*Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through a Mother’s Eyes by Simonetta Carr. Presbyterian & Reformed, 2019, 359 pages.
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: ages 16-up, particularly Christian parents, counselors, and concerned relatives and friends.
We don’t think it will ever come near us. Mental health is for pagans and unbelievers. But the ranks of the mentally ill, depressed, anxiety-ridden, OCD, and schizophrenic are growing—even in the church.
Even among people we know and love. Simonetta Carr has graced our reviews for years now with her outstanding Christian biographies of John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, Irenaeus, and many more. Here she shares part of her own story: the descent of her son Jonathan into the abyss of schizophrenia. She pulls no punches. In “Part 1: Through the Unknown,” she tells the story of the first disturbing signs of her son’s dislocation from reality. His failure to adjust to college life, leading to dismissal after one semester, was troubling, but perhaps just a bump in the road. As the months went on, though, his conversation became more irrational and his relationships more precarious. By the time the Carrs realized they were in a full-blown crisis, violent threats and reckless behavior were just around the corner. Simonetta describes her missteps and false starts and frantic efforts to get help with brutal honesty, sparing none of her failures. Throughout the narrative, the reader is left wondering, What would I do? and How would I handle this? and even, Might this be happening in our family?
Schizophrenia is showing up more and more in Jonathan’s generation—there’s been an explosion of mental illness on college campuses among bright, attractive young people who would seem to have everything. Jonathan Carr was just such a young man, and a sincere Christian besides—so where was God?
Through it all, God was there. Not always audible through the clamor, but ultimately victorious. But take note: Romans 8:28, which Christians sometimes offer like an aspirin for quick relief, goes far deeper than most of us realize:
It’s not just a simple assertion that “everything will work out in the end.” In fact, everything may not work out at all in this earthly life. It’s not even a general promise of God’s sovereign providence, because that holds no comfort for those who are not in Christ. It’s a promise that a very specific God, the God who sent his Son to die on the cross for us, will work all things together for our salvation—which is what ultimately matters, even if we don’t understand how.Broken Pieces, p. 80
“Part 2: Love and Courage” is a treasury of practical help for parents, concerned friends, church leaders, and fellow believers to come alongside the sufferer and his or her family. Mental illness is best treated in and through the family, but the church has a vital role to play in care and support. For years, Christians (and society at large) have not known what to do about this bewildering issue, and Christians directly affected by it have been ashamed to share their struggle. Unlike cancer of diabetes or any physical ailment, mental illness seems to strike at the heart of faith. Even when we know better doubts creeps in: If I were only stronger, if I only prayed more, meditated more, lived out my faith more, I could beat this. Kudos to Simonetta for sharing her heart with the church, and may we all be built up in love and compassion by it.
Cautions: Frank discussion of Jonathan’s behavior; may be disturbing to sensitive readers.
Overall Rating: 5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic value: 5