Wow, what a week we’ve had — and what an amazing study this has been!
If you caught yesterday’s post sharing Suzie Eller’s powerful story, then you were privileged to see so many sisters lifting one another up in prayer. What a gift!! THANK YOU for blessing on each other (and me) like that! Wow!
You also might have seen an inkling of what I’m sharing today …
Quite honestly during my childhood, I thought we were a fairly typical family. My parents did their best to encourage my siblings and me, introduce us to Jesus, make happy memories, pray with us and for us and they never called us derogatory names.
Yet things weren’t always fun and games and eventually, my father was diagnosed with a mental illness. The doctors determined it was bipolar disorder (we called it manic depression back then) when I was in the 6th grade. And for about a year or so prior to the diagnosis, and even later when the meds weren’t quite right or he faced tremendous stress or there was a full moon (true story!), he was prone to some pretty interesting manic episodes.
Sometimes it was overspending. Or staying up crazy late. Other times, we’d hear some pretty harsh words for “never” taking out the trash or “always” having a messy room. I’m grateful my dad is a believer and that the majority of the time, a sincere, humble apology would follow. But often my heart still hurt in the thick of it. Oh, did it hurt.
Thankfully just like Suzie, God also brought me an “advocate” who took me under her wing at a critical age. I’ll always remember when sweet Mrs. Sawyer invited me to join her in the teacher’s lounge (gasp! that was super off-limits to little people!) to talk and share an ice cold drink on a warm spring day. She was a God-send who listened intently and poured belief into me.
Later in life, outside circumstances sent trigger-filled memories hurling from my past, and I sought professional counseling to process what it was like to grow up in an “eggshell” environment. The time I spent in counseling was really an investment I made for my future self; learning about how much my Heavenly Father loves me helped me grow in compassion and grace toward my earthly father.
It also helped me gain perspective and choose to be thankful for the many good things I did have while I grew up.
Suzie Eller writes about this in The Mended Heart. Remember those 5,000+ choices we talked about Monday? One of the choices we CAN make is to find joy in the midst of our circumstances. As Suzie says in Chapter 9, “When happiness seems elusive, choose gratitude instead.”
Sweet friends, do you know why this is such great advice? Because it’s biblical.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us, we are to choose joy IN all circumstances. (That’s right — not always FOR those circumstances, but IN them.)
And although I don’t wish mental illness on anyone, I’m thankful for how it shaped me, and especially grateful for these three things:
- I grew in my relationship with God. As an adolescent I began to cry out to God in my pain, which often occurred around a full moon. Now whenever I see one, it’s my reminder that God is ever-present, always watching me and I sense a special hug from my Abba Daddy saying, “There, there, child. It’s going to be okay.”
- I gained strength to care for myself. After my second daughter was born, I didn’t hesitate to seek help in dealing with post-partum depression because I know God gives us modern medicine to help us cope. It’s life-giving and even life-saving at times!
- I gleaned wisdom and a compassion for helping others. Sometimes it’s a knowing glance, or a greater insight as I pray, but God has allowed me the privilege of ministering to others who were battling mental health issues — whether individually or coping as families.
~ ~ ~
Okay, so all of that gratitude business sounds great in theory, right. But HOW do we do that?
Well, let me share some wisdom from a licensed counselor who once told me, “You know, if everybody would just read God’s Word and do what it says, I would be out of business.” And she meant that in the kindest of ways. We’d be less hurt, and as humans we’d do less hurting.
Read God’s Word. Do what it says. Sounds simple enough, right? Sigh … hang with me.
Suzie writes at the end of Chapter 10 in The Mended Heart that as we grow in our personal understanding of God’s Word and spend daily time with Jesus, we change. She tells us:
“The time you spend in His presence and in the Word will gradually change how you think, which changes who you are in your thoughts, which will begin to reflect the words of Jesus imprinted on your heart. It also helps you to hear His voice.”
Yes my friends, this is a choice we CAN make. God has equipped us to choose joy in the midst of some pretty challenging circumstances. Will you make that choice today?
Thank You, Lord, for loving and providing for us in the middle of the rough stuff of life. Help us honor You with our brokenness, as You are mending our hearts. Help us take these lessons to heart. Thank You, Father, for Suzie Eller and the encouraging words she writes. Thank You for mending our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Let’s Chat: Answer one, two or all three sections! We just want to hear from you!
Observe — What have been some of your favorite quotes from this week’s chapters of “The Mended Heart,” Chapters 9 & 10? Share them in the comments.
Bible — Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 and look at the context of choosing joy as Paul gave final instructions to the Thessalonian believers. What’s one way you can choose joy today? Who will you encourage and build up? (See verse 11.)
Stretch — As we stand on the precipice, the edge of jumping into life with a renewed passion and the beginnings of a mended heart, pray about what God wants you to be thankful for. What comes to mind? How do you think having an attitude of gratitude will help you in your mending?