Thought for the day – Tuesday 19 May

Thought for the day - Tuesday 19 May
Dear All
During this week we are being asked to be kind to one another and be aware of the issues surrounding mental health. Mental health, until recently, compared with treatments for other illnesses is a relatively new category.
Psychiatry and Psychology did not ‘exist’ and were not really recognised as medical disciplines until about the mid 19th century. Prior to this time, during and even afterwards, many poor souls were sent to and imprisoned in dismal places because they were different and didn’t ‘fit in’.

Schizophrenia, Hysteria, Epilepsy and a host of other conditions, for example, were just not understood. The infamous Bedlam hospital in South London entered our language and became, and still is, synonymous with disruption and chaos. Bedlam a nickname derived from Bethlam Royal Hospital has its roots in medieval times.

During the first World War many young soldiers at the front suffering from what we now call ‘shell shock’ were regarded as cowards on leaving, deserting their posts. Some were court marshalled and shot for doing so. Their state of mind was such that all they wanted to do was get away from the horrors of constant shelling and bombardment. The mental suffering was as real as the physical. Everyone has a breaking point and some just couldn’t take any more. Military Servicemen and Servicewomen today still bear mental scars from the horrors they’ve endured and witnessed.

Nervous breakdowns, anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, for example, have always existed but are understood nowadays. There are various treatments available now that were simply not available in the past. Statistically one in four of us suffers from one kind of mental issue or other, I doubt though whether we would ever admit it and so ‘suffer’ in silence.
The stigma of mental illness is still a reality sadly, but nothing like, I would say, from what it was like when I was in school. We will all be familiar with the names we called those who perhaps had less than we had and if anyone had an obvious trait or deformity, life for them was ‘hellish’. The mental agony inflicted on pupils not only by class ‘mates’, but by mindless teachers too, was a daily torment. ‘Times were different then’, that’s today’s answer.

Our passage today has a sentence that for me sums up what can and does happen with treatment, care and understanding. The disturbed man was found by his friends to be ‘clothed and in his right mind’. The gospel gives an account of demons and of scenes that we are not familiar with in our modern world and so it is necessary to ask whether the same scene if witnessed today, would be described similarly? If we accept the details of the healing of the demoniac as written then it was truly amazing but of its time and described as such.

Trying to make sense of such scenes today with the advantages of science, medicine and technology make for ‘problematic reading and acceptance’, the same of course, can be said of other incidents in the bible. What are we to make of it all? Are the biblical descriptions of events over 2000 years ago fixed for all time or should they be interpreted in the light of modernity?
Questioning, reasoning and perhaps rejecting some things too, are not inconsistent with our faith. God has given us minds to reason, explore and discover the wonders of the universe.

The man ‘clothed and in his right mind’ was the result of the presence and authority of Jesus and that it seems to me is the all-important fact. Where there was fear and torment there was now the peace and calm of an untroubled mind.
From what we know and understand in medical science today how would we describe the man’s condition and explain his recovery?

Today I ask you to think/meditate on these things.
God bless you!

Jim

JBoag@churchofscotland.org.uk

LUKE 8: 26-39

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time, this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

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