Art Imitates Life: The Pursuit of Happiness (8)

It was almost 9 when Steven descended the steps. Rachel was sitting with Philip at the kitchen table, going over his school work.

“I didn’t mean to sleep this late. You should have woken me up.” Steven said, apologetically.

“You need your rest. You’re going through a lot right now.” She rose from the table. “I’ll fix you some breakfast.”

“Nonsense. I’ll just have some cereal. You’ve got school work.”

She smiled and sat back down. “There’s some coffee still warm, I think.”

Steven found some honey-nut cheerios and a bowl. He sliced a banana on top and poured himself a cup of coffee before joining them at the kitchen table.

“Hey, Dad. After Philip finishes his math, we were planning to go to the art museum. We’d love for you to go along.”

“I finished my Pilgrim’s Progress paper. Now I’m starting one on Religious Art from the Impressionistic Period,” said Philip, “You can help me interpret it.”

Steven smiled, “I don’t know how much help I can be, though. I’m not much of an art expert,” he paused, “but sure, I’ll go.”

“Great. I’ll be finished with this math soon. When you finish your breakfast, we’ll be ready.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art was less than a half hour away. A large “LOVE” sculpture welcomed them.

“Now that’s positive thinking,” said Stephen.

Monica smiled, “I thought you might like that.”

“Have you been to many art museums, Grandpa?” asked Philip.

“Not really. Columbus is known for its architecture. I’m told it is a good community for artists. I just never really devoted much time to it.”

“We’re just going to explore the European Painting and Sculpture section today,” said Monica, “There is a mixture of religious and secular works there. They have quite a collection.”

“I’m going to select 5 works to focus on in my paper,” said Philip.

They made their way through the entrance.

“Now I’m going to pay.” said Stephen.

“It’s free admission, Dad.”

“Even better.” They laughed together as they each picked a brochure.

***


Philip led the way. The first piece he stopped at was a multi-colored brass statue of a figure seated, holding his head in his hand.”

“This one is called ‘Satan’ by Jean-Jacques Feuchere. It says, ‘Feuchere created a dejected Satan after the fall, with talons and bat-like wings, in a brooding position not unlike that of Rodin’s Thinker.’”

He is certainly feeling sorry for himself. He reminds me of a lot of people today,” said Stephen.

“Maybe he could benefit from a good therapist,” replied Monica.

Philip smiled and wrote down some notes in a pad he was carrying.

They moved on, pausing to observe the various paintings and sculptures on display.

“Here’s one,” announced Philip, “It’s called ‘The Raising of Lazarus’ by Andrea Vaccaro. It says, ‘This scene represents the miracle that marked the culmination of Christ’s ministry on earth. He raises his hand and commands Lazarus to rise from the tomb.’”

“I like the pleading expression on Lazarus’ face,” said Monica.

“Yeah, it’s interesting, though. You don’t know if he’s pleading to come to life or to stay dead.”

Philip asked, “What do you think, Grandpa?”

“I don’t really know,” said Steven, “I mean, as a miracle, we can celebrate the life that comes to us after

death. But from the perspective of Lazarus, he had to go through dying twice before he could be spiritually raised in Christ.”

“So, he had to endure suffering for our sake as well.”

“Yes. I guess you could say he took one for the team.” Steven said.

Philip moved on to a painting of the face of Christ looking upward. This one just says, “Christ Bearing His Cross – Workshop of El Greco.”

“He has a very distant expression on his face,” said Philip.

“I imagine this is the point where he says, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do,’” commented Monica.

“All I want to know is – where is the cross?” Steven replied.

They moved freely through the museum.

“There aren’t many people here,” remarked Steven.

“That’s one of the great things about home schooling,” said Monica, “you can usually get into educational places during off-hours. We can get a lot more out of field trips and outings without having to battle crowds.”

Philip had found another painting. “Now, this one is different. It’s called ‘Yellow Christ’ by Emile Bernard. It says, ‘Here Bernard presents Christ in the Garden of Olives, with Judas and a guard on the left and the angel bearing the chalice at right.’”

“I like how it portrays an angel bearing the cup of suffering,” Monica noted.

“Look at the disciples!” said Philip, “They’re dead to the world.”

“I can’t get over how much Judas looks like a woman,” Steven observed.

“How about this one?” Monica asked, pointing to a painting of Mary reading to the baby Jesus.

Philip read, “Madonna and Child by Barbara Longler. The subject of the reading Virgin was a popular one in the Renaissance. It exalts a feminine ideal, embodied by the Virgin, in which the ability to read is exercised in the service of prayer. On another level, the book held aloft by the Virgin can be seen as a symbol of the Word.”

“Dad, you know what this reminds me of,” Monica said, putting her hand on Steven’s shoulders. “I think of nights at Grandma Johnson’s house, how she read to us at bedtime from that colorful Bible story book. Remember that?”

“I do.” He smiled. “Hey, what’s that Jesus is holding? It looks like a bowling ball.”

Philip moves over to the painting notes, “It says here it’s a globe.”

“Oh, I see.” said Steven, “That would make more sense.”

They walked around, pausing before each work.

Suddenly, Steven froze before a bronze statue of a woman bowed down.

Philip came up alongside him and read the note. “La v’ente ne connue (Truth Unacknowledged) by Jules Dalon. Dalon was the most prolific maker of public sculpture in late 19th century Paris. Using the form of a beautiful nude woman with a broken mirror at her side, he created a universal allegory about confronting truth.”

Steven stood staring at the statue. He thought of Rachel, where she might be, what she might be doing, who she was with. The image of a young Rachel, on their wedding night flashed before his eyes. Rachel’s face buried in her lap – fixed on this bronze stand.

Philip spoke up, “Grandpa?

Steven didn’t answer. Now, his mind turned to his own regrets. His own face buried in his lap – his failures as a father and as a husband. Truth unacknowledged.

“Dad?”

There was no response. Steven could not hear. He could not see. His mind went blank. All he could feel was a twinge in his hip. Then he collapsed.

Divine Restraint: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

\Yet he was merciful;

he forgave their iniquities

and did not destroy them.

Time after time he restrained his anger

and did not stir up his full wrath. (Psalm 78:38)

If God were to give us what we deserved, we would be in a sorry state. Instead, God is merciful and compassionate. In Christ, God forgives our sin “while we were yet sinners”—when we least deserve it.

Lord knows, I’ve done many things wrong and failed to do many things right such that I deserve the full force of God’s wrath. Yet, time and again, I’ve escaped with a warning, a slight corrective punishment, reduced consequences, even an encouraging word of discipline.

As people with bipolar, if God gave us over to our illness, to the demons within, it would be disastrous. We would surely be destroyed. Instead, God encourages us to look to Christ. The consequences of wrath for our actions and our attitudes are replaced with love from the sacrificial gift of Christ on the cross.

In the cross of Christ, God restrained his anger from us and redirected His wrath by essentially taking it upon Himself, in the form of His Son who bore our sin, who “became sin” for us that we might be saved. In Christ, the penalty for sin has been paid. We are set free for a life of joyful obedience, delighting in the Lord throughout our days.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

Bitter Medicine, Parenting Bipolar, Invisible Pain, Sanity Break, and Strength in Weakness: Mental Health Monday

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

Summerworks: Bittersweet, heartbreaking & hopeful true story of mental illness in Bitter Medicine” (life with more cowbell)

Clem and Liv’s story highlights the need for patient advocacy, especially in a society – and even a health care system – that makes assumptions about the mentally ill. And we are also reminded that pharma companies don’t always have patients’ best interests at heart, as illustrated in Clem’s battle to get Liv diagnosed when he became gravely ill; turns out the pharma company that manufactured the meds he was on hadn’t disclosed the possible side effect of diabetes.

A mother walks on the margins with her son’s bipolar disorder” (Anchored-in-Knowledge)

Are you a mother of a son with a mental health or behavioral problem? How did you cope with the reality that your son would probably need your help and support for the rest of his life? For many parents, accepting an illness can feel like one of the worst things you’ll ever have to do. Many mothers have spoken to me about their struggle to not only accept but also to live with their child’s illness. It isn’t easy. It’s almost unimaginable.

Pain Doesn’t Have to be Visible to be Real” (Blogging Astrid)

I am a self-injurer. Have been since childhood. Part of the reason has always been to feel something other than emptiness, loneliness, or emotional pain. However, part of the reason has also always been to make my pain be visible. Not even necessarily to others, but to myself.

Sanity Break” (Bravely Bipolar)

As you know, these last few months have not been easy for me.  I’ve had difficulty with my psychiatrist.  I haven’t been on medication and my anxiety levels have been at an all time high…not too mention the constant suicidal ideations.  To put it bluntly, it’s been hell!  It’s not something I ever want to go through again, but I know the way this illness works…it will happen again.  It’s just a matter of time.  So, I take the good with the bad and hope for the best.  During this whole ordeal, I had a strong desire to escape.  The only thing was that I wasn’t sure what that meant…whether that was a permanent escape from life or just time away from everything and everyone.  I opted for the latter hoping that was what it was.

Weak then Strong” (ExBoozeHound12)

There is this really cool author named Paul who lived about 2000 years ago that wrote about this. I am paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was that Paul got boastful and basically egotistical about some stuff then got a thorn in his side. This thorn hurt like H-E-double hockey sticks. He pleaded with God to remove the thorn but God ignored him. Finally, God answered Paul with, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul later says that he will go on boasting about God’s grace because when he is weak he is strong. Hmmmmm….

Andrew Peterson: Contemporary Christian Music that is All Three in One

You are not alone

I will always be with you

Even to the end

You don’t have to work so hard

You can rest easy

You don’t have to prove yourself

You’re already mine

You don’t have to hide your heart

I already love you

I hold it in mine

So you can rest easy

 

Do not be afraid

Nothing, nothing in the world

Can come between us now

You don’t have to work so hard

You can rest easy

You don’t have to prove yourself

You’re already mine

You don’t have to hide your heart

I already love you

I hold it in mine

So you can rest easy

 

You work so hard to wear yourself down

And you’re running like a rodeo clown

You’re smiling like you’re scared to death

You’re out of faith and all out of breath

You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go

 

Well, you are not alone

I will always be with you

You don’t have to work so hard

You can rest easy

You don’t have to prove yourself

You’re already mine

You don’t have to hide your heart

I already love you

I hold it in mine

You can rest easy

By far my favorite contemporary Christian singer/songwriter is Andrew Peterson, and I have good reasons.  I’ll name three, using his recent song “Rest Easy” to illustrate.

1)  He is contemporary without being trendy. His songs deal with timeless themes – faith, commitment, loss, sacrifice. Yet, he sings of them in a modern, accessible language that even the youngest among us can appreciate.  In “Rest Easy”, he packages a deep theological topic about which volumes have been written (the doctrine of assurance of salvation) – into three lines you don’t even have to be religious to understand – “You can rest easy/You don’t have to prove yourself/You’re already mine.”

2) He is unapologetically Christian in his perspective.  I don’t know Peterson’s particular brand of Christian affiliation, but his lyrics are thoroughly Biblical and richly rooted in ancient Christian creeds and doctrine.  The first lines of “Rest Easy” are practically a paraphrase of the closing of the Great Commission, where Jesus tells his disciples (including us) – “….lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (see Matthew 28:16-20)

3) He makes good music.  I realize there is much room for debate about what makes for good music (and I invite you to respond in comments).  I’m certainly not an expert on instrumentation, but I do know that Peterson’s simple melodies and beautiful harmonies blend the sound of his voice with the song of his accompaniment in a way that gives glory to God.

If you are looking for good music that is both contemporary and Christian, give Andrew Peterson a listen.  If you have written off Christian music as nothing but pious platitudes set to pop beats, check him out.

Living in Love

“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)

 

You don’t fall out of love

Like a cradle

When the wind blows

And the bough breaks.

 

Love is in the broken bough,

the blowing wind,

the falling cradle.

 

Love lives in us

When we live in love

We live in the hands of the cradle-maker,

the breath of the blowing wind,

the heart of the broken bough.

1 John 4:16b

Our Plans and God’s Plans (A Reflection on 2 Samuel 7.1-14a)

All God wants from us is our best. But sometimes our idea of what is best is not God’s idea. Sometimes we want to do things that are not part of God’s plans.

King David certainly tried to give his best to God (most of the time, that is). He is described as “a man after God’s own heart.” He enjoyed a close, personal relationship with the Lord that gave him strength to become a great warrior. As king, he went into battle with the enemies of Israel and, many times, came out victorious. He expanded the nation’s borders and established a capital city in Jerusalem. The ark of God, with the commandment tablets, had been rescued from captivity and brought triumphantly home.

In his desire to give back to God, David wants to build God something more than just the tabernacle it was kept in.

[David] said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” (2 Samuel 7:2)

It was out of David’s desire to give back to the God who had given him so much that he wanted to build God a house better than what he was living in.

Yet, our plans are not always God’s plan. After David shares his dream of a house for the Lord with Nathan, Nathan at first agrees. After all, David is king – a great and faithful king. Surely he could accomplish something like this.

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David… Are you the one to build me a house to live in? (2 Samuel 7:4-5)

Sometimes we try to be all things for all people. It’s great to have goals. It’s important as Christians to be committed to our spiritual goals. But we also have to be flexible because when we set out to do something we think is the right thing, God may have something else entirely for us to do. God may redirect us mid-stream and prevent us from going where we want and even feel we need to go.

Often, we have no idea where God is taking us. But – sometimes we catch a glimpse of God’s plans.

Some people call these glimpses “revelations”. Revelations are sudden realizations of what will happen if you follow a particular course of action.

Revelations come suddenly, but often only after a great spiritual struggle – like Moses who wandered for 40 years through the wilderness with the people Israel before he could catch a glimpse of the Promised Land. God’s will for your life can’t be easily accessed by clicking on a website or flipping the remote. You have to wait for God to reveal it to you.

Sometimes the revelation we get from God is that things are going to be as we had planned. We may not graduate from Harvard, build a dream home, become independently wealthy. We may not see many of our hopes realized in our lifetimes. But, when we are faithful, God promises us a better future.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Samuel 7:12)

Thanks to David’s faithfulness, not only is he blessed, but his children are as well. The Bible says our sins are visited upon our children for 3 generations, but righteousness – right living – carries benefits for thousands of generations. When we are faithful as godly men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and more, receive a blessing.

This was not David’s original idea. Remember, he just wanted to build a nice house for the Lord. Instead, he receives a promise that his children will be blessed to establish a kingdom of Israel even greater than his own. As we read later in the Bible, David’s son Solomon winds up building God a temple greater than David could have even dreamed of.

When we set out to do something great for God, we may not accomplish it, but God will always bless it beyond measure.

God’s plans for us are always better than our plans for God.

God’s promise to David was for his birth children and descendants. On this foundation, says the Lord –

“Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16)

God’s promise to David is sure – but it’s not a free pass. We learn later in Scripture that because David’s descendants were not faithful, they are dethroned and sent into exile. It seemed for centuries that God had forgotten his promise. Then, a man came along named Jesus.

Jesus was a descendant of David who became a ruler, but not like the rulers of the past. The kingdom Jesus rules is not an earthly kingdom – but a spiritual one. He doesn’t rule over political territory, he rules over the hearts of those who receive him.

Jesus became the Messiah – God’s chosen One who came to set Israel free. And not just Israel, but all of us. In Jesus Christ, we are set free. We are given us a better life – full of joy and abundance.

King David- He was born as an insignifcant sheppard boy, and even in his youth he worshipped God with all of his heart. After slaying Goliath, the seemingly undefeatable enemy of Israel, he spent years hiding from Saul, who sought his life out of jealousy. But he remained faithful and eventually became Israel's greatest King. Under his rule, revival came to Israel and the people turned back to God.

The Call of David: The Pursuit of Happiness (7)

There was a soft knock on his door. Steven wasn’t sleeping.

“Yes.”

“Dad, David’s on the phone.”

“Come on in.”

Monica entered, covering a cell phone with her hand. “You can take it in here, if you like.”

Steven sat down in the chair as Monica handed him the phone. Slowly, he raised the phone to his ear.

“Hello David.”

“Dad. It’s been a long time. I hope you don’t mind me calling.”

“Of course not. How have you been?”

“Well, I’m making it. Doing the best I can. I’ve been doing a lot of freelance work. How are you?”

“I’m okay. Monica and her family are making me feel very welcome.”

“Listen, Dad. I would really like you to visit me for a few days. How would you feel about that?”

Nothing was said for some time. David broke the silence.

“I live alone now, so it would just be the two of us.”

“What… happened…

“Jonathon left me a year ago. You’ll be glad to know I’m now a celibate homosexual. But not by choice,” he laughed awkwardly.

“I’m. I’m sorry…

“That’s kind, Dad. But be honest, you are happy I’m not in a relationship.”

“Let’s not go over this on the phone.”

“You’re right. Now is not the time. We can talk more later. Listen, I can come over to pick you up Wednesday morning, if that works for you. I’ll take you out for breakfast and get you settled into my apartment. I have some work to do for a client, but it shouldn’t take me over a few hours.”

“Okay.”

“Very good then. I’ll see you Wednesday morning.”

There was another pause. Steven thought of what to say – Have a nice day. I’m glad you called. Even – I love you, David. Instead, he said –

“Goodbye, then.”

“See you soon, Dad.”

Steven pushed the “end” button on the phone and sat back in his chair.

***

Steven thought of the last time he saw his son – Sunday, May 27, 1990. David had just graduated from Hanover College and Steven and Rachel took him and his friend Jonathon out for a celebratory meal.

He felt proud. David had graduated with honors, double majoring in English and Art. He was headed for graduate school at Indiana University.

After they had shared in the meal, Steven spoke up.

David, I want you to know your mom and I are very proud of you. You’re the first in the family to graduate for college, and you did so in style.

“Thank you, Dad.”

Rachel smiled. “Jonathon, what are your plans now that you’ve graduated.”

Jonathon looked over at David.

“Well, Mrs. Johnson, it… um, I’ll be moving to Bloomington and looking for work.”

“Very good,” said Rachel, “maybe you and David can share an apartment together, save on expenses.”

David looked down and rubbed his finger across his plate.

“Right. We are. Listen, Mom, Dad. I have something to tell you.”

Steven and Rachel turned their gaze to David. Jonathon looked away.

Jonathon and I are a couple. You see, I’m gay.”

“You’re gay?” asked Steven, seeming confused.

“That’s right. We love each other very much and want to spend our lives together.”

“Son, you… you can’t… we didn’t raise you to be this way. You know what the Bible says.”

“Dad, this is not about how you raised me. It’s not about what the Bible says. I’m gay and there’s nothing you can do to change it. I love Jonathon and we want to make each other happy. David reached and laid his hand gently on Jonathon’s.

Steven looked away. Rachel bowed her head. After a lengthy silence, Steven spoke up.

“You are right there is nothing we can do to change you. But you also need to know we can’t accept this.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, we can’t condone sin. If you choose to live in sin, you’re on your own.”

Rachel looked up and started to speak. Instead, she burst into tears and left the table.

Steven got up to follow her. He turned back. Reaching in his wallet, he took out a $20 and handed it to David. “Here’s money for a cab. I imagine you can find your way from here.”

***

Steven looked at the cell phone, still in his hand. It was 4:30 p.m. – Monday, January 21, 2013. He thought Time certainly has a way of getting away from you. His mind turned over things said and things left unsaid.

And he started to cry.

pink desk telephone for the great room for Willow to see because its her favourite colour.

The Wrath of the LORD: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger

or discipline me in your wrath.

Your arrows have pierced me,

and your hand has come down on me. (Psalm 38:1-2)

Some people don’t want to think of God as angry. They highlight the portions of Scripture where God is loving and kind and delete the parts where God is harsh and vengeful. But both are there. And both are true.

More than this, to grow in an intimate relationship with God we need to experience all aspects of God’s character. The closer we get to God, the more we realize there are times God allows us to experience pain – for our greater good. God may even inflict pain on us to warn us of graver consequences ahead.

God’s discipline does not feel good, but it may be the only thing preventing us from certain destruction. Like a parent who twists his child’s arm, yanking her out of the way of an oncoming car, sometime firm discipline is necessary. Pain that prevents catastrophe is not cruelty but compassion.

There have been many times in my life where I believe I’ve let God down. This is perhaps my greatest “fear of the LORDnot fear that God will destroy me, but fear that I will let God down. It is during times such as these that I find it difficult to be consoled, like the Psalmist who says

I am feeble and utterly crushed;

I groan in anguish of heart. (Psalm 38:8)

Thank God we are not left alone during times like these. The LORD, who is Salvation, hurries to help us. The tumult in our hearts is replaced by an abiding sense of peace knowing God does not leave us or forsake us, no matter how much or how often we disappoint God.

Part of our trouble with the wrath of God is the pitiful examples of how human anger is expressed within and around us. When I become angry at myself, I fret and stew instead of becoming motivated to change. When I’ve become angry at others, I’ve often responded by making verbal attacks or cutting off relationships. When fueled by a manic or mixed episode, my anger has become particularly virulent.

God, however, is far more gracious in His anger toward us than we are in our anger toward each other. The anger of God is directed not at who we are, but at the damage we cause ourselves and others. It lasts only as long as we hold onto the sin that destroys ourselves and our relationships. The love of God, which prompts God to be angry at our sin in this world, will ultimately remove sin from our lives in the world to come. The firm hand of God will then grip us with loving tenderness forever.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

Dementia, Love Letters, Intimacy, Edith Lake Wilkinson, Art, Recovering from Recovery: Mental Health Monday

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

214″ (Serendipity)

I used to wonder whether dementia was the brain’s primitive way of saying ‘Hey, I’m tired of remembering’.

Because we’re not supposed to live this long and suffer so much pain, and it’s merely nature’s last defense mechanism against the cruelty of reality. Those who are affected are never the ones who suffer. It is friends and family who must live with the fact that their lives will never be the same again. They have lost someone who is still with them, and must watch their loved ones’ mind succumb to nothingness while the body remains.

Day 227” (kidsaregifts)

Hannah Brencher’s mother always wrote her letters. So when she felt herself bottom into depression at college, she did what felt natural. She wrote love letters and left them for strangers to find. The act has become a global initiative, ‘The World Needs More Love Letters’ which rushes handwritten letters to those in need of a boost. She delivered a TED talk on the project last year.

Just for tonight…”  (things I wish you knew)

Just for tonight…

Take me in your arms and tell me that you’ve got this, that I can leave my weighted world to fall into the silence of forget.

Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson Debuts on HBO” (FrontRowCenter)

It wasn’t easy living in America, circa 1924, if you were a woman with exceptional artistic talent, showed signs of emotional fragility and unorthodox sexual proclivities.  Without a supportive family or like-minded community (the ex-pats in Paris, for example) to protect you and nurture your talent, you were an easy target for nervous Nellies and ruthless opportunists who were only too eager to stifle your rogue spirit.

Art with Mental Illness by Michael Pementel” (Chicago Literati)

There has always been more to me than balancing my day job and my art. I knew something was up around the age of ten, that was around the time I had my first suicidal thought. Throughout my life there have been days with feelings of loss and hopelessness, waking up and hating myself. Day in and day out crying, not being able to see or feel hope, sometimes self harm. I became aware at a young age of what depression, anxiety and OCD meant. Art became that means for me to express my feelings, express my passions and suffering.

The Forgotten Patient: Recovering from Recovery” (Pressing into the Dawn)

I co-lead a group called Mental Health Education under the umbrella movement we entitled “Be A Salve” for de-stigmatizing mental illness.  In our curriculum we discuss the stigma of mental illness itself, what is empathy?, how to be self-compassionate, psychological first aid, mental health advocacy, and so forth.  Every week someone shares their story, whether having experienced mental illness themselves or having no connection with mental health awareness at all.  Often, our focus lands on what happens when someone is diagnosed or how to help someone when symptoms appear, and how to get help in general at the beginning.

But what about what happens afterwards?

When Enemies Are Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The Message, Eugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a hunted poet, surrounded and scared.

God! Look! Enemies past counting!

Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,

Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:

“Hah! No help for him from God!” (vv. 1-2)

David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to –

But you, God, shield me on all sides;

You ground my feet, you lift my head high;

With all my might I shout up to God;

His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4)

No matter how insurmountable the odds, David believes and asserts that God’s defense is greater than human offense. God is able and willing to act mightily to answer the prayers of His children, like thunder from a mountain. This brings David tremendous peace of mind.

I stretch myself out. I sleep.

Then I’m up again – rested, tall and steady,

Fearless before the enemy mobs

Coming at me from all sides.  (vv. 5-6)

God’s answer to David’s plea for protection in battle is not to fight the battle for him, but to give him rest and courage to fight with confidence.

Some years back, on a youth mission trip to Washington D.C., we were “attacked by enemies” from all sides. One girl was displaying symptoms of an eating disorder. Another was on her hands and knees, compulsively cleaning the floor while others laughed at her. The boys were vying for attention from the girls and a few were “coupling off” – dangerously close to crossing sexual boundaries.

That night (actually early morning) when I finally went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I decided to take a walk. As I strolled the streets of the nation’s capital, I prayed to God out loud. Had someone seen me, they would have rightly assumed I was a stranger with a mental illness wandering the streets – but I don’t think they would have known I was praying.

When I got back to my room, I noticed my body relaxed, and my mind was at ease. I was able to sleep soundly for several hours and woke up feeling refreshed. The next day we had a team meeting for prayer and Bible study. It was the start of the best day on the trip – a day where we were clearly saw God at work in the world within and around us.

God doesn’t often fight our battles for us. Instead, God gives us the strength and courage to face our battles with confidence and claim the victory for Christ.

Spiritual warfare from Angeline Gallant in Jesus