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Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith and Mental Health.

Faith can be a huge help when it comes to mental health struggles. In fact, it has been shown that faith can have a positive impact on mental health and on reducing anxious or depressive symptoms! Faith can also assist you in thinking positively, since faith gives us hope. We know that faith enriches our lives in so many ways and gives us hope for eternity as well.

Please be aware: there is a danger of “over-spiritualizing” mental health. There is a real biological component to many (if not most) struggles with mental health, including depression and anxiety. If someone tells you to simply pray it away, they are not looking at the whole picture. It’s true that faith in God can assist us in our struggles with mental health. In fact, forgetting the spiritual component of ourselves can be detrimental. But please realize there is more going on than a lack in prayer life and support that person as they seek whatever other help may be necessary for them.

Below are a few ways to find improved mental health with faith:

  • Soak yourself in the Word. Instead of letting negative thoughts take root, read God’s word. Do an internet search for the promises of God. There are many! Study His Word consistently. The Psalms are also a great place to take refuge in times of difficulty. There is a Psalm for all kinds of emotions and occasions.
  • Pray. Yes, it’s simple, but many people forget to do it! Instead of letting yourself fester in negative emotions, bring it God right away. Allow Him to carry your burden. Seek a close relationship with Him.
  • Recognize when your struggles are caused by sin, past or present. Confess your sin and learn to live in freedom from guilt and shame. Walk into the freedom and life that Jesus Christ offers. He doesn’t want us to live trapped in guilt about our past. He tells us to “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
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    Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash
  • Praise in every circumstance. Learn to thank God for your blessings instead of focusing on what you don’t have. This practice will not only keep you rooted in thankfulness to the Lord, it will help you to stay mindful of the great things in your life and remind you that you are truly blessed! Praise is a mindset changer.
  • Get in the practice of doing the Examen. This allows you to stay in gratitude. Gratitude has positive effects on mental health (similar to praise, above). The Examen also keeps you rooted in listening to the voice of God in your life and seeking His will for you. (Also: check out this journal, which I used a number of years ago. Though it’s not specifically an Examen journal, it more or less follows the same pattern.)
  • Read books that focus on God and His goodness. There are so many books out there, from this generation and from when the Church was in its earliest beginnings. Reading these inspirational books can help you delve into a deeper walk with God. I’ll leave a short reading list at the end of this post. Please leave any other suggestions you have. (Of course, I’m going to leave my motherly caution to be careful of what you read, as there are many false teachers out there and books with half-truths!)
  • Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who truly live what they believe. This can do wonders when you yourself are struggling with faith. These people can give you encouragement in the tough times.
  • Seek (Christian) therapy. Struggles with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. are affected by and can be exacerbated by our past  & present relationships and life situations. A therapist in the world can assist you. However, looking at life from a godly perspective takes into account the entire picture and remembers your relationship with your Creator and Savior. As always, I recommend Christian therapy if you are looking for truth-based and sound therapy. In my experience with Christian therapy, the therapist will ask questions about your relationship with God, about how God fits in with what you are feeling and experiencing, and also will feed you truths from His Word.

Faith has been crucial to many people struggling with their mental health. Faith gives us hope in our earthly future (Jeremiah 29:11) and in an eternal future! However, please don’t be afraid to seek help in the resources and people that God has given, when needed! Remember, He told us that “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).

(Short) Recommended Reading List

  • The Holy Bible
  • Josiah’s Fire by Tahni Cullen
  • To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal, MD
  • Left to Tell & Led by Faith by Imaculee Ilibagiza (note: Left to Tell takes place during the Rwandan genocide; not recommended for sensitive readers)
  • Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young (spot-on devotion for each day)
  • God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
  • There is More by Randy Clark
  • Please leave other suggestions in the comments!

Next up: higher education and mental health!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

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Book Review: Josiah’s Fire

I just finished reading one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. The book is called Josiah’s Fire, and is written by the mother of Josiah, Tahni Cullen.

Josiah means “the fire of the Lord.” Josiah truly grew to fit this name. Josiah was born in 2005 and developed as a typical child would.

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Image from Amazon

However, around the age of 2, his family members noticed that something was amiss. He lost all the words that he said before, and no longer made eye contact. He seemed unreachable. Eventually, he was diagnosed with autism. Josiah’s mom was heartbroken about this diagnosis, and especially heartbroken that she could no longer communicate with her son. However, Josiah later began to communicate in amazing ways. The family obtained an iPad. Josiah began to type what was going on in his head (though he was still seemingly learning to read)–and his parents were blown away.

Josiah’s writing’s revealed deep spiritual truths. His writings are beautiful and poetic. “Run to the dazzling river of life. You come out like a dry man, only saturated in plans.” This young boy, even less than 9 years old at the time many of the things were written, knew details about heaven, and details about family members he had never met. Little Josiah was even given messages and encouragements to bring to specific people. God even revealed to him the shopping mall where a witch would be, and Josiah asked his mom to take him there. Jesus gave Josiah a message to bring to the witch, a message telling her to turn from her current life and worship Him. Though he cannot speak, Josiah truly demonstrates God’s fire and brings a call for renewal. “God is demonstrating “father” in every movement of His life. Gentle Father, joyful one, bold in every way, but gentle toward people who are faced with sin.”

Autism and other disorders are very misunderstood. The people who live with these disorders are often viewed as if they are not intelligent. Josiah knocks this myth out of the water. It was interesting to read his insights and his frustrations about how his body did not do the things he wanted it to, and how he longed for healing and to communicate verbally again.

If you are struggling with your beliefs about God, or simply looking for an inspirational book. I would recommend this book. It’s a great read, though I did have to put it down a few (or a lot!) of times to ponder because the insights are so colossal! 

Have you read Josiah’s Fire? What are your thoughts?

The Tools We Have.

Jesus was the Son of a carpenter. He would have, then, followed in the footsteps of His (earthly) father. The time between the beginning of His ministry and His death and Resurrection was 3 years. Jesus likely began carpentry at a young age and assisted Joseph

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for many years in this trade, until the time His ministry began. Thinking of our lives, He’s given us many tools to use. These tools may not be a saw or a hammer, but they are what He’s given us to use as we build our lives alongside Him. These tools help us in various ways as we work out our salvation with “fear and trembling.” These tools help us to navigate our lives. Because Jesus was a carpenter, it seems fitting that He works through so many circumstances in our lives by various tools.

This life is a difficult journey. There are seasons where we can feel the grace and sunshine on us moment by moment. Other seasons? Not so much. Other seasons are dark and we struggle constantly. We may feel helpless sometimes. Thankfully, our Father hasn’t left us alone.

What tools has He given us to navigate and build our lives?

  • His Word-His word provides consolation, comfort, conviction, guidance, and anything else we could ever need.
  • His Holy Spirit-After Jesus ascended to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us forever, to lead, guide, and console us!
  • Prayer-We can connect with the GOD of the universe wherever we are! How amazing is that? Even better, there are styles of prayer to suit every personality, from silent and meditative prayer to belting out in praise!
  • Other people-We can receive encouragement and confirmation from others. Others can provide wisdom and strength that we need. The Lord did not create us to be alone–in fact, we can’t make it alone through life. Human love can teach us in a small way about the love our Creator has for us.
  • Counselors-These trusted people help us walk through the broken pieces of our life and into more whole versions of ourselves.
  • Books-Good books teach, heal, guide, and inspire.
  • Nature-Nature is a great way to connect with our Creator and de-stress. Nature teaches us so much about our Creator and His ways.
  • Art and music-Like nature, these gifts of beauty show us Who our Creator is. They can be very healing for many people.
  • Writing-Pouring one’s heart onto paper is very helpful for many people.
  • Prophets and the prophetic-These experiences can confirm what the Lord is speaking over our lives.
  • Laughter-This gift helps us to relax. It helps us to connect with others and is positive physically and emotionally.
  • Tears-Tears are the words our hearts speak when life seems too much for us to carry. Tears are a release for our body and our emotions. Sometimes they are also a supernatural gift from the Holy Spirit.
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What other tools has the Lord given you as you work through life?

Highlights of 2016

It’s difficult to believe that 2016 is almost over! I feel as if the year was swift, yet when I look back, it’s hard to believe how much happened!

Let’s start with something that will begin in early 2017. My patron for 2016, randomly chosen through the Saint Name Generator, turned out to be significant. It was St. Ignatius of Loyola. I have been a fan of the Examen and Ignatian discernment for a number of years. It turns out that one of his patronages also became important in my life. He’s the patron of educators and education. This year, I really felt the Lord nudging me to go back to school. After an interesting journey, I was accepted to the program of my choice! I will be starting as a part-time grad student for an M.A. in Counseling, as of January!

The year started out rough. Within the first week of the year I was ill. There was a high

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amount of drama at my workplace. It was a struggle. Through it all, I learned to lean on Christ even more. Reading the Scriptures & knowing my Creator through this became more important to me than ever before.

My city had a lot of victories. In June, I went to the parade celebrating our basketball team winning the NBA title! It was really a great celebration and a show of unity for a city that has had many setbacks and much division. The next month we hosted the Republican National Convention-and the candidate won the presidential election! Months later, the baseball team went to the World Series (though we did not win). In God’s eyes, this city is not “The Mistake on the Lake.” He is at work in this city.

I moved in with a roommate. Financially, this was a great decision. Even moreso, it is a benny-cuddle-2blessing to have a companion on the journey & who is also seeking God. She gets the journey. Not long after moving to the new place, a seeming “super-mouse” pushed me over the edge to adopt a cat. Though he did nothing to help with the mouse, he’s brought much laughter. (And praise God–the mouse (mice?) are gone. May they never return to our home.)

 

For the second year in a row, one of my reflections was published in a book! This time, it was a book written by my very own roomie! It’s a raw reflection about a relationship breaking up, but I pray it ministers to someone who may be in a similar situation.

I visited Africa, finally! It’s difficult to put into words how much this experience affected me and the joys it brought. I am so thankful for the miraculous way God brought it about. The whole trip and all His movements on the trip, too, were truly miraculous! I will be forever grateful.forblog

Truly, this was a year of beauty. Thank You, Heavenly Father. I look forward to 2017 and whatever adventures may lie ahead.

Happy New Year’s to all my readers! May our Heavenly Father bless, direct, and strengthen you in all your ways.

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it yet. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”~Philippians 3:13

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New Habits

A few months ago, I finished reading “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin.

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Rubin quotes Virginia Woolf’s diary entry from April 13, 1929: “Habits gradually change the face of one’s life as time changes ones physical face; and one does not know it.”

Lately I’ve found myself in a “life overhaul”–really attempting to examine my habits and ways of spending my time. This book helped me to see traps that we can fall into. It is so easy to rationalize. Over time, rationalization leads to a way of life. We don’t make progress when we rationalize. In fact, we have no desire to, because we’re simply fine where we are at.

The book provides examples and gives tips on vastly different methods and perspectives that have assisted others in changing and forming new habits. It was an interesting and worth it read (though, I must admit, that it did get a little long!).

I am pleased to say, that along with the help of my Heavenly Father and doing some soul-searching, this book was a catalyst for change in my own life. I would recommend it.

Are you trying to change your habits? What strategies are you employing?