Mental Illness and the Church

Life is messy.

Trust me.

This glorious adventure can get sloppy real fast.

Consider Horatio, a song writer,

He died a mental and emotional mess.

But, he didn’t start that way.

He was smart.

In the 1860’s (beware, you hipsters, this is a long time ago) he practiced law in Chicago..

He was well connected.

D. L. Moody, one of the most famous preachers of the century, considered him a close friend.

He was tough.

Horatio lost his only son to Scarlett fever.

A year later, the real estate that he invested in burned to the ground.

He was kind.

To help his family heal from tragedy, he sent them on a trip to England. After Horatio helped a friend he planned to join his family.

And, then, the telegram came.

“Saved Alone.”

The ship traveling to England sank.

His four daughters drown. Only his wife survived.

Devastated? Beyond words.

Messed up? Not yet.

Spafford traveled to meet his wife in Wales. On the voyage, the captain called him to the bridge.

“This is the area where your daughters’ ship went down,” he said.

Spafford walked across the swaying deck to his cabin.

There he wrote a song.

“ When peace like a river attends my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll.

What ever my lot,

Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul“

This lyrics, created out of the substance of his suffering, comfort people even today.

But, Stafford was only human.

Although, he worshiped God and helped other people,

He never recovered from his loss.

Eventually his sorrow affected his mental state.

Toward the end of his life Stafford wandered through the desert,

convinced that he was the messiah.

Horatio G. Spafford.

Messed up.



Did he matter as much to God at the end of his life did he he did while writing a hymn of praise or helping a famous evangelist?

Sometimes the mentally ill are seen as less valuable than other people in society.

Do you have someone in your life who struggles with emotional issues?

How do you support them? Is the local church a resource for you?