The Gospel for Mental Illness

Today is my 49th birthday.

Yesterday was a terrible day, from the morning discouragements leading up to midnight’s breakdown.

Mental illness sucks the life out of me even though I am surrounded by people who love me. It makes me feel ungrateful, sometimes, and I beat myself up for feeling this way. But mental illness is like that – it eats you up. Sometimes I am neither here nor there. The unseen boundaries within my brain can cause me to be highly functional and productive one day, and utterly helpless and hopeless the next.

A very good friend and pastor posted this on his wall this morning and it was the first post I read. Maybe this is God’s special gift to me today.

“If your gospel isn’t good news for people who suffer from mental illness, it isn’t the Gospel of Jesus.

One of the most gracious, generous and selfless people I have ever known was tormented by an illness that limited mental function. And yet, God’s love was more evident in her than most able-minded people I know.”

The replies and affirmations to his post also gave me strength somehow. There is strength in numbers, truly.

May all of us who suffer from mental illness find strength within ourselves, as God gives us His strength to pull us through. It is a lifetime of extreme highs and lows. It is an illness that most will never even come to terms with. It is a black dog that is always close by.

I pray for all of us. There may not be a total cure for mental illness but there is still hope, whenever we are “well enough” to lift up our heads to see the light. There IS a light that penetrates all this darkness.

I long for that day when I will be freed from the agony of this illness, here or in the next life. When my brain will finally stop spinning from endless screams of anxiety. When I will experience some measure of peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 is my most-read Biblical passage. I firmly believe that this was written for all of us who suffer from anxiety.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What Philippians 4:6-7 Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety

 

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On My 37th Birthday

It’s the day before my 37th birthday and thoughts are racing in my head. Along with my long mental list of impossible (in this lifetime, anyway) and not-so-impossible wishes, I toyed with ideas on how I would like to celebrate 37 meaningful years. And yes, although the phrase “meaningful years” does sound a bit cliché-ish, it seems to be the best way to illustrate a life that did have (and still has) meaning. After all, a life without meaning or purpose is no life at all.

And so I ended up thanking God. And God opened up an entire list of a totally different nature – a list of people I am most thankful to (not just thankful for). This is nothing new, but it caught me slightly off-guard, especially when my mind was dead set on daydreaming and fantasizing.

We are all living on borrowed time, and I am made aware of this everyday. So before my time is up, I owe it to God and everyone I love to send my birthday messages of gratitude.

For all of you who mean the world to me… here goes.

I thank you, my “Ate”, for being the kind of person you are. You are strong, highly principled and unyielding in your faith. You have served as my model of godliness, servitude and sacrifice. I don’t know how you do it, only that you have allowed our greatest strength, Jesus Christ, to live in you and through you. You have always believed in me and said that you have faith in me. You continue to live out Philippians 2:4-5 in your life and I am blessed because of it. How I wish that more people can have someone like you as a sister! What we have is special and will transcend this lifetime.

I thank you, my precious niece, for coming into this world and into our lives. Like your mom said, you are a miracle. Thoughts of you bring me much joy and gratitude because you are a smart, lively and beautiful girl. God has wonderful plans for you, and I look forward to seeing you grow more and more in His awesome love.

I thank you, my aunt and “lola” in distant shores. You thought of me more than 7 years ago even when many years and miles separated us. You thought me worthy enough of your time and resources and honored me with your presence on my wedding day. Thank you, for thinking of me, your niece and “apo”, and for loving me even from a distance. To know that I still have family in the midst of loss has been a great comfort to me and “Ate”.

I thank you, my friends and dear neighbors. You have stuck by me and my husband and have supported us in more ways than I can ever recall. God sees your work and your hearts that care for us, especially in times of great need. You welcomed us into your lives, not just emotionally but physically as well. Thank you for always keeping us in your thoughts and prayers – and in your many plans, meals and numerous coffee breaks.

I thank you, my friends and mentors. Your lives have guided me and my husband and your continued support and expressed love spur us on to fight the good fight ‘til the end.

I thank you, my college friends, now my lifetime friends. Although our lives have taken different paths, our memories keep us close. Thank you for the many mini-reunions we’ve had and the many more get-togethers we will soon have.

I thank you, my young friends. Your lives, ‘though fewer in years, have enriched mine. God has given you to me to teach me to love more, care more, serve more and pray more. I may not have children of my own, but I have not missed out because of the many experiences we have shared and the many opportunities our Lord has given me to serve you.

I thank you, my brave friends in the field. You are an inspiration and a light in a very dark world. You have taught me to get down on my knees for your cause and the cause of an endangered world. Your knee bends have strengthened and sustained mine. I appreciate you and keep you in my petitions.

I thank you, my friends and “Connections”. You have given me the chance to share my life with my fellow servants from all across the globe. I discovered a love for writing that I never fully realized I had. You became the answer to a prayer and desire to reach out to more people.

I thank you, Mama and Papa. You may no longer be with us physically, but the many memories and lessons you have left continue to guide me in my walk. I will see you again, and it will be like we were never apart. How I miss you and long for that much awaited reunion!

I thank you, my parents-in-law, for raising a wonderful and God-fearing man, and for entrusting him to me. You have always been supportive of me and our friendship, and I know that you desire the best for us always.

And I thank you, my very precious hubby. You are a gift to me from heaven, prepared especially for me even before I was born. We were created for each other and our marriage is built on the best foundation – Jesus Christ. Thank you for being my best friend 22 years ago, and for loving me so well ‘til now. You are the man of my dreams and the love of my life.

God has been good to me. I have more gifts than I can ever unwrap in a lifetime!

And so on my 37th birthday, this is my wish: May our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, continue to bless you all and grant you the desires of your hearts (as He has mine) in His name.

I love you.

JOJO (“Sheila”, “Ate Sheila”, “Tita Sheila”, “Tita Jo” or “Ate Jo” to some of you, and “Wifey”J)