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Guest Post: And That’s When the Pastor Said I was Possessed

“Son, we’ve been praying for you, to get through this dark season in your life for some time now,” the pastor said with a foreboding expression.

“Usually I’d say this is a faith issue,” he continued, “but I know you have plenty of faith for God to break through this. There’s only one possibility left—you’re possessed by a demon.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Possessed? Was that even a thing that could happen to Christians? I wasn’t sure, and I still don’t know the answer to that.

“What about some antidepressants?” I asked. “I hear these can be helpful for people who are struggling with depression.”

“Chris, you should know better than to ask that question. Do you want medicine to cloud your mind, cloud your judgment, and cloud your ability to be faithful to God. No, antidepressants are not a valid option for real Christians.”

To be frank, I was pissed off. It seemed like there were no options for me to find health, and my church wanted to burn me at the stake. I wasn’t going to let the church elders pray over me to be freed from demons, because I didn’t believe that had anything to do with my unending sadness.

But I trusted my church leadership. I wanted to, anyway. It’s the only church I’d ever been in as an adult, and I found a path toward maturity there. But this. This didn’t make any sense.

I walked out of that meeting more hopeless than I’d been in a very long time. I couldn’t take any meds, prayer wasn’t working, and—according to the leaders—I was also possessed. I didn’t know what to do.

So I did nothing.

For almost a decade, I never asked for prayer about my depression again. I faked it.

As a matter of fact, I made sure to hide any sadness that I felt whenever I was around church people. I wasn’t ready to deal with another accusation. I put my Sunday smile on, no matter how overwhelmed with sadness I was. Because I learned that the church wasn’t a safe place for my mental health, I decided to button up my emotions and act the part of a good little Christian.

At the same time, those words of judgment about antidepressant medications stuck with me. I didn’t want to be a sub-par Christian who was reliant upon outside help—especially since this help would only result in a muddled existence. So for seven years, I silently battled depression.

Too many days my depression would come out as anger, directed at my wife or my children. I did my best to survive, and I did, but just barely. I had no sense of joy, no sense of purpose, and nothing to look forward to every day when I woke up.

The quiz

It stayed this way for seven years, until I had an appointment with my new primary care physician. As part of the normal work-up for a new patient, I took a simple “depression identification quiz.”

I aced the quiz—and ended up with a diagnosis of severe depression.

My new physician was also a Christian, so I talked with him about the spiritual side of antidepressants. He asked me a simple question: “Do you want to stay this way, or do you want to have a sense of hope in your life?” I was tired of being angry or sad all the time, so I agreed to start taking medication.

I wish I could tell you that my depression went away with the first pill. That wouldn’t be the truth. I still have good days and bad days. Not too long ago, I experienced a week of really, really bad days. But, I made it through that week, and I am making it through my life with more joy and a better sense of happiness undergirding my days.

New normal

It took me almost a decade, but I was able to overcome the lie that says depression equals possession.

I created a book that touches on experiences like this, moments where mental illness and the church intersect. Whispers in the Pews includes seventeen essays from men and women, pastors and nurses, parents and children—all of whom have experienced mental illness in the church. Some of the stories are positive, others less so. Together, they paint a tapestry of how the church responds to mental illness.

My hope is this tapestry will open doors for more honest conversations about the intersection of faith and mental health.

Chris Morris is a husband, father of four, CPA, and author. He writes honestly about pain, chronic illness, and hope. He’s the author of the new book Perfectly Abnormal, and co-author of the new release, Whispers in the Pews, Voices on Mental Illness in the

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Why Purposeful Demolition is Good for Me

I barely recognize my house anymore.

No, I don’t mean the physical house I grew up in and have called home all 25 years of my life.

I mean the house of me, the metaphorical structure that embodies who I am and my existence in the world.

See, for most of my life, I’ve been building. Busy building my skills, building friendships, building my faith in Jesus, building family relationships, building my character, and building strengths out of my flaws. I’ve been pretty darn proud of the house I’ve made, this inner abode my soul calls home, where my mind finds refuge, and my heart finds purpose.

Somewhere along the way, while I was hard at work hammering in nails and sawing two-by-fours, I noticed a creaky floorboard. While I was checking out the creaky floorboard, I spotted a big crack forming on the wall. Around the break, the paint was chipping, revealing a hideous layer of wallpaper underneath.

Before I knew it, I was staring at a house clearly falling apart and in need of some serious attention. I’d stopped building long enough to really see for the first time so many things I’d been overlooking: the cobwebs in the corners where I’d played as a child, broken windows where I used to look out at the world with sweet innocence. My hammer and saw fell from my hands as I dropped to my knees and wept for the only house I’d ever known, now seeing it as it truly was—a house crumbling and broken.

This is the best way I’ve come to describe what deconstruction feels like for me, this process of reevaluating the systems and structures I’ve built my life on thus far. It’s meant taking many of my beliefs, perspectives, and values and discerning which ones have weathered the seasons well, and which ones took a beating from the storms.

When I finally was no longer able to ignore the failing state of my house, I was left with two options. One, I could keep trying to ignore the issues and continue building as if they didn’t exist, or two, I could exchange my building tools for (deep breath) a sledgehammer and start gutting out the bad. 

Both options will cost you something, one being the freedom to live true to yourself, and the other being comfort and familiarity. When I considered the costs, I knew there was no faking it anymore. If life is worth living, it was only going to be worth it for me if I chose to live it authentically and wholeheartedly.

For the first time in my life, it was time to stop building. It was time to start something altogether new to me: purposefully demolishing.

Deconstruction has often felt like death. It’s meant living under a big blue tarp of shame for a while as I worked on tearing old, damaged shingles off my faith. It’s meant doing demolition on my own because I’ve been too afraid those who know me will hate the changes I’m making to the layout of my worldview. It’s meant agonizing over whether to let go of beliefs that have always patterned these walls or mustering up the courage to consider new, unconventional colors. It’s meant accepting some people may not want to stop over or compliment me anymore on how well put together and lovely my house is.

Change, even necessary change, can be really hard.

As I stand back and look at the progress I’ve made since first picking up my sledgehammer, my heart rate quickens from anxiety. The walls are bare and white, there are crumbled heaps of drywall scattered around, and a fine layer of chalky dust covers everything visible. I’m startled a bit looking around this house I’ve spent my whole life in, seeing it for the first time in an almost unrecognizable state.

Can you relate to ever looking at something so familiar and being taken aback by how drastically different it’s become? 

When you’re in the middle of deconstruction like this where, in some cases, you’re literally dismantling some of the core components of who you are, there can be a lot of emotions to process. There’s shame, doubt, depression, and anxiety, with bursts of excitement and sweet release mixed in. There’s sorrow and mourning over what’s being let go, yet joy and anticipation for what new things will occupy this freshly created space. Suffice to say, deconstruction can feel very emotionally exhausting.

That’s why thinking of deconstruction as a making over of my inner house has been so beneficial. It’s given me clarity on what I’m going through, a familiar real-world comparison, and a regained sense of control over this tumultuous process.

Reconsidering long-held beliefs, rewriting personal values, and redefining old definitions (not to mention revisiting the experiences that gave you these very things) is some of the most profound, laborious work you may ever do in life. Heart-work is never easy because it requires total honesty and complete vulnerability. It’s letting yourself be fully exposed.

Even in the messiness of deconstruction going on in my inner sanctuary right now, I can sense something new, something light settling in between these worn walls. The heavy labor is giving way to a promising feeling of freedom, and out of the debris, a unique design is taking form.

I hardly recognize what’s become of my house. But what’s becoming of it is shaping up to be wholeheartedly, unashamedly, and authentically me.

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