“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).”
Words and air are alike. I need both of them to live. Oxygen helps me breathe. God’s Word helps me survive trials like mental illness (MI).
Countless times I’ve read all of Psalm 119. Not just because it’s easy to find (smack in the middle of my Bible). But because the psalmist echoes my pain and helps me reflect on His Word.
Dear Father, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:50 NKJV).”
What do you do with words? Whisper them to a despondent son? Yearn for them from a depressed daughter? Ignore them from well-meaning people who offer advice?
Words can be powerful. They can also be difficult to understand at times. Especially if MI clogs comprehension. Like when Chris was hospitalized for his psychotic episode.
I’m usually not at a loss for words. Except when grief grips me. Watching Chris suffer in the hospital made me mute. Desperation silenced my speech. In languishing there is no language. Tempting as it was, I couldn’t go into a cocoon and cry. I needed to speak. It was crucial that Chris understand my words. At the upcoming hearing he’d have to agree to stay in the hospital. If he didn’t, he’d face a court hearing—a hearing where we’d testifying against him.
This next part of my story demonstrates how God moved mightily in Chris’s mind. And opened his mouth to speak words I doubted Chris could say.
The past seven weeks I’ve been sharing details of our story. When mental illness (MI) struck Chris, it thrust him into emotional turmoil and mental confusion. It impacted me (and our entire family) as well. Like any other mom, I hated to see my son suffering. During those troubling times, God ministered to me.
My heavenly Father provided peace, protection, and provision. He gave me endurance, wisdom, and guidance. I felt His presence and experienced His faithfulness. As He eased my grief.
This week I’ll share how God’s Word comforted me. Even as I faced the hearing.
The day of the hearing approached. I discovered a new level of sadness.
I knew how to deal with mild sadness. That’s cured by a good dose of chocolate. I’d learned what to do with moderate sadness. That’s soothed by a compassionate word from a friend and a good cry. I’d even experienced extreme sadness. That’s replaced with perfect peace when a heart cries out to the Lord.
Extreme sadness and stinging sorrow struck when Chris was in kindergarten. His teacher didn’t understand how to manage a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Chris’s hyperactivity blinded her from seeing his superior intelligence and love for the Lord. She only noticed his “bad” behavior. Each day she’d ask me to stay after school. She’d relate every minor infraction of her rules. She’d tell me every little thing Chris did wrong. And never added something positive. As if she didn’t even like him.
Other parents picking up their children heard her daily request, “Mrs. Chandler, could you please stay a minute?” They knew what that meant. No doubt, their children were telling stories of how Chris got into trouble.
The teacher’s sweet expression and superficial smile didn’t dampen the humiliation. Her regular reports pierced my heart. Day after day she defeated my spirit. So I cried out to the Lord.
Oh Father, hear my cry!!! Help that teacher see Chris as You see him. Prevent Chris from feeling unloved when he’s in school. Protect my broken heart.
God heard my cry. And filled me with His peace that passes understanding.
When Chris was in the hospital I experienced a deeper sadness. Tears didn’t soothe my heartache. I had no appetite. Talking didn’t rid me of sorrow. I felt like the psalmist who said, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak (Psalm 77:4).”
My son was hurting and I needed to help him. But I was unable to protect Chris from torment. Nothing mattered except seeing Chris get better.
Because we committed Chris against his will, a hearing was scheduled. Chris was assigned a lawyer from Social Services. The hospital had their lawyer. We were told we could arrange to have our own lawyer. But we didn’t see the need.
I’d lost weight and needed something to wear. None of the dresses in the local Dress Barn seemed appropriate.
What does one wear to a hearing against her own son?
On the day of the hearing the hospital’s lawyer explained what would happen.
“Chris will be asked if he agrees to remain in the hospital. If he doesn’t agree to stay, then we will have to go to court. In that event, witnesses would have to be brought in. The police who came to your house would be questioned. Even your other son might be questioned. In all likelihood Chris would lose the court case. So, it’s in his best interest to agree to remain in the hospital.”
How will Chris understand all of this in his condition? Even if he was clear-headed and not on any medication, I can’t imagine how he would agree to stay in such a place. He’s been begging to get out of here. How can we convince Chris to do the opposite—to say he’ll stay?
The lawyer continued to explain the procedure.
“Prior to the hearing you and your husband will be able to talk with Chris briefly.”
During our brief conversation with Chris, he struggled to understand what we were explaining. He desperately wanted to do the right thing. But also wanted to get out of that hospital.
How can we get him to agree to stay in such a place? How can we make him understand? Father, Your words are powerful. I know You’re able to do what we can’t. Please clear his thinking so he’ll willingly speak the words necessary to prevent worse pain.
God heard my prayer. Chris agreed.
“Okay. I’ll say I want to stay.”
That was only the first step. He had to repeat that statement to the judge at the hearing.
We were ushered into a room. Howie and I were seated behind Chris (not even at the table with the others!). Chris was seated next to his lawyer.
I can’t believe this is happening. Chris looks so vulnerable and helpless. Why couldn’t we sit next to him?
The judge read the official report from the psychiatrist. Everyone heard him say Chris assaulted Howie and me. Chris had to hear the judge proclaim what was wrong with him. Then the judge asked the all-important question.
“Chris, will you agree to remain in the hospital for your treatment?”
Chris hesitated. His MI and medication made it difficult for him to respond.
“Okay. I’ll stay.”
I was so proud of him and grateful to God. But sad he’d still have to endure being in the hospital. The psalmist had taught me to shift my focus back to God when sorrow threatens to consume me. So I remembered the one tiny word ‘but.’
“But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble (Psalm 59:16 NKJV).”
God’s Word can comfort. It can restore joy and renew hope.
My prayer is that you’ll join me in saying, “Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV).”
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) promises, “We through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”