I am part of a team of people starting “HOPE” for Mental Health at Kentwood Community Church. We are part of Celebrate Recovery founded by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. This group of courageous people, who admit their imperfections and trust Jesus to deliver them, have been a catalyst to me being able to confess my sins to another trusted person (or small group). I read my Nobody’s Perfect post from August of 2013 tonight and realized I had promised to get back to you when I had put this into practice.
Much better late than never.
I had told Jesus my sins but telling another person with skin on freed me from most of the grip of satan in my life. No amount of prayer has freed me as much as telling my sin to another person. Sin loses power when exposed.
I have known for years that I was “supposed to” confess my sins to another. But I made excuses and told myself it really didn’t matter. I lost years of my life to satan’s influence simply because “I know more than God.”
God is not mocked. I reaped what I sowed.
But I have learned.
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.
I just got done watching InTouch with Dr. Charles F. Stanley. I was convicted that I may have been sending the message that once you are rightly related to God, through faith in His Son Jesus’ death on the cross paying for your sins, that everything after is peace, joy and love. Dr. Stanley said that some things we can only learn as we experience pain and suffering; suffering from obeying God, and suffering from not obeying God.
Suffering from not obeying God makes sense. God has the best planned for us. If we don’t do what He says we can suffer the natural consequences of not positioning ourselves for His best.
But what about when we obey God and there is pain and suffering? Does that mean God has abandoned us? Does that mean it is pointless to serve God? God says through Jesus in the Bible that when we suffer for doing good there is blessing.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:11-12, NKJV
I have personal experience of this being true. When I first became a Christian I told a person close to me about Jesus and what He had done for me. They hurled their vehement anger towards God, at me. Later, they told me a very sad cynical sexually-themed joke and when I didn’t laugh they accused me of thinking the joke was funny but being a hypocrite and not laughing. They continued to insult me personally and Christians in general as evil, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hypocrites. The experience was painful, God insulated me from the worst of it by taking it upon Himself, and I didn’t say anything negative back to this person. (I wasn’t strong enough at that time to return good for evil, the best I could do was not retaliate).
What was my reward? Many years later I was thinking about what happened and I realized, that by obeying Jesus, and doing what did not come naturally, I had loved this person. I had done what was in their best interest. I had told them about the love of God and demonstrated it by not returning evil for evil. And that was worth more to me than gold or homes or cars. That truly was a “great reward”.
It can be very painful following God, but God always works everything out for our good. And He also works out everything so that the world can know who He truly is. As Dr. Charles F. Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”