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Psychosis and religion

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 Tony Roberts

If you're a strong believer in your faith, it could feel difficult to know if you're really being spoken to by God, or if you're experiencing psychosis. In his blog, Tony shares his experiences, as well as advice for anyone that might be experiencing similar.

Tony Roberts (@delightedtony) is an author, inspirational speaker, and podcast producer. He was keynote speaker at the first Shattering Stigma with Stories conference. You can read more about Tony on his website.

On February 27, 1995, God spoke to me. At least that’s how I heard it. Through signs and visions, sounds and voices, I received the otherworldly message that the End was near and it was my mission to gather God’s children to a sanctuary, a safe haven to ride out the storm until Christ returned to carry us home.

"Many would be quick to dismiss this as a religious delusion. And they would be right."

Many would be quick to dismiss this as a religious delusion. And they would be right. But it is more complex than that for me. As a life-long Christian serving in pastoral ministry, I take the Bible very seriously. I am steeped in Scripture’s stories, concepts, images. Things like the end of the world, Christ’s return, and the rescue of God’s children are much more than fairy tales to me. They are deep truths that shape my life in faith.

From the time I could talk, I spoke to God and trusted that He heard me. More than this, I believed God answered my prayers in a very real way. I still believe this. But after spending time on a psychiatric unit and talking with trusted spiritual leaders within my faith community, I have learned to be wary of the voices I hear.

"I have learned to be wary of the voices I hear."

There is a difference between the voice of God and auditory delusions. God speaks to our hearts, with inward convictions that compel us to action. God speaks through the faith community, as someone taps us on the shoulder and asks, “Have you considered doing this?” Most importantly, God speaks to us through the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the written Word of Scripture. As we regularly read the Bible in the Spirit of prayer and meditation, our ears become more finely tuned to catch God’s whispers.

Those of us who hear what others do not hear have a distinct challenge. How do we tune out demanding and commanding voices such that we can listen for God speaking to us? I have found three ways that work.

  1. When I read Scripture, I also put on my headsets and listen to the passage from the audio Bible. In this way, my mind becomes steeped in the Word. I still hear voices, but they are not as loud.
  2. I write my prayers in a journal. As a writer, I have developed the capacity to self-edit. If I am praying on the page and it begins to sound contrary to the Spirit of Christ, I pause, take a deep breath, cross it out, and move on.
  3. I ask a trusted mature Christian to be my mentor. I share with him insights I’ve had from Scripture and insights from my prayer journal. I have even reviewed my finances with some since folks like me with bipolar disorder can be poor money managers. 

"Do I still believe God speaks to me? Absolutely."

Do I still believe God speaks to me? Absolutely. This sometimes gets me funny looks during psychiatric evaluations. Still, I have no doubt that God speaks to me. I just need to wear hearing aids.

Find out more about psychosis with our information.

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