Most of these thoughts are based on the notes from a talk I gave in May. I want to write frankly about a topic that I have become passionate about.
"Life is beautiful"
In college I had a friend and roommate named Matt. He would get up every month in front of our Christian congregation and during a brief thought, he'd grab the pulpit with both hands, grin from ear to ear and beyond, and exclaim, "Brothers and sisters, life is beautiful". He did it when life was easy and when life was hard.
"He Loves You No Matter What"
I will echo Matt's thought, "Life is beautiful". I think that often we have no clue just how much God loves us. He loves us when we are sick or healthy, when we are sad or happy. When we have good hair days and bad. When our clothes fit just right and even when they don't. He loves you no matter the language you speak, the clothes you wear or don't wear. Most importantly, He loves you the same when you keep his commandments or not. His love for you never changes. It is always there. Infinite. Eternal. Only equaled by our own divine potential.
Life is a Test
Because of His eternal love He understands that life needs to be hard. This life is a grand test after all, to see where we want to end up. Ultimately, we will go where we are most comfortable, be it in the presence of God or far from it because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.
So in this great test of ours is it any wonder that we experience trials? Job loss? Death? Bullying? Illnesses of the body. Illnesses of the mind. Illnesses of the heart.
It is of the illnesses of the mind and heart I want to address as clearly as I can.
"You Don't Deserve This"
You don't deserve this. This is not some horrible punishment or curse that came upon you. God is not punishing you. He is purifying you. He loves you. Jesus Christ understands perfectly what you are going through, that Man of Sorrow, acquainted with Grief. He suffered all sin. He suffered all sorrow. He did what He did because Christ knew you would need him today. You would need someone to understand. So when you need someone to lean on, lean on Him.
"There is Always Hope"
I am here to tell you that there is hope. There is always hope. I have seen miracles happen. What was once pain and darkness was lifted in a moment to become peace, and light. There is always hope. Recognize the miracles in your life. Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes God helps us weather the storm. We can't command God any more than an ant could compel us. And if your miracle seemingly never comes. Then endure it well. The Savior Himself asked for the bitter cup to be taken from Him, yet He partook. This may be your Gethsemane, your Golgotha, but it will end and peace will fill your heart again.
Accept the Miracle You Need
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness, get medical help. Who are you to say that medical advances in this field are not the very miracle that God has prepared for you? When Naaman, mighty man of valor, captain of the hosts of Syria, and leper, sought healing, the message came to bathe in the River Jordan. He almost didn't because of the simplicity of the task. After all, how could some great miracle happen by so simple a solution? Luckily for him he listened to a friend's advice. He went and bathed in the simple waters and received his mighty miracle.
So pray and plead for miracles but accept the medical help you need. It is a lie of the Devil that a mental illness means you are somehow broken, somehow less of a person. It is a lie of the Enemy of Life that you should be ashamed, that perhaps by getting some exercise, by reading a self-help book, by some forced smiles and positive thinking you will be alright. We can no more expect to cure depression with simple positive thinking than we can expect to cure cancer with the same. There is no shame in getting help. So do it. It may save your life.
If you had a broken leg, no one would expect you to run a marathon. If you have depression and anxiety, take off the plate the things that matter least so you have the health to handle the things that matter most. Then rest your body and your mind as best you may. There is a strong correlation between sleep and sanity.
"Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask"
To those that may not be currently suffering from mental illness. I plead with you to have compassion on them. To those of you who may be the caregivers. I pray you will have patience.
This darkness of the mind heightens stress, negativity, and those suffering with such an illness may lash out at you in anger. They may lay the blame of all the troubles of the world at your very feet. I pray you are able to discern the truth, that they are sick and that you can make a difference. But before you can make a difference you need to, just like every flight attendant has ever said, "put on your own oxygen mask". Make sure you are doing what you need to to remain healthy of body and mind so when your loved one yells at you and so adeptly points out all your flaws, that you respond not with anger, but with humility and with love. It is always far more important that they know you love them than they know you are right. I pray God will strengthen your shoulders to bear the burdens placed upon them.
"The Light Will Shine Again"
I know that there is a God, that He is our Heavenly Father, and that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to suffer for all our sins and sorrow. I know that God is at all times our loving Father in Heaven. That He loves us no matter what. God will never give up on you.
I know there is always hope and that the long dark night of our trials will end. Death is not the end. The light will shine again in our lives and hearts.
I'm going to channel my inner Matt. "Brothers and Sisters, Life. Is. Beautiful." God lives. God loves you. Don't believe Satan's lies. Have hope. Have compassion. We can conquer this. Let's do it together. Because no matter how lost you may feel, we are never alone.