Category Archives: Faith

Withdraw in Prayer

“But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Proverbs 1:33 NIV)

I found the above verse in yesterday’s devotion for dieters. Since the verse was taken out of context, I decided to read the entire chapter. Proverbs is in the Old Testament, which to me, who knows very little about the Bible, mostly means it’s based in fear. Before Jesus, people were taught to fear the Lord, and those who did so were seen as wise. That’s also what this chapter seems to say.

However, this particular verse is quite positive. The author of the devotional uses it to make the point that, when we are troubled, we can and should turn to the Lord in prayer.

As I wrote in an old reflection, Jesus himself suffered human temptation. There were, like the author of the devotion for dieters says, also many times when he was persecuted. He didn’t answer in destructive ways, either by attacking the people who persecuted him or by giving in to temptation. Rather, he withdrew and prayed.

The people of the Old Testament may have had a hard time turning to God, because God hadn’t forgiven humanity yet. At least, if I lived in the time of Proverbs 1, I’d not be led to turn to God for guidance that easily, despite what is written in the last verse. However, through Jesus, we can be assured that a loving God will guide us and help us overcome the pressures of life and our human temptation. Jesus knows what it’s like to be under pressure and he also knows what it is like to resist temptation – successfully. By turning to our Lord and Heavenly Father when under stress, he set an example.

Willpower, as I said last month, is the will to turn over the reigns of our life to God. We don’t have to do this thing called life alone.

I have been doing okay’ish in the eating disorder and self-harm departments lately, despite having been under a lot of pressure. In part, this is because I’ve been withdrawing from the pressures of daily life more. That still doesn’t mean I’ve turned myself over to God. I withdraw into ordinary things, like books, writing, pampering myself with body care products, etc. I don’t say this is wrong, but it isn’t doing anything but temporarily distracting me from the pressures of life.

God can help us truly overcome our suffering. He teaches us to pray and, as is written in Proverbs 1:33, listen. If we listen for God’s guidance, we may realize that He will take care of us. I’m not there yet. I’m working on it, praying about it though.

Faith and Mental Illness #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 11 in the #Write31Days blogging challenge. I went to church today for the first time in a long while. There’s a church on institution grounds here, but I can’t walk there alone from my unit and the staff don’t always have time to take me. There’s someone who drives people to church, but for whatever reason they’ve limited this service to people of the elder units. We reached an agreement with the pastors that, if the staff took me one way, I would be driven back. This way, if the staff are not too busy around the time church starts at 10:30, I can go to church. Sometiems though, I’m just too lazy.

I say th is all because today I want to talk about faith and mental health. I originally inteded to write a boring, informative post on personality disorders again, but they take a lot of effort and aren’t always appreciated. So I’m going to talk faith.

I was raised atheist and didn’t become interested in faith until I was around eighteen. At first, it was just curiosity. I didn’t start feeling God’s presence till I was about 25.

At this point, I define myself as a progressive Jesus follower. I have not (yet) been baptized and hence don’t take all of the traditions of Christianity all that seriously. I try to focus on the positive part of Christianity, ie. the idea that God through Jesus Christ helps me be a better human and reach eternal life. As the pastor said in church today, eternal life in the Biblical sense does not refer specifically to entry to Heaven, but more to a fulfilling life in the here and now as well as in the afterlife.

I haven’t always focused on the positive. Here is where my mental illness comes into play. After all, you were probably wondering why I write this post for #Write31Days. Well, when I was still in a pretty dark place when on the acute ward, my faith, which was still too fresh to be called a faith, stood in the way of my havng a positive outlook. I was pretty sure God was punishing me for my childhood behavior problems with this state of depression.

Though some churches believe in a punitive God, most have abandoned this idea. Even so, many mentally ill people start experiencing their faith backfiring. Some churches still endorse this idea. After all, there’s still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness and even non-relgious people still sometimes believe it’s the sufferer’s own fault for having a bad attitude.

In the Netherlands, most mental health agencies employ pastors and other spiritual counselors to help patients find the answers to life’s important questions. Pastors and spiritual counselors reach out to people rgardless of their faith. For example, one of my husband’s family members, himself atheist, found relief in knowing a pastor would at least talk to him when he was in a hospital. I originally found the same. I started talking to the institution pastor in early 2010, before I’d declared myself a progressive Jesus follower. Even now that I do feel God’s presence, I don’t always talk faith with the institution pastor. Sometimes, I talk other life issues, but sometimes, I just talk over how life is going in general. Sometimes, I still discuss my occasional struggles with the idea of a punitive God.

As I said, many mentally ill people find their mental illness impacts their faith and vice versa. Some have religious experiences many people consider delusional. Some feel, like myself sometimes, that God is punishing them or that they are possessed. Some find their faith helps them fight their mental illness. I hope that more people find themselves on the latter path.

Grateful for My Suffering

It’s been a hard day. I went to the institution’s educational department to study a bit in the morning. I literally had to drag myself there, because I was so tired. When I was done studying, I had lunch and then went on the computer to find an E-mail from the housing corporation. My husband and I have been contemplating moving house for a few months now. It’s been up in the air in many different forms. Over the week-end, I thought we’d decided we weren’t going to move after all, but then on Tuesday my husband found out I may have more time on the housing waiting list than we expected. It would be eight years, whereas I thought I had just 2 1/2. Long story short, the housing corporation E-mailed me to let me know the 2 1/2-year’s waiting time is correct. This confused me, because no explanation was given. So no moving house for us.

I was rather upset at first and went up to the nurse’s station to ask someone to take me on a walk. “Don’t you have day activities now?” the nurse replied. Well, I might, but that wasn’t my question. Turned out day activities were canceled (again!). I got upset. At that point the nurse and I had an argument about whether I expected the nursing staff to keep me occupied. If they’d just answered my question up front – no, they couldn’t take me on a walk -, this had been avoidable. Then again, this may be my autistic inability to cope with uncertaintty and change.

After a huge meltdwon, I’m now relatively calm. As I stumbled across the Thoughtful Thursday linky, I mulled over this day in my head and remembered a blog post I had read a while back (sorry, can’t remember where), which reminded the reader to be grateful for your suffering. I think I wrote about this before in one of my devotionals. Because I couldn’t find the post or the Bible quotes it references, I searched for some myself.

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13 NIV)

In other words, without suffering, there is no happiness. When you’ve never suffered, you cannot appreciate the joys of life. This goes for Christians, who share in the suffering of Christ and in His glory, but it also goes for non-Christians. After all, my anology of no joy without suffering does not require God. He can of course support us in our suffering and share in our joys, but if you are a non-Christian, you can still learn to appreciate the joys you face each day amidst even the darkest of suffering.

For instance, instead of being angry at the times the nurses can’t take me on walks, I can appreciate the times they can. I do this, and in truth, it wasn’t the fact that the nurse couldn’t take me on a walk that upset me. It was the housing corporation E-mail. Then again, not moving house means I know where I’ll be living once I leave the institution and can hopefully leave sooner than had we been moving house first.

I came across another Bible verse, which reminds me that, because I have moments when I am in a less than optimal state of mind, I also have moments when I am better.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV)

This verse again reminds us that, in the face of persecution and hardship, we show our strength. We cannot be truly strong if we are never challenged. In other words, if we sit on our butts in a flowery garden eating chocolates all day, we will not grow (except in weight). I may have been in a meltdown this afternoon, but I made it through. I did self-injure, but it wasn’t bad and I was able to calm myself afterwards without needing to be secluded. I survived another crisis and, because of my mental illness, it undoubtedly won’t be the last one. Other people have it easier, but no-one is free from hardship and suffering. It is in the face of challenges that we show our human strength.

Creative K Kids

Prayer and Reflection: Jesus Helps Me Through My Eating Disorder

I have had quite the urge to engage in eating disorder behaviors today. It’s raining, so I can’t go out to the town store to get some candy. Besides, it’d not be right in the long run. After all, I’d not be caring for myself well by indulging in the urge to binge.

So I paged through Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery. The book is explicitly Christian. Since I am a Jesus follower too, I have felt very much touched by the questions and suggestions in the book. At several points, the author encourages the reader to find Bible verses or other inspirational material that will help them through their recovery journey. So I looked online for some Bible verses that help me strengthen my willpower to overcome this urge, at least for now.

“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the
sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18 NIV)

This is so powerful. Jesus was human himself, suffering all the usual temptations us humans face on a daily basis. Jesus did not have an eating disorder, but He was undoubtedly tempted to indulge overeating every once in a while. After all, everyone is tempted ot overeat at times. Yet Jesus overcame this temptation. We could say He did so because he is God, too. That would be disempowering ourselves, because we are saying: “I coud never resist temptation like Jesus did, because I’m not God.”

What this Bible verse says, however, is that Jesus is able to empathize with us and thereby help us. We may not have the Godly powers Jesus has, but we can lean on Him, and He will care. After all He knows what it is like to be fully human. He cannot just sympathize, but truly empathize.

As a mental health sufferer, I tend to look to people who have a lot in common with me for guidance and support. I look to people who have had the same experiences and struggles I face. I look to people who cannot just sympathize, but empathize.

How wonderful is it that God HImself, through His son Jesus Christ, can empathize with all of us! He knows what it is like to be tempted, so He is willing and able to help us through.

God, help me through the urge to binge for just one day. Help me face the reality that, in the long run, bingeing will be bad for my body, and I need to take good care of my body. Help me realize that, through your son Jesus Christ, who suffered human temptation, I am able to overcome this same temptation. Amen.

Honesty

I have a confession to make. I often hide my real opinions in order to “fit in” with a community. Particularly my faith-based posts have been polished to suit a conservative Christian audience, even though I am not that conservative at all. Not that my faith-based posts are popular – they’re among my least popular posts -, so I don’t need to do this for readership either. I’m no longer going to polish my opinions to suit any particular audience.

With faith in particular, I believe it’s God’s job to judge people, not people’s. Just because Christianity is the largest religion in the world, and just because conservative Christians are the most vocal on the Internet, doesn’t mean they own the truth. God owns the truth.

Besides, God knows my heart. If He is going to condemn me for opposing corporal punishment or supporting LGBT rights, He’s going to condemn me more for being a coward and concealing my real opinions on my blog. I could use the fact that I did not fully understand the meaning of the English word “paddling” as an excuse for last Thursday’s post, but I won’t. I have always firmly opposed even spanking, and I’m not giving up my right to this opinion.

I know I have a tendency to try to fit my beliefs, and quite frankly any otehr part of my identity, into a particular mold, to use concrete, tangible terms to describe myself. This has led me to try to fit in with, for example, the Christian community. I have in fact been somewhat active on forums that explicitly prohibit “promoting” homosexuality. This is not only doing a disservice to the LGBT people I support and the LGBT community at large, but also doing a disservice to the real me.

I believe in God. I consider the Bible an important source of inspiration, but so do I other spiritual texts. People can think they are sure that the Christian faith, or their particular version of it, is the only rihgt way to God. I am too skeptical to be sure of this. Only God knows. And if people are going to kick me off their forums or out of their Facebook groups or going to prevent me from linking up with their linkies because of my particular beliefs, so be it. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad. I do have a deep longing to belong, to be approved and to gain recognition. I probably need to work on coping with this need. I need to stop wanting to be a real anything other than myself.

Could God Be Disciplining Us?

“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:9-11 NIV)

These words from Scripture do not show God as a gentle God, as a forgiving God, as a God who loves man. Or do they? I just read today’s Girlfriends in God devotional, in which Sharon Jaynes reflects on the above Bible verses. She recounts several examples from the Bible in which God punished His own people, as well as an example from her own life.

Now I for one would never choose to use corporal punishment on my child if I had one. Then again, Sharon’s son chose the paddle rather than a wee without his Nintendo. The important message in this text is not that children deserve corporal punishment, however – people vary in their opinions on this. The message is that the child should 1. suffer consequences for their wrongdoing, 2. know why they are being punished and possibly 3. choose their own consequences within reasonable limits.

After all, Sharon’s husband gave their son a choice between five paddlings or a week without his Nintendo. In the Bible, too, many times God gives the people who disobey him choices of consequences. This sort of control over the consequences of one’s wrongdoing is advocated in many parenting books, including those by authors who would never advocate corporal punishment. The message is that the child understands what they’re doing wrong, that they’re being punished and why, and that they have control over their actions and thereby have control over the consequences of these actions. This taches children not just righteousness, but also self-control and flexibility.

Does this too mean that God allows suffering as punishment? Sometimes, yes. People often say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and this is true, but He sometimes tries to drive us back towards Him.

God is, as Sharon says in the devotional, a great parent – the best parent we can imagine. We may not always understand His actions as they happen, or even as we read about them in the Bible. Ultimately, however, we will understand, and even if we won’t, these actions will shape us to become the best us we can be.

Women With Intention

We Are All Acceptable in God’s Eyes

Our society is extremely achievement-oriented. We are taught that we are acceptable because of what we have to offer the world. I am no exception. Though the people around me now accept that I have come out as I have, in the sense that they no longer deny it, I used to be taught that I somehow had to prove myself. Having no job, no college degree, no children and being dependent on benefits and long-term care, I often feel like I have failed as a human being.

Today, I read the book Real Families, Real Stories: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome by Stephanie Sumulong. It is filled with short stories by parents and the occasional sibling of children and adults with Down Syndrome. What struck a chord with me is that each of these family members says their child is amazing. They don’t say so because their children’s achievements are magnificient in society’s eyes, but because as human beings these people are valued for who they are. I cringed soometimes at the umpteenth exclamation of how these people are gifts from God and have so much to offer. Then again, I realize that this is because I doubt my own worth.

Then I read a devotional which sends a conflicting message. It tells us how none of us are truly good enough in God’s eyes from the start, due to Adam and Eve’s original sin. Then it goes on to tell us that, if we accept Jesus as our savior, we are in fact all good enough. The devotion doesn’t go into what we need to achieve to be good enough in Jesus’ eyes. It doesn’t list any rites of passage to the Godly family. I realize that the author of the devotional may believe that certain morals are required to be saved, or that only certain people are predestined to be saved. I won’t go into this. For now, the author just states that, if you accept Jesus in your life, you are good enough in God’s eyes.

It is weird, but I find it comforting to know that all people are judged equal before the Lord. We all have a wickedness to us, whether we make big money or have three Ph.D.’s and five children or not. God recognizes this, but He also recognizes the good in everyone and He sent his son to make peace with us. As I said, people often believe that certain morals make us good enough in God’s eyes. I am not too conservative and therefore I don’t believe that we need to be something or achieve something to be accepted by God. Others might disagree. The point is, we all have some wickedness to us but it doesn’t matter to Jesus.

Equipping Godly Women

The Righteous Live by Faith

Today, I’ve been feeling a desire to invest in my faith. I hope this is not just for today, but for many days to come, but for now, I’ll just make use of it. I usually invest in my faith by prayer, reading the Bible and reflecting on it. Therefore, I decided to look at some Bible passages and write about one that appeals to me.

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” (Romans 1:17 NIV)

The first thing I came across when looking for devotionals on this verse, was Ron Moore’s devotional with the provocative title “Hello, My Name Is… God”. In it, Moore starts by explaining righteousness. To be righteous means to be blameless, and no human being can be blamelss. The good news is that God through Jesus cleanses us of our blame. Amazing, huh? In a way, it is, but it sits a bit uneasy with me that Christians may view themselves as above and beyond blame, as if they can do as they please as long as they have faith.

Moore explains that we who believe in Jesus are accredited with blamelessness. This connotes a kind of responsibility. As believers, we need to make a conscious effort, with the help of God, to remain righteous.

Here is where the second part of this passage comes in: living by faith. I mean, I am generally a pretty well-behaved person, but I am not perfect. Nobody is perfect. It is through our faith in God that we become righteous.

Living by faith is an area in which I could definitely improve. I don’t read the Bible nearly everyday, haven’t been to church in months, and struggle to keep my language in check – even as I have to write this blog post for the second time all over again because my computer decided to act up. Faith is not somethign you do every once in a while when it suits you. It is something you focus on on a continuing basis. I pray that God helps me keep focused on Him.

Linking up with Saturday Soiree.

He Is Trustworthy

Yesterday, I talked to Shannon from Chosen Families. Shannon is the mother of a disabled child and her site aims to be a ministry to special needs families. Her most recent post is titled He Is Reliable. In this post, Shannon reflects on John 8:26, which in the Bible version she uses reads in part “he is reliable”. In the NIV, it reads “he is trustworthy”, which speaks to me in a similar way.

He is trustworthy. Why do I struggle with this idea? Shannon names just a few circumstances which special needs families can be faced with, and I have faced many of them myself. Yet He is trustworthy. I have a hard time trusting God, because, after all, why did He put me through what I’ve been throguh if He is trustworthy?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

This. I searched for “trust” on Bible Gateway and this was the first suggested result. “Lean not on your own understanding.” This. Why would I be able to judge God’s reliability if I do not understand His ways? Skeptics could say that God exists to serve man, but according to the Bible, this isn’t so. Would He, therefore, serve me by putting me through what I’ve been through? Maybe, indirectly, but maybe not. Maybe my experiences serve some entirely different purpose, which I may not be able t understand.

It is tempting to think that as humans, we can control our own life experiences. If we do good, Karma or some Christian variation of it will give us happiness. This isn’t so. Of course, we have free will too and therefore have some level of control over our lives, but ultimately, part of what we will endure is in God’s hands. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” He is trustworthy, after all.

Love with Actions, Not Words

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV)

Many people experience on a pretty regular basis that words sometimes contradict actions. I personally experience that the words tht come out of my mouth often even contradict my own thoughts or what I wanted to communicate. Many people with mental illness or developmental disabilities find it hard to comunicate in words and, for some, this especially goes for affective communicaiton. This is why it is sometimes hard for people who do not know the person well to understand what they’re feeling. It is however also why people who know the disabled person well do appreciate hte person’s love and affection, because it is not shown in words but in actions.

I remember when I was yougn, when I and my parents had an argument or a fight, one of us would often say in an emotional voice: “But I love you!” This may’ve been so (I’m pretty sure my parents love me, and I love them), but it didn’t come across to me (or them, when I was the one doing this). Actions did.

These actions do not have to be material, but they do not have to be all immaterial etiehr. I still have a hard time balancing material gifts with gifts of kindness, mostly because I can be pretty, well, inconsiderate without meaning to. I know that the person who showers their partner with gifts, is not necessairly the most loving partner, but just communicating love, through either words or body language, isn’t always effective either.

Then again, a simple offer to help, a “Thank you”, etc. are actions of love that do not literally scream “I love you”. These actions, too, can be done to people other than your partner. Now I am not sure that in our modern society, “love” is the right word for our affinity to strangers, but you can perform acts that indicate appreciation to anyone.