“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.

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.

Obeying God and Putting His Promises to the Test

Sometimes, after you have been a Christian for a while, you have so much of your life, relationships and self invested in “God” that the thought of Him not coming through for you and therefore having proof He is not real is terrifying.  To find out that what you have based your life on is a lie is too embarrassing a thought to deal with.  So, we hedge our bets.  We pray, “God, you said that if I put you first, as Lord and Savior, you would provide for me and my family.  But if you don’t, I will still love you and trust you and feel the same way about you”.  This may sound good, but I suggest that this kind of faith is not honored in the Bible.  What is most important to God is our intimacy with Him, our trust in Him, our faith in Him.  And God says in the Bible that this faith is more precious than gold.  It is so important to God that He will rock our world until we come to the point of saying, “God, I have put You first.  You said that if I did, you would supply food, clothing and shelter for me and my family.  You have to come through for me.  I have no plan “B”.  You promised you would and I am holding You to it.  If you don’t, then I have no reason to trust You anymore.”

God doesn’t say not to put Him to the test.  God says not to put Him to a foolish test.  Satan suggested to Jesus that He jump off the top of the temple because God promised to send His angels to hold Him up.  Jesus answered that it is written, do not put God to a foolish test.  If God says He will do something for you when you obey Him, He wants you to test that.  Obey Him and then hold Him accountable for what He promised.  That’s not a foolish test.  That’s faith.

And here’s my disclaimer:  Though I have had success in trusting God, I have also experienced complete hypocritical failure at trusting God.  I am not an expert.  For every time I have trusted God and seen Him keep His promises, I have not trusted Him multiple times (with disastrous results).  A turning point in my life came when I trusted God and obeyed His teaching by refusing to participant in the production of certain advertising promoting what I felt was pornography, abortion, or the occult.  I risked my family’s main means of support because of this apparent insubordination.  Many true friends prayed for us.  God gave me the chance to talk about His heart of love and concern for people to top levels of management.  God softened the heart of the main decision maker who eventually said I could go back to work without having to touch these ads. (True to God’s style, five years later He had this same company ask me to write large religion section advertising telling people about the love and acceptance of Jesus.  This series of ads ran for fourteen years).

You’d think I would have “lived happily ever after”.  However, less than two weeks after being cleared to not do these ads, I caved in to the gripping fear of losing my livelihood. I moved an objectionable ad from its wrong position on the page to the right position, an ad I previously said I would not touch even to the point of losing my job.  I did it because I was afraid people would think of me as a self-righteous hypocritical trouble maker and reject me if I caused them problems (this was satan lying to me, because I worked with some great people).  There after whenever I was presented with an objectionable ad I always struggled with whether Jesus would protect my job or not if I refused to do the ad.  It was never told to anyone I worked with that I didn’t have to do these ads and I feared others’ resentment for having to do them for me.  There are too many other examples of my failure in trusting God and too embarrassing as well.

It can be hard, very hard, to decide to obey God.  But when I obey Him, He always makes it worth it.  And when I don’t, I always eventually regret it, wishing I had obeyed Him.

So if Jesus pays the bills, what do I do?

Jesus Christ said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV84).

 Jesus isn’t against working hard (for the right reasons). Jesus isn’t  against planning for the future and putting something away for a rainy day.  I think the point of this verse is Jesus wants us to see our value to God.  And to know that if God cares enough about birds, to supply them with what they need to survive, He will with certainty care about us, to give us all that we need.  He wants us to stop worrying about what only He can provide, and wants to provide, for us.

Now, God doesn’t take the worm and bring it to the robin and put it in her and her young ones mouths.  The robin has to use its God-given abilities to hunt for the food and take it to her family.  We are no different.  We have to do what God wants us to do.  When God fed the Israelites manna from heaven they had to go out and collect it and grind it and bake it.  God does what only He can do, we do what we He tells us to do.

I think God wants us to trust Him for everything.  From trusting Him about food, clothing and shelter, to trusting Him enough to give Him back His 10% of our gross income by giving it to the local church.  And, trusting Him to make the other 90% meet our needs.  I think we also need to ask Him what He wants us to do with the skills, abilities, knowledge, and particularly the ability to practically show love to others, He has given us.

But, the process of growing in trust is HARD for me.  It involves risking the seen for the promise of the unseen.  I can risk looking stupid at times.  I can be at odds with society.  Hey, I didn’t have Christian role models in my life when I was growing up so I’ve never seen this done before.  As the Christian pop singer Carmen might say: if I step out on nothin’ will I find somethin’ there?  But taking the chance of obeying Him is the only way I can find out if He is trustworthy or not.  Jesus said that if anyone does His word he will find out if Jesus is from the Father.

I used to be afraid to tell Him I will obey anything He asks (okay, I still am a little;-).  Now that I have obeyed Him several times I have much more confidence that He is as good as He says He is.

As Charles F. Stanley might say, “[Trust and] obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

Will Jesus pay the bills?

When I was a child I depended on my father to supply my needs.  I didn’t wonder where my next meal was coming from and I didn’t worry about how the mortgage payment would be paid.  My father loved me, I was his, and I assumed he would take care of me.  And he did.  Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of God I and you need to become like children.  We need to trust our Heavenly Father like I used to trust my earthly father.

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV84).  Jesus said that He would supply our needs if we trusted Him as our Lord (His kingdom) and Savior (His righteousness).  He also said, that we could not serve God and Money.

We need to make a choice as to whom we want to trust.

We can see Money.  We can predict what Money will do.  And when we make Money our master we are deceived into thinking we control Money and that we are the master.  And it is very “normal” and natural to love Money.

But to trust God for the daily basics of life is not natural.  And very few people trust God with their lives.  We can’t control Him.  And we can’t predict everything that He will do or want us to do.  And we can’t even see Him.

So why do I attempt to make Him my King?  Why do I try to give up loving what I can see for the One I can’t see with my eyes?  Why do I trust Someone who lived 2000 years ago?

What I can see with my eyes doesn’t satisfy for long.  And then I need more and it still doesn’t satisfy.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, power, prestige do not fill the emptiness of the human heart.  Even good things like spouse, kids, work, and church busyness are empty without Jesus.  In the end, depending on this world that we can see, touch and hear will leave you helpless and hopeless.

The emptiness we feel and search the earth to fill was designed to be the home of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.  He made you, He loves you and He died in place of you so that your sins could be forgiven.  Then He rose from the dead to give you a new heart, and a new living spirit.

Jesus loves you and wants you to know Him personally and have your soul satisfied with His infinite love and eternal care for you.  And you can know Him right now.  Agree with Him about your wrong attitudes and actions.  Ask Him to forgive you and to fill the empty spot in you with Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Then tell others about Jesus.  Read the Bible.  Find a church that believes the Bible and preaches it.  (And tell me about it, I would love to pray with you!).