It’s normal to have to quiet racing thoughts with alcohol and drugs. It’s normal to erupt with rage at common inconveniences. It’s normal to cry uncontrollably watching Bill Murray movies. It’s normal to feel trapped with no hope of the depression lifting. It’s normal to hate yourself so much that you can’t take a bath without thinking about blowing your brains out in the tub because it would be easier for your wife to clean up.
That’s all normal… until a shrink says you have bipolar disorder. Then it’s crazy. And who wants to be crazy?
Apparently I do, or I’d go back on medication. But that’s just too rational. I walk on water. What else do you expect from a crazy person?
Is this a cry for help? No. I have all the help I can stand. This is just an opportunity for me to offer my raw, broken mind to illustrate God’s grace. (You will, of course, want to be suspicious of what a crazy person thinks about God.)
I have been enduring a long, dark stretch of depression. I work. I try not to drink too much. I try not to suck those closest to me into my implosion. I sleep. Before I go to bed I ask God to make it stop or kill me. And every day that I wake up, terrified that I have to do it all over again, I get angrier and angrier at God for making me slog through the molasses.
You know what keeps me going? The freedom to rage at God, to tell him just what I think about the mental and emotional hell I’m going through.
You know what keeps me going? The freedom to rage at God, to tell him just what I think about the mental and emotional hell I’m going through. Like Lieutenant Dan on the shrimp boat in Forest Gump, I climb the rigging in the middle of the storm, shake my fist at God and scream, “You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a bitch! Blow! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me!”
And he does. He blows and blows and everything that’s not tied down goes overboard. Then, when the storm dies down and the sea calms, I hear him reply, “I love you.” (I don't literally hear a voice. I'm crazy, but I'm not that crazy… yet.)
When I say I hear God, I'm talking about remembering when the Father said to Jesus in Scripture, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And I'm talking about what the Father said when Jesus looked ahead to his cross and begged, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” The Father was silent. Do you know what the Father said when he said nothing to Jesus’ plea? He said he would rather lose one beloved Son and raise him from the dead than lose all his children. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10). In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God promises to get us Home before it gets too dark. He said “I love you” as clearly as he possibly could.
That love is something I count on when I go into a bipolar fit and decide to wrestle with my creator. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God, and one of those things in creation is my screwed up mind. That means there is no delusion so grand, no depression so dark, and no rage so raw that can make God stop loving me. That’s a great relief, and it gives me the freedom to express every twisted thought and emotion to God.
My anger at God is strangely comforting.
My anger at God is strangely comforting. I wouldn’t be mad at him if I didn’t believe he’s real and that he's really in control of my suffering. And I wouldn’t dare express that anger at God if I didn’t believe he loves me despite my cussing and spitting. So, when I have it out with God, it proves to me that I believe in divine sovereignty and love. I really have faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. He was sane for me, and I’m eternally grateful. Only a real Christian can be insane enough to curse God and thank him at the very same time. And, as depressed as I am, that thought makes me smile. I have a real faith giving me hope that one day God will wipe away every tear from my puffy eyes.
Yeah, I can trust Jesus, the God who knows what it’s like to beg for the cup of suffering to pass only to be answered with silence. There was a reason God the Son had to go through hell, and in my saner moments I’d like to believe my pain can be redeemed as well. Maybe me telling you all of this is part of that redemption.
Then again, maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. If so, this isn’t for you. Move along. Go back to your ham and eggs, mortal.
But if you’re losing your grip on reality, or if you done lost it, you are not alone. I think you and I can make it if we remember what’s really real. Our God creates by speaking. He said, “Let there be…” and there it is, all around us. His word makes reality out of nothing at all. And his word to us is that we are loved just as much as he loves Jesus. By speaking that word he says, “Let there be faith,” and there it is, all up inside us. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This is gospel sanity. It’s the light for the darkness, it’s more real than the suffering, and it will keep us from utter despair.
When all the kicking and screaming is over, I will collapse and try to remember in the dark what God said in the light. Yes, he made me crazy and he could stop the madness if he wanted to. That stirs up a hatred for him that scares me. But, in the words of Brennan Manning, God loves me just as I am, not as I should be. And so, I love God for letting me hate him. How’s that for bipolar thinking? If that sounds nuts, you’re right. It’s absolutely cuckoo. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Then again, there’s always medication. “Prozac until Jesus comes back” is certainly a good option.