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Mentally Ill and In Prison

Mentally Ill and In Prison

Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

Working in jail, I frequently take care of some of the most mentally ill patients that I’ve ever met. They cannot function well in the community, and they often do things that get them arrested. They don’t necessarily belong in jail, but they won’t accept treatment for their mental health, so even if someone would take them in, they’d refuse. In fact, they often refuse the very medications I offer them for their illness. Delusional, agitated, paranoid, and experiencing hallucinations, they’re incapable of making healthy decisions. Occasionally, some of these individuals will be so sick that they refuse the food and water necessary to keep them alive. Having a huge appetite myself, it’s hard for me to comprehend that level of madness – declining food and water. Yet that is the depth of their mental illness, to abandon that which is necessary for life.

I’ve been there. In my addiction, my life was a disaster and I hated who I was. The absurd thing was, I knew where and how to find recovery. I knew that if I confessed, went to treatment, and abandoned myself to follow God, that my life would turn around. I refused to do so though. Why? Because I had an addiction, a brain disease that made me mentally ill. Is that an excuse? No, rather it’s our condition as humans. We all have part of us that would rather follow ourselves to misery, than to abandon our way and accept that we must radically change, following God’s way. Call it sin or call it our fallen nature, we’d often rather remain imprisoned than to do what it takes to embrace radical change and freedom.

In today’s passage, God offers one final invitation in the closing words of the Bible – If you’re thirsty, come and drink freely. I’m offering what you desperately need (my paraphrase). God made us to be complete only in a loving relationship with him. We long for joy, peace, and purpose because God made us that way, but he made us to find those things only in him. We, however, try to find them our own way. We’re dying of thirst, yet we refuse the water of life. We’re spiritually ill and yet we refuse God’s treatment.

If we want to be spiritually healthy, and if we desire to know God’s peace, joy, and love, then we must daily invest in our relationship with him, drinking deeply of his water of life. We know what we need. We know that God offers it. Now, it’s up to us to make the daily choice to drink deeply.

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