I hope you’ll enjoy this guest post by Katie Dale. Katie is a mental health worker, a writer, and an advocate for people who live with mental illness (at the end of this post, you can learn a little more about her and her writing). She’s frank, open, and brave about sharing her experiences with others. I hope you’ll be inspired by a bit of her story.
Raised on the enthusiastic shouts and “glories” in the Assemblies of God services most of my early youth, and introduced to doctrine of a modest non-denominational church thereafter, I developed a mixed conviction in my heart, tethered on the possibility of miracles amidst modern, everyday living. Two years after I accepted Jesus into my heart at five years old, soaked in Sunday revival-like services, my parents brought us to a non-denominational church that was comparatively toned down in fervor. It was the equivalent of a spiritual upper-class community church. There weren’t any deacons shouting in crescendos in foreign languages or tambourine-wielding ladies in the aisles. Minimal hand-raising occurred, the worship team was a dutiful performance. The sermons went over my head, and this immediately intimidated me.
Perhaps the eager desire to believe in miracles and signs and wonders came from my first seven years attending the Pentecostal church services, as they instilled an earnest joy to worship God. There is no question that after we left that congregation I continued to hold onto the belief in the miracle-working version of the Lord. Attending Sunday school, service, youth group, and other church functions were not an issue of faithfulness, just a test of how long my former molding belief in a wonder-working God would last.
Doctrine aside, in my heart of hearts I knew God could perform miracles. I knew that the gifts of the Spirit were valid, even if I had only heard some of the tongues without interpretation. Something in my heart told me it was not just a faith of New Testament apostles that would define our God. No, if God was the same God of the Bible, He would be in the business of performing great works and miracles, even today.
Where was the disconnect between my zealous “God of miracles” faith and the belief that years later, in my mid twenties, I would need to test Him? There must be a bridge between a God who could expel demons from a possessed man and therefore a God who could heal me from mental illness. So I chose to go off my medications to prove the sovereign will of God. Jesus suffered persecution and torment so we could be healed, just as he gave his life so we could be ransomed from death. These convictions came to the forefront of my fractured mind as eight years passed from my diagnosis at sixteen. No one needed to assure me that my Jesus would be able to heal me. I already knew the answer. “By His wounds we are healed,” as it says in Isaiah 53:5.
Like a seed planted in fertile soil, my aspirations to claim freedom from, and healing of, my bipolar disorder grew. I recited Isaiah 53:5 over and over, and a minister with the gift of healing prayed over me. An acquaintance even prophesied over me that I would “throw up the pills” and then healing would begin. I swallowed all of these hopeful promises, but I was terribly mistaken. Mistaken in not understanding that God didn’t intend to heal me by a miraculous touch. I didn’t realize that He is often in the business of healing souls and transforming lives simply by His grace. Just as Paul spoke of the thorn in his flesh in the latter half of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”
Through going off my medication to claim healing in Jesus’ name, I learned a great lesson. When God wants to move and work in our lives in His power, He does it on His terms, not ours. Oh, how in mania I longed to reach up into the starry night of a Van Gogh painting and touch the Creator like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. But God had other plans. After I ended my daily routine of taking prescribed medication that had provided eight years of stability, I decided to follow the message of a televangelist to conjure my own miracle, with “just enough faith.” Bipolar disorder also tends to have this effect on people who have it, believing that somehow they are fine on the medication, but could be just as fine without it. Succumbing to that belief left me bewildered and sick.
Just as I had been hospitalized at 16 for mania and depression, at 24 years of age I wasn’t any wiser. My husband now drove me to the hospital in my manic panic. With my bruised ego and sanity beaten to a pulp, I tried to rationalize my woeful experiment and justify the actions. Didn’t Jesus want me to be healed? Didn’t He heal everyone who asked for it, with faith? Didn’t I have enough faith to save my mind?
I didn’t learn my lesson until following two months of hospitalizations in two behavioral units, among numerous characters, believers and unbelievers, skeptics and Satanists, devout and discouraged. I underwent an array of emotional upsets, pleading for the hospital to release me, and getting what only turned into a dangerous temporary release. I clawed and cried, fought and fretted. Had God abandoned me?
Eventually, the storm of my soul and blackest nights of isolation turned to mornings of true healing and refreshment. When I started using my medication again, my mind slowly recovered. I wasn’t abandoned. Even in the storm I had visions of resting in his arms, sitting on my Abba Father’s shoulders, letting Him steer my ship into wild winds and waves. There was so much to make me wonder why. Why had I believed that I could go off the medication? Why had I succumbed to the temptation to seek a glorious healing?
In my pride I had deceived myself. I ignored the guidance of my doctor, husband, and other support team members in my life who knew I needed medication to maintain stability. God had to humble me through my deliberate, stubborn, and foolish actions. Desiring a poster-child status of healing–even in Jesus’ name–was my ulterior motive. I was the one who wanted the glory. In turn, I led myself off a cliff, believing the deceptive theology that with “enough faith” inside myself I could move mountains. The only proverbial mountain here would be that of the mountain whose cliff I had stepped off in blind faith. Rather than heeding my psychiatrist’s warnings, and by being wise in my own eyes, the consequences for my decisions served me right.
Just as God told Paul at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” I have to trust the heart of God who gave me the exact dosage of medication that has since led me to stability, and to rest beside still waters in green pastures. No matter how much faith I have, medication is nothing short of a God-given miracle.
Katie R. Dale has worn many hats in her career and is currently serving as a caseworker at a behavioral non-profit to assist and facilitate change and growth in those with mental illness. As a former patient herself, and a proud person with bipolar disorder, she has a unique firsthand perspective on the mental healthcare system and the symptoms of mental illness. Katie has written a memoir and maintains a blog on her disorder and faith at BipolarBrave.com.
© 2018 Amy Simpson.