“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
— C.S. Lewis
I think I am often a creature of habit, far more than I’d like to admit. I rather think we choose our habits and inclinations. They, in turn, decide our paths. But I suppose we give ourselves too much credit, to decide and direct. Simply put, we are not that big. I honestly don’t think we have the power to steer our lives the way we like. That is what I’m thinking about today anyway.
Somebody once told me, “The purpose of life is not to find your freedom, but to find your master.”
I don’t live that way, at least my inner propensity does not include God. Did you ever think something like this? “I wish God did not exist. I want to be in charge, and I want to do, how I want to do, when I want to do it!”
Living it all with no rules and no accountability! Somehow I still seem to find myself sitting on my throne. I like this!
But as we get older, our hair goes gray and we look in the mirror and see bags and wrinkles, we realize how vulnerable and how tenuous life really is. If we are honest and sufficiently self-aware, we understand that we will never be able to seize control of the known universe.
“Life is what happens while you are making other plans,”John Lennon observed.
It seems that reality springs on you, and you have this bolt out of the blue that shocks you to the core. Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it.
I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in steady amazement. The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts. I have an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor. I have severe ataxia that makes me walk with a cane. I have lost the use of my right hand in an accident. But I am also learning how to be broken. And everything that has happened has happened for a reason.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”
I sense that he did learn, otherwise he couldn’t have said that.
Re-reading this I decided that I ramble a lot. Forgive me. Maybe there is scrap or two in it for someone.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2, NLT
By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author
Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.
Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.
My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.
A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.
It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.
I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.
I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.
There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place:
We stand with them in the rain.
Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis.
“Lord, answer me quickly, because I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead. Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.”
Psalm 143:7-8, NCV
I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist. I am just an ordinary man serving God’s flock. Yet if I were to speak I would speak on the subject of clinical depression. The stats are pretty grim. Depression affects 16.1 million people, or 6.7% of the population every year, age 18 or older. The median age is 32.5 years old. (These are just U.S. stats only.)
I’ve come to understand this much through my own struggles. It seems that there are three types of depression to consider.
These ‘big three’ seldom stand alone; they mix or overlap each other to make diagnosis difficult. Only a doctor can make that, but we can at least know that these three are most likely behind our issues. You can have these three working against you at once.
The are the big three:
1) Guilty depression-– when our behavior hasn’t been what it should be (sin), this is the source of condemnation. Jesus forgives us, so we should forgive ourselves. Guilty depression is very hurtful and damaging to our spirits. Often our healing will come when we draw close to the Lord Jesus.
2) Organic depression-– when it’s built into our DNA and part of our very being; it becomes fundamental to your personality. You can compare it to someone who has diabetes or MS. We live in a fallen world and genetics affects us at this core level.
3) Reactionary depression— when we react to some bad news or injury, or working too much with no time off. We react to difficulties in this way when outside forces infringe upon our inner heart. Often God sends us an elder or a mature believer to come and help us out. This is fortuitous indeed to have someone to speak through our confusion.
Each of these are different, but identifying them could help you move through them more gracefully. These three can overlap. Perhaps it’s helpful to see reactionary depression as the most common, while guilty depression can be the most hurtful to the believer’s heart.
Satan is involved in the intensification of each– he creeps in and slowly strangles all hope. Worship and the Word is critical and necessary weapons for us out us to walk-out clean and clear. We must defend ourselves (and others) with these weapons that the Father has given us.
Knowing the type of depression will give you understanding and perhaps this will help you defuse the situation. These things have helped me personally to work through my own issues.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”
Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability. They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.
For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.
But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time? We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.
But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.
After 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry,) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.) I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
His love is completely undeserved. It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.
It is a relationship and not a religion. We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).
We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy. We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.
All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.
I must tell you that God loves you insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.
You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship.
We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken. We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.
There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.
“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “
“They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)
A brother who is incredibly loved,
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