Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

A Pastor’s Prayer on this World Bipolar Day 2018: Hope and Healing for All Who Suffer

A Pastor’s Prayer on this World Bipolar Day 2018: Hope and Healing for All Who Suffer

Please note:. This prayer comes from a Christian pastor’s heart and is not intended to offend or trigger anyone. 

Lord Jesus, on this Good Friday which happens to be World Bipolar Day we come before You and pray…

  • For those who daily struggle with their illness, attempting to live with the excruciating emotional pain: give to them the continued daily courage and strength to push through another day, so that day by day they may come to a place of wellness in their lives.
  • For those who need the courage to face their diagnosis and take personal charge of their journey to wellness: we ask that you would empower them to begin that journey. Give to them not only courage but also a desire to move forward in their lives. Help them to understand that their diagnosis is not “the end” but rather a new beginning and healing for the past.
  • For those who cannot forgive themselves for the messes that their illness, along with their choices, has caused in their lives and the lives of those they love and care about: give to them the ability to stop rehearsing the past over and over. Lord, may they experience your forgiveness, that it might empower them to forgive themselves.
  • For those who are experiencing wellness and are in a “good-spot” in their lives: give to them continued days, weeks, and years of the joy of living well with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
  • For those who have lost loved ones to mental illness: surround them with Your presence and hope. May they find peace in the midst of the loss and confusion. May they sense Your loving arms wrapped around them.
  • For those who are lonely and have no support system: we ask that you would bring people into their lives who will befriend them. Give to them someone who will listen and understand, someone who is safe, someone who will encourage, someone who never gives up on them, someone who loves them in spite of the daily challenges of their mental health.
  • For those who are held hostage by anger towards You, Lord, and/or others: we ask for you to release them from the chains of their anger. Lord, allow the bitterness and unforgiveness towards those who have hurt them begin to melt away. Help them to know that holding to anger is truly like drinking poison and expecting the one we are angry with to die.
  • For those who have been marginalized and put down; made to feel “less-than”: we ask for justice to prevail. May they know how deeply You love them and that no one is less-than. Lord, send someone into their lives today who will be an encourager and surround them with Your purpose for their lives.
  • For those who have been hurt and even abused by churches and/or clergy: we ask for you to bring healing. Lord, expose the leaders who are toxic and are or have hurt people in Your name. Help those who have been hurt to be able to separate You from those who have spiritually abused them “in Your name”.
  • Lord, we ask for breakthroughs in mental health care! Give researchers creativity and insight for new treatments for mental illnesses. Allow funding to flow freely for these cutting-edge projects that will give break-through in the treatment of those of us with a mental illness.
  • For the broken system, Lord, we ask for you to give creativeness and new ways of thinking. Give to the decision makers the courage to do what is right. Expose where professional territorialism is holding back the process. Hasten the changes for the sake of those who are suffering with mental illness this very day.
  • For those who feel like giving up today, who are teetering on the brink of giving in to the daily torture of emotional pain: hold them, Lord. Touch them with your presence and hope. Cause them to reach out to someone.
  • For those who treat those with mental health challenges and are advocates for mental health: we simply thank You, Lord. Refresh them in their daily work.
  • For those who are homeless due to having a mental illness: we ask for Your wings of protection and shelter. May they find a safe place that allows them to begin a journey towards wellness.
  • For those who are self-medicating their mental illness: we ask for a breakthrough in their lives. Break the hold of the alcohol and drugs that are being used to mask the mental illness.
  • For those who are being mistreated and abused by their “care-givers”: we ask for you to expose the situation. Bring help for those who are not able to help themselves.
  • For the spouses, partners, friends, and family who deeply love and daily care for someone with a mental illness: we thank You, Lord. Refresh and renew them. As they pour themselves out for the ones they love, we ask that You pour new life into them.
  • For the veterans who have experienced the devastation of war: we ask for Your peace. We thank You for their service, but we ask that You allow us to “be there” for these men and women in meaningful ways as they daily deal with the trauma of war. Lord, we ask You to break through the PTSD and bring healing for these who have given their service.
  • For all those who have suffered trauma in their lives: we ask for Your healing. Allow them to sense Your deep love for them. Bring healing and to their minds.
  • For those who feel hopeless, with no hope or future: enable them to see, sense, and know that You have a great spiritual purpose for them.
  • Lord, break down the walls of stigma regarding mental health issues.


For those of you, who like me have a mental illness, I offer you these words:

 The Lord loves you. He is with you. He is for you. He’s on your side. He has a great plan and future for your life. In spite of how you might feel or what others might tell you, you are ofgreat value to Him. He has heard each of your tears as liquid prayers to Him. His promise to you is that He will work all things out together for your good. May He bring you His peace in the midst of your situation this very day.

#worldbipolarday #bipolar #mentalillness #hope #FreshHope

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What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health

What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health

Next Thursday, April 5th, 2018 we are offering a FREE webinar for ministry leaders entitled What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health. It will be hosted by best selling author and speaker, Amy Simpson.  

Amy will be joined by three other panelists:

  • Brandon Appelhans, Founder and Executive Director of My Quiet Cave in Denver; lives with bipolar disorder
  • Professor Faith McDonald, a writer in Pennsylvania; mother of a son with mental illness
  • Julie Baier, parent of a loved one who lives with mental illness; NAMI support group facilitator and on the board of NAMI Dupage in Illinois


For more information about the webinar click here.

10 Lies the Church Believes about Mental Illness

10 Lies the Church Believes about Mental Illness

by Katie Dale

One Sunday when I was 16, I wore a hat to church, resolute in my misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 11:6: “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”

Bipolar disorder had ravaged my young mind, and I clutched at another misinterpretation of Scripture: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). In the middle of the 500-person service I cried out during the pastor’s prayer: “Father, forgive me. I’m sorry.”

My parents held me tightly, quite embarrassed in the moment and apprehensive, not knowing what I’d say or do next. I remember speaking to the pastor afterward. Maybe I had asked my parents if I could apologize to him for my outburst, or perhaps my parents wanted me to give a sort of explanation. Either way, he forgave me, and we left it at that. But why didn’t anyone do anything? Couldn’t they see I was struggling with mania or even borderline insanity?

It’s been 13 years since my first hospitalization and five since the last. Both times, part of what sent me into the tailspin of mental illness were misunderstandings and false information. In our journey with this illness, my family has been misled by lies we were told, or truths withheld. These lies continue to mislead the church and keep people from properly viewing mental illness as what it is.

Lie #1: You’re just going through a rough time. Pray, give it to God, and give it time.

The reality is, if you are clinically depressed or you have bipolar disorder, it is not good to forego seeing a mental health professional. Therapists and psychiatrists are qualified experts on the care and keeping of your mind. If you are in a chemically imbalanced state of mind, chances are, no amount of praying or time is going to help, unless God is answering your prayers for a good psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Lie #2: You’re simply in the middle of a spiritual battle. Just renounce and resist the devil, and he will flee.

You may be in the middle of a spiritual battle, but there’s more going on here, too. Don’t waste time renouncing Satan or anyone else, especially considering how vulnerable the psyche is in a mentally unstable state. Seek a medical professional’s help immediately. You can seek spiritual support, and seek God through prayer, and at the same time receive professional health care.

Lie #3: You’re depressed? Pray it out.

            Depression, if clinical, means your brain does not have the means to get out of the slump it’s in. If you’re relying on just praying it out, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Though prayer has been shown to alleviate symptoms, being in a clinically depressive state is more than just a prayer away from wellness.

Lie #4: There’s nowhere in the Bible the Lord addresses mental illness.

While the term “mental illness” isn’t in the Bible, King David was very familiar with the reality of depression and perhaps even mania. Reading the Psalms, we see an outcry of emotions from this man after God’s own heart. Elijah was depressed to the point of experiencing suicidal ideations (1 Kings 19). Instead of condemning him, God cared for him and sent an angel to meet his physical needs. These are only two examples of the many men and women in the Bible who suffered in deep depression or from psychotic troubles, PTSD, and other mental health issues.

Lie #5: You can be healed…if you have enough faith.

Oh, if we could just move that mountain on our own, with the faith inside us. But God is sovereign, and that sovereignty means our faith to be made well is not a cure-all. God may heal you miraculously, but most often he does not. Remember, medication is a gracious gift from God to apply to the infirmities of the mind, in order to bring about a different kind of healing.

Lie #6: Jesus healed everyone.

What about in his own hometown of Nazareth? Nope. They couldn’t and wouldn’t let him with the doubts they held, because they presumed to know who Jesus was already. And even those who believed were not always healed. Jesus left many behind as he moved on to minister to the next town or meet the next set of plans the Father had for him (see Matthew 8:18).

Lie #7: You’re choosing to stay depressed—choose to be happy.

If everyone could will it to be, they would be happy. This is especially true for those in depression. Just like having enough faith, “willing” yourself to be happy is never an option in depression. The mind can be responsive to conditioning and cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can adjust in time. Medications can help with that therapy, but to just choose to be happy in clinical depression is like choosing to be a marathon runner when you’ve never even run a 5K.

Lie #8: You’re sinning somewhere—confess your sins and be healed.

I’ve seen this one before, believing that with enough faith, and if I could only get right with God, He would heal me. God chooses not to heal most people who have chronic illness—although he does enable us to discover medications that can help us manage and live well with these conditions. The Bible makes clear that illness does not primarily function as punishment for individual and specific sin; it’s an outcome of original sin and a backdrop for God’s grace (see Jesus’ explanation in John 9, where He healed a man who was born blind). It’s also clear that no one who receives God’s healing actually deserves or earns it.

Lie #9: Your behaviors are sinful—you should be ashamed. Repent!

Sometimes the behaviors that come from mental illness are sinful. We have no reason to call out people with mental illness as more sinful than other people; they’re not. The outright wrong acts and behaviors one commits while mentally unstable are not necessarily expressing a person’s intentions but are more like a knee-jerk reaction because people with mental illness often experience poor impulse control and act on impulses that other people are able to resist or keep hidden. They may also misinterpret their surroundings and unknowingly behave in ways that are inappropriate. That does not make them any more sinful than other people, since sin really resides in our hearts rather than simply in our actions. Repentance may be required, but not in greater supply than for anyone else.

Lie #10: Psychiatric drugs are of the devil.

Psychiatric drugs are no more evil than any of the other medications we have developed to prolong life, improve quality of life, and help people live to their potential. While the misuse or neglect of psychiatric drugs can be dangerous, the proper diligent monitoring and application of such tools are invaluable to aiding the healing process of the mind. Healing, care, and restoration are part of God’s work, not acts of evil.

Katie Dale is a 30-year-old USAF officer’s wife, writer, mental health care advocate, and artist. She is planning on publishing her memoir soon, and in her free time she enjoys katie dalerunning, drawing, and taking cat naps with her cat, Anna. See more at her blog on bipolar disorder,


The Importance of Moving Toward as Opposed to Moving Away

The Importance of Moving Toward as Opposed to Moving Away

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Brad discusses the importance of moving toward something as opposed to moving away from something.

After listening to this podcast we encourage you to email Brad at with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.  Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:

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Pastor Brad Hoefs, host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at:

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to or email or call 402.932.3089.

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What Does Resiliency Look Like When You Are Depressed? by Rick Qualls

What Does Resiliency Look Like When You Are Depressed?  by Rick Qualls

“Be Bop” the clown was one of my favorite toys. Give him a “Bop” and down he went and then he came up still smiling.

Be Bop was resilient.

What does resilience look like when you suffer from depression?

First, you have clear boundaries. These boundaries include: taking your medications regularly. They include guarding your sleep schedule, protecting your energy level, learning how to manage ruminations and putting those principles into practice.

When feeling well a relapse plan needs to be developed. This plan should include your maintenance medications, other treatments you take. Listing your personal early warning signs, of friends, therapists, and doctors to contact.

For example, some of my early warning signs will be nonconformity with the medicine regimen. Your sleep schedule gets thrown off. The season of the year influences my illness. Staring off into space, thinking of nothing can be one of my first signs depression has returned.

If you are unsure of your symptoms, you can research the internet for a list of common thinking/behaviors which you may identify with.

With your psychiatrist and counselor put an action plan into work when symptoms begin to emerge.

A self-scoring inventory of depressive symptoms, like the Beck Depression Inventory, can give your doctor helpful information. It can also provide you with objective information.

Secondly, resiliency does not play the victim role. It takes responsibility for behaviors done in a manic or depressive state. There may have been situations in the past that legitimately play a role in your depression. But when we play the victim role in everyday life, not accepting responsibility and not taking appropriate action, it erodes resilience.

You may suffer from perfectionism or a sense of over-responsibility. This may be part of your disease. Discuss with your counselor to clarify when you have been victimized or playing a victim role.

Thirdly, resilient people develop a sense of purpose. Viktor Frankl taught that our primary drive is to discover and pursue what is most meaningful to us. A life’s purpose may be a cause to which you give yourself. Purpose may come from the people you love.

For example, as a pastor, my cause is to give people hope in Jesus Christ. I am fortunate to have a love for my family that keeps me going when the times get particularly difficult. Together those two purposes have enabled me to go on when in the depths of depression

Fourthly, resiliency has a sense of self-autonomy. Self-autonomy believes we can impact our circumstances. Without that conviction, when we believe we have no control, our self-esteem is shattered. Self-efficacy reflects confidence to exert control over our behavior and to our environment. Self-efficacy is part of resilience.

Finally, our spirituality can give us resilience. Here are some of the Bible verses that move me toward resiliency when I am depressed.

We can be assured of God’s love regardless of how we feel.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“God is here to help us with our fear.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

And remember that just as Be Bop bounced up, your depression is not forever.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. “1 Peter 4:12-13

We are proud to announce that our Fresh Hope Blog at has been award one of Top 20 Christian Health and Fitness Blog!

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We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

It’s essential to recognize living with bipolar disorder is a different experience for every person, with complexities such as co-occurring disorders.

Bipolar disorder differs from person to person.  The same medicines do not work for all of us, nor do we all even have the same type of bipolar.  The issues of mental health recovery are very complex.  So, the “things” that have worked for me might not work for you. This is why we need one another.  Corporately, we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

When you and I connect with one another, we empower each other to live well in spite of any possible daily battles with our disorder.  Individually, no one of us has all the answers.  But, together we have solutions for one another. Corporately we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals in living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

It always concerns me when everyone is talking about mental illness/health and over-generalizing it, simplifying it to the point where everyone is lumped together.

By doing this, the public is not even beginning to understand the complexities and challenges for each individual dealing with their particular life’s situation and experiences, plus having a mental illness.

Some of us have only one diagnosis; bipolar disorder.  Others of us have the complexity of co-occurring disorders which some now are calling “complex” instead of co-occurring.  Just bipolar disorder in and of itself is enough to make life very complex at times. But, add on top of that a borderline personality disorder, and now it’s even more complicated.  As I watch friends of mine who have a personality disorder, lots of child trauma and bipolar disorder, I have come to know that their struggle for wellness is compounded many times over as they strive to live well in spite of several mental health issues.

Yet, I believe there are some general “living-well” principles that are true for most, if not all, of us. I’d like to share a few of them.  This list is not exhaustive, but some of the “principles” that I believe may be universal to us all:

  1. In order to achieve some level of wellness in our lives, you and I must be disciplined to do those things that move us toward wellness and keep us well. This is a choice.  As much as I hate to be disciplined, I choose to discipline myself daily to live well in spite of bipolar disorder.
  1. To live well, you and I need other people in our lives.  You and I are made for community.  Isolating will not help any of us to live well. If you have alienated all of the people in your life and are alone, then I strongly encourage you to seek out a certified peer support specialist and/or a peer-led mental health support group and/or group therapy led by a professional therapist. You need other people.
  1. To live well, you and I must be committed to some of the hardest work we will ever do in our lives. Living well in spite of bipolar plus any other issues you might face is But, it’s worth it.  It’s a difficult job that sometimes must be done moment by moment, day by day.
  2. To live well, you and I must have hope for our future, or we will give up. Hopelessness comes about when someone believes they have no future.  Choosing to believe that your life has purpose and meaning is key to overcoming hopelessness.  If you are a person of faith, then this is where your conviction becomes key.  Faith gives hope because it says that life, each life, has meaning and purpose.  Person of faith or not, your life is essential.  Your life has meaning. Out of the pain and hurt of your life, you have the power to empower others by just telling your story.  Telling your story to others who are also on this journey gives your life purpose.  That’s a future. And that gives hope.  Never give up. Each of us needs you. You hold some answers for some of us in our journey towards wellness.
  3. To live well, you and I have to choose to look for the golden nuggets in the “poo-piles” of life (Of course, there’s another way to spell “poo” but, I am going to stay with “poo”). There’s a lot of “poo” in life. No one gets through life without pain and brokenness to varying degrees. When you and I let go of our expectations of life, it allows us to find the “gold nuggets,” the silver linings, even in the most difficult of times. Part of doing this means that you and I must never lose our sense of humor about how goofy life and others can be!

So, I offer these five principles to wellness that I believe are some of the foundational principles of a life of wellness.  They are simple.  But, so very important and challenging to do at times.  I’d love to hear your input regarding them. And I would also like to hear from you about those things you have done and continue doing that help you live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.  It’s easy to do, just send in what you do or have done and we will add to the list!

In the meantime, keep looking for those golden nuggets!


A First Rate Madness: Thinking Outside the Box and Leadership

A First Rate Madness: Thinking Outside the Box and Leadership

So often when people are diagnosed with a mental illness/disorder, they begin to feel “less than” as a contributor to life.  I know that after I was diagnosed and then forced to resign as a pastor of the church I was serving, due to a manic episode, I felt broken to the point of uselessness.  But what I have discovered is that the Lord is in the business of redeeming and reframing our brokenness; He’s in the business of redeeming our pain.  The Lord never wastes pain.  In fact, I believe that it is that point of deep pain that becomes exactly the very thing that the Lord redeems for our good and then that point becomes how He uses us.  It is because of our deepest point of pain we are able to think outside of the box.  We are able to offer compassion and understanding to those who are going through the same sort of pain.

What has surprised me the most about the Lord’s redemption of my pain and past is how He is using my leadership gifts.  I am shocked at how my perspective of and the way that I lead today has changed so much since going through brokenness and pain.  Daily, because of what I have gone through and experienced, I have the opportunity to provide leadership from the point of serving those who are in pain. Before having been broken, I would never have had enough patience to come along side those who are in deep pain.  However, today my point of fulfillment, my “sweet spot” of ministry, is giving hope to those who are some of the darkest places of unimaginable pain.  I consider it a sacred privilege, and I am humbled to see how my pain is redeemed by allowing others to see how He carried me through.  It brings them hope.  When that happens, it is a holy moment that He orchestrated through my very brokenness.

My friend, if you find yourself in a dark and painful point in your journey of this life, please know this: the Lord WILL take this and make it work together for your good.  You are not suffering in vain.  There is purpose in it.  There is a blessing in it.  He is for you.  He loves you.  You are not alone.  As deep as your pain goes, joy will be high when He begins to redeem your pain.  And please know this, you are NOT “less-than“.  You are not broken merchandise.  In fact, it is at your point of brokenness that you become the most usable for His work in your life and in His Kingdom. This is about redemption. The Lord is working things together for your good even in the darkest parts of the valley you are going through.  And in the midst of the suffering and pain, there are gifts – precious gifts – that you can’t even imagine!

But, if you succumb to the feelings of worthlessness and brokenness and the feelings of “less-than” you may never find those gifts; and instead live your life believing the lie that no gifts were given through your pain – that your pain had no purpose at all.  That’s a lie. And it leads to nothing but more pain and hopelessness.  Stand on the Word of God, Romans 8:28, and don’t lean on your feelings.  Feelings are real, but sometimes they are based on a lie.  Here’s the truth:  the Lord is taking and will take ALL THINGS and work them together for your good.  He’s at work.  He’s up to something. He can be trusted. Sometimes you have to simply, by faith, choose to have hope in spite of how you feel.  Yes, hope IS a choice. You have to choose it.  It’s not a wishful-thinking type of hope, but it is a certain and sure hope.  HE WILL, yes, WILL, work out all things together for your good.  That’s a certainty.

One of the books I’ve read that really helped me to see how the Lord could use me in significant ways in spite of and even because of my having bipolar disorder is A First Rate Madness by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi.  It’s a book full of encouragement to see how those 9781594202957_custom-37b18e8c2128957810a8baffd30766d2ed28d0bf-s400-c85who have a mental health challenge can be used even in some of the most significant leadership roles as national and international leaders.  After reading it, I realized even more how the Lord could use my pain and experiences due to bipolar disorder for my good and even use it for the good of others.  See, because of what you and I have been through or even are going through causes us to see things outside of the box.  Dr. Ghaemi goes through a whole list of major historical leaders and illustrates how they were great leaders due to having had a struggle with mental health!  If you have not read the book, get it and read it!  It will encourage you greatly. Check out this NPR post about A First Rate Madness:  “Madness and Leadership, Hand in Hand

It may not feel like it will ever be possible to feel joy again.  You may not even have the energy to believe it. But it’s true.  God is at work.  And He will work it out together for your good, and He will use it to offer hope to others. And as He does that you will be amazed and filled with hope yourself.  This is a certainty – unless you believe the lie that there is no gift or purpose within what you are going through right now. Don’t believe that lie. Take captive your thinking, (Check out the post on how to overcome ruminating: click here.) focus your trust and hope in God and all His promises of good for you.