Receiving Wisdom in DespairMany family members learning to understand and deal with their loved one's mental illness can be overwhelming. Now add in confusion and pain ... it is not just overwhelming, it is exhausting. Looking towards heaven the family member cries out, "God, help us ... help me ... what do I do ... why?" With all sincerity of devotion they try to listen to God, yet it seems like putting a seashell to your ear ... it is beyond being perplexed ... despair seems to be reality. Sound familiar to anyone?
But what about those with a mental illness ... they didn't choose to be mentally ill and they are just as exhausted. In fact, it's actually worse ... even if they don't recognize it at the moment ... they have to cope with the misery of symptoms and the pain of stigma attacking their identity, "I'm no longer normal." I have worked with many with a mental disorder and they look at me with tears running down their face seeing no hope ... one man with a debilitating mental disorder said to me, "Every day I wake up wishing I were dead." Sound familiar to anyone?
What to do? Pray harder? Read the bible more? Read another popular Christian book? Muster up faith and believe harder? "Lord, what do I do ... help me ... aaaggghhh!?!" Sound familiar to anyone?
It hurts, yet it is all very normal! So, God what do we do?
ACTUALLY, the better question is asking Him, "Lord, what are you trying to teach me ... what are you doing in me?" David in the Psalms expresses to God many of his heartaches, frustrations, pains and, yes, even his vengeful bitterness. Despite all this, David seems to always end up saying, "Teach me!" In fact, he often asks God to go beyond just teaching him ... "make me know Your ways."
When we learn to be taught we learn to trust ... when we expect immediate answers we expect God to fix everything and keep us "happy."
I have found that through this teachable perspective we become more relational with God, not waiting for orders like a "servant." He gives us time to cry and heal and, whether big or small, insight starts to trickle in. Many times the insight leads to practical steps ... direction within the storm.
Here are 4 ways to live this out:
1) Vent it out: let Him know how you really feel - He is a "big boy" and has a very large chest for you to pound on. If He bore the cross, He surely can handle us in our perplexity. We love David because he was secure with God and great at venting his pain. Some of the best prayers God answers is our "groaning to deep for words," "Lord ... aaaaggghhh!"
2) Write it out: ever notice after one of our world influencers passes away - everybody wants to read their journals! We want to know their secrets ... their wisdom. They place where they processed everything that made them great. So, after letting the steam out, write down what you think God might be trying to show you through all this. No matter how silly it sounds or feels you might learn something about yourself you never realized, something great about Him ... and funny how scriptures you know will come to mind. Not only that, you may start having ideas that seem very practical. I don't "journal" a lot, but I've grown so much by this simple habit. In fact, I went back through and underlined specifics and titled the page accordingly ... and I go back to re-read them. I don't get bogged down trying to "hear God," that makes me tired ... He is with me and that's enough ... I just write. I don't have a journal, I have a personal handbook of wisdom ... for life.
3) Talk it out: always find someone who can understand and care for you. Pain makes it easy to pull away ... sure you may need some space to heal, but stay connected to key people who you bring you life ... and can even make you laugh! Talk with them through some of the ideas that "came to mind." It's amazing how their feedback opens up more direction. Community works!
4) Try it out: the practical ideas you've written down ... TRY them. Who cares if they don't work. In the new testament Jesus healed a blind man with His spittle ... but it didn't work all the way the first time, so He had to pray for him again. Learn from mistakes, make adjustments, try again and keep moving forward.
Remember, life improves by grace!
Joe Padilla Co-Founder/CEO Mental Health Grace Alliance