Is it worth it? Are all the ups and downs of a Christian life, worth it? Is it worth having family make fun of you? Is it worth being discriminated against? Is it worth giving up the alcohol, the drugs, the indulgent parties? Is it worth loving the one who hurt you? Is all of this worth it? Yes. Yes it is. Soon after I signed up for Christianity I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy. But I have also learned it is worth it. Every trial, valley, storm, ailment, rejection, fear I go through, I go through with God and come out better because of it. And the only reason I come out of it is: He walked me through it. I love this promise, “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yes, at times, God has been silent. But He has never been absent. He has never abandoned me in pain or forsaken me in circumstance. So is this Christian life worth it? Yes. Because without “Christ” in my “Christian,” I would just be an “ian.” Just kidding. Without Christ, I would have given up a long time ago. It’s worth it on Earth–it makes us better/stronger/wiser and others encounter God watching us not give up. It’s worth it in Heaven because when we stand before God, it’ll make sense that His cross was worth it too.
First, let me start by saying that for those of us with mental afflictions, we are thankful for you! We may struggle with something you have together, but you inspire us to stay at it! I believe it’s a Soveriegm God who makes the world go ’round with BOTH. As far as being like us, I wish I had a Dr. Seuss book that could explain in rhyme and simplicity what it’s like. Because, it’s complicated! It is a mind that can live in two poles. Imagine living in either the North Pole or the South Pole, and not having a home to stay in between. Furthermore, never knowing when, or for how long, you’ll be at one pole or the other. Welcome to a bipolar’s brain–or for that matter, a brain that jockeys between anxiety and depression. It’s arguable one could presume this would be impossible. But that’s where someone like me would stand up and say: but with God, all things are possible. God is my equator in my biPolar mind. God is the hope at the end of my rope. God is my anchor. God is the cushion where my erratic thoughts land. God is in my mind, in unexplainable drifts, where no sane person would want to go. God holds my mind in the palm of His hand, lest it be too fragile for my body to carry it. A couple years ago, I had an unexpected visitor with an unexpected gift. She said I had been [of all things] on her mind. It was an ornament with the word “Hope” on it. How did she know to drop that by? Maybe like I said earlier, God knows our world needs both kinds of us: those who live struggling in their minds, and those who give HOPE to those who do.
In Acts 16, the bible tells us: “She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.’ This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And instantly it left her.” It can be easy to get mad at people who exasperate us with their demons, literally and figuratively. In the above account, a girl was wearing out the Apostle Paul with hers. Day after day, depleting his energy, time, patience and focus. I did some research on this text, and (for a simpleton’s sake like me) it broke down like this: The Greek word used for ‘exasperated’ is ‘grieved’ (διαπονηθεὶς). Basically, it’s ‘angry’ and ‘sad.’ Paul was sad at the condition of the girl, and mad at the ongoing, outward display of the evil that possessed her. To be simple: Paul wasn’t mad at her, Paul was mad at what was IN her. And Paul loved her enough to help get it OUT. As I get to do life with people who have demons of their own (addiction, rebellion, criminal behavior, suicidal thoughts) I want to love them so I can help them! Paul’s encounter encourages me to do that in three ways. One, that my” διαπονηθεὶς” be anger mixed WITH sadness/compassion. Two, that I do what I can, when I can, to HELP! And lastly–that like Paul–I sometimes get to see the demon flee, and the brand new person rise up!
You know what occurred to me about old phones? Due to the rotary dialing feature, it took much longer to connect. Today, we would find this highly frustrating and inconvenient. But in a peculiar way, maybe it was better? Back then, the time it would take to dial each of the seven or ten digits and get connected, was time to gather thoughts before connecting and speaking. The rotary phone actually lended itself to patience, breath, pause, and even prayer. When I can’t hear God, do you think it’s cause I’m expecting immediate cell-phone service out of Him? Because maybe He doesn’t operate on that kind of “fiber-optic line” with me. Maybe God’s still running the universe His original way. And it’s not that He can’t respond to me, it’s just that He’s connecting with me HIS way. God said in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for everything.” As I learn (yet again) to wait on God, I’m reminded that He’s always there, He’ll never unplug the connection between us. But maybe I need to go back to the original way of connecting with Him. Sometimes the way it was is His Way it should be. 🙂
This morning I woke up thinking about a message I’ve done on the infamous bible story about the bleeding woman, (Luke 8/Mark 5/Matt. 9). I thought about it long enough to come up with a new spin for a new post. The bible teaches she had a (constant) bleed for twelve years. For all the female readers, that’s having a period for 4,380 days. She tried finding cures, but after spending all she had, she only got worse. Long story short, Jesus came to town and she was like “if I could just touch the fringe of his robe I could be healed!” What faith! She didn’t need a one-on-one appointment with Him. She didn’t need to see his face; she didn’t need him to lay hands on her; she didn’t need his acknowledgement, attention or pity. She had enough faith to know that “just a fringe” of Jesus was just enough. And if you know the story, you know it was. Maybe we aren’t bleeding for twelve years on the outside. But I was wondering if any of us have been bleeding for years, on the inside? It’s time to stop. It’s time for you, like her, to have enough faith to step out and take “just a fringe.” What’s a “fringe” of Jesus’ robe look like today? Maybe it’s making ONE Christian counseling appointment. Maybe it’s going to church more than ONCE a month. Maybe it’s accepting Jesus into your bleeding heart, in the first place. Jesus shed ALL of his blood on the cross for us–we don’t have to bleed from emotional, mental or relational pain ALL of our lives. What is the “fringe” of Jesus you can–by faith–reach out for today? To get help? To get healing? To stop the bleeding, and hear Jesus say, “Child, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
Today I “stumbled” across a verse I don’t recall noticing before (God’s winking). Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” I wanna talk about the latter part, because that’s the part that got me in two ways. First, it slapped me for times I aspired to be a “star” in my own right: self-promotion, humble-brags, the worship of “likes” and “follows.” It was a wake-up call to say, “those are not the kind of stars I want you to be.” But secondly, this verse lifted me. Maybe we’re not who we dreamed of being – but maybe it’s because God has more in store. Maybe the “star” God wants us to be is one that is too bright to shine on Earth. Maybe God wants us to be stars BEYOND the temporary status, fame, and stardom only a world can contain. Maybe we are unknown eternal stars in-waiting. Maybe you are God’s star, and one day you’ll shine forever and never lose your starryness. How do we become that kind of star? This verse tells us: lead others to righteousness. How do we do that? By doing right things–even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when no one’s noticing. I don’t know if you had childlike dreams to be a star, like I did. And now we’re adults wondering what happened! But take heart. Quietly in your soul, where no one is watching, tuck in this verse. Continue to do the right thing, to help others do the same. And one day (and forever) you’ll shine like the star you were truly born to be….God’s.
Sometimes you wake up and you can’t get out of bed. So you ask God for help, and He gets your feet on the floor. Sometimes you get your feet on the floor, but they’re so heavy, you can’t take a step, so you ask God. He lightens your step and solidifies your ground, and you step. Sometimes, you start taking steps into the day, but you feel like you’re dragging through cement. So you ask God to carry you as you go…and He does. Sometimes, you make it through the day, but you lie down at night and can’t sleep. So you ask God to lift your fears, and He does, replacing them with rest. Look, life is tough. With God, life is still tough–but not impossible. I’ve heard people say, “one day at a time.” But with mental affliction, one day can be too much. I’ve learned to say: with God, one step at a time. 👣