Bipolar Faith

You’re hot and you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up and you’re down
You’re wrong when it’s right
It’s black and it’s white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up
You don’t really wanna stay, no
But you don’t really wanna go

Katy Perry’s song, which will live in immortality in the minds of this land’s budding chefs (as the theme of Masterchef Australia), seems to be a commentary on my faith-life. I have come to the conclusion that, with regards to faith, I can appear to be quite bipolar.

Listening to Stephen Spence speak yesterday from Mark 4, I was reminded how often I am found trembling in the face of the storm, afraid, thinking I am alone—thinking my God doesn’t care.

 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:37-38 NRSV)

The fact that God is resting in the stern of the ship, not fearing the wind and the waves, not afraid the ship will capsize, doesn’t seem to rate a mention in the dark scenario in which I seem hopelessly lost. Me of little faith prefers (for some strange reason) to be anxious, be fearful, doubt, shake in my boots, not recognising the presence of the One who can speak calm into my soul.

Bipolar. Faith and faithlessness.

There are many definitions of ‘bipolar disorder’ circulating, but perhaps the most accurate would be the one from the American Psychiatric Association which states that:

Bipolar Disorder is characterized by the occurrence of one or more manic or mixed episode often accompanied by depressive episodes. So even if you’re depressed 99 percent of the time, going through just one manic episode qualifies you for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder according to this definition . . .

Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviour … even how a person feels physically (known clinically as psychosomatic presentations). It’s probably caused by electrical and chemical elements in the brain not functioning properly (see What Causes Bipolar Disorder? for more information). . . .

Most often, a person with manic-depression experiences moods that shift from high to low and back again in varying degrees of severity. The two poles of bipolar disorder are mania and depression.

Spiritually, that’s me (though it’s usually 99 percent mania and 1 percent depression).

  • Sometimes I can be so strong and unflinching in the face of adversity and pressure. Other times I can cower in fear and not know where to turn.
  • Most times I can believe that anything is possible. Sometimes I can’t see how I’ll get through today.
  • The majority of my days, I am steady, constant in faith, able to rest in what life is for me, and trusting God wholeheartedly. Some days, I get audaciously angry at God and cry out in frustration: ‘Where are you? Why am I going through this?’

In a way, I’m like the writer of many of the psalms who, in one psalm, maniacally praises and blesses God for providing, for being loving and gracious, for being present. In another verse, he gives God the verbal blast, wondering aloud in his depressive low why he ever depended on such a deity, blaming God for the loneliness, the desolation and abandonment he is feeling. . . . and perhaps questioning whether God in fact does exist.

Could it be at those times when I feel the lowest,when I’m blaming God, cursing God, doubting God–that God is calmly resting in the stern of the ship, and expecting that from this I am to take my cue and join the holy slumber? Perhaps rather than interpreting God’s silence as an absence or abandonment, I need to be aware that this storm, from God’s perspective, is nothing of any consequence and I simply need to trust that, in God’s way and time, I’ll get through it.

It’s all about trusting, resting, and sometimes letting God’s faithfulness carry me through the times when my faith won’t hold.

I found this cartoon which helps put things in perspective (then again, maybe not!).

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3 thoughts on “Bipolar Faith

  1. Yeah bipolar or manic-depressive always has meant that a person has had at least one manic episode. So even if you went manic for just one week aged 17 and die aged 99 never having been manic again, you’d still have lived your life as a person with “bipolar”… 😉

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I can relate completely to you. Even the picture of jesus first carrying, then dragging and finally enjoying his sense of humor. Its crazy how on the opposite side of the world someone feels the same as I do.

    I will keep you in my prayers, please keep me in yours too.

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