I can’t hear you over my talking

Many people that I personally interacted with today are worried about what President-elect Donald Trump will do to them;  their relationships, their bodies, their jobs.  I didn’t understand until I thought:  Would I be concerned about my religious rights and freedom of speech rights if Hillary Clinton had won?  I am very scared of the trouble her presidency would have caused me and worried if I would be willing to stay true to Jesus in the face of unknown suffering.

These people are also tired of hearing, “Don’t worry,” “Get over it,” and other mindless remarks by friends, family, etc. that may show they don’t understand, don’t care or both.

What I am trying to do is listen with my heart for their heart.  We are all people and we all have a story.  If I interrupt, judge, give advice am I going to hear their story?  Do I really just want to hear myself talk and confirm to myself how brilliant I am in my own eyes or do I want to discover another beautiful human being and their unique story?

Everyone’s opinion makes sense to them.  If I listen long enough they may tell me why they feel the way they do.  Today I heard why someone believes in doing something I wouldn’t do.  And from their perspective it made sense.

This presidential election proved that most people want to be heard.  And “the other side” has feelings and concerns that don’t make sense.

Until you listen.

“Quote”-able: Wintley Phipps

It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given.

During my “personal, private sufferings” I may not have wanted to read this.  All the courage that I imagine I have when not suffering abandons me in the face of real suffering.  All that I thought stood by me I realize can’t help me.  Sometimes even Jesus seems as though he has left me.

I am alone.  And I am afraid.

As I obey my best guess as to God’s will my soul aches and I search for God in my circumstance.

It is here that I decide that no one should have to go through what I am going through alone.  If I only had someone to talk to I could bear it.  I decide if I encounter anyone struggling as I am, I will help them.

And a dream is born.

My dream, forged in the late seventies and early eighties, when I had not yet decided to take meds regularly and  I had yet to welcome Christ into my heart, is being lived out now 35 years later (with Jesus and with meds).  As a Certified Peer Support Specialist I have the privilege to serve people dealing with mental illness every day.  I am doing, as Whitley Phipps says, HPLP: Helping People Live their Potential.  Or, as Jesus says, Loving others.

Am I a hero?  Not even close.  But I am privileged to serve the real Heroes;  people who fight horrific battles in their mind and in their life every day and keep on fighting.  Battling thoughts that no one should have to experience, making even the simplest daily tasks excruciatingly difficult.

Mental illness takes the most hospital beds in our country and receives the lowest per patient funding in our country of any disease.  It is projected that half of our population will experience mental illness in their lifetime.  If that is not you then it is most likely someone you love.  And it is much cheaper to pay for treatment for all who need it than to pay the costs that untreated mental illness cause: personal, family and friend suffering; lost productivity; prison cells and hospital beds.

What can we do?  Get treatment for yourself or your loved one, treat the mentally ill with the respect being a Hero deserves, and vote for funding of Mental Health in your area.

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.

Why does God allow Suffering in the Christian’s life?

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.”