Tag Archives: Easter

The Day Our Battles Were Won

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

sky sunset person silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Resurrection Sunday, is the day on which Christianity hinges. Well, not actually the day, but rather the Lord, who rose from the dead on that day 2000 years ago.

Jesus had been betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried on Friday.  Early on Sunday morning, some women disciples went to the tomb only to discover he was no longer there!

One in particular, Mary of Magdala, met the resurrected Jesus. At first she mistook the Savior of the world for a gardener. When Jesus called her by name, she knew.

He sent her to tell the 12 main disciples. Mary of Magdala was the first evangelist in history.

Think on that for a moment. What we know of Mary the Magdalene is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. She was not someone our modern churches might first think of when choosing a representative. However, Jesus did.

To be clear, despite some famous secularized books, movies, and nonsense guesses, Jesus had no girlfriend.  Mary the Magdalene was one of thousands of people Jesus healed in his ministry. Many believed in him. Many walked with him on his travels. Many more did not.

Jesus lived a sinless life. How? He was God’s only birth-son. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he became an embryo. In a mystery we cannot understand, Jesus was fully God and fully man.

When sinless Jesus died on the cross, he took on his body, mind, and spirit the sins of everyone who would ever live who would trust him as their Savior and spiritual king. He carried the cumulative guilt with which we pummel ourselves and others. He felt the deep darkness of our shame By that, he defeated the father of lies, the accuser. 

Once we sincerely ask Jesus to be our Savior and ask forgiveness for our sin, the devil (yes, Satan is real),  tries to heap all that back on us. As the chief of liars and a skilled accuser,  if he can bury us under guilt and shame we will never reach the potential Jesus created in us.

When Jesus rose to life again, he wiped out our powerlessness against the devil’s strategies. He defeated death itself, and set us free to place our hope in eternal life.

No wonder Mary of Magdala wept when she saw him alive again. We can, if we will, drop the guilt and shame of our past and move forward as children of the King.  This is not to say that a believer’s life will be easy. 

The 12 disciples reacted to Mary’s report with doubt. They had to look for themselves to see if what she claimed was real. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who believe and yet do not see.”

You do not have to run and search for proof of anything.  Faith is not sight.  Jesus will reveal himself to you if you choose to take him at his word.

Today is the day Jesus won all our battles.

Today’s Helpful Word  

Hebrews 2:14-18

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,  so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

 

**** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

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 struggling emotionally today or 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.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

 

An Ancient Lesson for Today’s Mental Health

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Once there was a fellow sitting in prison awaiting his fate. His name was Barabas. He was a murderer, an insurrectionist against Rome at a time the Roman Empire occupied  Jerusalem. 

One day, he heard shouts outside his prison walls. “Barabas! Crucify him! Crucify him!” Naturally, this must have frightened him. However, Barabas was taking these words out of context.

You see, the trial of Jesus Christ was occurring at that moment. The governor asked the crowd,  “Who do want me to hand over to you – Barabas or Jesus?” 

The crowd shouted, “Barabas!”

The next question was, “What do you want me to do with this man (referring to Jesus)? 

The crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Does not out-of-context language affect us today? The loudest voices in the media are heard regardless what anyone else is trying to say.  Social media hollers rumors while many people gladly repeat them. We must be careful to dig deeper for those answers that will actually reveal the whole story.

Mental health in context

Yesterday I was in a group where one person expressed concern for a relative who is struggling with depression. This person was offering advice to their loved one saying, “I don’t want you to go to some doctor. They will just throw meds at you.” 

My gentle suggestion that depression can be serious was met with a louder, snappier, “They will just throw drugs at the situation.”  Most likely, at one time this person heard or witnessed a story when mental health medications did not help.

Facts, out of context. 

Medications do not always help for a variety of complex reasons. For more information see my blog 3 Reasons Why Medication Does Not Always Help. Yet this is only one area of mental health treatment that is misunderstood.

People go without treatment because loud stigma rings in their ears. Suffering lasts longer and occurs more frequently in cases of untreated or undertreated depression. Typical treatment  does not always involve meds, yet often does. I urge you to take the time to proactively learn more. 

Context  matters

Barabas was actually set free the day he heard, “Barabas! Crucify him!”  Regardless if it’s about Christian beliefs, politics, someone’s reputation, or any other issue, the truth is in the whole story. Soundbites and stigma help no one. 

If you want to know more about Barabas and Jesus’ trial, click here.

Today’s Helpful Word

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise
brings healing. 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

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 are yours.

 

Peeps, Chocolate Bunnies, and Jesus. Yep, It’s Easter in America!

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

Two days ago, I bought each of my very grownup sons a chocolate rabbit and a box of peeps. Then I proceeded to look at those treats with coveting eyes. 

Eyeing the chocolate overcame the message of Easter in my thoughts. This is not a food addicts tale; it is an American saga going on in most homes this weekend. Easter baskets for the children, Easter egg hunts, Easter feasts, chocolate, jelly beans, and peanut butter eggs become mini-gods for a few weeks. 

Mini-gods? Many have just finished Lent, the purpose of which is to challenge sin and character flaws in oneself, to repent, and work closely with God to change. Instead, people give up chocolate or pork, only to feast on ham dinners and candy on Easter Sunday. There is no real worship of the One True God expressing itself in surrender.

We trivialize the powerful message of the cross of Christ.  When I worked with children in the church, I used to teach that spring is a sign of new life (like what Jesus gives us when we follow him); empty eggs represent resurrection (because Jesus  died, was buried, and left the tomb empty when he came out alive). Bunnies, baskets, and egg hunts all had their spiritual meaning. So what was wrong with that?

This is what Saint Paul said about it in 1 Corinthians 1:17 (MSG)  “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center – Christ on the Cross – be trivialized into mere words.” (Bold accent is mine).

Mere words. Mere candy. Mere meaningless sacrifices. It all falls far short of the glory of God. 

So what about the cross? Almighty God, Sovereign of the Universe, created everything out of nothing. His power is beyond compare. He is absolutely holy – that is, without fault or blame.

He made each of us because he loves us, and longs for close friendship with us. We however, keep turning to other gods like pride, money, sex, and more. Out of sheer love for you and me, he sent his only birth-son Jesus to take the punishment God knew we could not bear. 

That is the meaning of the cross. Jesus, equally God and living in heaven, chose to give it all up and come here as a vulnerable baby to be among us. He was sinless (that is a very important point!), and then gave himself up to die via crucifixion.  This is what we are grateful for on what we call Good Friday.

He did not stay dead! He was buried, and three days later rose back to life! That is our celebration on Easter. If Jesus did not resurrect, then our faith is in vain. If God is dead, what hope do we have? 

He is alive, returned to heaven, and according to Jesus’ promise is preparing a place for us there. Because he ‘paid the price’ already, we have the utmost privilege of coming to God, The Almighty, and talk with him, thank him, ask for forgiveness, ask for help, and listen freely without fear.   And he eats it up! He wanted this from the start, remember? There is no need for false sacrifices during Lent or any other time of the year.

Micah 7: 18, 19 (NLT) reads, “Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! (Bold accent is mine).
All that is asked of us to begin that relationship with God and to gain eternal life with him, is to accept the gift Jesus gave. When we believe he is God’s only birth-Son, that he came from heaven, died, was buried, and resurrected, we know he has the power to forgive sins. We can repent and place our trust in God’s unfailing love.
The cross. It’s so simple yet nothing is as profound. Let’s not bury it in chocolate.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 15 : 3– 6 
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time…”   -Saint Paul

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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.

It’s Easter Week, and I Fell Into a Rabbit Hole…

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

It’s Easter Week, and I fell into a rabbit hole.

It’s a family trait.

My mom was a seamstress. One evening we attended a gathering at her alma mater. She had made both our dresses. As we went in to the building, we made a silly secret pact to keep score – who would receive the most compliments on mom’s work.

Her gown won, and we giggled on our return to the car. Holding her head high in mock haughtiness, she proclaimed, “I am Queen Esther!”,  and promptly fell, inelegantly, on her rear end.

The cause of this sudden loss of royal stature was a hole in the pavement.  We could barely speak or move we were laughing so hard. The proverb, “Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18) came to mind, and strength failed us again. 

So for me to fall in a rabbit hole is not all that odd. Years ago I sprained my ankle by doing that, only to step into the same hole a few weeks later, re-injuring the same ankle. Since I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time, I was doomed to repeat history.

This is typical of Easter weekend. Sure enough, as follower of Jesus, I responded to a woman’s small talk about Easter eggs and baskets as if it were the sum of the holiday. It was habit, because for years that is how we celebrated at my house. I fell into that same chocolate bunny routine as easily as face-planting beside a rabbit hole.

Here’s the problem though. Last night I watched the movie, “The Case For Christ,” the story of atheist investigative reporter Lee Stroebel’s conversion to Christianity following months of trying to disprove its premise. Try as he might, he could not refute the vast amount of evidence that Jesus actually died on a cross and resurrected.*

One of the many experts Stroebel consulted stated that if there was no resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is a waste of time. However, if it did happen, it is the most important factor in life. Why?

Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, the only birth-son of the Heavenly Father. His death was to restore a sinful humanity to relationship with the One True God. HIs resurrection was to end the power of death. If he failed, we have no eternal hope. If his act was real, we have every hope.

If his act was real, our lives are not meaningless. We are not accidents. The wanted or unwanted messages of the world do not touch us. Jesus died for us, and that love is as unconditional as it gets.

If he died on the cross and resurrected, believers have no reason to fear death. The loss of saved loved ones who died is not permanent. Our focus is not on striving to survive at all costs, but rather to make life count.  We have reason to get out of bed each morning.

Despite strong emotions or mental illness, we have a Savior who walks us through. God is not waiting to squash us as soon as we are weak, rather he is waiting to embrace us when we run to him for help. People fail sometimes to love us well. God’s love never fails and he never breaks promises he made to us in the Bible.

The cross and resurrection are why we celebrate Easter. It is the most important holiday for believers world-wide. I don’t want to fall in a rabbit hole of pink ribbons and toys. I want to be lifted up in the arms of Jesus, our eternal hope and unfailing love.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 15

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless… And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”  -St. Paul who did not believe and converted 

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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.

*Stroebel’s original theory challenged the number and reliability of original manuscripts (over 5000, some written within 30 years of the incident), and whether Jesus died and resurrected. One by one, historical facts and evidence outweighed secular presumptions. See the book, The Case for Christ for more details.

 

 

 

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. An Easter Story

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

photo-24677461-white-lily-with-other-flowersThere she was, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her entrance had not been glamorous, but her presence was breathtaking. I was thirteen years old and thought, “I want to be just like her one day.”

She smiled widely while her eyes sparkled; long dark hair had been modestly wrapped behind her head. She looked happy. Calm. Her husband had just introduced her to the crowd and she swept in from behind the audience, never taking her eyes from him.

I never took my eyes off her.

From the platform she spoke in an Eastern European accent. Curiously, her husband had become famous for his suffering; his story of unjustified prison-time was told around the world. She was lesser known yet had paid perhaps the greater price, struggling behind the scenes under threat. Then she too had been sent to prison under an unwarranted charge and lost a mother’s greatest joy, that of raising her child.

I’d heard of peace that comes from somewhere outside of one’s circumstances. Until now I’d not seen it live and in person. It stood there, fearless and unmasked. Unwavering, peace told a story louder than the woman’s words.

As she gave an account of all-encompassing pain, the loveliness of peace captivated me. The speaker was not tall and statuesque. Her skin was not wrinkle-free. As far as I could tell she wore no makeup, and her clothes were not the latest fashion. Peace was the star of the moment and glowed from the face of the most beautiful woman in the world.

I still want to be just like her one day.

What is it Sabina Wurmbrand knew that I did not? She was a world-traveler, a scholar and pastor, had written at least one book, and with her husband had started a world-famous mission. She was a Jew who had lived through the holocaust, and was later arrested for being Christian. She had life experience and expertise. No doubt she could have been eloquent in philosophy, history, politics, and theology. She could have fascinated audiences with only her story.

Instead, she didn’t leave it there. She gave a reason for the hope by which she lived day-to-day. That story is the one we hear about on Easter – that Jesus was crucified, buried, then rose again. He once said that if he was lifted up he would draw everyone to himself. The cross lifted him up, and so did the most beautiful woman in the world.

There’s a section in the Bible that says God saw to it that no one would ever know him through human wisdom. Instead he uses foolish preaching to save those who believe. The Easter story is foolish to some people because they want to see proof, a sign from heaven, so to speak. Others seek human wisdom. So when believers talk about the cross, listeners who are not believers may be offended or else say it’s all nonsense.*

Sabina had faith that the foolish plan for God’s Son to die for our sins was wiser than the wisest of human plans, and that God’s weakness has always been stronger than the greatest of human strength. Surviving a prison camp and forced labor, physical and mental trauma, concern for a husband gone for years knowing he was being tortured, her heart broken over missing her son, Sabina experienced what she knew Jesus to be – the power and wisdom of God.

That faith fed her hope, and as that hope stretched through hours of anguish, it produced  a lasting peace that showed on her face. She may have once been ordinary, but no longer. My just-turned-teenager eyes saw the extraordinary .

She was quite simply the most beautiful woman in the world.

******

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

*1 Corinthians 1:20-25

 

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

*****

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

Nate: An Easter Story of Worth

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

photo-24706729-skateboard-and-kidHis name is Nate. By now he is about seventeen years old. When I knew him he was 8 to 11. His personality is that of a jokester, and what he found amusing many around him did not. I’ve never seen him be mean, however his humor could once in a while land on the border of obnoxious.

To know him is to love him, though. I knew he was a child and his odds of growing beyond his style of funny were nearly 100%. He had already been maturing before my eyes, and spending time with him was easy. I imagine because he is exceptionally bright, that his jokes now are more audience-friendly.

Nate was nine years old the seventh year I directed a summer program at our church. Months of planning, days of decorating, meetings with volunteers, and weeks of advertising led up to registration day. All involved anticipated a substantial response and eagerly waited for children to arrive.

“Here they come!” someone said.  One, two, three, they bounced into the church. Nine, ten, eleven, twelve – where was the crowd? Nate ran in last, laughing and wide-eyed at the metamorphosis of our building into an indoor space station.

Thirteen.

To put this into perspective, our small church had over ninety children from the community who attended our weekly children’s club. Plans for this summer event involved rotating busy schedules for the teachers, gathering myriad supplies and prizes! Oh, the prizes.

Only thirteen.

Of course I was disappointed and the thought of all that wasted time crossed my mind. Still, I loved the ones who came and knew they deserved our best efforts.

Nate remained a regular attendee of the weekly club the following year. One night many months later, I overheard him talking to his friend. “I’m a Christian,” he said. “I heard at that space class that God loves me. Mrs. Virden said I can ask Jesus to forgive my sins and clean out my heart, so I did.”

Thirteen. Failed program. Waste of my time.

Nate.

Easter is a great opportunity to remember the One who gave all he had for each one of us. Jesus said that as the Good Shepherd, he would always search for the one lost sheep. He found me, he found Nate, he is searching still.

Apparently, Nate and I are worth God’s best gift- the life of his Son Jesus. His unfailing compassionate love teaches that none of us are a waste of his time.

Have a blessed Easter.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences 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.

*picture from kozzi.com