If you really want to find out if others understand your journey, it’s possible. There are other moms raising kids with mental illness (MI).
Reaching Out To Other Moms
Why do we want to know we’re not alone? Maybe it’s because:
It helps to know there actually are other mothers who know what it’s like to raise a child with MI.
We want to know that there are other moms (like me) who do all they can to help their child with MI, and still have times of turmoil. That tells us that those behaviors truly are challenging. It’s not that we have overlooked something. Caring, attentive mothers still have to face HARD times. There’s a limit to what we can do. That’s the nature of the illness.
We need to know other moms face the same struggles and still survive. That gives us some hope.
Moms in similar situations can show us other ways we can help our kids.
We can find empathy without judgement.
So I searched for like-minded moms. I stumbled on a blog where a mom, Christina Halli, shared her story. For one year she posted messages relating what it’s like to raise a son with numerous conditions. That’s right, throughout the years, her son has displayed symptoms of MANY different conditions associated with MI.
What struck me was how many people visited her blog, and shared their situations. Her blog was filled with TONS of stories, each one more horrific than the next. Each one just as heart-wrenching.
As I read the countless comments posted, my heart filled with sorrow. My eyes puddled up with tears. Because I could relate to their private pain. So could you.
Here are a few links for you to read for yourself.
Do you feel you’ve been left to suffer alone? Has no one come alongside you to help you parent a child with mental illness (MI)?
When a loved one dies, friends and relatives flock to the home of the grieving family. When someone is going through cancer treatments, friends offer meals and send get-well cards. When a person has been in a car accident, family members rush to the hospital. It’s different when a child is admitted into a psychiatric unit.
Why do we feel so alone when experiencing a crisis due to MI? Often, it’s because our needless shame prevents us from reaching out. Sometimes others simply couldn’t understand the turmoil that’s in our child, in our homes, and in our heart. How could they? There are no words that could convey the devastation. The whole experience can seem so surreal—even to us.
Dealing with MI can be a long journey. We get so tired of … well, of it all. Especially the loneliness. But, you are not alone. It helps to know others understand.
Paul experienced abandonment.
The apostle Paul was literally abandoned. In the absence of supporters during his time of need, Paul didn’t abandon his faith. He knew God hadn’t abandoned him.
“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
Can you feel God standing by your side, giving you strength to face another day?
Job experienced abandonment.
In the midst of his trials, Job experienced feelings of abandonment. He had suffered the loss of his business, animals, and children. Friends and family didn’t rally around him. They all left him. Imagine his loneliness.
Isolation led him to cry,“He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My relatives have gone away; my closest friends have forgotten me. My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner; they look on me as on a stranger. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family” (Job 19:13-17).
So sad. So pathetic. Can you relate?
Sometimes MI causes our child to behave like one who is betraying us. Can anyone emphasize with that kind of hurt? Once again, we can reach back through the centuries and find someone who knows our pain. God speaks to our heart in the heart of the Bible. Smack in the middle of His Word we find the book of Psalms. There we read about David’s plight.
David experienced betrayal and persecution in the midst of abandonment.
“They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me” (Psalm 35:12-16).
Later in Psalms, David despaired that, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9).
Here’s more proof that David endured betrayal and abandonment:
“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13).
Christ experienced abandonment.
The night soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Matthew tells us that, “All the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56b).
Is it comforting to know that Jesus understands your feelings of isolation?
The last thing we need is advice from people who have no clue what it’s like to raise a child with MI. However, someone who understands our loneliness would get our full attention if they shared advice. David knew we could benefit from his words of wisdom. He not only shared his hard-earned advice, but he added a promise. He recommended that you,“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
David could say with assurance, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
For David, it was personal. He found comfort and assistance from the One who never left him.
“As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16).
Can you echo David’s words of assurance? Because God is unchanging and all loving, every one of us can make the same statement, “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.” We don’t find confidence by mustering up hope. We find confidence by trusting the One who is faithful.
A biblical pep talk:
David has these words of encouragement for you:
“Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).
A lonely widow shows us how to trust God each day:
“The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help” (1 Timothy 5:5).
Why do you go for a walk? Would it be to exercise, think, relax, or explore? Maybe it’s to take pictures, study creation, or enjoy the scenery?
There are different motivations for walking with someone else. To take a romantic stroll or have an uninterrupted conversation.
Sometimes the walk can be routine or boring. Like walking to get somewhere. Or it could result in a precious memory. Like when my husband and I held the tiny hands of our one-year-old granddaughter.
Aborigines practice a more serious type of walk. They go on a journey—‘going walkabout’—which takes months. The concept of ‘going walkabout’ is new to me. I recently learned about the Australian aborigine ritual from a devotional posted on Rest Ministries by Kerryn. In her message titled ‘Going Walkabout To Be With My Father’ she described the aborigine form of initiation.
Wikipedia explains that a walkabout refers to, “a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.
In this practice they would trace the paths, or “songlines”, that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds.”
“In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised ‘creator-beings’ during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator-being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator-being is marked in sung lyrics.”
I may not believe in their mythology, but it got me thinking. Do I follow the true Creator’s lead in my life? Psalm 89:15 assures me that, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord.”
How I yearn to find His light in the midst of trials. Sometimes it’s difficult to track God’s lead when raising a child with mental illness (MI). It can be a lonely life. Only someone walking that same desert journey can understand what it’s like. Because of the stigma that surrounds the illness, most moms don’t talk about it. Their hesitancy to reach out compounds the loneliness. Deep sorrow and anguish fill the isolation. We wander aimlessly in an emotional wilderness devoid of understanding companions.
Husbands travel their own wilderness—one of mental wandering. As they struggle to discover the way out…some solution for their child’s pain. A way to fix the problem.
At the root of a mom’s loneliness is her need for someone to understand. Christ understands. He experienced times in the desert and even welcomed lonely places. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
So we can meet Him in our lonely places.
My research about ‘going walkabout’ shed new light on my walk with the Lord.
Tourism Australia promotes the modern-day benefits of going walkabout. Their article ‘Walkabout’ stated, “Today we can learn from the Aboriginal concept of ‘walkabout’ and leave the pressures of everyday life behind to re-discover what is important to us. For the majority of us, going ‘walkabout’ means taking a holiday and using this time to escape the pressures of daily life and to get back in touch with ourselves. Going ‘walkabout’ restores a sense of magic and wonder to our lives. It enriches our spirit.”
I like the part about escaping the pressures of daily life. But disagree with getting back in touch with myself. True spiritual enrichment can only be found in Christ. Salvation through Jesus provides me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I can think of no greater wonder than to benefit from the indwelling power of God in me.
Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be painful. It’s a long drawn-out grieving process. Great sadness comes from desiring a better life for our child. Denial teases us on good days.
He seems to be doing so well today. Maybe he’ll be able to handle future stress.
But familiar symptoms return. Reality hits. Grieving returns. Where do we turn?
The world offers solutions. Tourism Australia points out that, “Contemporary understandings of ‘walkabout’ remain true to the concept’s Aboriginal heritage. To go ‘walkabout’ in the 21st century is to escape from the pressures of everyday life and to reconnect with yourself, with loved ones, and with the natural world.”
Escaping ‘from the pressures of everyday life’ sounds enticing. But reconnecting with myself sounds empty. I’d rather retreat and reconnect with Christ. He alone knows my secret pain.
My walk with the Lord should parallel an aborigine walkabout in one way.
Tourism Australia explains that, “a ‘Walkabout’ is not an aimless activity but a deliberate and focused journey connecting Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and spiritual obligations.”
My walk with the Lord should be ‘a deliberate and focused journey.’ What would that be like?
I’ll imagine Christ joining me on my private walkabout. I’ll picture Him joining me when I withdraw to pray for my son who has MI. I’ll ‘watch’ Him wipe away tears from my face and fears from my mind.
I’ll visualize him holding my hand as He guides me through each day. I’ll listen to the songlines He marks along my path. Worship songs will help me be alert to signs of His leading.
Forgive me for not having a closer walk with You. How I love spending time in Your presence! Help me to keep my focus on You, walking with you each day.
Picture me standing at center field wearing a blindfold and ear plugs, wondering if any fans are in the football stadium. That’s how I feel as I write this message. Is anyone there to join me in the battle? Is anyone listening? For over two years I’ve been posting messages on this blog, never skipping a week.
Why should I continue? What keeps me going? Having a son with mental illness (MI) can be challenging. At times it’s wearing on my emotions. It’s a daily battle to keep my focus on Him, rather than on the trials in my life. So why bother? What’s my motivation?
If there’s just one who needs renewed hope in the Lord, I’ll share encouraging verses.
If there’s just one who needs to know that someone understands their journey and isolation, pain and shame, I’ll reach out.
If there’s just one who needs to know that God can be found during the darkest times, I’ll tell of His faithfulness to us when our son needed treatment and hospitalization.
If there’s just one who wants to know what it’s like to raise a child with MI, I’ll share my story.
I’m also driven to continue for a personal reason. Writing weekly messages helps frame my thinking. This labor of love forces me to maintain an eternal perspective. There’s something about reflecting on what God’s doing in my life. I pray, God reveals. I write, God seals the lesson.
But I’m like anyone else. I get worn out and tired of the struggle. MI isn’t contagious but it can threaten a mom’s sanity and disrupt her peaceful emotions. So I cling to Philippians 4:7 and trust that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I find refreshment for my soul in songs like ‘Protector of My Soul.’
Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.
King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”
Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”
Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?
So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.
A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.
The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?
It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”
I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.
I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”
Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”
I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.
Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.
Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.
Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.
The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.
Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).
God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’
The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”
Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.
Ever been to a five-diamond restaurant? I did only once. My husband and I went on the vacation of a lifetime. We traveled to Hawaii and splurged on an extravagant dinner. What made it so spectacular? Superb food. Unobtrusive service. Romantic ambiance. And a breath-taking view. The reflection of the sunset on the ocean, just outside our window, whispered, “Welcome to Paradise.”
How does a restaurant achieve a five-diamond status? Our son, Chris, worked for the AAA Club several summers. Often callers inquired about their Diamond Rating Definitions. Chris could articulate the distinction between different levels of service. For example, at a five-diamond restaurant diners would discover that their needs were not just met, but anticipated.
Our children who have mental illness (MI) require five-diamond attention. We attempt to anticipate their needs. When Chris finished treatment for his psychotic episode, I wanted to prepare him for his return to high school.
“If anyone asks you why you were absent for so long, just answer, ‘I was sick and now I’m better.’”
I wondered if Chris would be able to handle any stress. So I contacted the principal.
“If Chris feels overwhelmed, I doubt he’d ask permission to leave class. He might not want to face any questioning in front of his peers. Would there be a way for him to leave class inconspicuously?”
“I’ll give Chris a “gold pass. All his teachers will be instructed that if Chris presents the pass to them they should excuse him—with no questions asked.”
The principal even provided a safe place for Chris to go on such occasions. Chris could report to a person who would be available and qualified to help him with his stress. Three staff members were identified: one on each floor of the huge school building.
Was I able to provide five-diamond protection for Chris? No. I couldn’t anticipate all his needs. That reality sometimes led to my own anxiety.
Those of us raising children with MI are keenly aware of our child’s fragile mental stability or of their shaky emotional well-being. We’d love to keep them in a protective bubble. But we’re simply not able to provide for their every need.
What are we to do? Wring our hands in anxiety or fold them in prayer? Folded hands aren’t a symbol of resignation. But a position of hopeful expectation. When we pray for our kids, we’re not giving up; we’re giving THEM up—to Him. It’s relief for our grief. We can rest in His loving care.
In the Hands of God, our child receives BETTER than five-diamond service. His care is more perfect than anything we can provide. Jesus reminds us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)”
What a comfort to know that the One who created our child knows his needs even before he asks! And He knows our own thoughts too.
Raising a child with MI can be a lonely journey. Often we wonder if anyone understands. Even our own spouse can’t seem to comprehend how we need to be supported. We wish someone would know our deepest thoughts. Thankfully, we can turn to the One who knows better than we know ourselves. How many of us offer this as our prayer to God?
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)”
It is difficult to comprehend His love. When I contemplate my status as His child, I begin to understand.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1-3)”
May you be lavished with His love today.
Reflect on His love as you listen to Scripture Songs’ ‘Behold What Manner of Love – 1 John 3:1.’
Is Christmas a time of drowning for you? Not in debt, but in the quicksand of life with mental illness (MI). You may be thinking, “All I want for Christmas is that it will quickly end.”
Christmas lights, gifts, and baking can be reminders of times before your child had MI. The Hallmark TV channel has already begun airing Christmas movies. Plots which contain scenes of Norman Rockwell families. None seem to show how to celebrate the season in the context of MI. Stores have started selling Christmas decorations. None that can silence sadness.
It can feel like life is passing us by. We tend to believe everyone else lives ‘normal’ lives (whatever that means). Life appears to be so easy for others. People don’t know how complicated life is for us—too complicated to participate in favorite holiday traditions.
Oh, how we yearn to feel the joy of Christ’s coming to earth as a babe!
Chapter nine in the book of Matthew tells us about a lady who got caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christ’s visit to her town. Many probably didn’t even notice her. She was the one who endured a bleeding disease for twelve years. No one knew the courage it took for her to fight her way through the mob of people just to get to Jesus. Surely people stepped on her foot, accidentally jabbed her arm, or knocked her down. But she persevered. She needed a Healer. She sought a Lifesaver to rescue her from drowning in the loneliness and isolation of her disease.
Jesus felt His power go from Him. He noticed her and healed her.
Is there a way for us to celebrate Christmas while we deal with MI? Can we view the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season in a new way? A way that will lift our spirits? Can that lady inspire us to say, “All I want for Christmas is Jesus.”
The message of Christ’s birth is sweeping through our towns. We can face the mob scenes just like that lady. A woman who suffered adversity for many years knew how to keep her focus on Christ. Jesus entered her world and she simply wanted to touch the hem of his garment.
We share similarities with the lady in Matthew 9:20-22.
She endured a disease which caused her to hide herself. We often hide ourselves in shame.
Her disease weakened her and most likely kept her in anguish. We, too, are tired and worn out by MI. In anguish we watch our child with MI deal with life.
Surely, she spent all her money on cures – to no avail. We often spend lots of money on psychiatric care for our fragile or tormented child. And wait for restored joy and clarity of thought.
She touched Christ’s garment by faith and in secret. We approach Christ by faith and in secret.
She needed Christ’s comfort. We, too, seek His comfort—for those in our family who are troubled.
Christ called her daughter, speaking tenderly to her. Christ calls all believing women His daughters. We hear Him speak to us tenderly from His Word.
Christ honored the faith of that humble woman. He honors our humble faith.
Society shut her out, calling her unclean. But that didn’t shut her out from approaching Christ. Society shuts out those who struggle with MI. But that doesn’t stop us from entering into Christ’s presence. In prayer we bring our concerns, hopes, and requests to Jesus.
Jesus entered her world. Christ left heaven to enter our world. He made a way for us to get to heaven. He’s acquainted with all suffering. Those are Truths worth rejoicing!
Outdoor Christmas lights don’t have to mock our struggles. They can be beautiful reminders of what we celebrate: Jesus’ presence in our lives.
Emanuel, God with us, is more than a Christmas greeting on a card. It’s a Truth we cling to. We rely on the promise of His presence. He is with us every minute, every day, all year long. Providing renewed hope, perfect peace, heavenly wisdom, and constant protection.
Reflect on the fact that Jesus left heaven for YOU as you listen to O Holy Night sung by Josh Groban:
Am I the only one who ever wanted to burn highlighters? After countless hours of reading textbooks in college, I had an urge to destroy highlighters. They reminded me of my need to analyze technical passages of text. Of comprehension earned after rereading a paragraph several times.
My grueling study paid off. Graduation day came. No more required reading. I could choose which books to read. Leisure reading became a passion. Especially the Bible and devotional books.
One morning as I read my devotional book, a rainbow spread across the page. As if God highlighted it with His multi-colored light. It came from the crystal I placed near my window. Often it splashed a kaleidoscope of colors in my kitchen each morning. On the walls, on the floor, on the counter…Never before did it light up the page of my book.
It got my attention. I reflected on the welcome distraction. Thanks to Isaac Newton, we know that the spectrum of colors always exists in white light. A prism simply separates the colors to reveal their beauty.
It’s the same way with leaves. Some colors are hidden. In the fall, conditions are just right for the chlorophyll (green color) to give the other colors a turn. Less light leads to less chlorophyll. Carotenoids then have their chance to reveal yellow, orange, and brown—colors that were there all along, but masked by the chlorophyll. Anthocyanins can be produced so some leaves can display red.
Hidden beauty, always there.
The sudden flash of colors took my breath away. I gasped as God reminded me, “My beauty is all around…always there. I’m always with you.”
Life raising a child with mental illness (MI) can seem very dark at times. Thankfully, God draws back the veil so we can get a peek of His exquisite Creation…evidence of His power and love.
Moses needed God to show him the way. He spoke directly to God asking Him, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).”
Don’t we all seek to know God more? Don’t we hope to find favor with God?
God assured Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).”
Wouldn’t we love to have that assurance? That God’s presence WILL go with us. And He will give us rest. Happily, we do share that assurance. Though our journey seems lonely, we’re not alone. He’s with us. Though our journey is exhausting (mentally, emotionally, physically), we have access to His rest.
Although God spoke directly to Moses, Moses needed tangible evidence of God’s presence. He requested, “Please show me Your glory (Exodus 33:15).”
Gotta love Moses for his honesty. Reminds me of a young child asking, “How will I know you’re in the audience?”
Although Moses wasn’t able to see God’s face, God allowed him to catch a glimpse of His back (Exodus 33:20-23).
Moses’ example emboldens us to ask God for evidence of His presence. In your dark place, ask God to reveal Himself. To give you tangible evidence He’s walking with you. So you know you’re not alone. Then watch for it.
The rainbow lightshow which splashed across my devotional book, though mesmerizing, can’t compare to the light we’ll see someday in heaven. Where there will be an end to darkness.
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16).”
Listen to Light of the World (Tim Hughes) and reflect on His amazing love for you.
Left unanswered were numerous other questions. Questions many of us grapple with and secretly ask God.
The big one: Is there a God who cares?
Hagar found out. When she became pregnant with Abraham’s child, Sarah banished her. Alone in the wilderness, God spoke to her. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me. (Genesis 16:13)’”
He sees us as we stagger through the wilderness of MI. Wandering alone. Is there a God who cares?Yes, El Roi is the God who sees.
What’s the ultimate torture for a mother? To watch her child suffer and die. Hagar couldn’t do it. When her son’s water ran dry in the desert, she left him. Can you identify with her pain? Are there days when you doubt whether or not you can bear to watch your child suffer any longer?
The God who sees also hears. He heard the cry of Hagar’s son. “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink (Genesis 21:17-19).”
Is there a God who hears?Yes.He’s the same God who opened Hagar’s eyes to see His provision and her ears to hear His future blessings. Ask Him to open your eyes to His provision and your ears to hear the blessings He plans for you.
Is there a God who can make a way when there seems to be no way to help our child with MI?Yes. El Shaday, God Almighty is the God of all possibilities.Nothing is impossible with Him.
Here’s an experience I had that helped me understand His limitless power.
Early in the morning, one of my second graders entered the classroom looking downcast. I could see he was fighting back tears. Samuel was normally a happy-go-lucky kind of kid…very even-tempered and mature. That’s why his demeanor alarmed me even more.
Before he unpacked his backpack, I took him out in the hall. I asked him what was wrong. From his backpack he pulled out a pink folder with a ballerina on the cover.
In disgust he said, “My yellow folder ripped, so my mother gave me this – my SISTER’S folder.”
He was embarrassed and ashamed of the folder and obviously angry with his mother.
Every student in the class had a yellow pocket folder they used to take papers to and from home. Samuel knew the pink folder would be noticed by all his classmates. He feared others would tease him.
My student didn’t know that I kept a supply of new yellow pocket folders in my cabinet for emergencies.
I instructed him to, “Wait here” and went to get a new yellow pocket folder. I printed his name on the front.
When I presented the new folder to Samuel, he was so relieved that he snatched it out of my hands and proceeded to rush into the classroom. But, I gently pulled him back into the hallway. This was an opportunity to share a biblical truth.
“Your problem seemed like a HUGE problem…one that couldn’t be solved. But, to me it was a very small problem. When you get older, you will have bigger problems. To God, all those problems will be easy for Him to solve. Never forget this pink folder. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Always remember how much God loves you and never forget His mighty power.”
Is there a God who can make a way when there seems to be no way?Yes. El Shaday, God Almighty is the God of all possibilities. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Is there a God who can restore joy?The psalmist believed so. He reminded himself to tap into that fountain of joy.
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 43:4-5).”
During my darkest days, I turn on Christian worship songs. Like the psalmist, I find that praise leads me right to God, my joy. Can God restore joy?Yes. His joy is yours for the taking! Drink freely.
Is there a God who can restore peace in the home and in the hearts of our children?Yes. Our Shepherd restores our soul.He will lead us out of turbulence to rest beside still waters. His rod and staff comfort us. Can God restore peace?Yes. The Lord, our Shepherd will be with us allthe days of our lives. He will never leave us.
Is there a God who can intercede in a marriage to rebuild that relationship? If Christ can be our Mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5), He can surely be the mediator in our marriage. Is there a God who can restore marriages?Yes. The One who sent His Son to restore His relationship with mankind wants to renew your relationship with your spouse.The One who forgave all sin can help you unconditionally forgive and trust again.
When MI suddenly shattered our son’s live, Chris questioned God’s love for him. Don’t we all do that?
Chris demanded, “Don’t tell me Bible verses! I want to know that He still loves me. Where’s the proof?”
God’s answered by painting an exquisite moon that said, “Here’s a symbol of my love for you.”
A small child draws a picture to show their love. God paints the sky. Can God be found?Yes. Elohim, the Creator can do amazing things to remind us of His love.
When Chris was out of touch from reality, he harmed our dog. The dog he loved. Zelda’s bloodshot eyes reminded him of his uncharacteristic violence. Tormented by those actions, Chris despaired of the loss of his pet’s love for him. “She won’t love me ever again.”
By faith, I responded, “Yes she will. Just call her.”
He called her name and she willingly responded.
Can God be found? Yes. Elohim, the Creator can do amazing things to remind us of His love.
Can God use the ugliness of MI for any good purpose? He uses trials to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in us. In this spiritual boot camp we find ourselves in, He teaches us how to show unconditional love to our child with MI. He helps us respond in gentleness when we receive unprovoked anger. He fills us with His perfect peace amid great sorrow. He is Melek, King. King of all kings. His power is limitless.
When things seem out of control and we can’t hold it together, God is still seated on the throne, holding the universe together.
When we feel the sting of searing stigma, the image of Christ reaching out to the outcasts and touching the lepers comforts us.
When we feel helpless, we remember God provides hope in abundance, as we recall the promise, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”
Can God help a mom of a child with MI?Yes. He is: • Our refuge when we need protection • Our rock when things are uncertain and unstable • Our loving Father who will provide all we need in His perfect time • Present when we feel alone • The One who sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us when we need His perfect peace
So, you tell me…Does it help to be a Christian?
I say yes!
Listen to Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way”
The elderly woman shuffled out the door of the nursing home. Her husband drove up and got out of his car to open her door.
Her words said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that,” but her smile said, “I love how you pamper me.”
In a strong Russian accent he lovingly replied, “How many times (will) I have this honor?”
In his twilight years, he still considered it an honor to open the door for his wife. And savored each time he had the opportunity. Not knowing how much longer he’d have with his bride. He sincerely cherished the privilege to serve her.
What a blessing it was to witness his caring spirit!
Who knows how long he’s been caring for his wife? Who knows how many decades he’s tenderly helped her?
Who knows how long you’ve been caring for your child who has mental illness (MI)?
No one knows how many times you’ve extended kindness without getting any thanks in return. No one knows the hurt you feel when your loving acts are shunned or not acknowledged by your child. No one knows how hard it is to keep doing it. Day after day.
Our job is often a thankless job. And yet we continue. Why? Love compels us.
Many of us serve family members to honor God. Knowing He sees our compassionate parenting.
God understands our motives and our pain. The Psalmist echoes our desires:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
Do you ever wish you could simply give up? Get away. Take a vacation from all the responsibilities.
I used to teach second graders. I loved teaching, but hated grading papers. One day, while buried in papers, I whined to my husband, “I HATE grading papers!”
He calmly advised, “Don’t think of it as something you have to do; think of it as something you can do.”
What a transforming thought! I don’t have to view hard work or difficulties as drudgery. It’s my choice how I perceive unpleasant or challenging situations.
Like having multiple sclerosis (MS) in addition to having a son with MI. I can view it as a curse or a blessing.
A fellow MS patient once shared her reaction to the two disabilities in our family. “What a double whammy!”
I replied, “Actually, it’s kinda bitter sweet. Yes, it stinks to have MS. But, my son Chris and I understand each other’s medical challenges. He’s very compassionate about my cognition problems. He once told me he’s glad that he can help me in return for everything I’ve done for him. Chris witnesses the peace God gives me and knows it’s for real.”
We all have a choice. Some days are better than others. Sometimes it’s easier to maintain a positive attitude. Other days, only God’s grace can help us manage a smile.
When I’m having one of those days, it helps me recall the words of a black Baptist preacher. He bellowed his admonition, “Wives, when you wash the dishes, do it AS UNTO THE LORD! Men, mow the lawn AS UNTO THE LORD! Teens, do your homework AS UNTO THE LORD! Children, clean your room AS UNTO THE LORD! Workers, complete your tasks AS UNTO THE LORD!”
The Holy Spirit fills my head with those words. They prod me to keep going as if coaching me through my day. Do it as unto the Lord. That’s right. Do it as unto the Lord. You can do it. Do it as unto the Lord.
A favorite song reminds me of my free will to praise God no matter what. The song, “Blessed Be Your Name” expresses my intention:
“You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name.”
MS has taken away my ability to teach second graders. But, my heart chooses to say, “Blessed be Your name, Lord.” With an eternal perspective, I’m able to notice the advantages of having MS. Grading papers are gone, and occasional photo shoots are in. I can visit my mother an aunt periodically. How I cherish those get-togethers! Just like that dear man holding the door for his wife, I don’t know how much longer I have with them.
I can sigh, “No one knows what I’m going through.” Or, I can choose to remember Him. My heavenly Father knows. He is well-pleased with my labors. He knows I’m doing the best I can.
Think no one knows? God sees it all. Keep going for Him.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” Ephesians 6:7