As humans, we have the proclivity to speak authoritatively on subjects in which we know very little.
“I seriously don’t think Donald Trump will make it past the primaries.” – J. Teis, June 16, 2015.
“Disney purchased Star Wars? They’ll probably destroy it!” – J. Teis, October 30, 2012.
“I can say with certainty, that this whole Facebook thing is a fad.” – J. Teis, July 2008.
As Christians, we add a sense of spirituality to our authoritative ignorance. And because we are the children of God we feel the right to speak for Him even when He remains silent. The presumptuous child will see God’s reticence on a subject as an open invitation to form unbending opinions, detailed arguments, and unsanctioned laws meant to prop up his ill-conceived belief.
I am guilty!
On multiple occasions, I have personally spoken for The Father where He had not spoken and demanded conformity where He allowed for diversity. This was certainly the case regarding mental illness. Once I taught from the pulpit, nearly a decade ago, that those who relied upon medication for mental stability and emotional health were dishonoring God. I even invited them to show faith in God by destroying their physician-prescribed medication. Thankfully our church was very small and the congregants often wiser than their young pastor. Yet the most heartbreaking memory I have is sitting in my office with a beautiful young couple who were facing a terrible giant. They came to me for counsel. They came to me for help.
She had been diagnosed with clinical depression. She was sad. He was confused. I was certain. “You simply need to read the Bible more and spend time in prayer.” “But pastor” she replied, “I spend over an hour every day in devotional time with God and I still am in such pain.” This was difficult to believe because I didn’t spend that much quiet time with God, and I’m the pastor. “God didn’t make you to be sad. He made you to be happy. Sadness is a consequence of sin. Either you have sin that must be confessed and then you’ll be happy, or you are simply sad for no reason and that is a sin.” I was certain of it! Kinda certain! “Pastor, are you telling me that my depression is a sin?” And without a moment of contemplation, I retorted, “YES!”
I’m so thankful that a godly deacon pulled me aside one day and challenged my preconceived ideas of mental illness and emotional health. This deeply spiritual man helped me to see the error of my ways by showing me patience, pointing me to Scripture, and walking me through the medical realities of which I was unaware. He happened to be a surgeon for the Air Force and knew of what he spoke.
Robert and Jenny Bakss also know of what they speak. Though they speak from an experiential rather than medical perspective. Jenny has been suffering from bipolar disorder for nearly twenty-five years. And Robert has been her faithful companion along each step of this treacherous journey. They have gifted the world with a brand new book called, Poles Apart: A Christian Couple Gives Bipolar a Voice.
You must get and read this book for 4 Reasons:
1. The Book Destroys the Silence and the Stigma surrounding Mental Illness
Go ahead. Join a new small group and tell them that you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar, depression, or schizophrenia. Post it on Facebook and watch the response, or lack thereof. Sharing a mental diagnosis can be a little different than sharing a physical one. Admission of pancreatic cancer will rightfully be rewarded with compassion, love, and prayer. Admission of bipolar will likely be rewarded with confusion at best, criticism at worst, or silence often. One forgets that just as the pancreas can have problems producing insulin, the brain can have chemical imbalances too.
2. The Book Demonstrates a Great Marriage with Honesty and Humor
One of the unexpected (and I suspect unintended) blessings of this book was a glimpse into a wonderful marriage. Jenny is clearly the hero of this story but her husband Robert demonstrates to the reader how a patient spouse is to live, act, respond, and care for a lover when going through tragedy. In a world filled with selfish relationships, it is refreshing to see a truly compassionate couple.
There is also an element of honesty that is rarely seen today. Very quickly the reader has a sense of full disclosure as you are ushered into a marriage that is not always easy. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of photo-shopping – for Robert and Jenny are more preoccupied with sharing their story than protecting their image.
At times you hurt with Jenny as she suffers through a moment of debilitating depression but suddenly you find yourself laughing with Jenny as she rushes headlong into a moment of manic accomplishment. Like the time she gets it into her head to bring a surprise, impromptu, birthday party to her teenage son’s school – 8 MONTHS BEFORE HIS BIRTHDAY! It really is a great read because this couple doesn’t take themselves too seriously even though they are dealing with serious subject matter. This book, at times, can be very funny.
3. The Book Delivers Practical Help
You or someone you know may be living with mental illness and could use the practical advice found in these pages. Is it wrong to take medication? How can I correct my thinking when truth is difficult to discern? Is it possible to beat the blues? How does the Scripture help? What can a spouse do to help?
Robert and Jenny teach that regardless of diagnosis a positive attitude is always possible. As quoted by Victor Frankl (Holocaust Survivor), “Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
4. The Book is Biblical
I opened up this post by talking about the predilection of Christians to speak authoritatively where the Bible is silent. I believe that Christians do have the right to speak authoritatively on subjects the Word of God clearly addresses but we do not have the right to do so on subjects that go unaddressed. This is one of the reasons why I love this book. In many places, we are not pointed to the opinion of Bakss but the Word of God.
As a Christian, I am so very thankful that Robert and Jenny added so much scripture to their writing. Questions that I had prior to reading this book were answered, often by a passage given and explained. Over and over the reader is pointed back to the perfect Word of God.
For example, the book doesn’t allow someone with mental illness to use the diagnosis as an excuse to sin. Brilliantly Jenny notes, “If those with bipolar disorder were exempt (from personal responsibility), we would all be exempt because none of us has a perfectly functioning brain.” And quotes James 1:14!
Robert and Jenny are not the first Christians to speak out about mental illness and emotional health. John Bunyan wrote of the Slough of Despond, the Valley of Humiliation, and being cast into the dungeon by the Giant Despair. Charles Spurgeon is well known for his long bouts with depression. However, they are the first I’ve seen in the modern era to do so with such humility, grace, and knowledge.
I want to highly recommend this book to each of you! Pick up a copy today online at:
For the paperback copy of the book – order at www.robertbakss.com
For the Amazon Kindle version – order at www.amazon.com.