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Jesus, Satan and Mental Illness

Jesus cast out demons

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of something that my spiritual director told me about Jesus and Satan, and who I belong to. Because I write about my Asperger Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder, I get a lot of visitors seeking answers regarding mental illness and demon possession. I think clarity is important on this topic. Here is the whole passage from the Gospel of St. Mark.

Mark 3: 20-27

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

Because I have Bipolar Disorder, it sometimes feels that Satan has my brain, but at the same time, my heart is in love with Jesus. My spiritual director told me that if Jesus has my heart, then He has all of me. No matter what I may think or do that is due to disorder, it is my heart that matters. If I have lost control of my brain, it does not mean that Satan has control of it. It only means that I, Lisa Graas, have lost control of it. Because Jesus has my heart, I have to trust that He has all of me, and so when I lose control of my brain, it means that God is using that for His holy purposes.

The things that I say and do when I have lost control of my brain are not “me” at all. They are disordered, but God is using them. Hanging on to trust during this time is harder, especially since trust has a strong mental component. If my trust is challenged, especially when people I have come to trust to know God are doing or saying things that are not of God, it makes it all the more difficult for me to keep my trust in God. The disorder worsens, the less I am trusting in God. I have ended up suicidal in the crisis unit over shattered trust which spiraled downward, causing me a crisis of faith. But again, as long as Jesus has my heart, I still belong to Him, and He has my heart indeed. That is my salvation in the madness.

I do believe that if I could only explain all this better about the difference between the heart and the brain, that is in all people, not just the mentally ill, then it would go a long way toward helping people understand what it means to “judge” people. Maybe some day I will be able to express that clearly in words, but not today. The bottom line is that you have to love people as children of God no matter what they may believe with their minds, and no matter what they say and do, and whether or not they have a mental illness. At times in our life, we all “speak from the heart,” but most of the time we are speaking from our minds, not from our heart. If we always spoke “from the heart” we wouldn’t be talking as much as we do. I have come to know how important it is to always speak from the heart, because that is where my love for Jesus is, but to always speak from the heart is a heavy cross — heavier for some than for others. What my spiritual director said to me about my belonging to Jesus no matter what I feel is going on in my brain, well, that is true for everyone. You can’t judge people, because you only have what they say and do to go by. God knows what is in the heart, for all of us. And none of us can read hearts.

I hope that makes sense because it’s very important.

People accused Jesus of being out of His mind while accusing Him of working with Satan because He was able to cast out demons. There are people today who believe that mental disorder is demon possession, or vice versa. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Jesus, Who was casting out demons, was accused of both by people who did not know Who He really is. This passage from Mark is very healing for me since my spiritual director told me what he did about my belonging to Jesus because He has my heart, and in this I have purity of intention. I will also be falsely accused, as Jesus was Himself in this passage, but because I know Who Jesus really is, and because He has my heart, it is all for the glory of God.

A Passionist Hymn, Now We Remain:

Photo: Jesus Knights

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