The Cave of Psalm 142
Just because you suffer poor mental health does not, of itself, make you a poor leader. I know many leaders who manage their poor mental health and at the same time exercise good leadership. There are many things that can affect the quality of your leadership. It is however unfair to suggest that because you have poor mental health you must therefore be a weak leader. This is, sadly, all part of the stigma that leads to stereotyping people with mental illness.
What do we make of Winston Churchill? The fate of the nation was put into his hands during the great dark years of World War 2. He was a man who suffered poor mental health and named it his ‘black dog’.
In ‘The Conversation” edited by Jo Adetunji, we are reminded that Churchill was so paralyzed by despair that he spent time in bed, had little energy, few interests, lost his appetite, couldn’t concentrate. He was minimally functional – and this didn’t just happen once or twice in the 1930s, but also in the 1920s and 1910s and earlier. These darker periods would last a few months, and then he’d come out of it and be his normal self. Despite his poor mental health, he showed incredible leadership qualities and brought the nation through to victory.
I would say that having poor mental health may increase your empathy and sympathy with those who are hurting and broken because of your personal experience of brokenness.
In my own experience, I find that I am driven towards God. My prayer has a new dimension these days. It is hard to find the words to pray when you are in those times of darkness, but God hears your cries and sees your tears. These things can be much deeper than mere words.
One part of the Bible that brings me comfort and hope are the Psalms.
You find the psalmist expressing the full spectrum of human emotion. As Dan B Allender calls it “ruthless honesty [that] compels us to look beyond the surface of our tumult, deeper into our soul, where we expose our battle with God.”
One such psalm is Psalm 142. It was a song written by King David when he was in a cave hiding from his enemy. Sometimes when we experience poor mental health it feels like being in a dark cave with no light.
1 I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.