Things have been going swimmingly well. In the last week, I’ve somehow strung 5-6 good days together. These are some of the first without depression/mania in several months! I feel like I’m on solid ground finally.
I’ve forgotten how good it feels to be normal. Today, I actually looked forward to face the day. I have hope! God’s Spirit is touching me and I sense the presence of Jesus. I have pulled close to him. I still have physical issues, but that doesn’t matter. In Malachi 4:2, “And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture from the stall”. That’s exactly how I feel right now.
I am cautious though. This season may not last. Durability of mood is not exactly part of the Bipolar Disorder package. But, I won’t begrudge a little joy and peace making its way into my life. Besides, as a Christian believer my hope is in a person–Jesus!
I am the King of Fluctuation. Mr. Roller Coaster himself. So bear with me, and pray for me.
Guilt can be a merciless taskmaster that drives us far from God.
Or, guilt can gently lead us back to a right relationship with Him, more fully convinced than ever of the Father’s love. How we respond to guilt today can determine our success in life for years to come. It can even determine where we will spend eternity.
Listening To Our Guilt
The Bible says we are created in God’s image and His glory. This wonderful privilege of bearing His image also holds out the requirement that we live righteous lives. When we do something that conflicts with our sense of right and wrong, an alarming thing happens: we feel guilty. If you are feeling guilty, then this internal moral compass is sounding an alarm indicating that you may have sinned. And sin separates us from God. That’s why it is important to listen carefully to your guilt. Don’t just try to ignore those nagging feelings of moral ill. Listen to your heart. Then determine to find out what’s causing your guilty conscience.
Guilty As Charged
Even as you read these words, you may be coming to a realization of the source of your guilt. Perhaps you have offended someone. Or you have done something you know God did not want you to do. Guilt can arise from things we say and do that directly violate God’s law. Even if we are not familiar with a specific Bible passage, God has given us a law that is written on our hearts and helps us know when we have sinned (Romans 2:15)
True guilt is God’s way of warning us to repent and turn away from our sins so He can forgive us, cleanse us and make us entirely guilt-free. The fact is, the Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Another passage says “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). Guilt is a fact of life because sin is a fact of life. And our sin has the consequences of death (Romans 6:23). But God does not leave you “shut up” under the emotional burden and deadly consequences of sin. He has made a way to break free from our sin and guilt.
God’s Answer For Guilt
God works through everything that happens in our lives, including guilt, to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44, 45; 14:6; Romans 8:28, 29). No matter what you have done, God has made a way home – through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, yet He was willing to die on the cross and receive the punishment we deserved. His death on the cross and triumphant resurrection secures for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness. All you have to do is repent an turn your life over to Jesus (Acts 3:19). This is what the Bible calls being “born again” of the Spirit of God (John 3:3,5). We enter into the born-again experience by repenting of our sin, yielding our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and trusting in faith that He will forgive and cleanse us from all sin (Romans 3:23; 10:13; 1 John 1:8,9; John 1:12).
God’s answer for sin and guilt accomplishes what no amount of human effort could manage. Thanks to the blood of Christ, we can “draw near” to God ” in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience an our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This cleansing is not just a one-time event. Every time the Holy Spirit prompts our spirit that we have sinned, we can return to His throne of grace to receive mercy (Heb. 4:16). If we fail to respond to guilt in repentance, we can expect God to continue to work in our lives until we come to Him in humility. For God desires children who can serve Him with a “clear conscience” (1Tim. 3:9). Having a clear conscience also requires that we walk in humility and repentance towards those around us. Be sure to seek forgiveness and to forgive.
Taking On The Accuser
At times, the enemy of our soul, Satan uses guilt to keep us from the Lord. The Bible describes Satan as the “accuser of the brethren” who appears before God day and night with accusations against believers (see Rev. 12:10). These accusations leave us feeling as if God has not forgiven – or will not forgive – us. We respond in shame, anger, bitterness and depression – which further drives us from God’s presence. This kind of guilt – a guilt that does not leave even after we repent and turn to Jesus for cleansing – is not from God. As we have seen, the blood of Christ fully satisfies God’s righteousness. Thus, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
If you have repented of your sins but still feel the accuser lurking in the shadows, confront the accusations with God’s Word. As Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Walk in that freedom.
As You Pray
God wants to free you from anything that would hinder your full life and liberty in Him. If you are dealing with guilt, choose the path that leads to life; repentance. Then stay on that path by fully accepting God’s forgiveness and cleansing: “Father, I confess my sins to You. Thank You for giving me of every sin I have ever committed. And thank You for releasing me from the burden of guilt. Help me to continue living every day for You. Amen.”
God’s Word On Guilt
“Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, … let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb. 10:19,20,22)
Scriptures For Study (these are worth thinking about)
Romans 6:23 — Wages of sin; gift of God
1 Timothy 4:2 — Effect of lying on our conscience
1 John 1:9 — God’s faithfulness to forgive
Jeremiah 31:34 — No remembrance of sin
John 1:12; 5:24; 8:36 — Belief in Christ delivers from sin
It’s amusing to see how thing get started. I’ve been hearing a lot about “zombies”. It’s crazy, but zombies are now suddenly vogue, and I’m sure they appreciate the publicity, having stalked the landscape for so long without any recognition at all.
But seriously, this new social focal point nails down a real issue: Passivity. I know its a leap, but it seems that that is a real issue in our society. The dictionary defines the word for us, as “the trait of remaining inactive; a lack of initiative.” We are often led to a place where we are to accept the status quo, and even see that as a healthy characteristic.
I see two areas of conflict we have with zombie-fication. One is spiritual, the other mental. Passivity in our Christian walk is quite dangerous. We begin to interpret life as something that acts on us, rather than acting boldly and with assurance, we let everything just roll over us. I’m thinking of Caleb, who in Scriptures is an old man (Joshua 14:11-12). Yet he “demands” to be given the top of a mountain which is under the control of fierce giants.
Such an attitude is not normal. I see Caleb as a florescent marker of the Spirit. You look through history and he sticks out, you can’t hide him. He doesn’t blend in and he certainly doesn’t drift into the cold dark night quietly. He shows up in Numbers 14:24, “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.”
Having a mood disorder like bipolar, passivity is brought to you on a platter. The meds are quite enough to mellow and control all your actions. (I believe in meds, btw). Spiritually, we suffer. It is hard for me to believe in God and worship Him if I have no initiative. I personally find a ferocious battle with myself when ever I try to move closer.
I want to close this out. I just want to point out this “zombie-ifcation syndrome” is real and that it often haunts us as mentally ill people. As a fellow believer in Jesus Christ I must resist and stand for Him. I need to be more aware of these issues, and not become part of the walking dead. Whatever it takes, I want to be alive. Being real, not sedated into a mindless stupor.
Combat veterans, sexual assault survivors, and other victims of trauma are vulnerable to a condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD suffer from a range of symptoms that interfere with their capacities to enjoy normal life.
People who suffered suicidal conditions, particularly conditions that were chronic, recurrent, or included one or more attempts, may also be victims of PTSD. According to its definition, PTSD may result when a person suffers an event or situation that is outside the range of normal experience, exceeds the individual’s perceived ability to meet its demands, and poses a serious threat to the loss of life.
Suicidal people meet the formal criteria for PTSD. Severe and prolonged suicidal pain is not something that most people suffer. People in suicidal crises feel that they are at the breaking point of what they can cope with. Since 30,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States, it is a condition that posesses a serious threat to the loss of life.
Many of us are haunted by memories of acute crises, acts of self-injury, or extended periods of severe depression. Like citizens of a besieged city, we lived through periods of time in which we had a realistic and unrelenting fear that we would soon be dead. We suffer PTSD simply from having been suicidal, independently of whatever particular traumas may have contributed to our becoming suicidal, such as abuse during childhood or exposure to the violent death of someone else. Our “suicide PTSD” is also distinct from whatever traumatic events may happen as a result of being suicidal, such as involuntary hospitalization or job discrimination. Undoubtedly, most of us suffered many types of traumatic events in our lives, and these events and their consequences need to be addressed in recovery. But the suicidal crises themselves may be events that induce PTSD.
The PTSD literature for veterans and sex assault survivors lists conditions that are commonly found among survivors of those types of trauma. Survivors typically have only some of these symptoms, and the severity of a particular symptom may vary from individual to individual. Survivors of different types of traumatic events often have a different range of symptoms. A remarkably large number of these conditions are common among people with long-term histories of suicidal pain:
Problems with memory. Persistent, intrusive, and vivid memories concerning the traumatic situation. Events of daily life may trigger distressing memories related to the trauma. Memory lapses for parts of the traumatic situation. Many suicidal people are troubled by strong images, such as the feeling that they have bombs inside their bodies or a knife over their heads, and in recovery continue to be bothered by the memory of having had these images.
Avoidance of things associated with the traumatic experience.
Denial on the seriousness of the experience.
Fear that the traumatic situation will recur. The trauma is often an event that shatters the survivors’ sense of invulnerability to harm.
Disturbed by the intrusiveness of violent impulses and thoughts.
Engagement in risk-taking behavior to produce adrenaline.
A feeling of being powerless over the traumatic event. Anger and frustration over being powerless.
A feeling of being helpless about one’s current condition.
Being dramatically and permanently changed by the experience.
A sense of unfairness. Why did this happen to me?
Holding oneself responsible for what happened. Feeling guilty.
The use of self-blame to provide an illusion of control. Sexual assault survivors often blame themselves: “If I hadn’t been at that location, worn those clothes, behaved in that way, then it wouldn’t have happened.” This pattern is also found in the survivors of a completed suicide. “If I had only done x, the suicide would not have happened,” can be used to try to cope with the fear that suicide will happen again in the family–i.e., it is preventable if I just manage things differently. The suicidal are often full of self-blame. As in the other cases it is partly due to an internalization of social attitudes that blame the victim or family, and also due to the effort to gain mastery over the situation. To imagine we could have done more is more tolerable than total helplessness.
An inability to experience the joys of life.
Feelings of being alienated from the other people and society in general. “I am different. I am shameful. If they knew what I was like, they would reject me. I don’t belong in this world. I’m a freak, an outcast.”
When people with PTSD try to return to normal life, they are plagued by readjustment problems in the basic elements of life. They have difficulties in relationships, in employment, and in having families.
A lack of caring attachments. A sense of a lack of purpose and meaning.
Some chronically traumatized people lose the sense that they have a self at all.
Veterans report the feeling that they never really made it back from the war. Formerly suicidal people feel they never really made it back to normal life.
One Viet Nam veteran with PTSD said, “I don’t have any friends and I am pretty particular about who I want as a friend.”
PTSD was aggravated for Viet Nam veterans because they returned to a country that had negative attitudes toward them. For sexual assault survivors, stigmatization is the “second injury”.
When Viet Nam veterans returned home people were angry at them. They had shamed the country, they had done something wrong, they were potentially harmful to others, it was dangerous to be with them. Sexual assault survivors may receive angry responses–on the grounds that they have done something that shames the family. Suicide attempters often experience great anger from family and care providers.
A deep distrust of co-workers, employers, authorities.
Left with unexpressed rage against those who were indifferent to their situation and who failed to help them.
In personal relationships there are problems of dependency and trust. A fear of being abandoned, betrayed, let down. A belief that people will be hurtful if given a chance. Feelings of self-hatred and humiliation for being needy, weak, and vulnerable. Alternating between isolation and anxious clinging.
Trauma often causes the victim to view the world as malevolent, rather than benign.
No sense of having a future, or, the belief that one’s future will be very limited.
Feel that they belong more to the dead than to the living.
The feeling of having a negative “Midas touch”–everything I get involved with goes bad.
Loss of self-confidence, and loss of feelings of mastery and competence.
A resistance to efforts to change a maladaptive world view that results from the trauma.
A mistrust of counselors’ ability to listen.
People who suffered traumatic experiences as children, teenagers, or young adults may simultaneously become prematurely aged and developmentally arrested. A part of them “feels old”. Another part feels stuck at the age they had when the trauma occurred.
PTSD can be worse if the sufferer experiences the trauma as an individual rather than as a member of a group of people who are suffering the same situation. Unlike earlier wars in which units went overseas together and returned together, in Viet Nam each soldier had an individual DEROS (Date of Expected Return from Overseas). This reduced unit cohesiveness; each soldier experienced the war from an individual point of view. Suicidal people experience their near-death situation with extreme isolation. They see their conditions as being completely unique – “terminal uniqueness”. They have no sense of identification with others.
The severity of PTSD symptoms tends to increase with the severity and duration of the trauma.
The use of alcohol or drugs to cope with the PTSD symptoms.
Attempts to do things to gain a feeling of mastery over the traumatic situation, e.g., become a volunteer on a hotline.These kinds of conditions may be found again and again in the chronically suicidal. Upon reflection, it should not be surprising that we should suffer PTSD. Many of us suffered from suicidal pain for years – and years – and years. The idea of dying is terrifying. We recoil at thoughts of dying by automobile accident, plane crash, murder, cancer, AIDS, drowning, suffocation. The idea of dying violently simply by forces generated from within ourselves is in some ways almost too horrible to apprehend. How could anyone survive such a prolonged siege of pain and terror – and remain unaffected? Survivors of traumatic experiences are often told, “It’s in the past. Forget about it and get on with your life,” “Why can’t you just forget about all that, and enjoy life like a normal person?” If we could simply “get on with life”, they would have done it. PTSD helps explain why it is so hard for the chronically suicidal to recover. Because we were suicidal, we subsequently suffered many of the conditions associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions are serious problems in their own right; they are formidable barriers in the recovery process.We can heal from the original trauma, and we can heal from the PTSD conditions that have plagued us since the trauma. The basic steps of PTSD recovery programs provide helpful guidelines:
an environment that is physically and emotionally safe
treatment for addictive behaviors
patience: PTSD recovery takes time
restore sense of mastery
rest and relaxation
recall the traumatic event(s) in small steps
gradually assimilate painful feelings and memories
In a support group we have a chance to talk about our suicidal histories without the fear that we will be taken to a hospital for doing so. We can talk about the isolation, the fears, the pain, the confusion, the acts of self-injury, the behavior of others that was stigmatizing, denying, abusive, the horrible sense of estrangement that exists when you are in a terrible situation and there is no one who understands what you are going through, the hatred and contempt for oneself and the world, the debilitating sense of personal weakness. We see that we are not alone. We do not have the seriousness of our condition minimized, denied, or belittled. With time, the pain abates and the troublesome PTSD symptoms diminish.