It’s not so much that I need to know what to do; it’s that I need to do what I know.

The title is from https://i-m-4-u.com/2013/07/14/forgiving-can-be-tough/ and captures part of my struggle.  The other part is that I definitely need to know more.  And yet the two are intertwined.

God will not give me more instruction if I am not doing what he has already given me.  If I want to know more I have to actually do more of what he has already said .  That’s the hard part.

Or is it?  I have the most fun when I am obeying God.

I think for me it is the process of deciding to obey God that is the toughest part.  I have to risk, and trust Him that what I don’t want to do now is exactly what I will be glad I did later.  Many times I feel alone when deciding.  (This may be why I need to be part of a small group).  No matter what help I have, it is in the end my decision.  And if I want to know more, if I want to experience Jesus closer to me, I must obey Him.

It took going "crazy" to discover what real sanity was

I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me.  (But I would never want to repeat it).  Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.

Let me unpack that.

Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer.  I wanted to impress people with how smart I was.  I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.

Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed.  I thought they were crazy.  Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.

It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world.  God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him.  What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me.   That’s when God gave me mental illness.  And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash.  God humbled me.  I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.

For the next ten years I fought God and the meds.  At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds.  Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me.  I wasn’t interested.  Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.

That got my attention.

I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.

He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people.  Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness.  I encourage, give hope, and care.  And I love it.  It took most of my life to discover my life’s work.  And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.

Why God allowed suffering in my life (for both before and after becoming a Christian)

I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people.  At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God.  I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible.  God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little.  But, those who are forgiven much, love much.  I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin.  God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!”  He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are.  He meant I was vile, evil and depraved.  I replied, “No, I’m not!”  He said again, “You’re a sinner!”  I said again, “No, I’m not!”

Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me:  He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years).  The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame.  My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years.  And, my Pride was assaulted:  I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.

Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall.  I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me.  God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him.  And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.

But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain.  God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well.  I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness.  (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).

I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  I wish I could have learned without the pain.  But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.

And for that I will forever be grateful.

You have to be a sinner before you can be forgiven

Jesus isn’t looking for the good people, the perfect people, the people who have it all together.  If we could be perfect then He didn’t need to die.  No, Jesus said through David in the Psalms:

Psalm 34:17-18  (NKJV)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,    And delivers them out of all their troubles.The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,    And saves such as have a contrite [to repent, to turn around] spirit.

(Brackets mine)

Psalm 51:16-17  (NKJV)

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
    You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
    A broken and a contrite heart—
    These, O God, You will not despise. 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3-4) and “those who mourn” over their sinful condition.  “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “they shall be comforted”.  Not the haughty, not the proud.  Not those who claim to have it altogether, and say they have no sin.  Jesus said God accepts those who recognize who they are and cry out to God to clothe them with His righteousness, with Jesus.