Tag Archives: compassionate love

Safe at Last!

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2012  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

mwmzzmcThe car was large and brown. That’s all the recollection I have besides the shape and blurred face of a man calling me from the driver’s seat.

I was walking home from Kindergarten by myself, a three-quarter mile stroll I was rarely in a hurry to complete. Swinging a little bag with each step, observing the surrounding world, I became aware of a car following me.

It was going the speed of a sauntering five year-old, and after a few minutes pulled up alongside.

“Hey little girl, you want a ride?” The man was leaning to face me.

“No” I said. “I’m almost home.”

“C’mon, I’ll take you there faster.”  

“No.” This time I was less surprised and more wary.

He said something about my mother in an angrier tone.  “Get in, I’ll take you to her.” 

Earlier in the school year, a program called “Block Homes” was begun as a safety net for children walking home from school. Parents who were willing to provide safe havens placed a sign in a front window indicating this was an escape route for kids facing an emergency. There was one such home on each block.

I began to look at the fronts of houses and found a Block Home sign.  I remember ignoring the man as his car continued to creep and he begged. Upon reaching the sign, I turned to walk up the steps. Suddenly the car took on speed and disappeared around the corner, negating the need for me to even ring the doorbell.

Chances are he knew where I lived and thought I was impertinent. That is one of a few times my stronger-willed attitude has saved my life. 

Until adulthood, I never told anyone what had occurred. It was one of many little secrets held in for years because in my view there wasn’t anyone safe to tell.

Safe:

  • A place to store valuables
  • Not in harm’s way physically
  • A sense of no fear
  • Comfortable

Until recently, these were the only definitions I knew. However, when it comes to having or being a support in times of  struggle, we may add:

  • A person who demonstrates trustworthiness in several key areas.

We all need safe people in our lives. Most us of want to be such a person for our loved ones. Discovering or maintaining this kind of safety begins with gaining knowledge and insight.

The Block Home parents presumably understood the lurking dangers of childhood. It’s likely there had been recent frightening crimes and the program was kicked into gear for that reason. They put out signs sending the message,  I am available. You can trust me. You are safe here.

Compassionate love is patient and kind, does not keep a record of wrongs, and rejoices in the truth. Any of us seeking emotional shelter will do well to look for these signals. We protect our own well-being by being choosy of whom we trust.

Wanting to be supportive means proactively becoming and remaining safe so that no one has to suffer alone behind a wall of secrets.

                                                  Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13: 4-6

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

 

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

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pics from rgbstock.com

Have You Counted Your Friends Lately?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

cropped-photo-24765818-man-with-their-arms-putting-on-the-shoulder-of-one-another.jpg

Have you counted your friends lately? I don’t mean the crowd on your Facebook friends list. It’s not the acquaintances you see at church every Sunday, or coworkers with whom you share gripes about the boss who will be there for you at your loneliest hour. Peripheral friends – those fun and wonderful people in your social circle – no, I’m not talking about them, either.

Have you counted your friends lately?

Those who through time, effort, struggle, joy, and shared experiences have bonded so close to your own soul that you know peace when you are with them, are the friends to count. In these hard-earned friendships there is no fear, and trust is not an issue for even the most jaded heart.

Confidence has been earned by saving each other’s lives repeatedly.

Don’t tell my mom!  Keep this between us, ok?  Can you pick me up (in the middle of the night)? I’m crying so hard I can’t see. Thanks for not leaving me when I was at my worst. Yes, I’ll drop everything, where do you need me?

Have you counted your friends lately?

These are the ones you think to contact when there is good news, a funny joke, or a spurt of energy. They are few in number – maybe 2 or 3 at the most. They have your back. They will be there at the funerals and in the hospital, at the bedside, and on the phone. They reach out to you when you are hiding from the world.  You make mistakes and know they laugh with you, never at you. You do the same for them. 

Have you counted your friends lately?

You are blessed if you have them. If not, start by being a friend. Take your time, allow relationship to develop naturally, be trustworthy, and develop your strength of character. 

I’ve counted my friends lately, and I’m grateful. I am blessed indeed.

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

 

The Importance of Self-Care: A Lesson Worth Learning

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2016 Nancy Virden

photo-24799824-happy-businesswomanYou rush in the mornings, defer to customers and bosses all day, or perhaps children and home front demands surround you. You may need to compromise with your spouse in the evenings, meet volunteerism duties, and go to bed late catching up on bills. Saturdays fill up with chores, Sundays with church, and then you are back into your week. 

Whew! You might ask, “Where is time for me?”

Perhaps you may wish the life described above were possible.  Chronic illness stifles your body or mind. A disability prevents you from work. Maybe a mental or behavioral challenge such as depression affects your ability to function. Your question might be, “Why take time for me?” 

Most of my life I did not understand the concept of self-care. It seemed out-of-place, irrelevant, and selfish. I did not know a healthy routine of sleep, eating, hygiene, and relaxing is considered self-care. In my understanding, any word or phrase that started with “self” was probably bad.

During the metamorphosis of thoughts and beliefs that occurred under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,  self-care drew my interest. 

Until that time I had seen major depressive episodes as events that happened to me. I thought I was helpless against their destruction. As a suicide attempt survivor, to not learn management of such “attacks” meant certain death. Avoiding self-care was reckless. 

photo-24758778-vector-image-of-green-arrow-and-blue-bar-graph.Each small step of self-care led to another and then another. My brain began to react to the positive fuel it received. Action eventually changed thoughts, which influenced emotion,  which slowly picked away at false beliefs.

That is why self-care is important. From meeting minor physical needs, to developing a healthy routine, to allowing for fun – self-care changes one’s mindset.

Putting self-care at the top of our list makes us more healthy and capable of living as who we want to be. Compassionate love for oneself is not selfish. Without it,  self-neglect may  toss us out of the game altogether.  Certainly, we are better equipped to care for others.

You matter too!  

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  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 can be yours.

 

Why and How Would I Forgive that %&*$# ? Part Two

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-26058297In my opinion, the most difficult person to forgive is the one who is currently and repeatedly causing harm. Frustration can be insurmountable trying to deal with an offender who ignores our voice or pleas to stop. It may be appropriate to use the term “abuser” to describe this person who is operating under the assumption of power and control.

Someone once said to me that the first step toward recovery and healing from abuse is to stop the abuse. When physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, spiritual, or financial abuse is occurring, it must be stopped.

How are we supposed to forgive a person like that? Should we?

We have examples of such amazing spirit in the lives and deaths of people who suffered while forgiving those who brought them harm. One hundred years ago, minutes before her death, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna prayed for those who were about to kill her. Earlier she had forgiven the murderer of her husband.*

What about now? Photos of Hutus and Tutsis, the two warring cultures whose acts of genocide killed millions of people in Rwanda, show survivors from both sides standing together 20 years later forming a new interdependent society. Pascale Kavanaugh began to care for her abuser in 2010 after the woman suffered strokes that left her helpless. Pascale sat by her mother, her enemy, and read to her. Through this experience, Pascale’s hatred changed to love and forgiveness.**

This type of struggle is familiar to me. Because my family of origin was unhealthy, I have had to address this position of forgiving while being hurt. Of course your issues are unknown to me. What I can point out is what I have learned in the process.

  1. It is sometimes necessary to leave. No one can tell another when it is time to end a relationship. I had to learn my value before I could say goodbye to toxic people. However, abuse is never ok, and you can seek help from a number of community and religious organizations.
  2. It can help to see the offender as human.  Jesus is the epitome of understanding this as he asked God to forgive those who were killing him, “because they do not know what they were doing.” ***
  3. It can help to accept that this person may not change. Much of my pain in harmful relationships has been caused by a lingering hope that tomorrow or next month, or after some event, the offender will soften. These pipe dreams kept me stuck in damaging holding patterns.
  4. It is helpful to let go of the woulda-couldas.  If only the past would change, I thought, then everything would be okay. But it won’t. Harm has been done, pain is reality, thinking about regrets only injures us more. Today’s option is moving forward. We know who and where we once were, but do we know who we want to be? We can go for what we want.
  5. It is a relief to believe that God  is the offender’s judge and we can leave behind any desire for revenge or vindication.
  6. It is important to forgive the right person. I have found it impossible to forgive someone who hurt me when deep inside I was actually blaming myself.
  7. Return good for evil. This does not mean to become or perpetrate an attitude of passive slave or door mat! However, by practicing kindness with boundaries, I have felt my heart become free of resentment. Jesus said to pray for our enemies.

Why forgive? Because it empties our hearts of bitterness. How to forgive? By extending kindness and mercy. No one promises this is easy.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  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 can be yours.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

*A Russian Orthodox Church Website Orthodox Christianity and the World http://www.pravmir.com Great Examples of Forgiveness file:///C:/Users/nancy/Downloads/great-examples-of-forgiveness%20(1).pdf

**By Jane Claire Hervey http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/extreme-forgiveness/ A Mending Feud   and The Unexpected Caregiver

Why and How Would I Forgive that %&*$# ? Part One.

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

images (17)The longer you refuse to let something go, the longer you are chained to it.

We think we are in control when we hang on to hurt and blame. It is our anger, we want to own it!  We have the right to be angry because we were maltreated, our lives were ruined, and we were damaged. Because of someone else’s actions or inaction, we have suffered. How dare they? We have every reason to hold them in contempt, darn it!

Picture walking a big dog down the street. It is untrained, and is dragging you into yards and traffic. It smells another dog’s presence and forces you into a race. Later, you could claim you took the dog for a walk.  In the end of your version of the story you come out on top. You are the owner, the one who is right, and the dog is victimizing you by making your walks challenging.

Theoretically only, one of your options on the walk is to let go of the leash. Truth is, if you gave the dog freedom to run away your physical battle would be over. Later, your story could be that you once owned the dog, it made walks challenging, and so you let it go. How powerful you really are! Now you are free of the animal and the trouble that came with it.

In a similar way, letting the person or persons who brought you pain ‘off the leash’ so to speak, frees you from the mental difficulties that come with holding on. This does not mean they get off scot-free from wrongdoing, so please allow me to explain what I mean by ‘let go.’

Lawfully and morally, if someone commits a crime against another they ought to receive the punishment due them. Bringing legal charges against such a person protects you and perhaps others from further harm. With that said, you and I know there are deeper issues to wrestle in matters of forgiveness.

What does hanging on to anger look like?

  1. Thinking about the offense
  2. Thinking about the resulting harm
  3. Thinking about blame

For years I tried to forgive a person who lied to get what he wanted. His choices uprooted my life in significant ways. Whenever the consequences of his actions confronted me, I took a wrong versus right stance with me being right, of course. The events played in my memory as I searched for anything I may have missed.

A list of harm done became longer as life continued to unfold consequences. When his name came up I thought about him with disdain and distrust. How dare he get that promotion? How could other people be so blind? He is lucky I don’t go to his superiors. 

I felt powerful in my resentment. Yet because of my spiritual training, knew it was an obligation to forgive him. By trying to do so, I managed to conjure up moments of good feelings toward the man, but they were all temporary and required much effort. Before long, old thoughts and feelings would rise.

How does hanging on to anger feel?

  1. Depressed mood.
  2. Fear
  3. Paralysis
  4. Continued pain

Whether or not depression in this case becomes clinical is not the point; we are not happy when caught up in an anger cycle. In my case jealousy grew. I wondered what was wrong with me and questioned how did this lying %^&$* have success and I not?

Fear blossomed. Maybe doing the right thing never works out. Maybe I’m incapable. Maybe it will happen to me again. Maybe I cannot trust anyone. In part, this fear paralyzed me in relationships and goal-setting. In some ways it restrained me from reaching out. All the while,  continuing to blame this fellow for my difficulties fed pain in my heart.

And I felt powerful in my bitterness.

The dog was pulling me into alleys and dark tunnels. Blinded because of not forgiving this man, I lost sight of a few important things. His action altered my life temporarily while my choice to hang on to the offense helped to cripple me for years.

Stay tuned to part two of this series.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  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 can be yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

Don’t Do This When Your Loved One is Depressed

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

On a good day, how do you like it when...photo-24786491-old-man-seriously-pointing

  • Your boss says, “You could work faster, you’re just lazy” 
  • Your spouse slams a door, and hollers. 
  • Your friend makes his point repeatedly to coerce you to think as he does ?

On a good day, where do your thoughts go when…

photo-24710174-neon-pink-girl-points

  • Your friends do not include you in their plans
  • Your spouse does not respond when you are sick
  • People try to “fix” you
  • Your character is attacked

Imagine then, how all this is not helpful in a struggling person’s depression.

At present I’m disappointed in a friend. I thought he was above badgering, refusing to listen, and falsely accusing.

An emotionally  fragile young man struggled with suicidal thinking. My friend told him his depression was the result of sin. The young man told him the accusation was making him feel more hopeless.  

As my friend sent text after text to the man in distress, he was unaware I was on the phone listening to the young man’s growing hurt and despair. When I confronted my friend on his carelessness at a dangerous time, he turned on me. He said I was selfish, and unwilling to help the young man (for money nonetheless, but that’s another story!).

photo-24723911-tensed-businessman-sitting-on-chair.

Why would we assume a depressed person wants to hear our quick-fix opinions?

Most of us are not mental health professionals, and none of us have all the answers no matter how much we think we know.  It is inappropriate to diagnose and offer cures when we do not understand the complexities of another person’s brain and issues.

At the very least, we can withhold judgment and a berating tone. Listening to what a depressed person says they need is important.

Compassionate love, as well as common sense,  places safety above opinions.  

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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 can be yours.

“I’ll Pray for You” Can Be a Weapon in the Hands of Control-Freaks

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24790069-two-upset-womenControl-freak. It’s a less offensive way of saying rude, obnoxious, power-hungry, micro-managing, nosy, selfish, obstinate, disrespectful, unmerciful, and thoughtless.  

We’ve all met them –  the man or woman who always has some judgment to make whether pleasant or not-so-pleasant. Even billowy praises are meant to hold you to their standards.

Each time you see them they comment about you, your work, your lifestyle, your home, your friends, your character, or your decisions. For example, one day “Oh, you look nice!” and the next “You wore that?” Little goes unnoticed.

It’s a constant dripping of approval and disapproval.

Unfortunately, control-freaks attend churches, assume leadership, and do much damage to the body of Christ. From attendance-takers to treasurers, I’ve seen control-freaks make life miserable for everyone else.

“I’ll pray for you” can be said in a tone of approval or disapproval. Picture hands on hips, head cocked sideways, a barely disguised condescension in the voice, “Oh, I’ll pray for you!

It’s as if the offer itself is an attempt at influencing one’s behavior. Sometimes “I’ll pray for you” is simply a dismissal because prayer is not on the agenda of the one promising it.

We are all complex and do and say hurtful things to each other. Usually though, we are not driven by a need to control those around us. Most of us know how to apologize and adjust. Control-freaks will not do that or only superficially. 

We do not all struggle with mental illness challenges, but I’d like to think that followers of Christ will not be carriers. Control-freaks can eat away at one’s self-confidence and sense of wellbeing. 

Compassionate love among those of us who pray, does not seek to control but peacefully gives concerns to God and leaves them there. Compassionate love is humble, and accepts that only God knows what everyone else needs to do.  

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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 can be yours.

* pictures from Qualitystockphotos.com

Questionable Reactions to Depressed Loved Ones

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

I have to admit, I’m angry. Someone I love is depressed. This person is getting lambasted on Facebook to increase his faith, give it to God, fight the devil, and step up his game.

It’s been suggested not so subtly that failure to feel better is equal to losing a spiritual battle, and that he might not go to heaven.

I write so would-be supports may learn how to lovingly support a majorly depressed person. It’s discouraging to see how many people insist their way is right as they go about causing more pain.

So, here it is once again.

  • A young woman jilted a young man I know. He grew despondent and spoke of suicide. His mother told him, “Don’t play that suicide card with me!”
  • Tamarra attempted suicide again. According to her father it was only a gesture and didn’t mean anything.
  • Henry thinks he’s a loser because his attempt at suicide “failed.” Nevermind no suicide is a “success.” His depression runs dangerously deep.

What responses might be more helpful for these hurting people?

The mother told me she knows her son and what to say. I believe she knows her son; I also believe she does not have a healthy respect for the dangers of depression or suicide. Telling someone to basically be quiet when they express such despair is insensitive at best. People in emotional pain tend to shut down when their feelings are dismissed.

Tamarra’s experience is an example of this truth. Being ignored drove Tamarra deeper into hopelessness and frustration. Like each of us, she longed to know she mattered.

Henry is freshly retired. He feels pinned to the couch by his major depression. Negativity in his ill brain distorts his reasoning. His wife demands more than he can give, and this reinforces his belief that he is a write-off.

Being with persons who are in severe emotional pain, without judgment or answers, is the best way to let them know they are wanted. Platitudes and lectures are not encouraging to a majorly depressed person, and can sound like condemnation. So if you are doing these things, quit it, please.

When the person I love becomes healthier is when he will be able to address spiritual issues. Right now, he needs to be embraced as-is both for his safety and to prevent him from isolation. His life depends on having someone around who he can trust will not accuse or verbally attack him.  

People in pain hear the language of love when logic has left them dry. Sigh. It’s frustrating. Many supports will not learn this lesson and will go on their merry way telling deaf people what to hear.

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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 can be yours.

-pictures from Qualitystockphotos.com

*names have been changed

Afraid to Be Me. James’ Story

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

Stigma is a chosen ignorance. Stigma doesn’t only affect people with mental illness. 

James is a young adult who came out aphoto-24765824-two-young-men-having-a-conversations gay a few years ago. In some circles, James is not welcome. 

I met a young woman in rehab trying to break the cycle of self-sabotage. She cried as she described the LGBT community. “They accept me, and support me when I’m sick or out of a job.”

I asked about church and she scoffed. “Yeah, no.”

I’ve been to conventions, on radio programs, in churches, and in schools. In each venue I witness some form of prejudice, judgment, and hypocrisy. I’ve seen far fewer people in church settings willing to be vulnerable in public than in other places.

There is a reason so many of the LGBT community are angry at so-called Christians who throw around the word “abomination” so freely. In the same scripture  slander and gossip and abuse are listed as abominations in the eyes of God. Some Bible readers glance over their own blatant hatred to focus on someone else’s issues. (Can we say “plank in the eye?”)

This is the one reason we won’t see James in church very soon. This is why the young woman will not visit our church outreach programs.

James said, “I didn’t realize what was happening until I started thinking about me and my life. The assistant pastor has been a father figure and I want him to be proud of me. I think I let him down by being gay. I’m afraid to acknowledge my homosexuality among  people who actually care about me. I’m not afraid of being rejected because I know my friends are going to stick by me no matter what –  they’ve all proved that in their own way. I just don’t know how much of me they accept. Mostly I’ve just held it all in, afraid to be me.”

Whether in hospitals or support groups, we who live with mental illness understand that the reason we are receiving treatment is to save our skin.  There is an unspoken bond between people who have fought the same battles. I venture to guess James’ vulnerability in a support group, or maybe even in a hospital would be met with empathy. There, no one boos. No one throws rocks. No one judges.  

However, in a church he will likely be met with an agenda. We can save this man. James needs people who will love him because he is James. James exists = James deserves acceptance and love.

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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.

 – pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

A Good Friday Digression from the Usual

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

By Pastor Todd Pruitt at Church of the Saviour in Wayne. PA,  March 6, 2011

photo-25665907-2172014-holy-easter-05Jesus did not come to be a good moral example.  Jesus did not come to be a revolutionary.  Jesus  did not come to fix all my hurts. 

Jesus came to solve my greatest problem.

Our greatest problem is not our spouse, or lack of a spouse. Our greatest problem is not our kids or our parents. Our greatest problem is not our job, our employer, or employees. Our greatest problem is not money or lack of money.

Our greatest problem is, and always has been our sin.

It is the ugliest enemy I face every day. My sin. It is the worst problem you deal with at any given moment. Your sin. It is the worst problem I have. It deceives me, it battles me, it lies to me, it tempts me. And there was a day when it condemned me utterly before a Holy God.

Jesus came to save us from our sin.

Now, that’s Compassionate Love.

Have a peaceful Good Friday

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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.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com