On Being Loved More Gently (My Disability)

There will be no wheelchairs, canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. Outside the gates, there will be a huge pile of crutches.

Some of us have been struggling with mental or physical illness.  Some people don’t understand and they walk away.  This really hurts, and we can isolate ourselves even more.  We feel not only forsaken but even “cursed” by God. But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love.  (He loves “his special needs” children even more?)

We believe that our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ.  We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness).  This is a long process, but it is happening!  (Philippians 1:6). God has given his word.  Don’t give up. It may take years, or maybe taking just a few moments.

I believe he understands us perfectly.

I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?)  Often as we get older, we’ll start having many different issues.  When you’re 60 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 30.  Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually. 

Becoming older (and hopefully wiser) we will blend discipleship and age together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”  

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:3-6, NLT

It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody else. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.

I like to imagine that there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

 

Love as an Action Verb

When I first started writing this post in my head, before I had posted it on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, back in 2009, in my head the title was “Love Is an Action Verb.” But as I thought more about it I realized there is more than one kind of love, and that love AS as an action verb was just one – and in my opinion the best – form of love.

Four Kinds of Love

In our impoverished English language, we use the word love in many different ways. I love my spouse, I love my dog, I love chocolate, I love my new shoes, I loved that movie I watched last night, and I love God. Surely we don’t have the same feelings about all of these things, yet we use the same word. In the parts of the Bible that were originally written in Greek, there are four different Greek words that we translate as love:

  • Storge – refers to the love that is felt between family members and close relatives.
  • Philia – refers to the love that is between friends.
  • Eros – refers to deep emotion or passion that is felt between lovers and spouses.
  • Agape – refers to the kind of love that God has for us and is what I mean by love as an action verb.

Agape is a kind of love that is about giving, not about getting. God showed us what agape is by His incarnation as Jesus Christ and by His death on the cross to pay for our sins. Agape is not just a feeling, it is what God is. He acts towards us in the way that He does not because of how He feels about us, but because of who He is; because He chooses to love us with agape love.

Agape is a type of love that we can, if we choose, combine with any one of the other three kinds of love. We can go beyond how we feel about others and truly love them in the way that God loves us. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his wonderful book Mere Christianity:

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Agape and Philia

A couple of years ago, I went to the beach with some old friends and had an opportunity to practice agape with someone towards whom I feel philia. Before I left home for the weekend, I received an email from one of my friends saying it would be really great if the house we were renting was all warmed up, with the water turned on and 7-layer bars baking in the oven, when they arrived. These friends had a much longer drive than I did, and she knew I would arrive at the house several hours before they did.

I can tell you that I did not feel like driving by myself at night in the pouring rain to Cannon Beach, I did not feel like hunting around outside in the wind and rain for the water valve to turn on the water, and I really did not feel like baking cookies in the gas oven in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with. But I chose to do all of those things anyway because I love my friends and wanted to make them happy. I combined the philia I felt with agape I have learned from God and received blessings in return.

Agape and Eros

In our society today a high percentage of marriages end in divorce. Often the reason cited is that one spouse doesn’t love the other anymore; that feeling they had when they met is gone. The type of love that can disappear in a relationship is eros.

Now eros is important for couples to be attracted to each other and get married, but it cannot, by itself, sustain a lifelong commitment. To create a lasting marriage, a couple must combine eros with agape. Each spouse must act as if they love the other even when they don’t feel like it or are angry or annoyed by the other spouse. A simple text to say “I love you,” a special dinner that your spouse likes, doing housework to lighten the other’s load, a hug and a kiss at the beginning and end of each day – all of these actions are examples of agape.

Who do you need to love (agape) today?

Each day we need to make a conscious effort to incorporate agape love into our interactions with those around us. Who is God calling you to love today? Don’t feel like it? As Nike would say, “Just do it.” After all, love as an action verb can be a blessing to others that is returned to you in an even greater measure than you give.

 

Thinking About Mental Illness

“The Thinker” bronze statute, by Rodin, c.. 1880

“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)

Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead, I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith that is becoming real at long last.

This really isn’t a “one and you’re done” experience.

The Bible describes a slow growth into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).

This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill Christian believer:

  • Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that come with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family, and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship.  It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not being with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time. 
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
  • Marriage—  A good spouse is often key to managing your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping your discipleship to Jesus. 
  • Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonder!)
  • Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
  • Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally, there is someone who understands my battle.
  • Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, do not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heartbeat” of heaven.

We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.

This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should add to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him for over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace.

He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

— Alan Redpath

These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend, or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6, Message

 

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Assurance of Salvation for the Mentally Ill

 

”So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.”

Romans 8:14-17, NLT

As mentally ill Christians, we are often a mixture of good and bad things regarding our faith.

  • The Good: we don’t have to be convinced of our sin.  We live in a broken world, and we’re pretty sure that we have formidable issues. We’re needy. We’ve tried lots of things, and we just might be a little wary (but that can be good.)
  • The Bad: our consistency fluctuates from day-to-day. We never know what our state of mind will be. Some of us have problems socially that hinders us. Attendance at our local church is hard. We struggle in our relationships with others.

From one day to the next many of us struggle. The existence of this ‘flightiness’ is painfully evident. And it is hard to maintain anything, much less a spiritual life. But I believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes an allowance, but even pours out extra grace on the afflicted believer. The Lord loves His misfits.

But we can’t put any confidence in our flesh. We do bounce around, but salvation is not of our own doing. What stabilizes us is a serious dedication to the promises we have in the Word of God. He gives us His Words to strengthen.

faith-train

Obviously, the engine must pull the other cars. We must look to the promises of God to stay on track. Both faith and feelings follow the engine. Some struggle a great deal because they are led by their feelings. Confusion will follow if we get the proper order mixed up.

  1. First facts, (the Bible)
  2. then faith,
  3. and finally feelings

The Word of God is our only safety. Even our faith is to be connected to the promises of God. For those of us with a disability, we realize that we deal with issues that others seem to skate through. (But hey, we’re used to that now.) And yet the Father makes some things easier for us too. 

Please, read the Word, the Psalms or the Gospels are always good. Try to memorize Jesus’ promises to you. If you collect up His words, in your mind and heart, the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind these verses when you really need them. (I draw much strength from the Psalms.)

We’ve been adopted by the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters. We are deeply loved by God Himself. He has gone and made us ‘heirs’ without any of our effort at all (Romans 8:14-17). These are examples of taking up the promises by faith. We are a people in need of stability. What God gives us is His own constancy. Read the Word, fresh just for you. The promises applied lavishly will enable you to be like Jesus.

 “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

2 Peter 1:4, NLT

“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.”

 Basilea Schlink

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