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Christians say they believe with faith all things are possible, but what happens when faith doesn’t heal our own sickness? The story of a missionary wrestling with God… and her own mind.

mental illness


#7: Where the Gospel Meets Mental Illness

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: In today’s episode, a variety of names have been changed in order to protect people’s anonymity.


JESSE EUBANKS: When it comes to the topic of mental illness, sometimes it can be really scary and sometimes it can be really funny and sometimes it just turns out to be both. Back in the days when I used to work at Louisville Rescue Mission, I encountered a lot of mental illness. But I never encountered anything quite like what my coworker Dale encountered. Dale was on staff at the mission. He was making his usual rounds, checking on the residents, making sure that things were in order. Then, he heard a knock on the door.

DALE: And when I got to the door, it was Louisville Police Department. They told me there was a disturbance. They had been called about a disturbance. They wanted to investigate. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Dale hadn’t encountered any disturbances on his rounds, but as soon as he walks down the hall with the police, they can all hear it.

DALE: So we follow the voices to one of the dorms and we discovered two of the residents having a rather heated discussion about who Jesus was.  

JESSE EUBANKS: Now typically a conversation about who Jesus is would go something like this –  is Jesus really the son of God? Was he just a good teacher?… But that’s not how this conversation was going. 

DALE: One resident was telling the other resident ‘I am Jesus.’ And the other resident was telling him ‘No, I told him that I’m Jesus.’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: These two men both had significant mental illness. And they both were completely convinced that they were actually Jesus himself. 

DALE: And this went back and forth for a second before I interjected and told them ‘ain’t neither one of ya Jesus and I don’t wanna hear anymore about it.’ It’s just not the type of conversation that you expect to have on a given day.

JESSE EUBANKS: Like I said, mental illness – sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s funny. Every now and then, it gets to be both. But one thing it’s not – it’s never easy to understand. 


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Every episode we hear stories of social justice and Christian community.

JESSE EUBANKS: And in today’s episode, we’ll be diving into the realm of mental illness. 

RACHEL SZABO: Now, the term “mental illness” – it covers a wide variety of struggles. But for today’s story, we’re going to be mainly focusing on two of those struggles, and that’s bipolar disorder and depression.

JESSE EUBANKS: We’re going to be exploring what happens when the physical and the spiritual crash into each other and what happens when a missionary comes face to face with mental illness in the most personal of ways. Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, Rachel, as we were preparing for today’s episode on mental illness, this event happened here in our own city. So what is the big seminary here in Louisville?

RACHEL SZABO: The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yep. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. So there was a recent staff member who was let go from the seminary, and it was kind of this big controversial thing. And the reason it was controversial was because of who it was. Dr. Eric Johnson. Dr. Johnson is a leading proponent of what’s called Christian psychology. Now, just to give you some context, this isn’t just some random guy. One of his books was endorsed by John Piper, and more recently his methods were endorsed by Tim Keller. So like the godfathers of the reformed evangelical movement signed off on this guy. But suddenly it was announced that the seminary was gonna let him go.

RACHEL SZABO: Why? Why did they let him go?

JESSE EUBANKS: That’s kind of the weird part. Okay, so here, let me pass this to you. I just want you to read his statement.

RACHEL SZABO: Okay. ‘For a number of reasons, this Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has determined that Christian psychology is not compatible with the version of biblical counseling that they want to promote.’ Sooo, they fired him because he promotes using psychology?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, it sounds like that has some part of things. And it seems to boil down to this age-old debate that takes place within Christendom, which is the role of Scripture versus the role of medicine, the role of God intervening miraculously versus the role of going and seeking medical care. In fact, that’s not a new idea. It goes all the way back to when Jesus was here on earth. So in the gospel of John chapter nine, Jesus and his disciples are leaving the synagogue. They pass by a beggar, and this beggar was blind. And he had been blind his entire life.

RACHEL SZABO: Now the Pharisees during that time had developed this belief system, and that belief system was that physical suffering was the result of a very specific sin. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Well who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, and when it comes to this topic of mental illness, we kinda do the same thing. We ask this question, ‘Well whose fault is it?’ Is it the fault of the person who’s struggling? Have they done something to warrant having mental problems? Are they not trusting God? Are they not having faith?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so in fact, Lifeway Research did a study that found that almost half of evangelicals – 48% – believe that prayer and bible study alone are enough to heal serious mental illness. So, is this true? As Christians, how should we respond to mental illness? Well, for one overseas missionary, she was about to come face to face with these questions.

DEBORAH: I started not feeling like myself. I was very irritable. I would get very frustrated and angry easily. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This is Deborah. At the time, she and her husband and two children are living overseas. The two people groups they were living among had had years of hostility between them. Group A and Group B, they would not speak to each other. And Deborah and her husband ended up sharing the gospel with Group A. And Group A became so excited about what they heard that they themselves wanted to go over to Group B and share the gospel personally with them. And not only that, but Deborah and her husband also among these folks launched a brand new nonprofit in their country. And that nonprofit, it still exists today. What I’m trying to say is this – these folks are missionary rock stars. They are the people that are going to inspire other people to go and do missions. They love the Lord, they were faithful, and they were willing to go to the ends of the earth. Deborah could not imagine doing anything else in life. But then slowly, things began to unravel. Here’s her husband Mark.

MARK: I was trying to manage multiple teams in multiple cities, a lot of burnout. I wasn’t doing well myself. I was just physically run down, mentally run down. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, Deborah was concerned for Mark and his health. And his stress was only heightening her own stress.

DEBORAH: I started experiencing panic attacks. It would get to the point where I really was very terrified and would ask my husband to take me to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. And I just kept telling my husband ‘I don’t know what’s going on with me, I don’t know why I’m allowing all these things to just get to me in life.’

JESSE EUBANKS: Deborah knew Scripture tells us to not be anxious about anything but to pray. So that is exactly what Deborah did.

DEBORAH: I would pray, I would seek the Lord and ask him to help me, and just still continue to be like that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Mark’s stress levels continued to be high and he’s personally not doing real well and eventually their friends become concerned. But the night that they become concerned, it wasn’t for Mark. It was for Deborah. Deborah’s parents had come to visit them in the country where they were living. Her parents stayed at a hotel, so Deborah stayed there with them to spend more time with them while Deborah’s husband and kids stayed at home. So Deborah’s at the hotel with her parents, and she gets this feeling, almost like a sixth sense, that something at home is wrong.

DEBORAH: I woke up in the middle of the night and I was terrified that something had happened to my husband and my children. 

MARK: She was worried that I was suicidal and something had happened. 

DEBORAH: And so I called several of my friends and asked them if they would go and check on my husband, my family, my kids, because I was terrified that something had happened to them. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So her friends rushed to the house to check on Mark. 

MARK: One o’clock, it was late, the middle of the night, and there’s a rapping at my gate…

JESSE EUBANKS: And the situation was?… Nothing. Everything was fine. Completely normal. So their friends go over to the hotel to see Deborah and tell her that everything’s fine.

DEBORAH: They sat with me and talked with me and reassured me that everything was okay with my family.

MARK: But yeah, she was convinced that there was a major problem.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well soon afterwards, all of this stress from his job and his duties and his responsibilities as a missionary, as well as everything going on in the family, Mark’s health takes a turn for the worst. The family is immediately sent back to the states, so that they could be cared for and Mark can see his doctor and get medication that’s not available in their own country. And being back in the states, Mark’s health really starts to improve – significantly. So much so that soon they expect that they’re going to be sent back to their country and continue their work. But while they’re waiting for their final clearance, Deborah’s behavior gets even worse. 

DEBORAH: I was doing very irrational things. I would say things I normally would not say to people. I spent a lot of money buying gifts for people and just not thinking about what I was doing at all. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Now remember, Deborah is a seasoned missionary. She knows her Bible inside and out. She probably knows it better than me and better than you, and she has true and legitimate faith in God.

DEBORAH: I was praying and reading the Bible, y’know seeking the Lord.

JESSE EUBANKS: And for some reason her faith didn’t seem to be stopping her strange behavior. So Deborah started to go see a counselor and this counselor happened to be trained in the model of biblical counseling. But while they’re talking, it’s very apparent that Deborah just isn’t herself.

DEBORAH: I started becoming delusional, like have outbursts of laughing for a really long time and laughing at things that were not funny.

JESSE EUBANKS: Deborah’s behavior concerns the counselor, so she stops the counseling session and immediately sends Deborah to a psychiatrist.

RACHEL SZABO: Whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought biblical counselors were anti-psychiatry, right?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well no, not necessarily. There’s some people that will say that, but that’s a little bit reductionistic. So, we need to back up for a second and actually think about biblical counseling on a spectrum. So, on one end of that spectrum would be people, who by conviction, they believe that Scripture alone is overwhelmingly powerful enough to care for the majority of people’s needs. Medical intervention should only be required in the most extreme of circumstances. On the other end, you’re going to have folks that are very comfortable with the integration between the use of Scripture and psychology and psychiatry. But you’re also going to find Christians that are counselors anywhere along this spectrum. Scripture’s really really important, but depending on the person, it’s going to determine what other tools might come along with that. 


JESSE EUBANKS: So when Deborah’s counselor sent her to the psychiatrist, she was acknowledging that there might be something medical taking place in Deborah’s behavior.

RACHEL SZABO: So was it something medical? 

DEBORAH: I went to the psychiatrist, and that’s when he diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. 

RACHEL SZABO: Wait. So Deborah’s mentally ill?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. This seasoned, rock solid missionary is told that she is mentally ill. 

RACHEL SZABO: So, now what?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, we’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s episode – where the gospel meets mental illness.

JESSE EUBANKS: We’re following the story of Deborah. She and her family are overseas missionaries. They were sent back to the states for health reasons, but instead of getting better Deborah seems to have gotten worse. She is in the psychiatrist’s office, and the psychiatrist tells her that she has bipolar disorder. Now Deborah is still pretty delusional at this point, but she’s able to call her husband and tell him where she is and what’s going on.

MARK: She contacted me, we got her to come home, and then she went into a full blown mania episode. We ended up taking her to the emergency room.  

JESSE EUBANKS: Her mania was actually so out of control that the doctors at the emergency room decided to admit Deborah to the psychiatric ward. 

DEBORAH: I was really in the height of the mania at that time and they ended up admitting me, kept me, because of my mental illness.

MARK: It’s a scary thing to see someone that you love, you care about deeply, in a full mania state where they’re just completely not themselves.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Rachel, are you familiar with bipolar disorder?

RACHEL SZABO: Kind of, maybe. It’s like mood swings, right? Where your mood like goes up and down all the time? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, yeah. That can be some of the symptoms. So I actually sat down with Dr. Brian Briscoe, a general adult psychiatrist, and he is also a Christian. And so here’s Dr. Briscoe explaining bipolar disorder.

BRIAN BRISCOE: Bipolar disorder, what most layperson’s understanding of it is, is quote “mood swings,” and that’s not really an accurate depiction of what it is. Bipolar disorder is when you’ve had a manic episode in the past.

JESSE EUBANKS: And to describe mania, Dr. Briscoe likes to use an analogy that I found really helpful. 

BRIAN BRISCOE: The brain is in effect having a seizure. Instead of motor parts moving around erratically, you’re having mood parts of your brain in effect having a seizure. So it’s just an overactivity in the parts of the brain that are responsive to mood.

JESSE EUBANKS: So basically here’s what Dr. Briscoe is saying. He’s saying that when a person is having a physical seizure, the parts of our brains that control our muscles, for some reason it’s having overactivity. He’s comparing the parts of our brain that control our emotions in the same way. There are parts of our brain that have major influence over our emotions, and then basically overactivity happens in that region of the brain and it causes us then to begin to have erratic emotional experiences.

BRIAN BRISCOE: At least three or four days in a row where your energy has just been way, way too high, and at the same time you’ve either A) felt like you were high on a drug – the term we use is euphoric – or B) extraordinarily irritable. So you have the energy plus the euphoria or that irritability.

JESSE EUBANKS: And this basically describes how Deborah was acting while in the psychiatric ward. And in fact, she had some grand ideas for the real reasons that she was there.

DEBORAH: While I was in the hospital, part of my delusions were religious. I thought that while I was there that this was God’s will for me, that he was gonna use me while I was in the hospital. I talked to a lot of the patients that were there on my floor and sharing my faith with them, talking about God.

JESSE EUBANKS: And a lot of times mental illness will manifest itself with kind of a religious bent to it. So someone might think that they’re Jesus or think that God is intervening in some miraculous way that doesn’t seem to actually be present to everyone else around them. Well because of the patient’s own tendency to overspiritualize things, it actually makes sense for a lot of Christians to do the exact same when they look at the issue. They don’t see it as a medical issue. They see it more so as a spiritual issue. Which is exactly what Dr. Briscoe had done all during med school.

BRIAN BRISCOE: Even depression, I didn’t understand it myself until I was two or three years into practice. In fact I had moralized it, I had spiritualized it. And I retained that throughout residency and even a year into practice. 

RACHEL SZABO: So I actually did some research on the history of folks with mental illness. And so what I found out was that in very ancient cultures it was a widely held belief that anything to do with a mental illness was a spiritual phenomena. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, our relationship between the biblical and the medical has always been a challenging relationship for a lot of Christians.

BRIAN BRISCOE: And it wasn’t until finally seeing case after case after case of people suffering that I finally just said, “Y’know what, there’s more to it than just a spiritual failing.’  It was one thing to see someone struggling with diabetes or problems with their blood pressure, but it was another thing to see someone coming in and struggling with panic attacks or depression and crying out to God for help and feeling like God was distant or not there and just… and not getting better.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, the doctors put Deborah on some medication. She got stable enough to go home, and within a few weeks – her mania completely subsided. But she wasn’t necessarily better.

DEBORAH: Once I came out of the mania, I felt a lot of shame for things that I had done while I was manic. I was embarrassed, just fearful. Y’know, just worried about what people thought of me, especially around people that I knew and people from my church. There tends to be a stigma with people with mental illness.

MARK: I’ll be totally honest, I’ve seen the looks of other people, the looks of a little bit of disdain. I’ve seen the avoidance. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Now despite the shame, now that her mania was under control, her psychiatrist said that she would be able to function just like before and gave her medical clearance for her and her family to go back overseas. 

MARK: The psychiatrist said, y’know, ‘This is totally treatable, you can be high functioning just like you’ve always been.’ And so, his assessment and evaluation was that ‘you guys could go back and go overseas.’

JESSE EUBANKS: So Deborah and her family wait for the organization to give them the go ahead. They are more than ready to go back to their home and their friends and their mission country. And then one day, the organization calls Deborah on the phone.

DEBORAH: I received a call from them and was told that because of my bipolar disorder I was not able to get medical clearance to go back overseas. What was explained to me by the personnel was that they don’t appoint people with bipolar disorder because a person who might be manic on the field might do things to lose their Christian witness. That was devastating.

JESSE EUBANKS: When they had come back to the states, they expected to return to their country. All of their belongings were still there. They had to have friends from that country pack up everything they owned and ship it to them. Deborah and Mark would never go back. 

DEBORAH: I became very numb, lack of motivation. To wash my dishes was overwhelming. I would just cry over the fact that I felt so overwhelmed just to wash my dishes or just to have to go out of my house and meet someone. I became very isolated, very difficult to reach out to people.

MARK: For a while she’s mainly spending time in the room, not really able to do things that she would normally be doing, and so I’m taking the kids to school and starting to make the meals. There was a lot of things that was like in a small, small way living like what it would be if you were a single parent.

DEBORAH: One day, it was just really, really bad and I set the girls down and they had asked to go to the pool and I was gonna take them to the pool, but it was so overwhelming for me that I couldn’t and I was very upset about that and I was crying and shared with them some of what was happening to me, um, about the fact that I had depression. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Most of us would say that Deborah’s experiencing depression because of what happened. Who wouldn’t? Here’s Dr. Briscoe again. 

BRIAN BRISCOE: The other part of bipolar is the down phase. People will say, ‘Well this a situational depression.’ Well most depression is situational. It’s maybe 5% of depressions that come on out of the blue, but 95% of depression is gonna be situational. An analogy I like to use is, if you’ve ever had a really bad headache, you can’t talk yourself out of a headache, you can’t read Scripture to get yourself out of a headache. You’ve got the headache. Depression is like a really, really bad headache that just doesn’t go away for nine months to three years.

JESSE EUBANKS: And just like her mania had religious connotations, her depression did too.

DEBORAH: I found it very difficult to pray. I found it very difficult to read the Word. I felt like God was very distant from me, and I had never really experienced that in my life. I had a lot of shame about that because I felt like you should be farther along than this in your walk with the Lord. I was really trusting God and crying out to God for relief, and there was no relief. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, that’s really hard. And it’s hard for us when we believe that God is real and that he could do anything and we believe that with Christ all things are possible. And there’s like these moments where we really turn to Scripture, and we don’t turn to Scripture just for encouragement. We end up turning to Scripture because we want to find the answer to our pain and we wanna be healed. 

BRIAN BRISCOE: If I had, y’know, a broken leg, y’know, you could read Scripture to me all day if you want. In fact, doing that might actually cause me harm. If you read Scripture to me and walked away, that could cause me harm, it could actually cause harm to my faith. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oftentimes I think that we try to misapply Scripture. We want it to do something that it’s just not designed to do. If I sit down and I go to pay my taxes and I decide instead to rip out a page from the Bible and insert it in the envelope and mail it to the IRS… If I have been shot in the leg and someone comes and begins to just read Scripture over me, there is a good chance that that’s not going to go well for me because that’s not what Scripture is intended for. But if I’m looking for wisdom on how to pay my taxes or I’m looking for community to surround me in my pain or I’m looking for a reminder that God is with me no matter my ups or my downs, well now I’m onto something. I’m onto, that’s what Scripture was intended for. 

BRIAN BRISCOE: What it boils down to is not understanding. It’s because mental health and mental illness is just so hard to understand, and my experience has been that people don’t really get things like depression or panic attacks or anxiety until they’ve been through it themselves. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, sooo, Rachel. In light of the fact that we’re talking about mental illness…

RACHEL SZABO: I was hoping you weren’t going to ask me this…

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so I am going to ask you… I don’t think it makes sense for us to go all the way through this episode without you and I talking about this. This is in the room with us. This is a part of who you are. So Rachel, when we come back, I want to talk to you some more about your own story. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s episode – where the gospel meets mental illness.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so as I sit here and I’m talking about people really wanting their faith to be strong enough that it heals their own struggles… Not to put you on the spot – you did the Love Thy Neighborhood program and you moved here and you came and you lived in community and at first it was a pretty good experience. Then, after a few months, it became very clear that you were not in a good place emotionally or in your mental health. Can you tell us some about that?

RACHEL SZABO: It’s actually hard for me to like go back and remember, like I can remember pockets of like not being well, but I could not tell you why I was not well. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Talk about some of the symptoms that were coming out. 

RACHEL SZABO: I can remember like simultaneously, like, not thinking anything, but at the same time my mind going a mile a minute. And I can remember sitting in the office at the – this is when we worked at Louisville Rescue Mission – and I would just sit in the office and just like stare, like a vegetable I guess. And it was really hard for me to respond.

JESSE EUBANKS: Like, I was your boss, and I would come in and I would try to talk to you, and you wouldn’t verbally respond to me, and I was like ‘She’s the most insubordinate little punk.’ But then there were also these moments of, like, extreme emotional outbursts. 

RACHEL SZABO: That’s a weird thing to experience, like it’s so desperate and hopeless and there’s like no good answers for anything and the only thing you can do is just scream literally at the top of your lungs and throw something, break something, yell at something, do something physically violent to appease whatever this emotion is that’s like welled up inside of you. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But because they would come out of these places of like, you would be almost like vegetable-like, and then huge outburst, and so it was like you never knew which Rachel you were gonna get. 

RACHEL SZABO: My friend that I was living with at the time, she said to me one time, she said like ‘You really scare me because I don’t know what’s going on and I can’t do anything for you and I’m scared.’ And I remember that just like tore me apart, the fact that like what I was doing was scary to other people. Because it was scary to myself, but the fact that like, oh this doesn’t just affect me, like this isn’t just my issue, like this is affecting everyone else around me.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, like our issues never affect just us, like we’re all a part of a community and they affect other people. And I remember that one of your ways of trying to manage that reality that you were impacting others was that, the other folks in the program would tell me that you would come home and that you would literally walk up the stairs and go in a room and shut the door and not come out all night.

RACHEL SZABO: I remember at one point I was outside of our house and I was on the phone with you and you said to me ‘I think it’s time that you seek some counsel’ or something like that and go to counseling. I think that was really difficult for me because, even though nobody like taught me this, I had set up this belief that to go to counseling meant that you were like really jacked up. There was seriously something wrong with you if you had to go get counseling. And I think that scared — like I didn’t wanna be a mess, I didn’t wanna be broken, I didn’t wanna be, like I didn’t want there to be something wrong with me. And for me to go to counseling, that was admitting I’m broken. And I didn’t want to be broken because I was afraid that if I was broken, there’s no coming back from that. Once you’re broken, you’re broken, and there’s no way to fix yourself. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So eventually you surrender. You’re like ‘Okay, I need to accept that I need to go get help.’ And so how’s that go? What happens?

RACHEL SZABO: So I went to counseling, and the first few sessions I had, I really did not like it at all. She just gave me all these scriptures to read and this book, like ‘I want you to read this book and all these scriptures and I want you to just sit and think about them,’ and I hated it because every time I would try to read Scripture or think about God, I was so afraid that I was going to say something to God or think something about God that was gonna be unforgivable. And so, like, I was scared to approach the Bible in that state and I was scared to approach God in that state because I was so unstable. So I hated it for a while. But then, I don’t remember what happened. I mean, I switched counselors, so maybe that had something to do with it. But even though it was hard and I didn’t really care for it, something switched in me to where I knew, like, ‘This is gonna help. You need to explore these things and you need to talk about these things and this is how you’re gonna get help.’

JESSE EUBANKS: So what was the big turn for you?

RACHEL SZABO: This moment that I realized that God was okay with me being a mess. I think what was super helpful for me was just the fact that people were there. I’m like literally falling apart, either by myself in this room or sitting with my hoodie over my head in a corner, like not talking to anybody, or I’m in a rage and just like destroying things. Nobody was like ‘Well, this is too much now. I don’t know what to do with you at this point, so bye.’ People that were in my life then, they’re still in my life right now. And like, that’s huge for me. And I think that was the big turning point for me, was realizing like, it’s okay to be a mess and God’s okay that you’re a mess. And then, once I was able to accept that, I was able to consider the possibility of getting on medication. And then the medication plus the counseling plus my Christian community slowly, over the process of several years, started bringing me back to a healthy state.

JESSE EUBANKS: What do you think would’ve happened if you had not gone to counseling and if you had not eventually gotten on medication?

RACHEL SZABO: I would be where I was for the first 20-some years of my life. I thought ‘Your thoughts are always gonna be a nightmare, everything’s always gonna be horrible, everything’s eventually going to end in a horrible nightmare explosion’ and I was just like waiting for that day to come. But then when I got on the medicine, like I didn’t — I stopped thinking those things.

JESSE EUBANKS: And what, you got excited about life again? Like…

RACHEL SZABO: Uhhh, I wouldn’t say that I was excited, but it was like — I wasn’t constantly in battle against my brain and in battle against my thoughts and trying to constantly, like, redirect my thoughts because that’s exhausting, man.

JESSE EUBANKS: So what would you say to somebody that’s like, ‘Well, you just need to get stronger’?

RACHEL SZABO: There was a day — I’m not kidding you — I recited Bible verses from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m serious. I was so afraid of what I was gonna think and, like, where my mind was gonna go that I did not stop reciting Bible verses the entire time I was conscious. 

JESSE EUBANKS: What’s amazing is there’s probably some people that hear all of this and they go like ‘Oh, if she was just stronger in her faith,’ but then they hear you describe that, ‘I recited Bible verses from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed,’ and they go ‘Well, that’s a bit much.’ Well, which is it? Is it that she needs to be stronger and have more faith, or is that she’s, y’know, mentally unwell? Like, which one is it?

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, but enough about me. Let’s go back to Deborah. So whatever happened with Deborah and Mark and her family?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so Deborah is doing well. But the reality is that she still struggles with depression, even today.

DEBORAH: Recovering from depression is very slow. I’ve tried different medications and have worked through a lot of things and finally feel like I’m stable. I definitely have more good days than I do bad days.

JESSE EUBANKS: In fact, Deborah started working again. She’s volunteering at a nonprofit that works with internationals, and that’s a small glimpse of her former life overseas.

DEBORAH: Today I realize that God was rescuing me. I really needed to be here in the states to get the help that I needed and just being in my church and the support that I have here. It’s not a matter of lack of faith. It’s not a spiritual problem. 

JESSE EUBANKS: In the gospel of John, Jesus’ disciples asked whose sin was responsible for the blind man’s suffering. Jesus’ response to their question was completely unheard of. Here’s what Jesus said: ‘It wasn’t that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ Now in this story, Jesus decides to heal the man and that is how the work of God is displayed. But for many of us in our own stories, this isn’t how God chooses to show up. And the truth is this: there’s just a lot of mystery in the Christian life. I can’t tell you why God doesn’t heal people as fast as we want him to, I can’t tell you why certain people die, I can’t tell you why people don’t get better. I don’t know the answer to that. Here’s what I do know. I know that it isn’t because God doesn’t care, and we see that because unlike every other religion in which God is distant and God is removed, our God knows our pain firsthand. He knows what it is to be betrayed by friends, he knows what it is to lose loved ones. What we can know is this: we may not know why God allows certain painful things to happen, but we know that it’s not because he doesn’t care. Because we see in Christ on the cross that the Lord cares. Dr. Briscoe used to think like Jesus’ disciples — that mental suffering was the result of spiritual failing. But today, he sees the work of God in a different way. He actually sees mental illness as more of a gift.

BRIAN BRISCOE: I think that persons who have struggled with mental health is a gifting because you understand the ways in which certain people struggle in ways that other people do not.

JESSE EUBANKS: And even through the shame, the stigma, and the confusion, Deborah and Mark are starting to see it as a gift too.

MARK: I’m proud of my wife for doing this ‘cuz she wants to be used as a testimony and a voice. She fought and has fought and continues to fight to keep her faith in the Lord. And for our girls — I mean I’m about to tear up about it — for them to see that and to journey through that has really impacted their faith. 


JESSE EUBANKS: To get more resources on this topic or to hear past episodes of this podcast, you can go to our website at 


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thank you to our interviewees for this episode — Dale McHenry, Deborah and Mark, and Dr. Brian Briscoe.

RACHEL SZABO: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today is Rachel Szabo. She’s also our producer, technical director, and editor.

RACHEL SZABO: Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins.

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear, Broke For Free, Kevin McCloud, and Wooden Axle. 

RACHEL SZABO: Apply for your social justice internship supported by Christian community by visiting Serve for a summer or a year. Grow in your faith and life skills.

JESSE EUBANKS: And I wanna take a quick second just to say that we really do, we want folks to come and to serve and to be a part of this ministry. And so if you’ve just been listening to the podcast, don’t just be a listener. Actually come and do life with us here. We will train you, equip you in how to do justice and to live in Christian community. Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, ‘Go, and do likewise.’


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This episode was produced and mixed by Rachel Szabo. Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins. This episode was written by Rachel Szabo with Jesse Eubanks.

Senior Production by Jesse Eubanks.

Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Rachel Szabo.

Soundtrack music from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Broke For Free, Kevin MacLeod and Wooden Axle.

Thank you to our interviewees: Dale McHenry, Deborah & Mark, and Dr. Brian Briscoe.