There’s a cure for minor irritations: big problems.
Raising a child who has mental illness (MI) puts things into perspective. Former annoyances pale in comparison to daunting trials.
I used to pride myself in being able to handle any problem. Until MI hit. When our son, Chris had his first psychotic episode, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t restore clarity of thought. Motherly comfort couldn’t cure him. Divine intervention was my only hope.
We sometimes have to get sucked into the quicksand of helplessness before we realize our need for God. Getting knocked flat on our back forces us to look up. Bringing into focus the Source of our help.
One day, while teaching second graders, I realized my reliance had completely shifted from my control to God’s. MI had taught me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.” It helped me understand that all our problems are small stuff to God.
Report cards were to be sent home. A major computer problem had been discovered. Forcing the school secretary to inform the teachers. She came to my classroom to report the bad news. The look in her eye told me she was bracing herself for a bad reaction.
“There’s a problem with the report card software program. A computer glitch is changing some of the grades. We don’t have time to double check all the grades for every student. Other teachers are really concerned. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?”
I didn’t bat an eye. It didn’t faze me.
“This isn’t the end of the world. I think if people faced a real crisis, things would be put into perspective. This is no big deal. We can just send a note home informing the parents we’re aware of the problem. All we need to do is assure parents we’ll adjust any incorrect grades once we’ve had time to investigate.”
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we experienced with Chris. It’s just that a significant tragedy has a way of shifting our perspective.
In 1992 a monster storm threatened the southern tip of Florida. Hurricane Andrew quickly grew to a category five hurricane. My high school friend, Lynn, lived in Homestead with her family. Andrew was taking aim on her home. Homestead was in its direct path.
I called Lynn right before she evacuated. “I’ll pray for you and your family. What are you going to do?”
“We’re collecting photos and important papers. We’ll drive as far north as we can. We’ll be okay as long as we have each other.”
In the panic of the storm, it became clear to Lynn what was important. They could survive the loss of their home and business as long as they had each other.
When trials threaten to ravage our lives, we realize what’s important: family. When we’re at the mercy of circumstances, we understand our utter dependence on God. We realize our need to rely solely on Him.
Many parents dream their children will get a good job, marry, and have kids. Howie and I were no different … until MI hit. Now we’re grateful Chris is alive. Our greatest desire is for him to be happy and at peace.
Our dependence on God enables us to face another day. We don’t fear big problems because we know God is bigger. The more we see His faithfulness, protection, and provision, the more we can trust Him. We’ve learned to live with adversity, with an assurance of His care.
My former multi-handicapped student knew about living with adversity. I wondered what life was like for him. So I asked Tom, “What’s it like being blind?”
“It’s no picnic,” he casually remarked.
What an understatement! How could Tom answer so matter-of-factly? Because he’d faced his lifestyle for so long. He got used to it.
We’ve faced life with MI for over 17 years. I can agree with Tom. “It’s no picnic.” I’m not a fan of problems and life stressors. But problems don’t scare me anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to God’s intervention. And have learned to depend on His love and power in our lives.
The good news: God can give you that same blessed assurance.
This journey of MI can feel so lonely. But we’re never alone. God is with us. Joni Eareckson Tada, who has faced adversity for decades, sings of that great assurance. We’re ‘Alone Yet Not Alone.’