The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

Please bear with me. This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

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Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines,

Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.”

And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying. It seems that that hard book of Job is finally starting to make sense.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must cling to Him. I must let this darkness go. He’ll need to work this out.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me. I know He does love me.

aabryplain

Seeking Truth

Look for It

Words matter. Our choice of words, whether speaking or writing, makes a difference.

And words have meaning. That’s what dictionaries are for—to tell us what words mean. When we try to use words to mean something other than what they really mean, it causes confusion.

Sometimes people do this on purpose. One such misuse of a word that I have encountered lately is the use of the word “true” to substitute for “believe.” A person will say “such and such is true for me” when what they really mean is “I believe such and such.”

According to the dictionary, the word “true” means “being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact.” Truth is not relative and is not affected by what any one person believes. Truth is external, and belief is internal, in origin.

Many years ago, when I was suffering from major clinical depression, there were a number of things I believed about myself. I believed I would always be depressed based on how long I had been depressed already and my doctor telling me I would always have bouts of major depression for the rest of my life. I also believed I would never be able to hold down a full-time job. I believed no one liked me and that I was worthless. In the parlance of relativism, these things were true for me.

But they weren’t true. They aren’t true and they never were, no matter how deeply I believed them.

And trust me, I deeply believed these things about myself.

But here I am, 18 years later, and I haven’t had a bout of major depression since God showed me how to be free. I’ve had the same good-paying full-time job for almost 12 years, and I had a different full-time job that paved the way for this one for 5 1/2 years before that. On top of my full-time job, I’m actively involved in my church and Bible Study Fellowship, have self-published two poetry books, and take care of my family. And I have a lot of friends, people who like me (and some who even love me).

As I look back over the past 20 years, I see God’s hand in my life, lifting me up and leading me to see the truth. I believe that. But it’s not my belief that makes it true. In fact, I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

Whether God is real and cares about His creation enough to do all I believe He has for us is either true or not. It can’t be true for me and not for you, or vice versa. Truth is. As humans, our greatest purpose is to seek the truth. To say that truth is relative—that what is objectively true for me is different from what is objectively true for you—negates that essential human drive to know truth, to know our Creator, to know where we come from, and to know our reason for being.

At any rate, that’s what I believe.

Love,

Linda K.

Check out Linda’s site at: anchoredvoices.com.

To Pray without Ceasing

Brother Lawrence once wrote: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” That’s easy for a monk to say. What did Brother Lawrence have to do all day but be in “continual conversation with God.” But how does one do that with a full time job, a family, and numerous other commitments, not to mention the struggles of illness and other trials this world throws at us?

In our never-slow-down world, the idea of continually conversing with God seems radical.

And yet, scripture calls us to do what Brother Lawrence suggests. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually,” “pray without ceasing,” or “Never stop praying,” depending on the translation you choose. I love this verse, but I used to have a hard time figuring out how to put it into practice.

Do you think of prayer as the time during which you stop to ask God for all the things you need or want, and tell Him about your family and friends who are sick or in trouble, and plead with Him to fix all your problems? Is this but a brief time after which you get up and go about your day? If so, then you may struggle with the concept of continual conversation with God.

One day it occurred to me that this is the wrong way to think about prayer. Instead, I began to equate prayer to spending time with my best friend. When I spend time with a good friend, we can both be in the same room doing different things and not even talking. But I always know that if I have something to say then my friend will listen. And if my friend says something to me, I will be there to hear.

God’s Word tells me that He is always there for me; He is everywhere and wherever I am. If I always remember that, then I can easily “pray without ceasing.” Wherever I am, if I need someone to talk to He will listen because He is my friend. I also need to be aware that He may have something to say to me, so I should be ready to listen to that “small still voice.” Continual prayer doesn’t require constant words; it requires only continual awareness of the presence of God. In this way, even the busiest life can be sweet and delightful.

The Blessings of an Illness

 

The Bible is full of miraculous healings.

Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted. This is a real part of the Gospel, and it’s the definite work of his Kingdom.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. Obviously it changes life for the sick person, certainly! But it can also boost the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works these wonders today. We must let him do these things. That isn’t an option.

Somehow though, there is the ‘understanding’ that in order to be healed you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, they’re missing out somehow on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up. I wonder though, how much faith was needed to wash in the pool of Siloam in John 5? But really, all that is needed is a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, and ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

For believers today who suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable. I honestly don’t think that’s what the Lord wants.

It seems to me that the real issue is not so much a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed.

I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith that’s needed to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it. I believe that was Paul’s experience (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus. When he greets you in heaven, you will know him by the scars.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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