According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year – that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. I want to hilight three mental cases in the Bible.
Mental Illness can be demonic.
Then they came to Jesus and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.Mark 5:15
When demons were cast out, a man came back to his right mind. I don’t believe that everyone who has mental illness has a demon the same way I don’t believe that everyone who is sick has a demon.
Mental illness can be as a result of sin.
That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.Daniel 4:33
Due to sin of pride, Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind. Similar story happened to King Saul who had manic episodes after the Holy Spirit departed him. (Reference 1 Samuel 16:14). Though God used mental illness as a chastisement for Nebuchadnezzar, we must not generalize his example for everybody.
Mental illness can be a physical illness.
So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.Luke 10:34
Demons can cause those disorders, but sometimes it’s just a physical problem that needs healing and medical treatment. I have seen the deliverance of a man named John who had four mental disorders, and after deliverance, God healed him totally from all of them. We as a church shouldn’t abandon people with a mental illness by equating mental illness only with the work of demons, or suggesting that the mental disorder was the result of personal sin.
Taking medicine shouldn’t be viewed as a weakness of faith. God uses elements from the earth such as leaves and figs to assist in the healing process from physical problems (Ezekiel 47:12; 1 Timothy 5:23; Isaiah 38:21).
Dr. Steven Waterhouse in his book, Strength For His People, says the following: “The Bible itself makes a distinction between disease and possession” (Mark 6:13). Thus, Christian theology should recognize the difference.
At least six factors differentiate schizophrenia from demonic possession as described in the Bible.
- Attraction to Religion vs. Aversion to Religion
Demons want nothing to do with Christ. Conversely, people with mental illness are often devoutly religious.
- Irrational Speech vs. Rational Speech
In New Testament accounts involving demons, the demons spoke in a rational manner. Untreated people with schizophrenia will often speak nonsense and jump rapidly between unrelated topics.
- Ordinary Learning vs. Supernatural Knowledge
Demons in the New Testament would speak through people to convey knowledge that otherwise could not have been known to the possessed individuals. Those with mental illness have no such ability to know facts that they have not acquired by normal learning.
- Normal vs. Occult Phenomena
There is an aspect to demon activity that is just plain spooky (e.g., poltergeists, levitations, trances, telepathy). These have an impact on others in the room, not for just the possessed. With schizophrenia, the effect of the disorder affects only the disordered, not others.
- The Claim to be Possessed
Authors who have clinical experience both with demon possession and mental illness believe those who claim to be possessed are very likely not possessed. Demons wish to be secretive and do not voluntarily claim to be present.
- Effects of Therapy
If prayer solves the problem, then it was probably not schizophrenia. If medicine helps alleviate the problem, it was not demon possession.
We pray for deliverance for those coming for deliverance if they have a mental illness, but we do encourage them to seek medical help after the deliverance even if the mental illness is gone. Some people experience a breakdown in their minds due to the usage of powerful prescription drugs; they need supernatural healing for their brain.