Quoting Quiverfull: Mental Illness is Self Focus?

by John Piper from desiring God – 10 Resolutions for Mental Health

That night Dr. Kilby had a pastoral heart and a poet’s eye. He pled with us to stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, but instead to drink in the remedies of God in nature. He was not naïve. He knew of sin. He knew of the necessity of redemption in Christ. But he would have said that Christ purchased new eyes for us as well as new hearts. His plea was that we stop being unamazed by the strange glory of ordinary things. He ended that lecture in 1976 with a list of resolutions. As a tribute to my teacher and a blessing to your soul, I offer them for your joy.

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: “There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing.”

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic” existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the “child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder.”

8. I shall follow Darwin’s advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, “fulfill the moment as the moment.” I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Comments open below

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


About Suzanne Calulu
  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Posting to say that I posted this bit this morning because I cannot get over the arrogance of assuming ALL mental illness is the result of living in a state or blase self focus. It’s a slap in the face. The ten points aren’t that bad in and each of their own but to put them down as steps to keep you from getting depressed amounts to trying to fix a corpse with a bandaid. This whole thing about blaming the victim for their own illness makes me sick!

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    Exactly. Thanks for telling me I chose to be bipolar. Because there is nothing better than to have a terrible job history, failing out of 3 colleges, and maintaining no long term relationships. I love not being in control of my emotions and reactions.
    If only I had known earlier in life that all it took was a little prayer and happy thoughts.

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    Read as general well-being advice for Christians, most of these really aren’t all that bad. (I have issues with reinforcing the false belief in #2 that “the world” believes all life is random, mindless, and therefore meaningless, but that’s a whole ‘nuther rant…)

    If by “mental health” he means actual clinical illnesses like depression
    and bi-polar, then yeah, saying all you have to do is think positive
    thoughts about God is both insensitive and insulting. However, if it weren’t for the title of this post, I would have never guessed this article to be directed specifically at people with mental illnesses. I know some people use the phrase “mental health” in a more general sense, like when dispensing strategies for dealing with stress or whatnot, and it sounded to me like this was how the phrase was being used in this article.

    Does Piper have a history of giving inane and unhelpful advice to people dealing with mental illness? As much as I dislike the man, I think in this case we may be reading things into the text that aren’t actually there.

  • stairway to heaven

    Some of what he writes is really quite beautiful – then he opens his mouth and endorses abusive marriage.

  • Mary

    I was raised quite religious, and came by my present atheism after a hard internal struggle, but my husband was raised as an atheist. He does not understand what the appeal of religion is in the first place, why I ever believed and why I am somewhat haunted by the beliefs I gave up.
    I think this is actually quite a lovely summary of the appeal, which I may share with him to help explain. It’s the reassurance that religion can offer that our suffering has meaning, that the universe is a beautiful (if not always comprehensible) work of art, and that the things we do, though the memory of the doing may die with us, are not done in vain but in service of some greater purpose. And of course the reassurance that we are more than just matter, that the arbitrary accidents which can wipe out our brain activity cannot wipe out our consciousness, that death is not inevitable.
    I do miss that confidence, and feel that it did provide some comfort in the face of at least a certain kind of “What’s the point?” depression. Prayers, mantras, meditations, these are legitimate treatments in some cases, recommended by professionals, so I don’t really find the quote offensive (except in possibly implying that there are no other kinds of mental illness. Which is as silly as implying that there is only one kind of physical illness, and only one proper treatment.)
    I find my comfort now in the idea that human beings, as observers of the universe, can impose meaning on it. Nothing is meaningless if we assign meaning to it. Our purpose in the universe is to marvel at its beauty, to understand it insofar as we are able, to remember what happens to us and tell our stories to the children who are discovering the universe anew, down the generations so that even if we as individuals die, humanity lives on, and grows wiser.

  • aim2misbehave

    I don’t know what to make of this. It’s alternating sentences of really good advice and really bad advice, although if the idea is that this is supposed to prevent or cure mental illness is the one that it’s espousing, that’s just wrong.

  • Theo Darling

    The moment you fully realize just how much of this garbage is driven by a deep (and deserved) fear of the mental health profession is pretty powerful. They SHOULD be afraid of what will happen when their followers work towards health and happiness.

  • Theo Darling

    Without further information, I’d assumed he was using “mental health” as a blanket term covering, basically, all of the above. It’s certainly not uncommon for people in the evangelical world to deny that there’s a difference between depression and feeling sad sometimes, etc.

    As you and others have mentioned, this list isn’t all bad, or…as bad as it could have been. Something about it still seems off to me though, and that feeling amplifies by about a billion on the last point. “Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on…” what I was taught. I can’t help reading that as, even if I’m wrong and I never feel happy or healthy, I can’t afford to let go of the principles they brainwashed me with.