Sometimes it seems like bruises are part of life’s gift package to us.
Dancers are some of the most talented people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. But by choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain.
Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some live with chronic tendonitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion, but they still choose to dance.
Two things to consider.
They choose to dance. Dancers must operate with an iron will and an elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance the way they do. They have painfully blended the two.
The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” They would rather dance in pain, than not dance at all.
I once heard someone describe depression as having a mental bruise. I think I might understand.
As one prone to depression, I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for weeks at a time. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt lost and completely alone.
I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed again.
My sense of being totally lost in sad, dark thoughts was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering, and it is often a hellish and desperate depression.
We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. The dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. I don’t think Satan has the spiritual “voltage.”
I refuse to hide my mental bruises from those who share my pain. I will make the choice to dance. I’m bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, and “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”
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.”
“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.”
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. I see stars that others can’t, and the northern lights here are wonderful.
But probably the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico while camping on the beach. As I lay there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there were 10x more stars than ever before.
Laying on the beach I gazed up, and a weird sort of fear gripped me.
It was almost a panic; I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone and reduced to a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.
Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.
It seems we have traded our awareness of an authentically Almighty God, and in turn, we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out and feel we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.
Maybe we should learn to see those things that are invisible.
Each of us has the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”