Tag Archives: 12-step

God Does Not Waste Pain On Us

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

woman raising her right hand
Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

God does not waste pain on us. For me, it took despair and suicide attempts to discover value in living. Those ruins of loss and struggle have become building blocks for the restructuring of joy and the real me.

A man named Paul wrote half of the Bible’s New Testament. He also strained against something he figuratively called “a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he prayed for it to go away. God’s answer was that it was through Paul’s weakness that God would prove himself to be enough to keep Paul going.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Do you think anyone in Paul’s time, or even Paul would have imagined that the persistence of his “thorn” would become a powerful lesson reaching countless numbers of people for two thousand years?

We do not always know why we suffer. For most of five re-building years following my dive into major depression, I tried to make sense of personal value and purpose. Remembering Paul, my broken spirit almost daily asked God, “Can my thorn also be a blessing? Will you ever allow me to help other people again?”

One afternoon at a 12-step meeting, a young woman shared that she was trying to escape the trauma of being raped multiple times by her youth pastor.

An inward nudge from Jesus’ Holy Spirit pushed me to go talk to her. We were strangers, yet she searched my eyes in desperation.

“Why did God send him?” she said. “Why did he send a man of God to rape me?”

She could not be free from the chain of addiction and self-medication until she was free of her deepest anguish.  It was not the horrific memories nor lack of safety that had her bound. It was fear that she had lost the God she had always known to be good. 

Referencing the Bible book of Matthew (chapter 7, verses 15,16), I said, “Have you heard about wolves in sheep’s clothing?”

“Yes!” She rose in her chair. “Is that what happened?”

“He was not a man of God.” I said. “He was a liar and a wicked man who used the church to cover evil. God loves you. He did not send that man to rape you.”

“Really? He was not a man of God?” Her eyes were wide.

“No. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

If I could ever find words to describe the scene playing out in her eyes- it was as clear as a movie. From desperate fear and searching to flickers of hope,  then wide-eyed wonder and finally, freedom.

The timing that day was perfect, and the God who knows all hearts used my unsteady one to speak life to her dying one. In one moment, the Restorer of souls fashioned ruins into life-giving shelter.

Stone hearts become flesh again, human weakness is covered by divine strength, spiritual poverty becomes wealth in faith. Chains turn into testimonies, lost is found, damned is saved, and pieces of shattered minds are Tenderly gathered by the Savior.

This is what Jesus does for people. This is his amazing grace.

Your ruins have purpose in the Master Builder’s hands. If you are willing to be free,  God will incorporate all that is broken into formation of the you he always intended.

Today’s Helpful Word  

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 

Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -Paul



NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

C’mon, No One Can Actually Be Addicted to Food… Right?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

ottugq0I liked food, that’s all. It wasn’t as though other people did not enjoy food, they just did not like it as much as I did.

I liked it so much I would eat it when it was stale, dirty, frozen, or still sizzling from the pan. It was so enjoyable I stole, sneaked, and hid it. When nothing “good” was in the refrigerator I settled for condiments and sugar from the bowl.

Local delivery was my best friend, especially when no one else knew about it. Binges of pizza, wings, and chinese were not unusual. I used money intended for my family on extra groceries and trips in the middle of the night for fast food.

This was not addiction or even gluttony. I just liked food.

If a person stood between me and eating (the clerk at the store who was slow, the church member who took the last goody at the potluck, my children who wanted my attention), I grew angry. Most of them didn’t know I resented their interference. Anger unexpressed can lead to depression, and I needed food to feel better.

Questions raged. Why is my husband asleep so I have to deal with the children during “me” time? How come this church member won’t stop talking so I can get over to the casseroles? How dare anyone ask anything of me when it’s time to eat? Anger at friends, at acquaintances, at strangers, at family –  it all made sense to me. After all, I liked food more than they did. They couldn’t understand.

Everyone who did not overeat, or at least did not become fat, were that way because they had easier lives. Their upbringing had been happy- or at least not as bad as mine.  Their current families were near perfect. Maybe they were in denial! Yes, that was it. Normal eaters did not need support because they thought everything was fine.

Not me. I knew I was a victim of circumstance.  Maybe some normal eaters had other vices. If they were good Christians they would not indulge in unhealthy habits. I thanked God I was not like them.

Interventions of any kind were viewed as personal attacks and prejudice. Oh, I knew I was overweight. However, well over 300 pounds wasn’t that heavy. Food was not my problem, it was my solution.  All I needed was exercise and a good diet.

So I tried. On numerous occasions food was set aside and I lost weight. See?  I could stop anytime I wanted to. Yet each victory was followed by regaining what had been lost plus more. Eventually it was clear that reaching 400 pounds only required one more diet.

I did not address the mental obsession.

Each morning, my first thought was, “What can I eat today?” All day long my thoughts centered on plotting the next snack, the next meal. Finishing a dish was a letdown, so comforting ideas around how soon to eat again took over. If no one was watching, it was seconds and thirds immediately. Otherwise I would wait. And resent.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as food addiction… right?

Huge blocks of time and memory are missing. While some of that may be due to trauma or depression, I suspect a few stories are lost under a fog of food obsession. How can an addict notice the present when all he or she cares about is the next fix?

When loneliness hit,  resentment covered the fact I was not reaching out. People didn’t love me well enough. Their failure was  reason to eat. In response to feeling alone, I stayed home to eat. People were kept at a distance because I trusted no one, so  I ate. Food was a faithful companion.

If you know anything about drug, alcohol, or other “understood” addictions, you recognize the description. Life was about the fix, the escape. Health was a low priority.

Finally, a therapist insisted I go to treatment. Rehab. For liking food.

My first days there I ate what ever was in sight. Then a thought changed my focus. Very few people can afford this opportunity. God has provided this once in a lifetime chance. Will I take advantage of his gift or throw it away in defiance?

In the treatment center I learned life does not demand overeating. Denial fell away. For the first time I admitted to addiction.

Dieticians introduced a food plan I could live with. Life changing decisions were made to end negative cycles. Once home, for the next year emotions challenged my ability to cope because my “drug” was gone. The food plan, basically a plan of eating developed by a nutritionist, saved the day.

Oh the payoff! Abstinence (not indulging in compulsive eating) means I do not have to think about food. My mornings can be filled with praise to God and plans for the day. No cravings demand my attention because meals and appropriate snacks are already decided.

I focus on conversations and am getting to know my friends better. Instead of eyeing the food at a potluck, it is people I think about and how to bless them in some way.  I accept every interference to compulsive eating as a gift.

Abstinence, sobriety, staying clean – all depend on support from a Higher Power and others in recovery. This is why I turn to Jesus and attend 12-step meetings. History proves I am powerless to handle recovery on my own.

As surely as an alcoholic cannot have one more drink or the drug addict one more high, mental obsession will eventually return me to a hopeless state if I take one bite of a “trigger” food. No flavor is worth that. I like peace best.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 14:27   NIV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (Jesus)



NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– pic by bretz on rgbstock.com




The Courage to Change the Things I Can

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-26229816-1119202014-holiday-cats-11Cinnamon the cat was a few weeks old when he was given to my youngest son. As he grew, his favorite game was hide-n-seek (Ok, that could be my son or the cat).

Cinnamon’s form of the game was to squeeze under chairs and bat at passing feet. For fourteen years, we didn’t know when those paws would catch us.

Cinnamon could be a fighter. One day, the neighbor’s German Shepherd saw Cinnamon crossing under the fence and into the dog’s territory. Within seconds, the scene was a little yellow cat, back arched, hissing at a crazily barking and threatening opponent ten times his size. I called to Cinnamon, but of course he could not leave his spot at the moment, so I called out to the dog’s owner.

It wasn’t necessary. The dog hovered just a little too close above Cinnamon’s head and out flew those kitty paws. “Yelp!” One swipe of his claws across the big beast’s nose and the cat was home free.

It had seemed from the outside that the little guy was sure to lose that battle. However, Cinnamon had the courage to change odds to his favor. If he had not acted, only God knows what would have been the end to this story.

Far from that day both in time and distance, a small circle of faces take turns glancing about the room then staring at the floor. Feet shuffle; one can hear the occasional cough or cleared throat. Sincere hellos break the silence with each new entrance. Metal folding chairs are squeezed more closely together to make room- there is always space for one more. Strangers and regular attenders alike are welcome.

Precisely on the hour, someone greets everyone with a smile. “This is a meeting of _______Anonymous. I am_______and I will be your leader tonight. Are there any other [addicts] here besides me?”

The title of this post is the second line of the famous Serenity Prayer, read and quoted and lifted to God in desperate hope during anonymous meetings around the globe. Quality decisions are made to deal with life on life’s terms as people in the process of change practice courage.

Elsewhere, in a small office, several volunteers stuff donation requests into envelopes with hope of raising enough cash to make a significant difference for their cause. A church basement across town is a scene of organized chaos as bags of clothes, toys, and food are sorted and prepared for giving to the poor. Across the oceans, courage rallies to bring clean water to whole villages.

Cinnamon might have thought himself a lion. People trying to build new lives are probably less sure of themselves. Having courage to change what we can for the human race may mean giving up something we want. There will always be the ferocious and scary looming over our heads, we are only in charge of our response.

We have the claws to fight back. Discovering how to use them is brave.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com