children of a
fallen race. Again, it is all a matter of degree, for what distinguishes criminal activity
from other sin is the transgression of a known law. As we saw previously, Scripture
uses the word “iniquity” to describe sin, and this word really means “lawlessness,” or
the action of an independent will. As such, sin is that which is done without reference
to God, and thus Scripture tells us that “the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs
21:4). It is not that the act of plowing is in itself sin, but rather the fact that man does
so independent of any consideration of his responsibility toward God. However, God
has instituted and does recognize government in the earth, and governments do set
up laws in order to regulate society and curb bad behavior.
In some individuals with severe mental illness, criminal activity occurs-that which
is not only abnormal but which causes serious harm. In serious personality disorders,
particularly the so-called antisocial personality, there are those who are sometimes
termed “psychopaths.” These individuals have both severe abnormal personality
traits and marked deviant behavior, yet often appear very normal and totally in con-
trol of the situation. They are usually clever, charming and able to manipulate oth-
ers well, while underneath they remain totally self-centered, ruthless and seemingly
lacking in feelings or remorse. They are also characterized by impulsiveness, a need
for excitement, a lack of responsibility, and frequent deceit and lying. Left to them-
selves, such individuals often end up living a life of crime of one sort or another, cov-
ering the whole spectrum from such things as fraud and embezzlement to violence,
robbery and cold-blooded murder.
All of this has its roots in sin which has affected the individual in a very severe
way, aggravated in many cases by an upbringing and a society that now fails to con-
trol the outward manifestations of it. In the past, the effects of stable family life, firm
discipline and Christian principles in society tended to control such behavior, at least
to a large extent, but the past two decades have witnessed such a moral declension
in Western countries that there has been a marked increase in serious crime. More
than this, such crimes are being committed by children at an ever younger age, and
we are seeing children under the age of ten who seem capable of the sort of mindless
violence that once was seen only in hardened adult criminals. We are saddened by all
this but should not be surprised, for when man gives up God, God may give up man
to experience the full effect of what he has chosen.
Adding to the problem is the public’s fascination with such behavior, for evil is
naturally alluring to our old, sinful self. A newspaper article described it as follows:
“From mild naughtiness to vicious criminality, the performance of bad deeds is
something the rest of the population evidently wants to know about. This is one way
to explain why the psychopath, that personification of remorseless evildoing, has
such an established place in the public consciousness. We’re all psychopaths under
the skin.”*
(*Weber, Bruce, Cozying Up to the Psychopath That Lurks Deep Within. (New

York Times, February 10, 1991).)
Such an individual and our response to him/her bring out both the effect of the fall
on us as creatures of Adam, and willful sin. Doubtless the psychopath is genetically
predisposed to his bad personality structure, but then his will takes that tendency
and allows it to act in open sin. Some would say that these individuals have been born
without a conscience, since they seem to feel no regret or remorse for their terrible
acts. This is not true, for man acquired a conscience (the knowledge of good and evil)
when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The real root
of the problem is found in Psalm 53:1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no
God.” Man’s conscience needs light to function properly, and if God and His claims
are rejected, then man behaves as if there were no God. Another has remarked most
aptly concerning this verse:
“The secret of this course is old too.  .  .  .  All the path of the wicked comes from
this. For him God is not. Faith does not exist, and God is not seen. This is the secret of
all error in practice and in human reasoning. The more we examine the whole course
of human action, the faults of us Christians, the various wanderings of philosophy,
the more we shall find that no God is at the root of all. Here it is the case that the con-
science takes no notice of God. The heart has no desire after Him, and the will works
as if there were none. Man says so (that there is no God) in his heart. Why should he
say it? Because his conscience tells him there is one. His will would not have one, and,
as God is not seen in His workings, will sees only what it will. God is set aside, and
the whole conduct is under the will’s influence, as if no God existed.”*
(*Darby, J. N., Practical Reflections on the Psalms. (Bible Truth Publishers, Ad-
dison, IL, 1978), p. 136.)
The increasing tolerance and even admiration by others of some of these traits
has serious implications indeed, if the Lord should leave us here a little longer. While
the personality and behavior of the so-called psychopath may be extreme, we must
remember the solemn words of Scripture, “As in water face answereth to face, so the
heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19). The newspaper article expressed it well when
it commented that we are all psychopaths under the skin. The “perilous times” spo-
ken of in 2 Timothy 3 and in which we are now living will, no doubt, see an increasing
prevalence of such sinful behavior and will culminate in complete anarchy after the
church has been called home.
While we may deplore such awful exhibitions of man’s sinful self as we are wit-
nessing today, let us remember that, as the writer quoted above says, the secret of all
error in us, even as believers, is that we think and act independently of God. May we
be kept close to Him who not only made us, but has sent His Son “who gave Himself
for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4).
We have been morally delivered from it now; soon we will be bodily delivered from it,
at the Lord’s coming. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!
W. J. Prost
December 2006