I have not heard many people talk much about mental disease and the Bible. If you looked around, I am willing to bet that you know someone who has a mental disorder. Maybe you even know a couple of people that suffer from a disorder of some sort, maybe it is even you.
Over the next couple of post, I want to take a look at some people from the Bible that may have suffered from a possible mental disorder. One of the reasons I am doing this is because I have a brother that suffers from being Bi-Polar and he was amazed when I told him that God’s Word contained people that have suffered from mental illnesses as well. I also wanted to point out to him that God supplies help and sometimes a cure to people suffering from these disorders.
Now through this last statement, there is no judgment. I am not saying that the cure can only come through God’s supernatural intervention, but rather that I believe God uses other people and even medicine to help us out. In fact, I love how Rick Warren states it, when he said, “If my heart isn’t working, and I take a pill, nobody thinks anything of it. [Same with the liver]. But if my brain doesn’t work right and I take a pill, I’m supposed to be ashamed of that? What’s wrong with that?”
So now back to the topic at hand, and the first disorder: Bi-Polar disorder and that brings us to King Saul. Now I did say King Saul, not the apostle Paul but King Saul. If you are wondering who that is, I will give a brief introduction.
King Saul was Isreal’s first king. He would have kind of looked like Actor Liev Schreiber ( who is of Jewish descent), with a beard. He was tall, muscular and handsome. (1 Sam 9:2) I do not often describe a man as handsome, but as my wife tells me Liev is, we will use him. Liev is 6’3″ tall and at least in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he was buff. Now that I have given you a mental picture of what King Saul would have looked like we will proceed.
God chose Saul as king from among all the tribes of Isreal, more specifically he was from the tribe of Benjamin. As we established above he was tall, handsome and it may have seemed like he had everything going for him, However, he had problems, maybe mental problems. I would like to assert that he might have had Bi-Polar Disorder
Here is a chart that the Mayo Clinic put out displaying some of the symptoms of Bi-Polar disorder:
Mood: anger, anxiety, apathy, apprehension, elevated mood, euphoria, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
Behavioral: aggression, agitation, crying, disorganized behavior, excess desire for sex, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, restlessness, risk-taking behaviors, or self-harm
Cognitive: delusion, false belief of superiority, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, slowness inactivity, or unwanted thoughts
Psychological: agitated depression, depression, manic episode, or paranoia
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Sleep: difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness
Also common: fatigue or rapid and frenzied speaking
Now, this is a pretty long list and I am only going to examine a couple of these areas in Saul’s life.
The first symptoms Saul displayed that are common among people who suffer from Bi-Polar disorder are apprehension and loss of interest. In 1 Samuel 9 and 10, Saul went from being a normal man to being the king. We read how one day he is eating, prophesizing and worshipping with the prophets (9:22 and 10:13). And then a couple of days later when it is time for Saul to become the king, Samuel had to inquire of the LORD to find Saul, because he was hiding among the supplies (10:22).
Another set of symptoms King Saul displayed was his mood swings and paranoia. He could go from eating at the king’s table to trying to kill his own son with a spear ( 20:22-23). Or from celebrating a victory in battle one day to trying to kill David the next (18:10-11).
Saul also made reckless decisions and was impulsive which are two more traits of a person struggling with being Bi-Polar. He made unauthorized burnt and fellowship offerings to God because of his impatience (13:9). He also made a rash oath about eating during battle when his troops could have used food to boost their energy because they were worn out. All because he wanted vengeance (14:24). He even made more reckless decisions than the ones I have listed.
He also displayed many other traits throughout his 42 years as king, and you can be a Berean and look those up yourselves. There is, however, something awesome about how God reacted to all of this. How God provides help to King Saul, much like how the therapist prescribes medication to help people struggling with mental disorders. See God sent him relief through David. First, with how He used David to calm the evil spirits with the music David played, and then in the fact that David spared Saul’s life not once but twice. David could have struck Saul down and took his kingship but out of respect and love for the LORD, and the LORD’s anointed David kept waiting upon the LORD for his promised kingdom.
Now I am not a psychologist and I am not saying that King Saul absolutely suffered from a Mental Disorder, all I am doing is painting a picture that could possibly be true with the ultimate hope that it will get people to see how much God loves them. God loved Saul! We know this because God knows everything. So we know that God chose Saul as king knowing that he was going to screw up. Much like we do, but also the mere fact that Saul reigned for 42 years as king shows God’s love for him. God’s long-suffering here proves He loves us too despite whatever is going on in our lives. I would also like to point out that Saul’s possible symptoms showed both before and after God removed His Spirit from him, so I am in no way stating that God made him or anyone else Bi-Polar.
I love what the Word says in 1 Corinthians 1: 27- 29, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Christian Post, 2013, Rick Warre interview
Xmen Origins: Wolverine, 2009, Marvel Comics Films
Bi-Polar symptoms chart, Mayo Clinic