Have you ever had an intimate relationship with someone only to find out they were not who you thought they were? Or maybe you had a certain expectation of someone and things didn’t transpire the way you expected it. You might have in mind someone who disappointed you but the same could be true for someone who surprised you in a good way.
And then there’s Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was walking in step with Jesus, only to have my life change in an unexpected way. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go!” I cry.
The twelve disciples walked intimately with Jesus during his three year ministry. They saw it all and knew Jesus more deeply than anyone. And yet, they still missed out on who he really was!
So often, we miss when God is working in our lives. We’re so bogged down in the details that we fail to step back and see the bigger picture. This is especially true when our life doesn’t look like we expected it to or think it should. We fail to step outside of ourselves and see the divine intervention of God. We look back later on and see that it was staring straight into our face. “How did I not see that?” we marvel. Well, you aren’t the only one.
Over the past year, my church’s women’s Bible study has been digging through the gospel of Matthew. Verse by verse, we’ve examined God’s Word at multiple angles. We’ve marveled at how Jesus worked in the lives around him. Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation. Jesus taught mind boggling truths. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons. Jesus raised the dead. Jesus foretold what was to come; both in his time on earth and his second coming. One theme I grabbed onto is the fact that the religious leaders (Pharisees, Sadducess, Herodians and scribes) and Jesus’s disciples missed what God was doing and would do through Jesus.
My knuckles were white on the steering wheel, arms ridged, as I forced myself to drive in a straight line going 75mph in the busy I-4 traffic.
Breathe, I reminded myself.
Don’t do it, the Holy Spirit warned.
Arthur is in the backseat. Protect him. My maternal instincts called to me.
I just wanted my life to be over. I wanted to erase the pain that festered deep down into my soul. If I swerved in front of a vehicle on my left at just the right angle, maybe I could end it all. At least I would feel a pain different from the pain I was feeling.
As I look forward to 2022, I find myself anxious and distressed. For the past few years, I have done what a lot of people do in place of resolutions in that I ask God to show me a word and Bible verse to focus on for the year. In the weeks leading up to the new year, and a few weeks after, I struggled to find that word. I was beginning to think maybe I just didn’t have a word for this year.
You’re not sure if you can face your family this year. You’re grieving the empty seat at the table. You or a family member is very ill. Your marriage is struggling. You’ve just had a breakup. You’re struggling with infertility. You’ve lost your job. You’re deep in debt. You can barely afford the turkey on the table. The list goes on. What is there really to be thankful for?
On a beautiful Ohio summer day in 2008 I nervously chatted with my friend as we drove to the house of a couple she knew. Though I had been prepared as to what to expect, I was uneasy. I was grateful for her help and desperate to try anything to free my mind of the racing anxious thoughts, reactionary temper, constant feeling of dread, and overall lack of peace in my life.
That spring this same friend, with a couple of others–all older more seasoned believers than I–had led me through the Seven Steps to Freedom from Neil T. Anderson’s book, The Bondage Breaker. These steps include a process of confessing sin, forgiving those who have wronged you, recognizing lies you’re telling yourself, and combating those lies with truth. Doing these things, the book claims, would grant you freedom in Jesus Christ.
Social Media can be a dark place, sucking you into a world you wouldn’t otherwise have entered. It can also be a positive place to interact with the people you care about and engage in positive community. It’s hard to find the balance but it can be done.
For over a decade I lived thinking I suffered internal anguish because I just didn’t have enough faith in the power of prayer. However, in 2009 I sank into a deep depression and finally got to a breaking point. I was working with high school girls through CRU, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ–an international ministry focused on evangelism and discipleship. My director sat down with me and kindly explained that I was in no state to be mentoring young women. I needed to step away from field ministry and seek healing.
He was right. And for the first time I was broken enough to face myself and accept help. I was desperate.
It was the end of the school year and I was scheduled to spend the summer taking seminary classes with fellow staff members followed by the biannual all-staff conference. Two women were appointed to come alongside me in my darkness over that summer. As the summer went on I was encouraged to seek medical help and to find a Christian counselor.
After years of struggle, I finally found my way out of my depression and reconciled my brokenness before the Lord. I was freed from thinking I needed to be the perfect Christian to be happy and drew closer to the Lord.
In Part 1 of this series I discussed what the Bible says about illness and how mental illness plays into that, pointing to King David and Job as examples. Part 2 covers the distinction between mental health and mental illness, explaining how the Bible uses the word “anxiety” as an example. Here I will explore how to give and get help for mental illness.
“You are a success!” my psychiatrist exclaimed. “You are a success and I don’t see that very often.”
My mental health hasn’t been this good in a very long time. Apparently this is uncommon for a manic-depressive compounded with an anxiety disorder.
“Mental health” is a common phrase used in our society. Like our physical health and spiritual health, our mental health is an important aspect of our well-being. However, a distinction should be made between “mental health,” and “mental illness.” Caring for our mental health is not the same as treating a mental illness. Caring for our mental health includes things like getting enough sleep, taking breaks throughout your day, and surrounding yourself with a supportive community. Caring for a mental illness means having a psychiatrist to prescribe and monitor your medication, meeting with a therapist, and having positive coping strategies.
Bipolar, or manic-depression, is a complex illness requiring multiple medications. Lithium, the most prescribed drug for my illness, presented severe side effects. I asked to be taken off of Lithium. While many psychiatrists wouldn’t consider this, I was so thankful that she listened to me and found an alternative. After many months, we found the right combination and dosages of medication and I have my life back.
In Part 1, I suggested King David and Job may have had circumstantial mental illnesses. For other people, mental illness is a chronic condition. The Bible, while not specifically naming mental illnesses, does provide circumstantial evidence of mental illness based on literal translations of the Greek and Hebrew vocabulary. We know that Jesus welcomed all and healed all who came to him. Including the mentally ill.
Now we’re going to talk about the difference between “mental health” and “mental illness.”