Tag Archive | trials

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.

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You can be an extreme survivor.

football.mercy.best

Can an enemy be more than dead? Are there degrees to an army being slaughtered? None of my history books made distinctions between defeated foes: slightly destroyed soldiers VS completely demolished warriors. Victory is victory. So what’s the meaning of Romans 8:37?

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Sounds like the kind of victory I’d love to have. Is it possible to be more than a conqueror of a trial? How ‘bout the trial of raising a child with mental illness (MI)?

The phrase, “more than conquerors” reminds me of how my second graders would write. Their limited vocabulary didn’t stop them from expressing emotion. If they wanted to convey extreme excitement, they simply used repetition.

“We had a very, very, very, VERY, good time!” The level of enjoyment dictated how many ‘verys’ were used.

Adults use much more sophisticated language. We use superlatives.

Some superlatives can be offensive. Like an obsolete term assigned to individuals with an intellectual disability. People with cognitive limitations used to fall into one of three categories: mildly mentally retarded, moderately mentally retarded, or severely and profoundly mentally retarded. It’s now unacceptable to refer to a person as someone who is severely and profoundly mentally retarded.

I once had a conversation with Chris about words used to describe children with disabilities. He was interested in hearing what I’d be teaching my college students in an upcoming Foundations of Special Education class.

“We’ll be discussing our nation’s history of special education. We usually have a lively discussion about labels which are used to describe children,” I explained. “It seems there’s a label for every exceptionality except gifted.”

“I’m severely gifted,” Chris playfully replied.

As always, I enjoyed his quick wit. His humorous oxymoron lightened the conversation.

It’s difficult for me to understand the phrase “more than conquerors.” However, I could relate to the phrase if it was “partial conqueror.” Having a son with MI fills my life with alternating victories. One day is peaceful—a delightful conquest. The next day is filled with challenges and I’m filled with despair—a surrender and retreat.  Spiritual territory is regained the following day as I rely on God to help me respond. I give an gentle answer in return for unprovoked anger—another battle won.  Maybe I’m more like a “sputtering conqueror” … relying fully on God one day, then not even seeking Him the next.

I’d love to believe I’m more than a conqueror. My problem is that I lose sight of the Victor. “We are more than conquerors THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US.” During uncertainty I tend to forget the battle’s already been won.

Athletes know when the battle’s been won. Football players realize there’s no need to ravage an inferior team. When the score reflects the opposition has no chance of winning, they precipitate the ending. The mercy rule specifies that the clock should keep running (except for limited reasons).  The intention is to put an end to the misery as soon as possible.

God has His mercy rule in place. Eternity’s clock is ticking. There will be an end to our misery here on earth. In the meantime Romans 8:37 assures us that, “We are more than conquerors.”

Yes, the battle has already been won. God has gained an overwhelming victory. Believers can rest in His promise and presence. We’ve been promised eternal life with Him in heaven. And if that’s not enough, we have His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. His indwelling power helps us with our earthly trials.

When things get tough with MI, we wonder if God has left us. We ask, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword (Romans 8:35)?”

Romans 8:38-39 assures us no hardship—not even MI—will separate us from His love.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The mention of angels and demons reminds us there’s a spiritual battle being waged. God’s angels protect His people. Sometimes God sends a heavenly messenger. Like the one sent to Daniel. Here’s how Daniel described the divine interaction:

“Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. ‘Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength (Daniel 10:18-19).’”

How did Daniel qualify for that celestial encounter? The messenger explained what Daniel had done to earn the honor.

“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them (Daniel 10:12).”

Heavenly Father,

I come before You humbly. I’m determined to fully understand Your victory. When all around looks dismal or when things seem out of control, help me remember Who’s fighting the battle. As Your messenger did for Daniel, strengthen me and give me Your peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The more we reflect on God’s love and power, the more we find rest in Him. How can we even explain such love? By using surperlatives. Like Chris Tomlin did in his song ‘Indescribable.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWdM4B1HEyI

 

Problems: Big or Little

problems

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.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWVyVMbSzM4

It’s complicated.

Dodgeball

Ask a youngster, “What’s your favorite subject” and recess might be the answer. Some may say gym. My second graders loved to play Bombardment during phys. ed. What fun they had dodging balls coming at them from all sides! Sheer joy.

Do you ever feel like you’re the target in Bombardment? Sometimes it’s as if trials are being hurled at us from all directions. But, there’s no thrill in dodging them.

Recently, that’s been my life.

First, a realization hit me that I’m experiencing a mild relapse. Symptoms of my multiple sclerosis suddenly got worse. Knocking me out at the most inopportune times. Like when I was food shopping with my husband, Howie. Wham! That tell-tale listless feeling came over me. It was like an implosion inside my body. Energy collapsed down through my core, leaving me dizzy. The pain in my extremities got worse. With barely enough strength I whispered to my husband, “Please take me home. I need to go home now.”

In denial, I attended a Christmas party a few nights later with Howie. Bam! That same listless feeling came over me. Right in the middle of a game of Charades.  With puddles of tears in my eyes I announced, “I need to go home now.” What a party pooper!

The next barrage came the day after Christmas. This time, a phone call catapulted the news of and incoming trial. The phone rang at 11:00 PM (which was my cue to duck!).  My husband’s brother reported, “Howie, Mom’s fallen and I can’t get her up.” Howie’s 93 yr. old mother most likely experienced a brain stem stroke. Pow! Another trial slammed me.

Another attack floored me. We noticed our beloved Cocker, Allegro had a noticeable growth on his abdomen. Two years ago, a 12 inch tumor was removed. The cancer is now spreading.

Why can’t trials just take a number and wait in line, like we do at the deli section of the food store? Better yet, why do we need to have a bunch of challenges smash us at once? If I had to order them, I’d ask for just one rocky road please….or one scoop of suffering. Actually, I say politely, “No thanks…I’ll pass…not problems for me now.”

But life stressors hit us. It’s hard enough when they come all at once. But, when you add mental illness into the mix, it’s…complicated. In our current situation, we’re exploring nursing homes for my mother-in-law. Given her acute cognition problems and her frequent falling, she can no longer live in her home. She couldn’t safely navigate the 14 steps to get to the bathroom.

Our son, Chris, told us, “I think you’re doing to Grand mom what you did to me.”  (referring to the time he was hospitalized against his will). The last thing I want to do is remind Chris of a painful time in his life. But we can’t put each trial in a box and deal with them one at a time.

Job in the Bible knew a thing or two about trials hitting all at once. He lost all, but didn’t lose it. He lost his livelihood, but not his faith. He lost all his children, but not his mind. His God is my God. I’ll survive this challenging time by following Job’s example. Job was able to say,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21

If he could still praise the Lord, so can I. Job chose not to follow his wife’s advice:

“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’”  Job 2:9-10

Dear Father,

Help me accept whatever comes my way. Knowing You will never leave me.  Remind me this isn’t heaven. Help me focus on Your power and love to help me through this.