Fearfully and Wonderfully

Why did He “make me” this way…

I think it is natural to be confused about how, when we have a serious mental health challenge, we can still be made in the image God, or, as Psalm 139 says:

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

We can just as easily ask “Why did You make me diabetic?”, and then of course there is the classic “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”

We have free will and are fallen and so there is much imperfection in the world. God does not “make” anyone mentally or physically ill, anymore than he is responsible for any of life’s other
misfortunes or ugliness.

God never leaves us. Even in the most acute bouts of mania or depression, God stays with us.

It is true that there may be periods where our minds are so disordered by our illness that we do not feel God’s presence. We cannot pray, and we cannot study scripture. However, my experience has been that the more I build my faith and my relationship with God when I am in between episodes, the easier it is to find my way to Him during a relapse or mood swing.

For me as a bipolar Christian, I believe staying well depends on both faith and works. I cannot do it alone, but I also have an obligation to do what I can.

My perspective is that bipolar disorder does not give the bipolar Christian a “free pass”.

Although my thoughts may at times be chaotic, irrational, or delusional, if I sin I am still separating myself from God, and that is never part of God’s plan for me.

Bipolar disorder is certainly an explanation for bad behavior but is it an excuse?

No, I don’t think so. That doesn’t justify the things I’ve done or relationships I’ve messed up. But God can restore those things. And that’s something I can cling to.

When I had my first full blown manic episode I was undiagnosed and untreated.

I did some terrible things that became a source of profound shame and regret. Were these terrible things sins? Absolutely! Would I have acted this way if I was not experiencing an acute manic episode? Never!

So am I trying to have it both ways? How can this “diminished responsibility” be reconciled with my belief that sin is still sin and offends God?

For me, my life is divided into two parts – Before Diagnosis and After Diagnosis.

Now that I know I have bipolar disorder I am responsible for managing it. It would definitely be a sin to ignore the strategies that keep me well and which help me avoid or minimize relapses.

For example, as a bipolar Christian I am accountable for taking my medication, seeking therapy.

Also, I firmly believe that God works through doctors and medicines and that they must be embraced. Enough said.

Are we fine?

Today, I lost it.

The mental load of motherhood broke me. Finito. Buh-bye. GONE. I could feel my nerves fraying at the seams as my toddler refused to listen to anything I said. And in true me fashion, I cried. I lost my patience. I slammed cabinets and scraped plates filled with uneaten dinner. I took away privileges and declared mommy law.

Every ounce of me was tired. Tired of fighting; of the power struggle that is my youngest strong will and my need for her to behave.

This is what no one tells you about. The hard stuff. The moments that break us open, that send us to the brink. Motherhood has torn me down and built me up more times than I can count and served it up as a big piece of humble pie.

But, friend, I have to ask the question. Why do we hide it? Why do we lie through our teeth and utter the words, “I’m fine” to our friends when we are anything but?

We have to stop hiding in the closet with our guilt and frustrations. If a friend shares her truth and says she’s in a funk, don’t tell her your life is sunshine and rainbows, tell her you’re in the freaking arena with her. Admit that you don’t have it altogether either.

Because, let’s be honest – we all lose it. Every single one of us.

I know it’s hard, isn’t it? This motherhood thing. It’s OK to say that out loud, that doesn’t make you a bad mom – it makes you real.

So, to the mama having a rough week let me tell you what no one else will.

There are going to be days. Days where it’s all too much. Days where the fighting and bickering send you over the edge. Days where the baby won’t sleep and the toddler just spilled a newly poured bowl of cereal all over the wood floor, and you hit your knees in exhaustion. You’re going to feel your blood pressure rise and your patience dwindle. You’re going to lose it. You’re going to question yourself – all the time. You’re going to wish bedtime would come sooner. You’re going to cry a lot. You’re going to long for five minutes to yourself. You’ll wonder if you are getting any of this right; if you are cut out for this job at all.

But let me tell you … you ARE. You’re getting more right than you think.

Do you know why?

Because you show up. You show up through the hard stuff.

Even on the days, weeks or maybe even months when we’re in a rut and we can’t quite claw our way out – you don’t quit. Sure, we cry. We have our moments where we feel like we can’t go on and then we wipe our tears, throw on a clean pair of yoga pants and we push forward.

Am I tired? Absolutely. I’m tired of the constant correcting, of no one listening. Negotiating. Referring. Cleaning.

Fighting.

But, I’m more tired of hiding my messy and I think you are too.

So when the tears won’t stop, when every ounce of patience is lost and you feel as though you can’t do this – sister, I am with you. You’re not alone. I am in the arena too and I’m giving you a standing ovation.

Through all of it. The tears and the smiles. The failures and the wins.

I know some days it’s all too much. I know some days it all comes to a head but don’t ever doubt your strength. Don’t ever question what you’re capable of and how much those babies love you.

Go ahead and cry, but then wipe those tears and get back up. Today you may have lost it just like I did, but you’re not failing – you’re fierce.

Romans 12:12

THIS

I honestly have such a hard time putting “rejoicing” and “hoping” together. Rejoicing comes easy for me. I have been given a generally positive, spirited soul. I see the good in everyone and everything, sometimes annoyingly so. To say that I am idealistic is an understatement. I just generally believe the best in all situations. But somehow, I have an incredibly hard time with hope. It’s scary to hope. It requires a vulnerability that I’m incredibly resistant to. It requires me to acknowledge what I want. Which in turn requires me to acknowledge the possibility of not getting that. It’s confusing and hard and easier to just feel like what I have is what I have, and I will do my best with it. So to say that I should “rejoice in hope” is a true challenge. One that I absolutely cannot handle on my own.

It’s also hard to examine how impatient I really am in the middle of affliction. I want immediate resolution. I want to just decide that it is all going to be ok and that’s the end of it. It’s ok. I try so hard to just think myself out of negative situations by deciding that it’s not actually a problem. Rather than being patient through an actual resolution. Rather than trusting that there is a reason for every situation. Rather than being faithful through the waiting.

And oh, how hard it is for me to be persistent in my prayer. It’s hard enough for me to be honest and vulnerable once. Why should I ask again? How can I be so bold as to take something to the Lord multiple times. He already knows, so why should I bother Him once, much less more times? Well, because it’s not a bother, and that’s what he asks of us. That’s what He wants from me. That’s how we build relationship with Him.

Each section of this verse carries such conviction. It’s amazing how each grouping of words so perfectly reminds me of how I need Jesus. I can try all I want, but I need Him to help me connect the dots. To give me grace when I just can’t seem to make it work. To stretch His arms out for me and be the only way to rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, and be persistent in prayer.

Time With God.

I’ll admit it. College is very busy. It is hard to keep up with God, let alone keeping your room cleaned up. College and work can be the most wonderful thing, but at the same time, it is the most hectic thing. Because people and your friends are in classes all day, everything pretty much happens at night and so it’s hard getting bed early, too!

Because it is so hard to keep up with your own life with including time for God in the mix, college and work life can be stressful and everything can get overwhelming, leading to worrying doubt and many other things

Here is 5 reasons we need to have alone time with God.. 

1. Others did it

All over the Scriptures we see examples of others getting away from the daily grind and finding ways to spend time with God. People like Moses, David, and Elijah regularly got alone with the Lord. Learning from these examples alone shows us the power, and desirability, of solitude in the presence of God.

2. Jesus did it

This is the biggest reason why every single believer should have time alone with God! We often read in Scripture of Jesus slipping off away by Himself to commune with His Father. If He, the sinless Son of God, needed time alone with God, how could we ever think we can do without it?

A quick read through of these Scriptures will show the importance of Jesus’s solitude. (Matthew 14:13; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:45-46; Mark 14:32-34; Luke 4:42; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; John 6:15).

And He Himself instructed us to pray alone, closed away in our prayer closets. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6a).

3. We need it

In our high-tech, constantly on digitalized world, we need time to simply connect with God and be undistracted.

Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha? Even though Martha was the one to invite Jesus into her home, she became so distracted by her to-do list and responsibilities that she totally missed the most important thing (and her greatest opportunity).

Sitting at the feet of Jesus requires us to eliminate distractions, plain and simple. Distractions come in all shapes, sizes… 

Hosea 2:14 reminds us that sometimes it’s only by being alone with God that we can hear the Lord speak tenderly and passionately to us. 

Distractions, no matter how wonderful in and of themselves they may be,  interfere with our ability to focus and listen intently to our God.

4. God desires it!

God invites us to come, know, and experience Him!  Revelation 22:17 is an open invitation for us to personally and intimately come to Him to find the soul satisfaction our hearts crave.

5. It beautifies us

While there are many benefits of getting alone with God in an undistracted manner, (such as fullness of joy, connecting with the Vine, and finding strength in Him), Psalm 45:10-11 is one of my all-time favorites. This passage shows us that leaving everything else behind to worship at the feet of the King actually beautifies us. Wow!

If you’ve ever been around someone who glows with the glory of God, as Moses did, you know this happens because they are privately spending time with God. It is possible! 

But it doesn’t happen by accident. It only takes place when we are intentional about setting aside time to meet with Him without distractions and interruptions

distrust and anxiety are not the same thing.

Distrust often causes anxiety. But not all anxiety is the result of distrust.

Just like a broken leg can cause pain, but not all pain is the result of a broken leg.

I have anxiety, but not because I lack trust. And not because I don’t believe God is good, and not because I think God’s grace has run out.

Trusting God is good isn’t what gets me out of anxiety. It’s what helps me through it.

For me, trusting God is good means that I trust he is making me new, healing and redeeming the broken parts of me. It means I trust that his grace extends to me even when I am wracked with anxiety. It means I believe he will take care of me even when I don’t know how he’s going to do it.

Trusting that God is good is what keeps me going. Believing in God’s limitless grace is what gives me hope. But neither of them make my anxiety go away.

Trust and grace are not magical talismans that bring you out of whatever trouble you are in. You can’t collect trust and grace and then once you get enough, then (then!) your problems will go away.

Trust and grace, in whatever amount you have, are not what get you out. They are what get you through.

In Christianity, mental illness is often treated like a lack of faith, or like it’s the person’s fault for having a mental illness.

Just trust God and your anxiety will go away.

Just get your joy from Christ and you won’t be depressed.

Just hope in God and you won’t feel suicidal.

Don’t you know God loves you and wants to take care of you?

Mental illness is treated like something the person who suffers from it can control. Which is a ridiculous notion.

Insinuating that mental illness is the sufferer’s fault is a surefire way to destroy the person’s sense of worth, crush the person’s hope, and ruin the person’s view of God.

Mental illness is frustrating. Believe me, if I could make it go away, I would. In fact, I am trying to make it go away. But it’s frustrating when I can’t make it go away at the snap of a finger. It’s frustrating when praying doesn’t help. It’s frustrating when I have anxiety even though I know I shouldn’t.

I don’t have anxiety by choice. I don’t have it because I don’t think God is good. I don’t have it because I think God’s grace has run out.

Mental illness is because of chemical imbalances. It’s because of trauma. It’s because the world is broken. It’s because of a whole host of things.

But a choice is not one of those things. Being a bad Christian is not one of those things.

So, if you’d like to give a hopeful message to people who suffer from anxiety, don’t tell them to get more trust. Don’t tell them to get their beliefs about God’s grace and goodness straightened out. Don’t tell them to just stop worrying.

Instead, tell them anxiety sucks. Tell them God loves them. Tell them you love them. Tell them how you are also broken. Tell them there’s hope.

Or tell them nothing and just listen to them. Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and fighting a mental illness can be isolating, so listening and trying to understand is often the most helpful thing you can do.

Tales of a recovering people pleaser

Am I the only one who feels pangs of anxiety when I look over Facebook and Instagram posts? There is almost a subliminal message that says:

• You aren’t good enough.

• You need to try harder.

• Everyone else is resolving to do better.

• You had better keep up the pace.

I don’t know about you, but the very idea of these accusations sends me looking for a paper bag to breathe into.

When I start to feel overwhelmed by a barrage of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” thinking, I have learned it’s time to stop the voice in my head.

I don’t know about you, but comparing myself to others is exhausting. Yet, being a born people-pleaser, my natural default is to compare myself to those more motivated than me. And when I do that I lose––every time.

Lose what? Weeellllll. I’m glad you asked.

Living for the approval of others is never a worthy goal. Let’s face it; people pleasing is a moving target. We’ve all heard “You can’t please all the people all the time,” so if you’re a people pleaser, you will exhaust yourself trying to measure up to everyone else’s standard for success.

When you bow to the standard of others, you’ll also lose peace of mind. Because you will constantly compare yourself to how others are doing, or change your goals based on the comments of others.

So, what can we do?

When We realize that God created us for His glory and not our own, We learn the most important person to please is the Lord our God.

No longer will we need to seek the approval of others.

The only standard I have to live up to was the one Jesus called me to in relationship with Him.

So what is that standard?

In Mark 12:30-31, the religious leaders asked Jesus what was the priority of life. Jesus’ response was two-fold:

1 Love God with all of your being.

2 Love others.

Now, don’t be tempted to simplify this statement to mean, “God doesn’t care about my sin; all that matters is love.” Because the truth is, if you’re loving God with your whole being, then the evidence of that love is your desire to walk in obedience to His commands.

Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). So, there’s no way around it. If you’re going to please God alone then your love for Him will cause you to walk in obedience to Him.

The second part of Jesus’ response in Mark 12 was to love others as we love ourselves. Here’s the interesting part of that statement. We cannot love others in the selfless way God commands until we are living in love with Jesus. Because when we love Him properly, what spills out of us is His selfless love for others.

When you live to know and love the Lord and His love spills out of your life onto those around you, you will have learned the secret to breaking free of people-pleasing.

You see, as you draw near to God, He promises to draw near to you. And the closer you walk to Jesus, the more clearly you will have the mind of Christ to discern what He would have you do with your life––rather than comparing yourself to what others are doing with their lives (see James 4:8, 1 Corinthians 2:16).

There is nothing wrong with looking ahead to set some God driven goals. You would be wise to daily spend quiet time alone with the Lord to seek His will for your life.

But more important than setting goals is the time you spend with Jesus. Because time with Him through prayer, Bible Study, and waiting in His presence is the secret to living the life you were meant to live.

And when you resolve to live in His presence, you will find the key to freedom from people pleasing.