Tag Archives: Faith

Anxiety and Fear Do Not Hold All the Power!

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

man in black tank top lifting vehicle tire
Photo by Cesar Galeão on Pexels.com

Fear and anxiety dressed up as self-doubt is frustrating.  

Saul was a young man who stood by and watched the stoning death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. One sentence in Saul’s story tells what we need to know about his heart. 

“And Saul approved of their killing him” (Acts 8:1).

Saul’s name was changed to Paul after an encounter with the risen Jesus.  He then became who we now know as Saint Paul, a Christian preacher and church planter of the first century AD, who wrote much of the New Testament under the inspiration of God.

Paul admitted to a “thorn” in his flesh – that is, something that bugged him and made life more difficult. His issue was not clarified for the readers, so we are left to guess.

Could it have been self-doubt?

He had been a religiously proud and zealous man, a leader once admired.  Is it possible then, that without the trappings of a Pharisee and the power of that religious order behind him he may have felt weaker?

He helped to murder early followers of Jesus. How might any one of us deal with trying to teach the families and co-believers of our victims?

Maybe Paul wondered every day what he was doing- maybe he had to start out each morning in faith, trusting that his weakness was the very thing that kept him humble and productive for God’s work.

I do not know, theologians do not know what Paul meant by “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me…”. all we have are hints. For example, the context of this story is Paul answering an accusation of cowardice.  

He wrote,” You are judging by appearances…  I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Corinthians 10:7, 9-10).

In another letter, this one to a new pastor, Paul wrote, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Could he have known that truth due to personal experience? 

It makes sense that he may have fought self-doubt when face to face with those he once sought to kill. These types of struggles are real, and daily. In person and in his letters, Paul stood up for what is true. Maybe he was a bit quiet and shy (I do not know), but he did not fail to say it like it is.  That would be the Spirit of God at work in him. 

I am writing to myself today because anxiety plays a large role in how far I push my potential. It frustrates and badgers me until I submit much too much of the time. 

No, self-doubt, timidity, anxiety, and fear are not from the Spirit of God. He promises us power when we feel powerless, love for others when we are self-absorbed, and self-discipline when fear threatens to paralyze our every good intention. Overcoming negative emotions is not always a quick work.  Sometimes, our thorn remains, and we have to keep walking anyway.

It is because of his power that I speak the truth about my past and current weaknesses when I would rather hide. It is his love that motivates me to share publicly so other hurting people will know hope.  Jesus was and is the way where there seems to be no other way.  

Wherever I am, it is Jesus I desire most to honor. Whatever Paul’s thorn, he said the same.  

Today’s Helpful Word  

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

-St. Paul

 

***** 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.

 Is it Really Okay for a Christian to Say “No, I Cannot Help You”? (Part 1)

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

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If you feel unkind unless you agree to help when asked, consider the following.

Boundaries are what we stop ourselves from accepting in our lives, not what we stop another person from doing. We have no control over people’s choices or external events. How we choose to react is our responsibility.

1. Are boundaries a godly choice?  Jesus set this example. When the Savior of the world preached and healed the crying masses, he did not stay and fix everyone’s problems. He was teaching us that it is not only necessary to say no sometimes, it is godly to love fully with boundaries in place.

2. It is easier to say yes when I mean no. How can boundaries help? Boundaries are godly because they keep us honest. Have you agreed, with a smile, to volunteer in the church while inwardly groaning, “Noooooooooo”? Of course Christians who are serious about their faith want to show love. However, Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere…”

Sometimes, secret preferences are expressed through indirect means like passive/aggressive behavior, manipulation, complaining, or anger. For these reasons, expressing honest boundaries is kind.

If time, skill, or energy are lacking, we do not have to pretend we are available. Ephesians 4:25-30 tells us “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.“

3. Isn’t it best to patiently wait for a person to change?  Boundaries are godly because they prevent us from enabling sin. God held to boundaries with ancient Israel. He set out laws, and warned against breaking them. Those who insisted on rebellion sometimes received further warning. Finally, he removed his blessings until they repented. This was love. He knew his way was best for all concerned.

This principle guides us in toxic situations and relationships in which we end up making excuses for the one who wrongs us. We continue to move our boundaries to accommodate them, and eventually lose our peace of mind (or safety).

Arrows shot in our direction are not ours to catch! Proverbs 22:3 says “ A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge…“

Today’s Helpful Word  

Mark 1:35-39 
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages— so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

**** 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.

 

 

 

For One of the Least of These: Helping Those Who Hunger for Love

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

Sarah felt lost. Her thoughts fluctuated between I do not need anyone, to I am bad for needing anyone, to why does no one care?

Her sense of aloneness and guilt exacerbated her doubt she was lovable at all. Shame joined the mental torture.

At the same time, her behavior told a different story. She was friendly and funny. Her need for affirmation was great. At times she realized she was fishing for approval, yet most often was unaware.

Her spirit had been crushed by absence of love from significant family members. Early in life she learned she was on her own. In second grade, a friend apologized that she would not be able to attend Sarah’s birthday party. Sarah cried, not because she was sad, but because she was in awe that someone cared enough to consider coming to her party.

The hole in her heart caused her to search for love in unhealthy ways. She truly did not know better. She was hungry, starving really, and the only solution was love.

Jesus said that when we see “one of the least of these” who is hungry and feed them, it is the same as doing it for him. That is because his love for hungry people is so great, he is blessed when their needs are met. He also loves givers, and rewards us when we become so.

He was speaking of those who are poor financially. He meant literal hunger and literal food. In another place he spoke of those who hunger for righteousness.* That is, people who desire to honor God.  In the same teaching, he promised blessing for those who mourn.**

God is one who cares intimately about our inner being. We can care too when someone like Sarah enters our sphere.  One way to do this is to offer time and listening. Perhaps we can help her find a good counselor or therapist and get her there. A simple and meaningful way to let a person know they matter is to say so. Emails, texts, calls, visits… all make a difference.

Beware becoming someone’s sole support. Sarah did not need a human savior, although she felt she did. One way to tell if a line is crossed, is to check if the relationship is changing. Friends do not become therapists. Pastors do not become on-call servants. Parents do not become doctors. Discourage dependence on you by not saying yes to every plea.

We can point someone to Christ and God’s love without judgment and criticism. By expressing sincere acceptance, we extend his compassion.  God’s love is so vast that our sins, flaws, mistakes, and even negative self-talk are not enough to make it stop.

Without question, God says we have to believe he exists. It is also imperative to believe that his Son Jesus, paid for our sins on the cross. This same Jesus resurrected and lives now as our Lord and Savior. These are foundational and necessary tenets of saving faith.

People like Sarah will begin to experience joy when they realize their inherent value. God’s love shines through the Bible and in our spirits. It is big enough to fill the emptiest caverns of need.

Counseling helped Sarah begin to see her worth as God sees her. Eventually she no longer yearned for people to meet her deepest need. God’s love has filled her to the brim, and even difficult circumstances no longer diminish her peace of mind. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 25: 37, 40 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you…?’  … The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

***** 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.

*Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

**Matthew 5:6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

-empty heart by XYMONAU; cross heart BA1969, both of rgbstock.com

I Can’t, You Can

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

Gravelly and broken. The parking lot’s many potholes threaten to open wider in the next big storm. Miniscule pebbles sprinkle a patchwork of old and newer asphalt. 

Walking toward my car, my mind races with everything on my to-do list.  A familiar sense of helplessness and fear creep into the thought process. “I can’t!” I said to myself. “I can’t do it all!”

Staring down, I notice my feet are not touching all the patches. Little stones lay everywhere and I am not considering which ones to walk on.  Going over all the rough spots in the lot would take hours – a frantic attempt at a task that is not mine or necessary. Millions of pebbles prove that trying to touch them all is a wasteful and ridiculous idea. My job is simply to keep walking.

Sometimes there are too many obligations. I and many of us lock ourselves into more than is necessary, more than we can reasonably do.

This time, I quit. 

It’s a familiar feeling, being  overwhelmed.  My reaction has to change.  Plopping in a chair in near defeat, I focus on God and ask for wisdom. The prayer, I can’t but You can enters my thoughts.

Life and mind for each of us seems gravelly and broken sometimes. Just as we finish one repair, another pothole appears. We chase flaws instead of dreams. That pace will last for only so long.  

My to-do list is up for reassessment, for sure!  First, a break is top priority. I will sit back and wait on the Lord, and allow Him to heal my spirit. He will teach me what steps to take, and give me the strength to take them. 

Maybe someone else wants to hit every patch of cement and pebble in the parking lot. Not me. Endeavors succeed when we are free to focus. Mental health can flourish in a balanced life.  

I can’t means God can, and I’ll let him.  

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 27:14 

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

***** 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.

*potholes by TACLUDA; woman by MOKRA, both of rgbstock.com

If You Are Suicidal, Read This Now

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.

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

Suicidal thoughts lie.

Where’s the lie?

Chances are, if you are suicidal, you already feel that your heart has died. I’m talking about that vibrancy of soul you used to know and now wonder if it was all a joke.  Laughter sinks in your belly like a stone.  Numbness barely allows for breathing. You wonder every minute why you try.

Those emotions are real, and make sense considering what you’ve experienced.

You may believe there is no love for you, either because you question your value or are convinced people are always untrue. Maybe both.  Hurt or betrayal sting like a slow burn.  Perhaps you feel angry and deserving of the pain simultaneously.

Your suffering is real, and deserves attention. There is no need to deny your wounds. You are not alone. 

So, if the lie is not in how you feel, where is it?

The lie is in your beliefs

The lie is this: nothing can ever change; I am trapped; my future is only terrifying, only lonely, or guaranteed to overflow with losses. In other words,  you believe you are helpless and your situation, hopeless. 

I know your heart has died.  I’m saying you do not need a grave – you need resurrection.

Frankly, where you are is deep. The climb out takes time and effort. It is not impossible,  it is difficult.  Dead hearts do come alive!

You may be thinking, “Why do I care if my heart beats? My life doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever did.”

That’s what dead hearts tell us to believe. Yours won’t tell you how deeply you are loved, wanted, and needed. That’s depression’s deception. That’s part of the lie. 

The truth

You were made by God on purpose.  He has a hope and a future planned for you, and is an expert at resurrections! Your value has not reduced because of the dirt in your life. In the hands of the One who loves you, you are a priceless diamond.

Haven’t you always wanted someone to love you unendingly, someone who knows you so intimately that you hold no secrets,  someone who is with you, guides you, and listens with both ears? That is who he is. He is God the Father. 

When I was overwhelmed and wanted to die, he gave one dose of strength at a time. It can take a while to resurrect. Yet he calls to dead hearts, “Come alive!”

Here’s a simple prayer you can repeat: Holy God, help me. I do not know what you can do with this mess, but I’ll step back from suicide. I have nothing to give you; I’ve barely the energy for tears. I am trusting you sent your Son Jesus for me, so help me understand. Please make me whole. 

Today’s Helpful Word

From Psalm 23 

“The Lord… restores my soul”

 

***** 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.

*pic of cross and heart by NURBO; dead heart by KIMOLOS, both of rgbstock.com

What is the Eternal Fate of One Who Dies By Suicide?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

In a church two years ago, after sharing my story of recovery after a suicide attempt and discussing major depression,  a member approached and said, “Suicide sends people to hell because it is a sin, and there is no time to repent.”  This sentiment was once more prevalent.  Most often today, surviving loved ones and pastors talk about God’s mercy and understanding.

I am asked frequently whether people who die this way go to heaven. It is not my intention to cop-out  and avoid this important discussion. Nevertheless,  I would rather ask a different question.

Who is God?

God is Holy.  This means that in him there are no sin, wrongful motives, evil thoughts, or anything of the like.  Our mockery and disbelief prevent us from knowing him, they do not diminish his holiness.

We are to reverently serve him because he IS. In him we move and breathe and have our being.  He merely spoke and the world began.  Let us stand in awe of him!

This is not to say he is angry and vengeful.  On the contrary, his nature is love and goodness. Relying on him, on his unfailing love, is to know blessings of peace and joy, even in times of pain. However he is just, and does respond to evil with judgment.

Like a child who wants to copy daddy,  we begin to mimic our Father God when we trust him and learn to obey his instructions. Looking elsewhere for the value, mercy, love, freedom, and rescue that only God can provide is not only foolish, but sin. It hurts him, others, and ourselves.

This is not to say that one who fails to measure up to God’s high standards is doomed. On the contrary! God knows who he created. You and I are not lost on him. He saw every one of our days before one of them happened and made us anyway. That is love! His promise of eternal life with him is for any who will accept salvation offered through his Son Jesus. In other words, he made a way out.

Spiritual lostness has a solution

It is simple and free. The famous line that often showed up on T-shirts or signs at football games, “John 3:16”, refers to a quote by Jesus .

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

In four basic parts, it says: (a) the world, that’s you and me and everyone who has ever lived, exists on purpose; (b) God loves the world;  (c) God sees we are lost, floundering away from him and his love, and sends a solution – Jesus. Jesus is God’s only monogenes, or one-of-a-kind, (note the capital S), Son.  He too is holy. His was the only sinless life, so his is the only life that can serve as our Savior; and (d) the reason for all this drama is so the world may live with God apart from the evils and disappointments of this life forever!

Once again, that is not to say we cannot reject the gift. Most do. Consequences are pain and death, if not for the present, then in the future. Yet preferring the instant to the real, people pursue false gods.  These are things, activities, or people we place ahead of God as our authority, and source of strength and satisfaction.

False gods will never serve us well because the very fallible humans who want to depend on them, are their designers. Mistaken, self-serving god-makers will never produce any object of worship that rises above themselves. We do not follow false gods because we love them – we worship false gods because we love ourselves (and not in a good way).

Sin is what separates us from God, not pain

One’s relationship with God through Jesus is personal and close when nurtured by repentance, love for him, and time spent with him.  God is close to the needy, the brokenhearted, and the oppressed. By following his way we are never alone whether we hurt physically or emotionally, or in any other form.

Does God condemn forever people who die by suicide? Once again, my opinion does not matter. The Bible is very clear that what causes unbelievers to perish for eternity is rejection of Christ. Refusal to have faith at all – not believing God exists – is the first part, and denying the Son as our source of salvation is the second.

As for people who follow Jesus, closely even, and die by suicide – did they reject Christ? It is not sinful to suffer. No one is cast aside by God for having uncomfortable emotions.

Unbelief is not defined strictly by actions, but mostly by the heart. In pain, to whom does one cry out? If a mind is overwhelmed, is it possible the heart is still faithful?

Your answer lies in learning to know the God of the Bible. I know where I stand for eternity, and I know what he asks of me. Do you? 

Let’s make no mistake!

Regardless one’s eternal destiny, suicide is not the type of death or legacy that brings honor to God’s name. Those left experience damage, and feel angry, sorrowful, and wrenched with a lifetime of the question why.  Copycat suicides are common. The one who died by suicide is remembered and celebrated always with an asterisk of doubt.  But… he killed himself. But… she left me.  But… I wasn’t enough to save my loved one.  But… why didn’t God stop it?

The legacy of finding help and utilizing all the offered resources is one of inspiration and hope. The fight is worth it. Knowledge is invaluable.  Understanding how depression works is life-saving.  We have options for survival.

God sees. God knows. God loves.

Today’s Helpful Word(s)

You will find the sources of many of this blog’s quotes and references to Biblical truth in the following passages: 

John 3;  Psalm 33;  Hebrews 11:5-6;  Psalm 1;  2 Corinthians 5;  1 Corinthians  1;  Acts 17:28; Psalm 139;  Psalm 34:18

***** 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.

 

Free Indeed

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

Freedom is the resounding word in the U.S.A. this week.  Freedom means choice.  Without choices, no one is free.

Of course, our American government makes laws with which some of us disagree.  Citizens cannot make choices outside the law.  Murderous attacks like the one at a newspaper company a few days ago happen when people ignore the law.  That is anarchy.  Anarchy leaves no one free.

Freedom 

Freedom is not absence of absolutes. It is the ability to choose what, and whom to believe.

I started working for a locally headquartered non-profit earlier this year. This corporation’s mission is to teach Christian principles of faith to the public-at-large.  Within the laws of freedom in this country is the right to free speech.  The Wisdom of God Corp. wants to talk about our concept of God. 

The first billboard goes up for one month beginning tomorrow.  The website offers compelling and gentle answers to heavy questions such as, “Who is God?” and “Are questions of morality answerable without existence of a spiritual world?” 

As for idealism, the billboard says someone is offering true freedom.  Who is doing the promising?  What does “Free Indeed” mean?

Jesus said it

Too often, Jesus is misquoted, misrepresented, and shoved into a cloud of mystery.  His message was quite simple and clear.

He said he is God’s Son:  John 10:36  “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?…” 

John 10:24,25  “‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’  Jesus answered,  ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe.'”

We are free to choose between believing Jesus or those who argue he was merely a man.

He said he is the way to God:  John 14: 6,7 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.'”

We are free to repent and enjoy  the relationship we can have with God because of the  death and resurrection of His Son.

He promised peace in a divisive world:  John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We are free to trust in the unfailing character of a good God,  or to return to temporary “solutions” that fail us repeatedly. 

He promised to come back and take believers with him: John 14:1  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. “

We are free to choose where to place our hope – in the here and now, in fallible people, or in the promises of eternal life with Jesus. 

Freedom means choices.  Free Indeed is the guarantee that comes with choosing  Christ Jesus, the Savior and redeemer of our souls.  

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. 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, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

Bourdain, Spade, and a soaring suicide rate: We are patching a massive rip with fraying string

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

Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and a soaring suicide rate. We are patching a massive rip with fraying string.

Patching

We have observed the increase in public discussion about suicide over the last five years. There is minimal, yet growing understanding and acceptance of depression and anxiety as deserving of treatment and not ridicule. The conversation has begun, and that in itself is good.

CNN today suggested medications and therapy as routes to self-protection from suicidal thoughts. This too is helpful because professional treatment saves lives and helps to improve old thought patterns.

Still, there is something missing, isn’t there? What about that fraying string? Depression recurs and now what? The standard answer is to change meds and increase therapy. This is great when the person in pain is able to try. And THAT is the question.

External aids do not bring about the permanent hope we need to try and try again. The greatest indicator of potential death by suicide is a previous suicide attempt. Why? We start losing the fight, that’s why. Patches help but do not provide the soul-deep sense of peace we need.

Faith

Faith is demeaned by loud voices, yet they have no answer to despair other than “perk up and hold on!” Where is one supposed to find purpose in holding on when every part of his or her being is aching to die? When depression has boggled the mind for the second or tenth time, and hope is ripped from its bearings, what promise exists in “try, try again’?

Faith that God is in charge and decides matters of life and death, faith that he knows what is best, faith that he is good and his love never fails despite the harshest emotional exhaustion – this is the thread that mends, not patches, horrific wounds.

In reality, I would not be here without faith in the above. Despite weighty darkness that can overtake my thoughts, there is always the light of hope found in surrender to God’s plan. Quite simply, I know it is not up to me to choose. God has me breathing. God is good. My hope lies there.

For all the Anthony Bourdains, Kate Spades, and businessmen and women, teenagers, moms and dad, and everyone else whose fight is too long and weary, think on this testimony found in the Bible. It is my story as well, and can be yours:

“Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:17-19) .

Please stay alive.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. 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, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

How Can God Be Good If People Suffer?

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

One of the keys to peace and mental health is to stop trying to control what is out of our control. Anxiety has been kicking my backside recently. When I remember to let go and let God, there is more calm. 

An ancient question stems from our human desire to control everything – even our image of God. The often anxious perception that we should not suffer if God is good, is based on knee-jerk reactions to human pain.  We demand that if we cannot stop evil and struggles, then God should! 

I’m coming from the premise that God is always good, no matter what. As a student of the Bible, the biblical statement* that God understands our troubles rings true to me. That does not mean I have all the answers. If that were possible, I would be equal to God, and he would cease to be sovereign.  

How we know Jesus understands when we hurt and cry.

Jesus endured the physical and emotional frustrations of celibacy and singleness. More than that, he understood what was in every person’s heart, so he entrusted himself to no one. He grieved over deaths of loved ones.  His heart stung when family members rejected his message and misunderstood his purpose.

Friends deserted him at the worst moment of his life. One in particular betrayed him to death! He suffered mental agony, knowing his enemies would torture and crucify him.  HIs greatest sorrow no doubt was on the cross, when he sensed that God, his father with whom he was one,  had turned his face away.   

Jesus could have envied others who did not suffer, but he did not. He focused on eternity.

Is God good when life seems unfair?

Asaph was a songwriter and musician. He was so talented that he answered directly to the King. His job was to lead the entire nation of Israel in worship of God at the ancient Temple in Israel.

One of his songs even made its way into the Bible. Psalm 73  is about his suffering and jealousy of those who did not struggle. Worse yet, these healthy and happy people lived with values Asaph could not respect.

He described them this way. “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace  and clothe themselves with cruelty.  These fat cats have everything  their hearts could ever wish for!.”**

Sound familiar? Dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger often come from expecting our version of fair.   

Sherry lost her childhood to abuse and neglect. As a Christian believer, she wondered why God had not protected her. Praying, she said, “God where were you when I cried?”  A gentle reassurance spoke to her heart. 

“I cried too.” 

Like many of us, Asaph and Sherry temporarily forgot God’s nature of Goodness.  He does not guarantee our joy but teaches us how to find it and live in it forever. 

  Focusing on permanence

Physical health, friendships, family, financial success, emotional well-being, and more seem to promise happiness in the present.  Some of us experience that, and many do not. No matter what we find, happiness (and pain) in this lifetime are temporary. 

One of Jesus’ followers 2000 years ago authored a book.  He encouraged his readers to place their priorities on eternity. He wrote, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ***

Whenever disappointment and outright suffering come my way, it is this focus on eternity that keeps my eyes off self-pity and on hope. Difficulty teaches me how to get out of bed when life hurts. Strength gained through adversity is why purpose guides my choices despite even severe loss. 

Meet Paul

  • Unjustly imprisoned on several occasions
  • 5 times flogged with 39 lashes 
  • 3 times beaten with rods
  • pelted with rocks nearly to death
  • in 3 shipwrecks, one time spending about 24 hours in the open sea 
  • In constant danger
  • often went without sleep, food, or warmth

In my opinion, this qualifies him to speak on suffering and God! Paul was one of the first Christians in the first century A.D., and a traveling preacher. Remarkably, his focus was an eternal one. 

He wrote, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” ****

Wow. 

We know God is good when our eyes are on the truth of who He is. 

 

 **********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, abuse, and addiction. 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, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

*Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

**Psalm 73: 6-7

***Matthew 6:19-21

****2 Corinthians 4:18

-eye pic by KIMOLOS on rgbstock.com;  glorious sky by MICROMOTH at rgbstock.com

“I Heard of You, Now I See You.” When Suffering Faces God

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

The following is an excerpt from They Were Real (c) 2014 

Fictionalized, and inspired by the Bible book of Job 1:1–3 ; 42

An  old  man groans playfully  while  a  small boy climbs on his knee. On the floor are six more energetic youth of varying heights and maturity. The man has called them to come and listen to what he hopes will one day be as profound for each of them as to him.

His name is Job (pronounced Jobe), and he is sharing a moment with his  great-grandchildren. He clears his throat in mock preparation. “Well, once upon a time there was a young man named Job.”

The children giggle.

“I was happy. I had a family, my business, and loved God. When I was  a  little  older,  successful  people  started to come to me for advice  on all  sorts  of things—business, religion, and even fatherhood.” Job tousles a five-year-olds hair. “I thought I was smart.”

“And then you learned your lesson!” Ten-year-old Nabid teases. He elbowed his sister to boast.

Job’s eyes brighten as he laughs with the precocious boy. “You know those seats by the city gate? That is where I used to spend all my time. My days were a mix of running my business and giving advice.”

“Sounds boring,” a teenage girl says, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

“It was a busy place, much like now. It was not boring to me because I taught people about matters of life and faith!   I thought I understood God. I believed as long as I lived a good life, made wise choices, did not hurt anyone, and earned respect for my opinions, I was not going to suffer. This untruth sheltered me.”

Job pauses for a full minute, choked with memories. His eyes are suddenly wet. “I lost all ten of my sons and daughters in a terrible accident.”

“That’s when you got sick.” Sympathetic nods circle the group. The adolescent boy who spoke put his arm around his little brother’s shoulders.

“Yes. All I owned was taken through crime and natural disaster. Disease spoiled my place of authority. People who once thought me important ran away. I was helpless. Finally, it was I in need of support instead of being the one who offered it.

“I wondered who this God I had always worshiped is.  Why did he allow this to happen? It surprised me when life did not continue as usual,” Job says.

He continued. “I did learn, Nabid.  Nothing in God’s world is a mistake. We cannot, I cannot, understand this. It is beyond me even though I am very old. Because I cannot grasp this truth, I sometimes confuse who is the author of my pain.”

Job lowers the fidgeting child from his lap.

“God is not confused. Yes, I thought I knew him, children. Truth emerged proving my beliefs were incomplete.   I thought to do what he expects would always  lead to rewards. Turns out he owes me nothing.

“I thought I was capable of keeping up a righteous life.  After trying so hard, it became clear I am powerless. I do not control anything, including God’s plan for me.”

Job takes a deep, contented breath. “Yes, I thought I knew him. It took great suffering for me to see he is God and I  am but a man.

“And then our grandpas and grandmas were born,” said a quiet voice.

“Yes. And then your mommies and daddies and…”  Pointing to each of his audience, Job laughed and said, “You , you, and you, you too, …” When he was finished, silence replaced levity.

“Children, hear and ponder this—it is joy to know that only God can understand exactly what we need. Go now, and think on that.”

Today’s Helpful Word

Job 42:1-6

Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.  You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’  It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.  You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!  I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’  I had only heard about you before,  but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

 **********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.