The Thursday before Easter is traditionally the commemoration of Jesus' "new commandment" to love one another "just as I have loved you." That love is to extend to those with mental disabilities, though more conservative churches have had an uneasy relationship with the approaches of modern psychology and psychiatry. A timely book provides context and practical advice in answering the question, "If God has placed a mentally ill person in your life and you in his or hers, how will you respond?"
"Grace For the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness" ($19.99 in paperback from Paternoster Publishing) by Matthew S. Stanford notes that "Christians develop mental illness at the same rates seen in the general population, and admonitions such as 'You need to pray more' or 'This is just the result of a lack of faith' are ineffective in dealing with this problem."
Stanford is the featured presenter at the forthcoming Jesus Center banquet on Saturday, April 17 at 5:45 p.m. The fundraiser will be held at City Plaza under a large tent; the author will be speaking on “Viewing Mental Illness and Homelessness through the Eyes of Faith.” Tickets are available at the Jesus Center, 1297 Park Avenue in Chico or by calling (530) 345-2640. Tickets are $30 each or $200 for a table for 8.
Stanford (http://mindfulofgrace.blogspot.com) is a committed believer, Chair of the Psychology Doctoral Program at Baylor University and ministers to the poor who have mental illness in Waco, Texas. Though the Bible is clear that we live in a broken world, "an educated understanding of brain function and psychological dynamics is not contrary to Scripture. From this perspective it would seem obvious that clinical psychology is useful in helping the Christian struggling with mental illness to eliminate negative or destructive patterns of thinking and behaving."
The heart of the book considers mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, and more. Each chapter explains the disorder in simple terms and looks at risk factors, suggests what life is like for those who are suffering, then examines treatment options and what the Bible says. In dealing with those afflicted, Stanford's call is clear: "Will you love this person the way Christ loves you?"