People living with mental health challenges are not excluded from God’s love or even the fullness of life promised by Jesus. Unfortunately, this hope is often lost amid the well-meaning labels and medical treatments that dominate the mental health field today. In Finding Jesus in the Storm, John Swinton makes the case for reclaiming that hope by changing the way we talk about mental health and remembering that, above all, people are people, regardless of how unconventionally they experience life.
Finding Jesus in the Storm is a call for the church to be an epicenter of compassion for those experiencing depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and related difficulties. That means breaking free of the assumptions that often accompany these diagnoses, allowing for the possibility that people living within unconventional states of mental health might experience God in unique ways that are real and perhaps even revelatory. In each chapter, Swinton gives voice to those experiencing the mental health challenges in question, so readers can see firsthand what God’s healing looks like in a variety of circumstances. The result is a book about people instead of symptoms, description instead of diagnosis, and lifegiving hope for everyone in the midst of the storm.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Life in All of Its Fullness Part One: The Art of Description 1. Redescribing the World of “Mental Illness” 2. Resurrecting Phenomenology Part Two: Redescribing Diagnosis 3. Taking Our Meds Faithfully Part Three: Redescribing Depression 4. Lament and Joy 5. Finding God in the Darkness Part Four: Hearing Voices 6. Understanding Psychosis 7. Hearing Voices 8. A Strange Kind of Loneliness Part Five: Redescribing Bipolar Disorder 9. Bipolar Faith 10. Bipolar Disorder and the Nature of Suffering Conclusion: Redescribing Healing Appendix: Mental Health Resources
John Swinton is professor of practical theology and pastoral care at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and founding director of Aberdeen's Centre for Spirituality, Health, and Disability. He worked as a nurse for sixteen years within the fields of mental health and learning disabilities and later also as a community mental health chaplain.
“Learned, revealing, and deeply humane, Swinton's study will mightily instruct and comfort many. Every pastor should read it. In fact, it deserves hosts of readers.” — Cornelius Plantinga Calvin Theological Seminary
“The spiritual journeys of those living with mental health challenges, wrapped in webs of clinical complexity, offer profound insight if we learn to listen deeply to their stories, rather than stigmatize and label them. In this remarkable book, John Swinton helps us unravel the tangled threads of psychological definitions, biological explanations, psychotropic medications, and the authentic faith experiences of Christian disciples, sharing the gifts and courageous journeys of these souls. With well-researched psychological insight and theological wisdom, this book should be in the library of every pastor, and at the bedside of anyone seeking to understand how God’s grace can weave through the disturbing pathways of those living with mental health challenges.” — Wesley Granberg-Michaelson author of Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage
“Moving beyond the tired old language of ‘illness’ and ‘battles,’ Swinton invites us into the mental health journeys of a rich variety of people who speak in their own words, medically, theologically, and honestly. Focusing more on dignity than diagnosis, he shows that God works in all things, and healing comes in many forms. Sweeping aside the false dichotomy between science and faith, Swinton’s readers are invited into a more nuanced theological world in which they may find themselves unexpectedly and lovingly represented. This is also a rich resource for pastors, teachers, parents and anyone else who has a stake in brain health, because, in the end, who doesn't?” — Lillian Daniel author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To
“Finding Jesus in the Storm first of all listens deeply, or, as John Swinton says, ‘thickly,’ to people with mental health challenges and helps a reader see, broaden, and reconstruct both the ways that people of faith might walk with people with mental challenges as well as help people with mental health challenges explore the spiritual dimensions of their own journey. As someone who has both worked with others and my own mental health challenges, this felt very real. Using insights from psychology, sociology, theology, and other disciplines, Swinton once again breaks past multiple forms of stigma and unexamined assumptions to help readers enter a space where we can once again see each other as children of God—pilgrims—doing the best we can to live into the embrace of God’s love.” — Bill Gaventa author of Disability and Spirituality: Recovering Wholeness
“With the nuanced perspective of a theologian and ordained minister who is also a psychiatric nurse, John Swinton offers here a rich ‘theology that drops down into the heart’ for people who live with mental health challenges. Refusing to reduce people to their neurons or to the labels that are assigned to them, he introduces us to the complex, lived experiences of real people as they live, wonder, worship, and love amid mental health challenges. In their close-to-the-ground stories, we find not only lament and loss but also joy, kindness, and grace. Finding Jesus in the Storm will challenge and bless all who care about the relationship between mental health and the life of Christian faith.” — Warren Kinghorn Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School
“In this remarkable book, John Swinton not only takes the spiritual lives of those living with mental health challenges seriously, he weaves together a beautiful, reflective theology of the cross and resurrection in the light of these experiences. This important and timely book is a must read for all of us who seek to live faithfully in the world today.” — Paula Gooder author of Body: A Biblical Spirituality for the Whole Person
“Finding Jesus in the Storm is a masterful, wise, clear, and compassionate look at the experience of those struggling with mental health challenges such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, and the thin ways these are often described by mental health professionals, Western culture, and the church. Helped by refreshing philosophical insights, we are invited to listen to thicker descriptions of who these people are in relation to a theological, as well as a clinical horizon, and to better understand biblical healing—finding joy in Jesus while suffering. This book should be widely read.” — John R. Peteet, MD Harvard Medical School
“John Swinton has listened well to Christians who have struggled with the unrelenting storms of severe mental health challenges. He has heard them tell of their experiences of the presence of God, and of the seeming absence of God, and of faith that grapples with the tensions between the two. Finding Jesus in the Storm provides a ‘thick’ description of Christian experiences of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Drawing on the author’s experiences as mental health nurse, minister, and practical theologian, these accounts are engaged in conversation with both professional and Christian perspectives, scanning the horizons of mental health care, Christian Scripture, tradition, and church life. This book provides a unique, and hard won, account of journeys through deeply troubled waters. It is essential reading for all who are dissatisfied with superficial and second-hand Christian accounts of mental illness.” — Chris C. H. Cook Durham University
The Living Church “This book represents a significant step forward in the church’s response to the phenomenon of mental illness among its faithful. . . . Swinton’s compassion and respect for those living with mental health challenges and unconventional psychological experiences are evident on every page.”
Interpretation “John Swinton admirably creates space for the complexity often missing from discussion of mental health challenges.”
Religious Studies Review “This book will be of interest to chaplains, pastors, and Christians who experience a myriad of mental health challenges in that it may help them see the struggles and possibilities of a continued relationship with God amid the storms of mental health challenges.”
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