Tag Archive | sorrow

Gratitude and Sorrow?

Choose.PS

How many decisions do you think you make each day? Adults make an average of 35, 000 decisions each day.

Some are good, some might be bad, and others might be—hard …really hard…like choosing to be grateful in the midst of sorrow.

Is it possible to choose gratitude in hard times? What might happen if we surrender to sorrow? That decision could lead to the deadly D’s. With us being sucked into the abyss of depression, despair, and discouragement.

Sorrow could be a perfectly normal feeling for a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI). If a child says something bazaar, starts to unravel, refuses to eat or talk, cuts herself, lashes out in unprovoked anger, or abuses substances, sorrow would be a typical emotion. What mom wouldn’t feel deep sorrow while watching helplessly as her child slips away or heads towards disaster?

We wonder what is happening to our MI child when he is away. It’s easy to let our imagination get carried away. For our own mental health, we have to refuse to entertain those fears. When I’m tempted to go down the worry path, I consciously begin to count my blessings.

I’m grateful Chris lives with us. And that he involves himself in constructive activities, rather than isolating. I’m grateful he’s goal-oriented. And that he works to achieve those goals, instead of being unmotivated.

I’m grateful for times we have positive interactions. And that he initiates happy conversations, rather than shutting us out.

I’m grateful when I get glimpses of his intellect, musical ability, or technology talents. And that he’s willing to share those gifts with us from time to time.

Sometimes it’s not that easy to shift emotions. What can we learn from real people in the Bible? The Bible is full of decisions people made.

Some decisions were bad: Jonah decided to run from God’s will.

Some decisions were courageous: The boy David chose to stand up to a giant, in God’s power.

Some decisions were good: The Good Samaritan chose to help the victim of a robbery.

And some decisions were hard: The biological mother of a child told King Solomon to spare her baby’s life and give the boy to the other woman who falsely claimed he belonged to her (instead of dividing the child and giving one half to each woman).

The Psalmist gives us an example of how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions. Many times the writer calls out to God in his despair. Often his cry of fear or sadness is followed by a sharp turn in focus. One tiny word helps him rejoice in God. The word “but” represents a deliberate decision to reconsider his situation in light of God’s power and faithfulness. Essentially, he says, “My situation seems hopeless. But God is able to support, help, deliver, protect, strengthen, and give peace.”

Here’s a list of those “But Verses in Psalms“.

Matt Redman sings about choosing to bless the Lord in all circumstances—good or bad. His song “Blessed Be Your Name” includes these lyrics:

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say, Lord

Blessed be Your name, Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qp11X6LKYY

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Desperate for Peace

Peace

Who needs peace more, you or your child? Hard to say. We desperately need peace ourselves, as we watch our children with mental illness (MI) suffer. We also want peace for our children. Instead of continuing with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, psychotic thoughts, or emotional turmoil, we want them to be filled with God’s peace.

How do we find peace?

  1. We can pursue it.

My mom’s prayer life is a perfect example. Recently, she ended her prayer in an unusual way. It wasn’t the typical, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  While in a rehab facility and in pain, my mom closed her prayer with, “I’ll be back.” And surely she did return. Again and again.  My mom’s legacy is one of constant prayer.

We have unlimited access to the throne of God. He invites us to, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ).

  1. We also find peace in the midst of our trials.

God’s people in Thessalonica had a growing faith in the midst of their trials. They had to rely on God and God alone. Such reliance leads to divine peace.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

  1. We find peace when reading His Word.

Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).

Many times, the Bible is the only place I found solace. Facing an uncertain future, I found stability in an unchanging, faithful Father.

  1. We find peace within us, as we yield to the Holy Spirit and Christ who live in us.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

In the darkest hour with our son, Chris, the Spirit carried me with His perfect peace.

  1. We find peace when our heavenly Father sees us in great sorrow.

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul” (Psalm 31:7).

When we’re too distraught to reach out to Him, He reaches out to us. Pursue His peace by praying constantly, just like my mom:

Dear Father, Thank You for giving us Your peace which passes understanding. I’ll be back.

Desert Island Paradise?

Diamond Head Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head
Honolulu, Hawaii

Would you pick up a travel brochure that advertised, “Visit the Land of Sorrow”? Perhaps it would at least grab your attention.

Curiosity might tempt you to peek at the inside pages. You’d read:

The Land of Sorrow promises to be both exhilarating and frightening. There will be times of fear, followed by times of fun.

Pass through the parched Desert of Dried-up Dreams. Then, visit the Island Paradise of Joy-filled Living.

You’d quickly return the brochure to its fellow unwanted pamphlets. That kind of trip wouldn’t appeal to you. The destination would sound all-too familiar. Kinda like life which includes raising a child with mental illness (MI)—a rollercoaster life.

Recently Genesis 41:52 grabbed my attention. My daily devotional included the verse, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow” (MSG).

Prosperity in the land of sorrow?

Curiosity tempted me to peek inside the Bible and find out the context.

Genesis 37, 39, and 40 set the stage. Those chapters describe Joseph’s land of sorrow. Out of jealousy, his brothers threw him into a pit and left him to die. Then, they realized selling their brother would be profitable. So, they lifted him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. There, the captain of the guard’s wife lied about Joseph. So, Joseph was cast into prison. While in the dungeon, Joseph interpreted the chief butler’s dream. Joseph hoped that when the butler was released, he’d convince Pharaoh to release him. But, when the chief butler got released, he forgot all about Joseph.

Then came Joseph’s prosperity. Two years later, the butler finally remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret his dream (Genesis 41:1-13). Joseph assured Pharaoh, “God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16b). Joseph’s interpretation pleased Pharaoh so much that he said, “‘You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you … See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:40-41).

That was just the beginning of Joseph’s prosperity. He and the people of Egypt enjoyed seven years of abundant food. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who bore him two sons.

That’s the part of the story which includes the intriguing verse.

“He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, ‘God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow’” [Genesis 41:52 (MSG)].

The context gave me insight. Joseph endured hardship in the land of Egypt. Later, he enjoyed prosperity in the same land. It encouraged me to read about someone who experienced an easy life after tremendous hardship. His God could do the same for me. So I read on.

Just as God had instructed in Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph stored up food during the seven yrs. of plenty to ensure he’d have food during the seven yrs. of severe famine. Genesis 41:53-54 reveals the wisdom of God’s advice.

“Then Egypt’s seven good years came to an end and the seven years of famine arrived, just as Joseph had said. All countries experienced famine; Egypt was the only country that had bread” [Genesis 41:53-54 (MSG)].

Can we relate to Joseph?

He was treated unfairly by his brothers, by the captain of the guard’s wife, and by the chief butler. It can seem unfair that we’ve been charged with raising a child with MI (especially if we’re also dealing with other challenges).

Like Joseph, we’ve gone through times of sorrow. We’ve watched our children suffer losses, experience turmoil, or endure depression and anxiety. Some of us have witnessed our children bear paranoia or psychosis.

Joseph prepared for the oncoming famine by storing up grain. We can prepare for the possible re-emergence of MI symptoms by storing up verses.

Pharaoh told his servants, ““Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).

The same Spirit, which was in Joseph, is in those of us who have received Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and discernment to help our fragile and vulnerable children.

We still may get hung up on the taunting question of why. Why did God allow MI to strike our children?

Joseph’s story offers us an end to that torment. Joseph understood that God had a plan for his life. So, he was able to forgive his brothers. He told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

That presents us with a great challenge. Can we view our circumstances from a heavenly perspective? We may never fully understand God’s purposes for the trials we endure. But, we can be sure His plans are perfect and His love is endless. When life doesn’t make sense, God’s Word calms our fear and confusion. His unchanging Truths help us trust God even if we can’t track Him.

Dear Father,

Help me look past my circumstances that seem so unfair at times. Give me have an eternal perspective. Please prosper me and my family in our land of sorrow. Lead me to verses that I can use during stormy days. Verses that will remind me of Your love and faithfulness. Be gracious to restore joy and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Overtaken

race.overtaken

 

 

 

It’s rare when a teenager teaches his parent something. That’s what happened when our son, Rob joined the track team in seventh grade. A completely new venture for him.

“Mom, do you wanna come watch our first home meet?” Rob asked.

“Sure. I’ll be there.”

I approached the bleachers with great anticipation. Excitement filled my heart. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. The gun signaled the start of the race. My face beamed as I watched Rob spring into action. Hope oozed through my tightly-squeezed folded hands. I rocked in pace with his step as if I could help him soar.

Gradually, the pack of runners divided into two. A bunch of fierce competitors bolted ahead with the speed of gazelles. A smaller clump of runners drifted further and further back. I found Rob in that back bunch. Runner after runner overtook him. Every competitor passed him. All but one.

My hands went limp. My heart sunk. I began searching for wise words to give Rob. How could I console him?

Oh well. He tried. But that kind of loss will surely make him want to quit. Should I let him quit?

At the end of the meet, I waited in the car to take Rob home. I spotted him approaching the car and braced myself. Then I noticed he had a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.

“Did you see that Mom? I beat out one kid!” he proudly proclaimed. Grinning as if he’d won.

His words left me speechless. I hadn’t anticipated such an upbeat response. Suddenly my heart was full of pride.

“Yes, Rob. Good job.”

The runners who had overtaken him didn’t discourage him. Because he had a different perspective. His focus wasn’t on the mass of kids who had run faster. Rob rejoiced in the one he had passed.

The next time he ran, I witnessed him pass two runners. The following meet, he passed three. Each race filled his heart with great rejoicing. Always viewing his triumphs instead of defeats.

Rob’s focus taught me how to focus. Not on trials. But on God’s blessings. Not on the cares of this earth. But on future treasures in heaven. Not on huge burdens. But on His power.

As moms raising children with mental illness (MI) we have to deal with our own emotions. Sadness for the turmoil our child experiences. Grief over the loss of our once happy-go-lucky child. Despair due to lack of effective treatments. Frustration because of others who don’t understand: teachers, mental health care workers, siblings, or husbands.

But sorrow doesn’t have to engulf us. Worry doesn’t have to overtake our thoughts. Like Rob, we can choose what to focus on. Each day we can begin with this resolution: with God’s help, I’ll look for the blessings my heavenly Father puts in my life. I’ll keep my mind’s eyes on Him. Searching for His faithfulness and provision.

Some children with mental illness (MI) can’t easily choose their outlook. Some don’t have complete control over their thoughts. Distorted thinking creates false realities. A mind filled with paranoia convinces the person that others seek to harm him. Resulting fears are very real. Their thoughts overtake them.

Darkness may surround us and attempt to overtake us. But we need not be swept away by our circumstances. We need not flail as if drowning in an emotional tsunami. We have the words in Isaiah 35 to comfort our soul. With thoughts firmly fixed on eternity, our sadness fades. Images of life in heaven squelch our sorrow. Hope returns. Once again, we’re able to envision an end to our tears. We picture new bodies without MI. Then our sadness is overtaken by gladness and joy.

“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10).”

Speechless

SPEECHLESS

Silence fell over the college dining hall. Everyone savored each bite of the roast beef. Back in the day, such a meal came only once a year—at final time. Usually we had to choose from one form of “mystery meat” or the salad bar. Entrees often tasted like hospital food. So roast beef was a real treat. We didn’t want to interrupt the taste sensation with casual chatter. We were speechless.

Other things which delight our senses can leave us speechless. A breathtaking sunset which could never be captured. An unmatched athletic fete which would appear impossible to duplicate. An orchestra performance which could only be rewarded by a standing ovation.

The temporary inability to speak is usually caused by strong emotions. Either good or bad. Horror can render one speechless. Like news of the death of a loved one.

Often there are no words to describe secret pain suffered. A mother watching her child struggle with mental illness (MI) doesn’t even attempt to explain what’s in her heart. The carefree smile on her child’s face has been replaced with a dark stare. The young head that used to tip backwards in bubbling giggles now hangs down like a heavy wet rag. Her child once used to be the life of a party. Now she’s an empty shell of a person. Lifeless.

No words can explain the sorrow.

Mothers aren’t the only ones left speechless in the wake of MI. Sometimes our children with MI don’t speak. Clinical depression robs them of any desire to communicate. How their parents long for happy conversations!

Refraining from speaking isn’t always a bad thing. The best response often is silence. Whenever Chris fires unprovoked anger my way, I shoot a quick prayer heavenward. Asking God to help me remain silent. Whenever Chris makes an odd statement, Howie listens without response. Withholding our anger or judgment delivers an unspoken blessing to Chris. Silence conveys our unconditional love.

Poets and leaders have written about the value of silence.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1926), the British novelist and poet observed, “That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British politician, pointed out, “When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), a man known for his words, touted the benefits of silence. He chose strong descriptors to convey his passion about a pause. “The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words however so felicitous, could accomplish it.”

What about the Bible? Does it tell us anything about silence? Christ often didn’t respond. He used silence to convey a powerful message or to make a point. Sometimes His silence was coupled with a look. Peter experienced one of those.

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times (Luke 22:60-61).’”

We find biblical warnings associated with talking in Proverbs. Verse nineteen in chapter ten tells us that, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

That’s what moms raising kids with MI need. Wisdom. Scripture emphasizes the importance of investing serious contemplation before speaking.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer (Proverbs 15:28  NKJV).”

Knowing how fragile our children are, we choose our words wisely.

Proverbs 17:27 instructs us to use words sparingly. It provides a formula for a calm spirit. Knowledge + understanding + few words = a calm spirit.

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

As we minister to our children with MI we seek a calm spirit. For our children and for us. We not only find serenity in carefully chosen words. We find peace in God’s glory. His creation leaves us breathless and reminds us of His power. In Him we have an all-powerful King who offers unlimited hope.

Phil Wickham, in his song ‘This is Amazing Grace’ sings about how God’s glory which leaves us breathless.

“Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings”

Reflect on that breathless wonder as you listen to, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ Phil Wickham    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgsbaBIaoVc

Wishes

jeannie.bottle

What’s your favorite old-time show? One of mine is I Dream of Jeannie. Who doesn’t fantasize about having a personal Jeannie? We fantasize because it’s fun to imagine obtaining what we’d never be able to gain. But we know such power is false. God’s power is real. So what would be your greatest request of God?

Here’s what one mom asked Jesus to grant for her sons:

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

“She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

Sounds like a reasonable request to ask. If you’re going to seek favors from the King of kings why not request the best seats in heaven?

Before mental illness (MI) struck your child, were you like that mom? Did you wish only the best for him? Did you have grand aspirations for him? MI has a way of adjusting the prayers for our kids.

Listen to how Christ responded to that mom’s request.

“‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

“‘We can,’ they answered.

“Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father (Matthew 20:20-23).’”

Christ’s response hinted at the sons’ future suffering. He also foretold of the suffering He would endure on the cross.

That familiar passage offers hope to me, for life in heaven and for my time on earth. I’ll be eternally grateful for Christ’s gift of salvation. He endured agony and sorrow for my sake. He experienced extreme torment, pain, and suffering. Therefore it’s a comfort He understands my son’s torment and pain.

Christ sympathizes with my sorrow as well. Not only does MI cause distress to Chris, but it brings tremendous heartache to me. Jesus knows what it’s like to endure deep sorrow. It helps when Someone understands what I’m going through.

Like any mom of a child with MI, I yearn for the day my son is restored to good mental health. The restoration of Israel described in Isaiah 54:11 symbolizes what I envision for Chris.

“You poor city [Afflicted one]. Storms have hurt [battered; tossed] you, and you have not been comforted. But I will rebuild you with turquoise stones [gems], and I will build your foundations with sapphires [or lapis lazuli] (EXB).”

Like any mother, my greatest desire is for Chris to be content. I pray for the GREAT peace God promised Israel in Isaiah 54:13.

“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.”

 

Overwhelmed with Sorrow

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

Throughout Chris’s school years, learning was easy for him. He always brought home A’s. Until one day.

Chris’s first grade teacher wanted to prepare me for the unusually low grade he would bring home that day. Since I taught in the small Christian school he attended, I ate lunch with his teacher.

“I had to give Chris a D on his math test,” she explained.

“Why?”

“He didn’t follow the directions.”

After school, Chris came to my classroom. As soon as he started to talk, he burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, Chris?”

Thrusting his math paper at me, he sobbed, “I got this paper back.”

“Why are you crying?”

“I’m afraid you’re not gonna love me anymore.”

How could he think such a thing? What made him believe my love could be turned off by a mere bad grade? How could he ever imagine my love for him was conditional?

Then it dawned on me. Tests grades with A’s were proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Chris assumed the kitchen was our hall of earned love. The place of honor reserved for excellent work. In his mind, papers with A’s were payments to gain my love.

Chris was overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought I wouldn’t love him anymore. His sadness opened the floodgates of my compassion.

“Oh, Chris, nothing will ever stop me from loving you. Not this grade. Not any mistake you’ll ever make. I will always love you.”

Chris isn’t the only one who’s become overwhelmed with sorrow.

Jesus became overwhelmed with sorrow. In the book of Matthew, Jesus told His disciples He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” when faced with bearing the burden of everyone’s sin (Matthew 26:38). What was His response?  He found a quiet place and prayed to His father.

We, too, suffer great sorrow. In agony, we watch our child struggle with mental illness. Do we pray to our Father?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to pray so they won’t fall into temptation. That’s His desire for us too. He knows we face the temptation to give into our human reactions. It’s easy to become fearful, uncertain, hopeless, and depressed.

Just like Chris, go to God and honestly admit, “I haven’t followed Your directions and have neglected my private times with You. I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore. Show me Your love. Help me see Your path for my child’s life. Reveal Your presence in my house. Restore clarity of thought and joy to my son. Encourage me today. Bless me with Your perfect peace.”

Release the floodgates of His love for you.