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A Quiet Mind to Suffer With: Mental Illness, Trauma, and the Death of Christ

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ISBN: 9781683597049
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Suffering has been made holy by Christ’s proximity to it

2024 Christianity Today Book Award Winner - Christian Living/Spiritual Formation

2023 Southwestern Journal of Theology Book Award Honorable Mention for Counseling

2024 Illumination Book Awards Gold Medal Winner - Illness/Death/Dying

This is the story of Christ’s nearness to my own suffering—my mental breakdown, my journey to the psych ward, my long, slow, painful recovery—and how Christ will use even our agony and despair to turn us into servants and guests of the mercy offered in his gospel.

We cannot answer suffering. And yet suffering demands an answer. If Jesus is the answer to suffering, what kind of answer is Jesus? Everything that could be taken from a person was taken from him. The worst things a person could be made to see and feel were seen and felt by Christ.

All of this came to a point in the nails driven into his hands and became a word that cannot be unspoken—his body broken and his blood poured out for us. Suffering has been made holy by Christ’s proximity to it.

Praise for A Quiet Mind to Suffer With

While the faithful will appreciate Bryant’s efforts to explore a nuanced relationship between mental illness and faith, what stands out the most are his painfully visceral descriptions of mental suffering … rendered with an unsparing honesty that jumps off the page.

—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

This is a stunning book, so rare and so beautiful. I cannot recommend it highly enough. John Bryant does two things that are very hard to do at the same time. He represents the raw agony and disorientation of healing from OCD. And he puts this struggle within a hopeful theological frame. I cried a lot during this book. It will encourage those who suffer and help others to understand the struggle. The book is honest, vulnerable, gripping, and hopeful at the same time. Read this book.

—Matthew A. LaPine, director of Christian education at Citylight Church in Omaha, NE; author of The Logic of the Body

John Bryant has chosen to be both fully transparent about his struggles with mental illness and also address the challenges theologically in a way that is utterly transparent, in the open for all to see and with a sensitivity that will encourage all who read A Quiet Mind to Suffer With. This book will make you weep, enlarge your empathy, and, Lord willing, instill a compassion in you for the mentally ill. Please do not merely read this text but understand it as an invitation into the wounds of Christ that gives meaning to all suffering.

—Greg Peters, Biola University and Nashotah House Theological Seminary; author of Monkhood of All Believers

Our lives are not tidy nor are our personal stories always a cheery ‘upward and onward’ narrative. Instead, we often face deep valleys with frightening darkness and endless unknowns. John A. Bryant’s book is not ‘tidy’ either, but because of his experience with and honesty about mental illness and trauma, we can learn from him; more importantly, because he points us to Christ crucified, we have more than a story, we have hope.

—Kelly M. Kapic, author of You’re Only Human and Embodied Hope

This book is oxygen for those desperate for air. John’s ability to share his own pain and trauma in a way that reveals the Savior who bears our trauma is a much-needed witness for Christians who suffer in silence.

—Caleb Musselman, pastor of Soma Church, Beaver Falls, PA

  • Foreword by Kathryn Greene-McCreight
  • We Proclaim the Mystery of Our Faith: The Word, the Way, and the Amen
    • Word and Understanding
    • Way and Intention
    • Amen and Expectation
  • Christ Has Died: Out of the Realm of Ceaseless Cognition
    • Growing Up and Getting Worse
    • Entering the Psych Ward
    • Leaving the Psych Ward
  • Christ Is Risen: In the Wilderness of History and Affliction
    • The Wrong Expectation
    • The Ordinary Life
    • The Swimming
  • Christ Will Come Again: At the Table With the Howling Boy
    • The Bike
    • The Cabin
    • The Beach
  • Title: A Quiet Mind to Suffer With: Mental Illness, Trauma, and the Death of Christ
  • Author: John Andrew Bryant
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Pages: 312
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 5.25x8
  • ISBN: 9781683597049


Reviews

2 ratings

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  1. Kristen McGuire
  2. Michael W Philliber
    In the past two weeks I have sat down with, and listened to, three young men who are completely different. They have told me tales of how their inner voices have accused them, how their world has been consumed by feelings of doubt, dismay, and dread. Two have clinical diagnoses and the third doesn’t. But their internal stories that they have related to me have all voiced their obsession for vindicating themselves, fixing themselves, grasping for certitude, and more. They are haunted men, in some significant ways. “A Quiet Mind to Suffer With: Mental Illness, Trauma, and the Death of Christ” is the story of John Andrew Bryant, a caregiver, writer, and part-time street pastor in a small steel town outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who has chronicled his plunge into mental illness and his gut-wrenching trek through the dark night of the soul in this 312-page paperback. As I read his tale, it struck me how similar – in all of the dissimilarities – these lives were. And I found that the author’s intention in this book could speak to all who have ears to hear. Bryant chronicles the story of his life as he spiraled deeper into the brokenness of his mind. He describes what he went through, how his own mind became his enemy, accusing him, pushing him, haunting him, misshaping his whole sense of himself and his world. How his internal posse hunted him down, damning him, and roping his body into being an accusatory ally. The time he spent in the psych ward, howling, having unwanted, wretched thoughts break in and ransack his mind and soul. “I experienced almost every normal thing in life as a profound threat to my sense of self…It was the thing in my head that got to say what was meaningful. It got first dibs on saying what things are. Always jumping to conclusions. The Siren. The Bully. The Accuser” (156-7). His story captured my heart, and I had to force myself to set the book down. The author swims in a different stream of the Christian faith than my stream, thus he found support in a few places that I wouldn’t want to recommend, such as the Icon of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Nevertheless, the gospel grounds his life, his treacherous and tortured life from one end of the book to the other. For example, “Our first priority is not to defeat sin but to behold the Christ who has defeated sin” (186). I read those words to one of the young men mentioned at the beginning, and the tears began to stream – down his face, and in my heart. Or in another place Bryant wrote, “What I have in Christ is the simple, painful renunciation of the urges created by my brain, the ability to say no to desires and compulsions that will not just go away. I wish it was more. But that is all it’s been: a foothold in the storm of thought and feeling” (17). Christ, a foothold in the storm of our roaring thoughts and raging feelings. My heart sang Hosanna and Gloria Patri more than once as I read. One of the powerful themes that subtly and slowly trickles its way through the story, is God’s severe mercy that is also a saving mercy. “When Mercy strikes, when Mercy burns, we think we are being destroyed, we think we are being humiliated and crushed, when what is happening is that we are being seen, we are becoming safe, we are being fed, we are being changed by Christ’s death and resurrection” (26). I think the author would agree that his whole tale is a tale of severe mercy turning him right side up and right side out. In fact, at the end of the book he writes, “The Lord had not committed Himself to my plans. He had committed Himself to my freedom” (291). And that freedom, that growing freedom, becomes heartwarmingly clear as Bryant comes to the place where he can get out of his head, and begins to love his wife, be an uncle to his nephews, and a son to his father and mother. My heart was full by the end of the book. What the author experienced is unique in its own rights. But in many ways, much more standard than we would like to admit, “we wounded, selfish people are such a mixture of pain and promise, of prophetic witness and self-deception, that we are uninterpretable to others and a deep mystery to ourselves” (55). Once in a blue moon I run across a work that touches me deeply. One that snags my emotions and grips my imagination. “A Quiet Mind to Suffer With” was such a book! This is a book for those who are in-and-out of mental illness. It will be a volume they can point to and say, “Those are my words! That’s what’s happening in here, in my head!” This is a book for those who have loved ones being walloped by various behavioral and mental disorders, to get a glimpse into their world so you can compassionately walk with them. But I found that “normal” Christians will want to enter Bryant’s story because you will hear the severe voices in your own head scrawled on these pages. You will know that you’re often asking for the same things, trapped into the same idolatrous dependence on yourself. And you will find that this man, who lives with mental illness, is preaching the gospel to you. The gospel that has pierced him and gotten hold of his life. And if you have ears to hear, you will find yourself being saved, not only from sin, Satan, death, and doom, but that you are being saved from yourself. I highly recommend the book.

$13.99

Print list price: $19.99
Save $6.00 (30%)