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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Mental Illness, Stress and Incapacity Destroyed in One Hour

If you have ever had anything to do with helping people or caring for people with any form of mental illness you will be aware of the many hours of long and often frustrating times in trying to bring relief and a greater sense of normalcy to their lives, the frustrations of seeming to get nowhere. This had been my experience and perhaps therefore my belief system as a pastor trying to help people over the years with various forms of mental illness.

I believe in God’s ability to do supernaturally above and beyond what we can ask or even imagine and I have seen it many times in physical healing as we have prayed over and seen miraculous changes, some instant some over a short time; but personally, I had not seen instant changes in people with any form of mental condition, depression, ADHD, stress, anxiety disorders etc so when I personally started losing my faculties I was naturally a little concerned.

Let me take you back to just before it all began to go sideways. As a minister at large, an evangelist, pastors and leadership conference speaker and trainer, I have travelled to many countries, spoken to thousands of people and seen countless healings and miracles. I was on one such trip to India in July of 2017. I was conducting revival meetings and church meetings in Madurai, Tamil Nadu in the south of India, and before three days had even been completed I contracted a severe flu that came on me suddenly. After each meeting I wanted nothing but sleep, at the pastor’s home where I was staying they wanted to feed me, but I barely took anything, they wanted to get me medication, but I resisted thinking that I will fight this off. 

The flu took hold of me, with a severe head blockage, I could hardly sleep because my sinuses would block up and I would wake unable to breathe, my joints ached and were very painful, this man of faith wanted to curl up in bed and sleep but could not, there were engagements to attend to, messages to preach, pastors conferences to speak to, churches to encourage. Did I fulfill the speaking obligations? yes. Did I feel like I did a good job? No. I was just looking forward to being free of the flu.

After a week of meetings in Madurai I flew to Chennai on India’s east coast to speak at more pastors training conferences, and I was worse.
I prayed, I’m not sure what exactly, God help me, God heal me or something like that. I got some medication for the flu and that took edge off the symptoms, but still I felt like death warmed up, I still had more than another 2 weeks of meetings lined up ahead before I would get home, I needed a cuddle and some love from my wife at home in Australia but that wasn’t going to be happening for over two weeks. “Somehow, I have got to get through this,” I thought.

After continuing with further meetings in Bangalore in India’s Karnataka state and then to Penang in Malaysia I was barely hanging on to any semblance of sanity as I was still under the influence of blocked nose, pounding headache, struggling to sleep, paining joints, I delivered my God given messages in each location with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, only to feel exhausted after each meeting and devoid of energy or interest to continue – yet continue I must and continue I did.

The moment of greatest relief was stepping off that plane in Sydney and heading home in my car with my wife, what joy that was, yet the exhaustion was almost complete. The next three weeks was spent laying on the couch with a blanket, a Bible, a book and the TV. After a little reading my brain was exhausted and stressed beyond my understanding or ability to cope. The doctors prescribed more medications which gradually brought the fever down and dulled the headaches and slowly started to clear the nose and sinuses.
Ahh good, I am starting to get better and head toward normal again, I thought.

As the flu symptoms started to subside, the coughing started, it got worse and worse, this created a crashing of the brain inside the cranium and headaches resulted, the best it got was when I did nothing at all, didn’t move around so as not to aggravate the coughing and then I got down to a dull ache in the head, not able to think clearly.  At its worst I was beside myself with stress, inability to concentrate, I started losing words from my vocabulary, words I knew, simple words that should be there but just wouldn’t come; all this hampered communication, I didn’t really want to talk to my wife let alone anyone else.

The flu symptoms had eased away by this stage but the coughing was severe, so were the headaches, lack of concentration, inability to make decisions, loss of memory and vocabulary, I was stressing over these and in visits to the doctor made mention many times of my stress over these issues; his main concern was to find a diagnosis of my condition and keep treating the cough, in his opinion all these other symptoms were as a result of the coughing.

During all this time as the months passed and my mental condition seemed to deteriorate I was responsible for organizing the combined churches healing and victory meeting, arranging local churches to bring their worship teams and for guest speakers from around the world to attend and speak and pray for the sick. Without telling anyone outside my family and a few trusted friends and pastors I had to carry on, I got each visiting ministry to pray for me, nothing seemed to happen even though I continued to trust and believe that God would heal me. My faith was not dampened but my mental condition was soggy at best.

After about 3 months of this debilitating condition and many medical tests to try and diagnose the condition my doctor finally said, “we have some good news, of sorts. We have a positive result on a blood test and have discovered that you have whooping cough, unfortunately there is nothing we can do to eliminate this condition, it will eventually go on its own after about three months.” Well my three months was already concluded but there was yet no sign of the coughing easing or any of the other associated conditions abating. The doctor said, “Go home and rest.” “Wow, that’s your best advice, that’s all I have been doing for the last three months.” I thought.

I headed home, confused, frustrated, irritated; I was causing great consternation to my wife, she was having trouble handling my inability to make decisions, I didn’t even know what I wanted for dinner. We went out on drives to get some fresh air and try and help me enjoy something, I didn’t drive, that was too stressful, my wife drove all the time, she is experienced in dealing with people with mental health issues having worked in the field for several years, but she was frustrated as she didn’t want to come home to more of the same.

The Combined Churches Victory and Healing meetings continued every month with great speakers God had brought to us, it was the December meeting and I distinctly remember the guest speaker asking the crowd if there were any testimonies of healing or changes that had happened to anyone during the meeting or prayer time. A young man about twenty years of age came forward and explained that he was brought by his mother, he had suffered from depression, ADHD, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and a few other conditions as long as he could remember, but five minutes before when the guest speaker had prayed for him, he said he felt all the conditions lift off and that now he was completely healed. My skepticism kicked in, “Yeah, right, we’ll see in a few weeks how well you have been healed,” I thought to myself, I have dealt with many cases over the years and had yet to see an instant miracle in this area.

A week before Christmas however I received a message from the guest speaker and he forwarded to me a testimonial letter from the mother of this lad, she stated that he had had these conditions more or less his whole life, he never did anything, never helped around the house, never wanted to go out and since the prayer the last three weeks everything had changed, he was washing the dishes, wanted to do things, wanted to go out with his mother. She was so amazed and thankful to God for the healing.

I was excited by this but couldn’t seem to grab a hold of it for myself.

It got to the middle of December 2017, my mental condition is becoming of great concern to both of us by this point, I am finding it incredibly difficult to play with the grandchildren as beautiful and fun loving as they are. I continued my habits of daily devotions, my morning prayer walks and daily Bible reading, but to study the Bible was just beyond my capacity. Even though I was asked to speak at churches a few times during this time and I filled those engagements with rehashed messages I had previously given, getting fresh revelation seemed to be beyond me.

Something had to be done, Christmas was coming, I didn’t want to be in this condition when we had our family Christmas together, I visited a naturopath that I had visited many years earlier, the lady naturopath made a diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome, prescribed several dietary changes and some homeopathic pills and come back in a month, (the middle of January). Anxious to do anything and everything to restore my body and mind to normal capacity I did according to all her instructions during that month, (I missed out on quite a few things over Christmas) but did not experience any change of mental health during that time.

However, I was not deterred, “something must work” I told myself. I am going to get better, I cannot go on like this without some change. I am beside myself with stress, unable to think or hold much of a conversation with anyone. If you have known me for any length of time before this, you will know that is just not me, I want to socialise, connect, encourage and be with people. It came time for my repeat appointment with the naturopath, I was looking forward to telling her nothing had changed so that we might try something else, but to my frustration when I arrived at her clinic, the door was locked and no one was there. The naturopath had not come for the appointment she set with me.

Fifteen minutes went by, nothing, I called the phone number listed on the door, but it went to voicemail, arghhh more stress, not what I needed right now.

I headed home. Although the naturopath did call me when I was almost home and apologized for being caught up with another client at her other clinic it was too late for me, I had decided I had to do something else. However, making the decision about what to do was something beyond me.

Several more weeks of more of the same passed, not knowing what to do, in stress at the slightest of things, argumentative with my wife and then not able to finish the argument because I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say, it was driving her into frustration as well as deepening my downward spiral.

I prayed, I prayed daily – ‘Lord help me’ but nothing seemed to change. I had a preaching engagement during this time in January 2018 and had to prepare a new message to continue and wrap up a series I had been sharing on occasionally over the past many months, the problem was I hadn’t prepared the last message, I now had to do that, at least, I thought I have a couple of weeks to prepare, I should start early. What an incredibly challenging task, something I have done regularly for decades now became the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.

It took me all that two weeks to prepare an obvious conclusion to a series that I had been sharing on about every six weeks for the last several months, I couldn’t do it. I would get stuck looking a blank screen on the computer, I didn’t know where to start, how to get going or how to wrap it up. Little by little I started to make some notes, some days were just blanks, I couldn’t think at all, but eventually, by the night before I was reasonably happy with my few pages of notes for the next day’s delivery, but how would it go? would I be able to speak? would I remember the simplest of words? I was in God’s hands, it was for His glory anyway not mine.

That Sunday message was delivered by His grace, I gave it all I could and asked Him to do the rest, what was so amazing was the number of people coming to me afterwards to compliment me on a great message, way more people than what I would normally experience. I couldn’t believe it. God must have just taken over.

Another few weeks passed with no change in my condition and then God spoke to me. Well I didn’t really think it was God because it sounded just like my wife, in fact it was my wife, but somehow the inner witness in my heart convinced me that her suggestion (which was something I had thought of in the few days before) was actually a God idea and that I should follow it through.

She said to me to call a certain preacher we knew that moved in the realms of the miraculous often and had spoken some years before at the Combined Churches Victory Meeting, my wife said “ask him to pray for you.”  I did. I called him on the phone on a Saturday, briefly explained my condition as well as I could and asked him if I could come and see him for prayer. He lived in Sydney and he agreed, and he wanted to set a time several days away, the next Wednesday, Ohh I was so disappointed, I thought perhaps the same day or maybe the next, but to have to wait four days when I thought it was a God direction seemed almost eternity. 

As you may know, times pass, the things that stress us do not stress God. The time came, but I would have to drive myself the half hour to his ministry centre, another stressful activity I had avoided for the last several months and now must face. As I entered his facility someone else entered just ahead of me, it turned out to be the pastor of another church he had asked to join us.

A few pleasantries exchanged, a cup of coffee consumed and a little relaxing (that was good for me) and we headed into the chapel for some prayer. He picked up his guitar and we began to praise and worship the Lord with familiar songs.

We sang and worshipped in free worship, making up our own words of adoration to the Lord. Time passed, I wondered how much longer we would be continuing this activity as I hadn’t really come for a service but just for prayer.
Half an hour passed, we continued to worship, an hour passed, we continued to worship. The stress is starting to build up in my head by now, “aren’t we going to pray” I was thinking. Then my minister friend said we should pray for you now, I was relieved, “ahh at last” I thought.

The two ministers laid hands on me, prayed and acknowledged the presence and power of Jesus, anointed my head with oil till it ran down on my shirt. We all spoke with other tongues and honoured the Lord in all, they declared the healing power of God on my body and mind.

I was acutely aware that we had done everything according to the book.
I had called for the elders of the church.
We had put the Lord first in praise and worship before asking for my needs.
Two or three were gathered in His name.
We asked according to the scriptures
We took authority over conditions on my mind and body in Jesus name like He told us to do.
I knew that the scriptures say that the prayer of a righteous man avails much, I knew that without any arrogance or presumption, that each of us there knew we were righteous in His sight.
I knew that we prayed in faith and the prayer of the faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up.

After a little while of this, I felt nothing, no goosebumps, no heat, no chills, no revelations, angels or visions; just obedience to His word and my minister friend said, “Well that’s it, you can go home now.” Ohh I was thinking that we might pray a little longer until something dramatic or at least noticeable happened: “OK,” I said, a little surprised.

We said our goodbye’s and I headed for my car and drove it towards home.
I was about half way home and driving up the motorway when had a strange thought, “I think I feel OK, I’m not sure if I am but I am not stressed and because I haven’t felt normal for about 7 months it is hard to remember what normal feels like, but I think I feel normal.”

When my wife came home that evening she asked me how the prayer time went, I said, “I think I’m OK” we ate dinner and I had a good night of conversation with her.

Over the next few days, I continued to pinch myself and say to myself, “I think I’m OK.”  The great man of faith that has seen hundreds healed of all kinds of ailments is struggling to believe that he has received his own healing. A week passed, I started to attack my work on the computer with a vengeance, there was so much to do after doing nothing for so many months. A week became two and I felt amazing, I had forgotten what it felt like to be normal, to not have stress, confusion, headaches, impaired capacity in so many ways, it took a while to sink in that I was healed, that I didn’t have a relapse, that it wasn’t just some euphoric experience that might wear off.

As a few months passed and I got so involved in my ministry work again I thought, “I really should write this testimony down for the benefit of others.” The jobs and ministry continued to pile up and it is only now, six months after my healing that I have been able to write these words to testify of the goodness of God. He will never leave us or forsake us. He loves us beyond measure and beyond our understanding.

There are lessons I am still learning from this experience, but one thing I know, partly because of that young mans testimony at the December Victory meeting and partly through my own experience now, that God is able to heal to the uttermost any that come to Him and put their trust in Him, and to my amazement, mental illness is within His desire and ability to heal.

Thank you for reading through my story, I hope it has been in some small way able to minister hope and healing to you. In the words of the British wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, give up.” 

Proverbs 3.5-8
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
7Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
8Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.

Rev Dr Howard Sands is the International Director of Beautiful Feet Task Force, is available as a speaker for churches, outreaches, business & missions. 

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