We both love how Matthew has taken the concept of sin and given a breath of fresh air to the topic. You must read this book because in its pages you will finally gain a biblical perspective on sin and what it takes to free yourself from the bonds that so easily entangle!

Gary and Michael Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
When mental illness afflicts a loved one, how can we understand what is happening and respond appropriately? This biblically-literate and scientifically-informed book offers helpful insight, encouragement, and practical advice. For pastors and for those who hurt for those who hurt, Matthew Stanford offers sensitive and welcome guidance.

David G. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Hope College and author of Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jesus, Sickness and Sin

What would you say to a believer who came to you and said they were clinically depressed or had obsessive-compulsive disorder? What is the appropriate biblical response? The unfortunate truth is that the church has struggled in ministering to those with mental illness. In the Gospel of John we have a 1st century equivalent of that interaction (John 9:1-3): As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus’ disciples assumed that sin was the cause of the man’s blindness. In fact, as we can see from their question they believed that the man may have sinned before he was born and brought this punishment upon him. In the Talmud, an ancient record of Jewish laws and traditions, it says that if a pregnant woman sins by bowing to an idol that her unborn child also sins because he also bows. This was a common belief of the day; sin or unrighteousness brought punishment (sickness, poverty, a physical handicap) while righteous living brought health and prosperity. There is a certain sense of self-righteousness in that idea. He’s blind, I’m not. He’s a sinner punished by God but look at me I’m blessed for my good behavior. But what does Jesus say … Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This outcast, this “cursed” man, this sinner was blind from birth so that the works of God might be displayed in him. I wonder if he ever thought of himself that way before that day. The works of God that are displayed in this man’s life go far beyond his simple healing. In this section of the text Jesus is emphasizing his messianic authority and power by proclaiming He is the light of the world. This man ultimately defends Christ before the Pharisees and then publicly worships Him. He sees for the first time physically and he sees for the first time spiritually. What about our brothers and sisters with mental illness, do we (like the disciples) see them as less than ourselves? Or do we think of their disorder as an opportunity for the works of God to be manifest in their lives? We need to see them with spiritual eyes, with Christ’s eyes. Every trial, every malady, every weakness is an opportunity for the works of God to be manifest in our lives because God is sovereign over illness, even mental illness.


  1. Thank you! Part of why I am currently not going to church is because my kids and I have been very hurt by common misconceptions of what bipolar is and isn't, what we really are capable of and how I parent my kids based on their emotional state at the time rather than by strict rules that must always be followed. I am a very strong believer in grace. I feel that grace and love are the very heart of the reason Christ came to this earth. He does not treat me as a bipolar person- just as His friend who needs a little extra TLC and yet has so much to offer this world even if I can't do some of the basic things others consider to be their life mantra.

  2. By referring to "us" vs. "them", this just reinforces the idea that we believers are a people divided over a sense of mental wholeness. I thought all those of us who proclaimed Christ were part of His one body, regardless as to whether or not we live with this or that condition.