Heart of the Matter – Part 3
Over the past three weeks I have shared my heart as a family member of someone who suffers from mental illness. Trust me, the struggle is real. There are no easy answers. There are, however, things we can do to make life easier for those who struggle and for those who are helping them.
While genetic research is providing exciting new information about the causes of different forms of mental illness that may eventually lead to safer and more effective treatments, there is no magic bullet on the near horizon. But there is hope. Beyond the medical field, I’m glad to know that Jesus is the hope for all of us. Every day we face people, situations and circumstances where we don’t know what to say, what to do or how to do it. We must remember when given information and opportunity we have the ability to make a difference.
So what do you do now?
Pray and ask God to show you the role He is calling you to. Chances are if you have been reading these posts for the past few weeks, God has been preparing your heart for action. Many times we use the excuse, “I don’t know what to do”, but over the past three weeks I’ve shared some practical ways to help a person, family or friend in need. There is a quote from Mother Teresa which says, “In this life, we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Demonstrating God’s love is the biggest thing you can do.
Don’t be Afraid! Don’t let fear dictate your actions. This is exactly what happened to the Israelites when they were told the Promised Land was right before them. They sent twelve spies out to see if they could overtake the land and its people. Of the twelve, only two, Joshua and Caleb, came back and assured the people they could conquer the land. The people allowed their fears to overtake them and were left to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Did you know that over two million Israelites were on the journey to the Promised Land, but only two made it in to the Promised Land alive? Guess who? Joshua and Caleb. If you sense God calling you to do something, follow that leading. Don’t let your fear or others’ fears derail you from what God calls you to do. The blessing is in front of you if you will allow God to lead you there.
Make a Difference! The next time you hear of a person or family who is struggling, make a point to reach out to them, letting them know they are not alone and they have a friend. Be an advocate for those who have no voice, but need one. Many of us, including myself, don’t understand the complexity of the disease, but we all know how to love.
Let’s do our part to remove the stigma of shame and guilt from the person and the family. Don’t let people live in isolation. Instead of being discouraging, let’s become encouragers. The greatest reward is to see others thrive in a difficult situation because of our help.
Speaking of thriving, I alluded to this last week, but I wanted to share the impact a pastor had on my brother’s life. He didn’t see my brother’s illness. He saw my brother’s need for God’s love.
Today my brother is happily married and serves as a worship pastor in the local church. He is still writing music, singing songs about Jesus and sharing the message of God’s love. My brother spreads God’s hope to others who deal with mental illness. Time does heal wounds, but it is Jesus who heals the heart. My brother’s illness taught our family many things, but some of the greatest life lessons were about forgiveness, love, compassion and empathy for those who suffer in silence.
I often say, God doesn’t waste a thing. Even in our darkest moments as a family, God has always showed us He cared when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. It has also allowed us to help educate other family members and those in the church and community to see a family’s perspective of how to care for those who suffer with mental illness.
When we get to the Heart of the Matter, we can see the situation not with our own eyes, but the spiritual eyes of God who reminds us that every person is created with a purpose and plan. We just need to be brave enough to step out of our box and love as if our life depended on it, just like Jesus loves us.