Another Kind of ‘Self-Harm’.

I think it is fairly safe to say that to many, whenever the phrase ‘self-harm’ is mentioned it can bring all sorts of thoughts or images to mind which in the main centre around physically injuring oneself.

Indeed, type the words ‘self-harm’ into google and you stand a fair chance of being greeted with the following definition…

deliberate injury to oneself, typically as a manifestation of a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

Lonely-Walking-Out-The-Door-iPhone-Wallpaper-DownloadAnd certainly this is understandable.

After all, as a mental health activist and someone who has had personal struggles with this issue in the past, I myself have written about this kind of self-harm on numerous occasions.

And trust me they really are struggles which very few people can understand unless they are trained mental health professionals or have been through them themselves. And the feelings – such as guilt, worthlessness and isolation – which they can bring along with them can be immense. (and which very often are additional to those already felt can be crippling.

(And yes I have actively avoided using a graphic which has a high potential of being a trigger to anyone who still struggles with this issue.)

But is there another kind of ‘self-harm’ that we as Christians should be mindful of – especially when it comes to those who experience mental health issues or mental illness?

Consider this if you will…

Most Christians will readily acknowledge, and certainly the bible reading ones should acknowledge, that we are in a constant battle with ‘self’.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24 NKJV)

That ‘self’ – to over simplify things – could be defined as who we have become as a result of numerous influences, such as: our minds, our intellect, our education, our perceptions, our understandings, our experiences and our environments etc.

But is ‘self’ not also – in turn – therefore, an influence on; how we are, how we react, and indeed how we interact?

Self-Criticism

And if indeed we accept, as Christians, that our ‘self’ and our ‘self’ish ways are all too often contrary to how Christ would have us be.  Then surely the concept of ‘self’ being ‘harmful’ can not be too great a leap, can it?

Now add to that a mental health condition which exaggerates the effects of ‘self’ or at very least reduces one’s control of the influences of ‘self’.  (Because, as we have already established, ‘self’ is influenced by our mind and in turn also influences how we react and interact.) And the result is that you have a breeding ground for some very real issues here, don’t you? (Above picture courtesy of: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/discipline-vs-desire.  All rights respected.)

Especially since our old ‘self’ – that ‘old man‘ – can be a hard person to change and an old acquaintance who all too often comes a calling.

I for one can tell you, that I am a Christian. And I love our Lord.  And I really do seek, when able, to please Him and to live according to the spirit and not according to the flesh or according to my old ‘self’.  But I can also tell you that I am also a Christian  who has mental health issues and who knows only too well the impact that my ‘self’ often has on me and also on my ability to show my faith as well as on my relationships.

And I am by no means alone in this, I can assure you.  And for many, myself very much included, the idea of socialising can be a very difficult thing.  And thus the idea of joining or belonging to a Church can also be incredibly difficult.  And this is something which is only exasperated when others within that church fail to try to understand this or to make efforts to counteract this.  But of course to do so we a) have to know about these difficulties and b) have to be willing to step out of our own comfort zone, in order to encourage others out of theirs.

$_35But for some, the idea of being a Christian is, or so it seems, seen as a solution to many – if not all – of the struggles which we can face in life. And in truth there are numerous exponents of the soft-sell ‘give your life to Jesus and everything will be rosy in the garden‘ kind of Christianity out there.  But I personally am unable to buy into or to agree with such an approach or such a theology. (Picture to the right courtesy of: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Slate-Single-Coaster-Everything-in-the-garden-is-rosy-/400793278457. All rights respected.)

Mainly because my understanding of the word of God does not support such teachings and secondly because my experience in Christ also does not support such teachings.

And I think a legitimate observation and question is – “If giving your life to Christ instantly removes all of the struggles that we face in life – as the ‘prosperity ministry’ exponents would have us believe – why would Paul – under the influence of the Holy spirit – write a passage such as Ephesians 4:20-24 which I quoted above?”

The fact is that my understanding of being a Christian is that it not only seldom removes all of life’s struggles it can actually increase our awareness of them. Thankfully, by the grace of God, it does however also provide us with a new approach and a perfect source of support in dealing with them.

But even so, let us make no mistake here.  Those struggles  – especially when it comes to mental health issues and mental illness – do remain.  Take for example such things as negative or harmful internal dialogues.  Something which many of us experience to varying levels  and at varying times but which are often complicated even exaggerated and exasperated by numerous mental health conditions.  Where is the churches responsibility in such cases?  In the case where someone experiences these very real and often constant difficulties?  Surely it is to help them fight it.

And one of the most effective ways of helping someone deal with those harmful thoughts and/or voices – which ultimately come from ‘self’ – is to counter them with positive, creative and tangible evidence to the contrary.

Evidence which speaks directly into and which counters ‘self’s’ negative and harmful statements which say things like, ‘You don’t fit in.”, or “you don’t belong”.  Statements like, “you’re not like them” or “They are only tolerating you because the bible says they have to.”.  Statements which, as I said, many of us can experience from time to time but which can be so greatly exaggerated in effect or frequency by mental health issues. Along, of course, with all the statements and negative thoughts which appear in the image below. (Picture courtesy of http://www.lifesonion.com/changing-your-inner-dialogue/ all rights respected)

negativelabels-688x484

Whilst it can be argued that ‘self-harm’ has a specific meaning in this day and age, and that it therefore invokes specific images in our minds, the fact of the matter is that the ‘self’ being harmful at times, is certainly nothing new.  And certainly should not be a surprise to any bible reading Christian.

But knowing that ‘self’ and thus such linked or resultant thoughts and internal dialogues are often harmful does not remove their influence on us.  Any more than knowing the person who keeps picking on us is a bully removes their influence on us.  And so the need for very real and very tangible support and encouragement  from other believers within our church is essential.

And let there be no mistake here.  Just as tangible positive support and encouragement is often vital to our survival within a church family, so can tangible negative comments, or actions from others in the church family be absolutely fatal to our survival in that church family.  Something else which I can personally attest to.

 

So my encouragement today is not only to all those who like me really struggle with the harmful ‘self’ which as a result of our mental health issues seems even more harmful but to those who don’t experience this to the same degree.

Your love.  Your positive, tangible compassion can be the very thing which helps keep someone like me within a church family.

God bless you.

 

 

 

 

For the Love of God.

churchfromrearSeeing a church filled with folk all focused on their corporate worship of the Lord is a wonderful sight to see. Isn’t it?

The fact that so many people coming and joining together in worship is such a blessing and such a positive thing.

And yet perhaps the key words for us to consider in that last statement are ‘coming and joining together’.

And in our considerations perhaps the question we need to start with is are they all  really ‘coming and joining together’?  Because looks can be deceiving, can’t they?  Especially where mental health issues and mental illness are concerned.  And in fact,  what I am going to say next is not only experienced by those who have mental health issues or mental illness.

Because whilst to the casual onlooker the picture above maybe what they are seeing, when you are struggling with personal issues, such as low self-worth or a deep routed sense of being unloved or unlovable.  When you experience mental health related issues or mental illness, sometimes – even when everyone else seems to see a picture like the one above.  All your mind allows you to see is the picture below.

Isolated church girl

A picture which – due to that sense of worthlessness or a deep routed belief that you are perhaps unlovable or a deep sense of not belonging – seeks to convince you that even though you may be sitting in a crowded church full of other believers, you are very much alone.

And trust me, I am not writing this as someone who is simply of the opinion that this is the case.  I am writing as someone for whom this really IS constantly the case.

In truth I go to a tremendously loving and caring church.  One in which I am fairly involved in and one in which I would doubt very many would know (let alone understand) the way my mental health issues make me feel.

But, look at the wording I have used.  Words such as ‘worthlessness’, ‘unlovable’, ‘a deep sense of not belonging’.  Aren’t all of these contrary to the gospel of Christ?  A gospel which tells us that we are all worth something, that we can all be loved, that in fact God very much desires for us to know Him as our Heavenly Father and through Christ fur us to belong, for us to be a part of His family.

See I know the gospel of Christ and in fact I know Christ.  Likewise I truly know the love of Christ.  But, trust me, knowing the love of Christ does not mean that the voices or the harmful negative thoughts and internal dialogues automatically stop.  And like so many thoughts they need (as Paul and possibly Timothy in 2 Corinthians 10:5 said) to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ.  Something which we can often find quite hard, can’t we?

So where does (or should) the church stand in all of this?

Is not the church called – as part of its calling – to be the evidence of Christ on earth?  Are we not called to minister His love to one another?

You see we may not be able to instantly stop the thoughts and voices or internal dialogues that someone else is experiencing.  But we can – if we try, if we constantly reach out in love – choose not to feed those thoughts or voices but instead to counter them. If, in fact, we make a very definite effort – through  both our words and our actions – we can show very real and tangible evidence that they are not true.

But, since the voices and thoughts are frequent – often times fairly constant- and long lasting, so too does our love need to be constant and frequent.

And here, in my opinion and from my own personal experience, is something very real, and very essential to our understanding and thus the appropriate response here.

When  someone is constantly bombarded with harmful voices or internal dialogues and thoughts (not to mention the negative comments that many people experience from the people around them) which seem – to all intents and purposes – to be determined to convince  them that they are ‘worthless’ or ‘unlovable’ or ‘do not belong’. The repetitive and constant nature of these harmful and unhelpful thoughts or voices adds weight to them and leads one to the demoralised and defeated belief that perhaps, just perhaps, they are actually true.

And in the face of such constant or repeated negativity and such an onslaught, our phrases such as ‘you are loved’ or ‘your are valued’ or ‘you are wanted’ can all too often pale into insignificance.  Often only having any real weight when they are accompanied by very real and often repeated actions.

See, as I said before, yes I do know the love of Christ. I accepted Christ many many years back now. And yes I do constantly try to take captive the harmful thoughts. Do constantly try to counter – with the gospel of truth- the negative and demoralising voices and internal dialogues that I experience. And I do know that God’s love is far bigger than any mental health issues or any mental illness.  It is just that sometimes when lost within the depths of them it is hard for us to remember or hold on to that.

And, as I also said before, I am a part of an extremely loving and caring church and I know first hand that as His disciples, His representatives, His church, we are both called and very able to reach out – truly reach out to others and to show His love in a very real way.

And it is by the grace of God, by the love of Christ and yes all so often through the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ at the church I attend that has kept me going and kept me fighting so long.

Man-in-church

But here’s the question that I challenge every Christian and every Christian church with…

“Until we are willing to lay aside; our own personal prejudices, our own personal fears, our own personal hesitations.  Until we are willing to see each other and to reach out to each other – including those of us with mental health issues or mental illness – with the love of Christ through very real and tangible and continual actions and not just words and sayings.  How can we expect those who are weak, those who are suffering, those who  feel defeated, to reach out to the love of Christ?” 

Kind regards and God bless you all.

Kevin

 

 

Right Now

Voices of Glass

kevinbykevinHe sits.  Not doing anything in particular and in fact particularly doing nothing.

That weird, inexplicable nothing which seems to consume time, simply regurgitating a world of emptiness in it’s place.

As if all the personal loans of purpose and direction have been consolidated into one more manageable loan of nothingness with periodic repayments of yearning.

And yet still the salesmen and saleswomen call, suggesting that he switches from his current plan to one with ‘greater benefits’ or ‘easier control’.

Some call with sincere care and a heartfelt belief that their plan, their world, offers more.  And yet do they really understand, can they understand, that his world is not one which he wants to live in but one he can’t yet escape?

Border Control1But then that’s the thing isn’t it? The difference in worlds.  His world and theirs.

He doesn’t doubt their sincerity, nor even their caring and their love.

But…

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Reaching Beyond The Desperate Mind

Musings of A Simple Soul

depression-1As I look at this image I see not only the man sat – with head in his hands – but also the dark empty space around him.

And, in truth, I know that darkness, oh how well I know that darkness.

And, in truth, I know that emptiness, oh how well I know that emptiness.

Not always, and not sometimes.  But certainly all too often and certainly here and now.

And yet my darkness is far from empty. Other than the immense emptiness that at other times is filled with knowing – with truly knowing – that that Father is there and that He will bring me through this.

No.  My darkness is filled with tortured thoughts and voices, statements which are launched from the merest of truths and yet twisted and corrupted and polluted beyond all recognition of  that which they once were and that which they should be.

Why?  Because…

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“Blessed are you when people…”

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Blessed Matthew 5v3The words in the image to the left are the words spoken by Jesus in the ‘sermon on the mount.’ Matthew 5.

I have always loved the sermon on the mount.   It speaks to my heart and I hope that it speaks to yours also.  Well I say that I have always loved it, certainly I have loved it for as long as I can remember.

Earlier this evening, my mind took me back to my childhood.  Not to any one specific moment in my childhood, but instead to when I would have been about 7 or 8 and to my early understandings of God.

I remembered a huge old King James Version family bible (which my family owned) and which was kept in the attic.  The same attic which became my bedroom and thus which I became very good friends with.

It had golden edging to it’s pages.  Pages which included the most wonderful full page colour-plate illustrations of such scenes as: Moses parting the red sea, David fighting Goliath, Samson fighting a lion, Joshua and the walls of Jericho, and of course of Christ Himself in such situations as the sermon on the Mount and at His trial.  Additionally, it had wonderful carved wooden covers.  I absolutely loved it and I absolutely adored reading it.

From that huge ‘tome’ biblical events – which otherwise were only ever flatly and lifelessly described to us in monotones during the local church minister’s sermon – came to life and enthralled and inspired me.  And from that huge ‘tome’ grew my belief in God, and (it has to be said) my love of writing and of art.

boy readingI used to lay on my front on my bed with my knees bent and my feet raised in the air reading and re-reading every account, every story.

And I used to imagine what it must have been like to have actually been there.  And indeed – within the faith-fuelled desires of a small boy – I imagined myself actually being used by and actually serving God.  Even though, it was obvious from my readings, that doing so often led to hardships, rejection, and ridicule in this life.

Of course back then (I am over 50 now) my faith was in God and I knew nothing of a faith in and through a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.  That came much later. But when I came to Christ that same faith-fuelled desire – to be used by and to serve God even in the face of hardships, rejection and ridicule – existed.  And I wonder how many of you, had/have similar desires?

Almost daily, or so it seems, my Facebook page, twitter feed and my email in box, are filled with reports of the hardships that Christians are facing as a result of having a faith which is contrary to someone else’s belief system or contrary to the ‘world’s’ view.  And whilst the hardship, trials and harm that they are facing saddens me greatly I am able to find comfort in Christ’s words within the sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew 5:11-12.

Week-05

Of course, it has to be said, that when I was a child and indeed when I first became a Christian I was under the impression that such hardships, trials and harm – should they come to a believer – would come from the world and not the church itself.  And that it would be as a result of their choice to Christ and not something they had little say in.

So what about those folk who face hardship, trials, and yes even indirect harm which is not specifically as a result of their choice to follow Christ but simply because they are ‘different’.  Simply because they do not comfortably fit into other people’s – even other Christian’s – expectations?

As I said, I am over 50 now and I have been a Christian for a good many years and I have experienced mental illness for a good many years more. Probably all of my life and certainly for as long as I can remember.  And I am extremely blessed to now attend a church which is, in the main, extremely loving and extremely accepting of me.  Even with all my quirks and eccentricities, and even with my mental illnesses.   But that has not always been the case and certainly it is not always the case for others like me.

Mental illness can bring a whole plethora of; challenges, discomforts and even distresses. Doing so not only in those who experience it first-hand but also those who witness it in others. And sadly one example where this is all too often the case, in respect of those who witness it in others, is in the church.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I have, in my walk with the Lord, witnessed – within a number of different churches – many wonderful responses to mental illness and to those who, like me experience it.  But sadly I have also witnessed or heard of some awful responses to mental health and those who Blessed mental healthexperience it.

And I cannot begin to describe how much this saddens me.

I also have to tell you that unless you experience mental illness first hand it is very hard for you to truly understand the impact that it has on your faith, even without others creating further hardships for you.

Mental illnesses such as depression, BPD and schizophrenia can have such a devastating effect on someone’s life.  Often corrupting and removing any belief that they can truly be fully accepted – let alone actually be fully loved. And the resultant thought processes – especially during severe episodes – can convince a sufferer that they are so very worthless and are even worthless and un-loveable to God. And trust me, in that mindset, you would be hard pressed to be left with the message in the image above.

And let’s be honest here.  Haven’t many of us – even in the absence of any mental illness – at some point or other in time, questioned our worth or our place in Christ? Haven’t so many of us – again even in the absence of any mental illness – at some point or other needed the love, counsel and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ in order to help us re-evaluate and re-establish our place in Christ?   Indeed, isn’t that one of the primary functions and benefits of being in a local family of believers?

All of which brings my thoughts, as lots of things seem to do, back to the words of Christ when asked what the greatest commandment was.

…‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.

Jesus answered, (Matthew 22:37-38 NKJV).

Trust me, I really can see how someone’s love for Christ and for God, and also how their belief in Christ and in God would cause them to have difficulty accepting mental illness – especially in another believer.  It can be so very difficult to reconcile our understanding of ‘an all powerful’ and a ‘perfect loving heavenly Father’ with one who doesn’t immediately remove such illnesses in His children.  And so the response of many believers – it seems – is to question the illness or to avoid the whole thing.  And in the process it is often those who suffer from such illnesses who are also avoided, even rejected, mistrusted, misunderstood.

But what of the rest of Christ’s answer to the question he was set?

And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

(Matthew 22:39-40 NKJV)

I have to tell you, and of this I am convinced.  If we – as individual Christians and as Christian churches – fail to live out the second part of Christ’s answer – to live out and minister the second commandment – then in all honesty I cannot see how we are truly living out the first.

We as a Church must not only love God with all our heart and soul and mind, but we must also love others for Him.  Especially those who struggle to see that love for themselves or who are struggling in life.

LeastConsider the words of Matthew 25:37-40 (NKJV) which also record Christ’s words…

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

It is time (actually long past time) that we ‘the church’ – be that globally or locally – woke up to the responsibility and indeed the privilege that we have in how we respond to mental illness and those who experience it.

And it is time that we took a long, hard, look at how we treat those who don’t conform to our expectations or preconceived frames and ask ourselves the following two questions…

If we the church fail to show love and acceptance to; the poor and the sick and the needy, how then are we giving spreading the gospel of Christ and giving the message that they can find acceptance in heaven?

and,

How therefore are we fulfilling either the first or the second commandments?

 

Do I Even Bother To Turn Another Page?

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I am sure that this is a question most readers have asked themselves when reading a particularly bad, boring or uninspiring book.  Likewise, I would wager (were I a gambling man – which I am not) that it is a question that some writers have asked when reviewing their work and on realising that what they have done to date seems to lack any real direction or purpose.

pencil breaks

But what if the question isn’t being asked by a reader or a writer or even about words on a page?  What if the question is being asked by someone who is desperately unhappy or someone who is suffering from mental illness and what if the page in question is the next page in their life story?

Today is December 31st, and it is New Year’s eve.  The end of one year and the beginning of another.  And whilst for so many this is a time of celebration or of ‘jolly folly’ (as a good friend of mine puts it) for others it can be a very difficult time.  Even a time, sadly, when that consideration – “is it worth writing another page in my life story?” comes to the fore.

Trust me, I know this first hand and I know from countless conversations with others that I am not alone in this.  And on this day, this day of reflection and of potential struggle for so many people, we need to be so very careful don’t we?

I am a Christian and a Christian who suffers from mental illness.  Part of that mental illness is depression and part of it is suicidal ideation.  (Of course not everyone with Mental illness suffers from depression or Suicidal thoughts) But I really do struggle with and fight against both.  I am also – as it happens a Christian with mental illness whose mental health seems to be particularly poor at this time.

This morning I was catching up on my blogs and then reading other folk’s blogs.  And in so doing I came across a statement from another blogger which stated that whilst they did not believe that committing suicide will absolutely condemn a person to hell.  They do however, believe that suicide is a strong indicator that you are not in a right relationship with God, which will send you to hell.”

I have no doubt in my mind that this statement was made with every good intention. And I have no desire whatsoever to either a) identify that blogger and cause controversy or b) get into a battle with that person.   But I do – for the purpose of this post – want to point out that I, for one, found the statement to be particularly condemning and harmful.  And yes I accept that it is possible that this is partly due to my state of mind at the moment.  But if I found it to be that way, what about others who could also find it to be the same?

And that is the point isn’t it?  So much of what we are talking about here is a state of mind.  And our state of mind – for those of us with mental illness – is so often so deeply impacted and influenced by our mental illness(es).  And the fact is that very often that (or those) mental illness(es) do not conform to our faith based ideal or beliefs.  And are simply not an indicator therefore of the ‘rightness’ of our relationship with God.

After all, doesn’t 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV) tell us, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”  Isn’t the very fact that we (all) have to take these thoughts ‘captive’ and make them ‘obedient’ an indication that they can indeed – regardless of our relationship with God – be harmful?

I am blessed to have a strong faith, one which – despite my mental health and the inherent depression and suicidal thoughts – has, by the grace of God, seen me through this far.  And I am extremely grateful for this.  And I have to tell you that I neither see my mental illness as; a weakness in my faith, an indicator of not having a right relationship with my heavenly Father, OR as an indicator that God is not sovereign in my life.  And I seriously doubt that the apostle Paul saw the thorn in his flesh as being an indicator or those either.

In truth, I have been a Christian for a good many years and trust me I have seen many different responses and approaches to mental illness from the Christian community.   Some of which have been wonderful and inspiring, even life-saving and sadly some of which have been harmful, condemning and even – dare I say it – life threatening.

The title and focus of this blog is ‘Christian Concern For Mental Health’ and on this day I am inviting you the reader to have an extra bit of concern for those who are suffering from mental illness and who are also perhaps considering ‘not bothering to turn another page in their own life story’

So I invite you to do one or two things at this time…

Pray.

Pray for all those who suffer from mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts.

Pray for anyone who you may know who suffers with mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts.

Text or message them.  Being very careful in your wording, simply extend love and caring to them.  Letting them know – in the process – that they are not alone and that someone is thinking of them.

We are called, as Christians to love.  To minister Christ’s love.  Let us do that with an open heart and no other agenda than to serve Him.

Love Like Jesus

 

An Ocean of Happiness I Cannot Baptise Myself In.

Because this post deals with the subject of depression and faith I thought I would also reblog it here.

Voices of Glass

Do you like the title of this post?  I hope you do or that, if nothing else, it has pricked your interest enough for you to read on.  But I want to make it very clear from the ‘get go’ that it is not one of my lines or a statement of my own construction.  (Although it could very well be.)

It is instead a line from a ‘button poem’ written by Sabrina Benaim and you can ( and I truly hope you will) view her reciting this poem in the YouTube video below.

I sat at my desk this morning just flicking through my Facebook page and came across a video about a homeless man who was given money to buy himself stuff but who then, instead of simply keeping it, used that money to buy food for others.  (You have probably already see it as I believe it…

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Spoken In Love – Of Millie’s Story.

Voices of Glass

I saw something this morning and my heart was truly touched.  It brought a joy and a blessing to my heart, to my life, which so very desperately needed this morning…

My life – and thus this blog, since this blog is a reflection of my life – as regular readers will know, includes my faith in Christ Jesus.  I am a Christian and I am a Christian who experiences poor mental health.  In truth I make no apologies for and have no hesitation in admitting either the fact that I am a Christian or the fact that I experience mental health issues.  For to conceal either would be a lie.

And yet the admission of either my faith or indeed my poor mental health does sadly, without doubt, sometimes invoke mixed and often very unhelpful and indeed very unhealthy responses.  But what is more tragic -in my opinion –…

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Overwhelming Love

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Overwhelming Love

Overwhelming Love

I find that my heart is burdened this morning.  I say that not for dramatic effect or as some sort of cleverly conceived attention grabber.  It is just a matter of fact and indeed the reason for this post.

When I get this impacted I find that the best response is to do something about it.  Prayer, writing, – some for of expressing the feelings held within.

And what has me feeling this way?  Love actually, well overwhelming love actually.

The other morning I sat and listened as a lady came into the building I was in and asked someone I know – a fellow believer – for directions.  They were very politely given the requested directions and in response then asked the question -“Oh so what is it you do here then?”

What followed was (I would like to say) one of the most enthusiastic explanation of church and the gospel I have seen for a long time.  Sadly, I placed (I would like to say) in brackets because the truth is I really can’t say that. And sadly I have witnessed what happened a number of different times now.

No, what I witnessed was not the most enthusiastic explanation of church and the gospel but instead just an overwhelming and quite intimidating bombardment of regurgitated clichés and statements.

Don’t get me wrong. I am sure it was well intentioned and I am without doubt that it was fueled by love and concern and passion.  But sitting there listening it just came across as an in-your-face, overwhelming tirade of words and challenges.

Sledgehammer To Crack A Nut

Sledgehammer To Crack A Nut

Now I need to be fair here and at the same time be objective and honest.  I have mental health difficulties and I accept that I am acutely aware and probably acutely sensitive to such things. I do accept therefore that it is possible that the lady in question felt far less overwhelmed than I did by it all.  But having witnessed it and her reactions – I seriously doubt it.

And this seriously impacted me on two fronts…

Firstly, and most importantly, because I couldn’t help fearing that this kind of over-zealous approach does do more to frighten people away than to draw them in.

I love Christ and I am passionate about my faith.  I am also passionate about spreading the gospel of peace and sharing God’s love with folk. I am convinced that the eternal picture for anyone who does not have Christ is the bleakest we could ever imagine.  But I am also convinced that for that gospel of peace to be of any effect we have to be able to receive it and to process it.

A parched or starving man coming out of the desert is ill-advised to gulp at the food or water offered.  He simply can’t process it and begins to choke.  He needs to be fed slowly and compassionately and carefully.

Which brings me to the second front I was impacted on.  That of my own mental health difficulties. And again it is to do with the ability to process things.  Very often, when my mind is in disarray or turmoil, I find it almost impossible to process the simplest of things.

Even more than that, things come at me like darts or projectiles.  They seem – in my mind – to bombard me or close in on me.  Even the most innocuous or well intentioned comment – even the most loving of gestures can be overwhelming.  And this seems to happen on a sliding scale – the more my mind is playing up the more difficulty I have, the less my mind is playing up the less difficulty I have.

Isn’t that the way for so many of us – regardless of mental health difficulties?  I certainly think it is.  But for those of us who do suffer with mental health difficulties this is even greater I think.

Which leaves us with the question, “How do we demonstrate our love, and more importantly Christ’s love, in such a way that it is processable and can therefore be received?

And here, I can only answer honestly.  And that is to answer that our love MUST be truly selfless.  In other words, I truly believe that it must be given in a way which is tailored to the needs of the person receiving that love and NOT to the needs of the person giving it.

You see, in the instance I mentioned above – the one which impacted me so deeply, and which gave rise to my reflections and indeed this post – I have not one doubt that it was generated out of love.

A love for Christ.  A love for the gospel and a love for spreading that gospel.

I am also willing to accept that it was in part out of love for the person they were speaking to and their eternal situation.  But the fact is that the delivery was fueled and propelled only by that love and that concern for that person’s eternal situation and not with any regard to their current situation.

 

I am convinced however, that if we are to truly minister God’s love. If we are to truly spread the gospel of peace. We MUST do so in a way which is real and relevant and receivable.

And I close this post with one final statement and with – since I am convinced that the final authority must be God’s word – a passage of scripture.

“When love is overwhelming, no matter how loving it is, it simply remains overwhelming.”

1-corinthians-13

 

 

 

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