Have you ever been surprised at how quickly the seasons change?
Quickly, sometimes surprisingly. A bright, brutally hot summer abruptly turns to a chilly, gray fall. Fall to winter. Frozen winter to a blooming spring.
It’s a bit the same with the seasons in our lives. Our seasons change, but not always with our consent. We want to stay in the sunshine forever, and keep the cold far away. Some seasons are longer than others. There are seasons that we long to change. Seasons at a certain job may seem to drag out, or a rut-filled season within a relationship.
No matter what, we are called to faithfulness in every season. It’s our Creator’s decision when a season will change. Only the Lord knows exactly why the door closes quickly on a beautiful season, and a dark season seems to stretch on endlessly. It’s our job to trust our Heavenly Father. Trust, and be faithful.
Seasons are a gift. May we practice presence and embrace the beauty and lessons in each one.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”~Ecclesiastes 3:11
(Happy Autumn! I always find this to be such a season of change and hope. Autumn is a season that brings much shifting. May you find refreshment, hope, and healing in this season of transformations!)
In life, it is crucial to wait for the whole story.
How many times in relationships do we only see the smallest portion of the story? Many relationships have ended because one person failed to ask questions and assumed the worst. Other relationships have been tarnished and filled with animosity because one person knew a sliver of the story and decided not to ask any questions. They decided to hold onto a small shred of information (possibly not even true). That small shred of information, or misinformation, causes a divide in the relationship if the truth is not sought out. Great damage can be done in relationships and to individuals in these circumstances. As we choose to ask the right questions, we discover the whole story. We discover the motivations of the other person and why they behave in a certain manner.
Your life currently may not look anything like the life you envisioned. You might wonder what is going on. What is God doing? What am I doing? Wait for the whole story, my friend. Life is often best understood looking backwards. Continue to look forward, as you await being able to look backward one day and better understand. If we don’t wait for the whole story, we may be filled with despair. We’ll lose hope. We must trust God with the whole story.
What if the apostles had simply moved on with their lives after Jesus died? What if they decided to forget all about this Jesus Christ that had turned their lives upside down? The story was far from over. Jesus rose from the dead. He then spent another 40 days with the Apostles before descending into Heaven. So as not to leave them alone, He sent the Holy Spirit (Who remains with us, now and forever). The whole story is very, very important. The Cross does not make sense without the Resurrection. The Resurrection does not make sense without the Cross.
Wait for the whole story. Seek it out, if you have any questions or doubts. Your relationships will look different and you’ll be more apt to be generous with others. Relationships may be restored. Your trust in God will be stronger. You’ll be more hope-filled.
Wait for the whole story. You never know the difference it will make in your life and in someone else’s.
(Note: I want to begin with a disclaimer that I am very much still figuring things out in this area. However, I’ll leave you with words from the Bible and some thoughts and ideas I’ve gleaned through sermons, readings, conversations…Please feel free to add your thoughts and what you’ve learned in the comments as well!)
Finances are a tremendous source of stress for people all over the world. In fact, I’m sure that if you were to survey people about their biggest sources of stress, finance would be in the top 3 for the majority of people. Finance equates in a big way with our ability to survive and achieve a certain quality of life. It even affects our relationships; one cause of marital discord and divorce is disagreement over finances. As with all aspects of our lives, the lenses with which we view finance is influenced by our faith.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” Matthew 6:25-33
Jesus tells us clearly that our Heavenly Father is looking out for us. He will provide for us, and we are valuable to Him! We are to place our priorities on the Kingdom of God first.He also warns us that worrying is not productive. Worrying doesn’t take away our troubles or find a solution. Instead of worrying about your situation, pray for solutions!
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
Did you know that Jesus was not talking about an actual sewing needle? He was talking about a narrow gate into Jerusalem, which was named “Eye of the Needle.” In order to get through this gate, all of the possessions that a camel was carrying needed to be unloaded. The camel could then get through, but would also need to hunch down and go through very carefully in order to fit. It seems then, that we must rid ourselves of attachment to material possessions. Wealth does not disqualify one from the Kingdom of God. It is what one does with the wealth that makes a difference. I believe that peace will come to our minds and hearts when we stop trying to keep up with others, and we realize that our greatest treasures are not to be found materially. When we learn to find joy in our relationships with God and other people, and find the beauty that surrounds us in our lives, we will be free from much stress.
However, we know that we cannot survive without food, shelter, and the other necessities of life. God provides, as we read in the passage from Matthew. Though God provides for us, we cannot simply sit idle and wait. We need to do our part. He has given us many gifts and talents to be used. In certain economies, jobs may not be available in the area you studied or have experience. Learning a new skill and finding a creative way to apply it can be a great way to increase your income. It can also be a good way to lessen your stress level and learn not to rely on one employer. (And sometimes, despite our efforts, God does provide in amazing ways without our expecting it!)
Many times, one’s workplace, boss, or coworkers can negatively affect their mental health. Finding a new job isn’t always feasible. In these cases, a counselor can be helpful in dealing with stress and areas of concern. Finding healthy ways to cope for as long as you are in that environment will be of benefit to you.
One last point: get rid of debt, and stay out. Debt can cause great stress. Depending on one’s level of debt, it can also take much money away from the other needs of life and cause you to be overworked. Dave Ramsey‘s books can be a good place to start in learning more about living debt-free and how to go about the process. Additionally, some loans will also allow you to pay based on income; look into this if you need to.
Pray for and actively work toward financial solutions. There are many aspects to this. Perhaps you could start with very small investments when you have a little extra money. You could also start carrying a business card and be prepared when networking connections come along. Learning new skills that can lead to more income is another aspect.
Curb worrying and turn to prayer instead. Train yourself to turn your worries to prayer.
Find healthy ways to deal with workplace stress. A counselor could help you with this. Thesearticles also have some good ideas. Sometimes an environment is toxic, and you will need to find a healthier workplace situation for your mental health.
Free yourself from debt, and don’t let yourself get into debt again. When you think about it, debt is actually a form of slavery! Too many people are in debt beyond their means, causing great distress.
Learn to find your greatest treasure in God, relationships, and the simple beauties of life.
Next up: food and mental health! (It will be the last post in the series!)
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.
Recognizewhen 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)
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. Struggleswitheatingdisorders, depression, anxiety, etc. areaffectedby and can be exacerbated byourpast& 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)
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:9-11
1 John contains some strong convictions about love. When we have any trace of hatred in our heart, we are still in darkness. Our hatred for a brother or sister keeps us blind and from loving God and others as we should. Notice verse 11: “they do not know where they are going.” Our hatred leads to blindness, which leads to losing direction! We are no longer following Christ when we harbor hatred. Loving our brothers and sisters completely is living in the light.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your heart and any areas of darkness. Ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to love–especially those whom are hard to love. Clearly, hatred is not compatible at all with following Christ. We must allow any hatred to be completely uprooted from our hearts in order to walk in the light.
Seeing a counselor can be a great way to move forward if you are struggling in some way. There is often a stigma about going to counseling, as if counseling is something only reserved for “crazy” people. The truth is, we all need help sometimes. Proverbs 11:14 evens tells us “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Think about it: would you make a huge life decision without talking to someone first? Do you talk to friends or elders when you need another perspective?
A counselor is an objective, outside person.Counselors do work with people battling severe mental illnesses, but they also work with ordinary people trying to make their way through life. Counselors can help you dig deep inside of yourself to discover where lies and pain came in, and figure out how to put the broken pieces back together. They can walk with you as go through any kind of past or present trauma, grief, tragedy, or unexpected life situation. A solid counselor can help you pinpoint where certain behaviors or feelings are coming from (anger, overeating, excessive drinking, etc.) and move forward into more healthy ways of behaving and relating. They can help if you are struggling with depression or anxiety or map out a plan for healthy ways to manage stress.
When you meet with a counselor, you will set goals for yourself. Your counselor will check in with you occasionally about how you are doing on your goals and if there is any way he/she can assist you in meeting them. In this way, you could even think of your counselor as accountability partner as you seek stronger mental health and a better life!
About 80% of people who attend counseling have found benefits in doing so.
A few possible benefits you may find from counseling:
Increased insight about self and relationships
Increased hope and positive outlook
Lessened feelings of anxiety
I want to tell you to be careful of whom you go to, if you are seeking counseling.There are people who have entered therapy and come out in bad shape due to faulty counseling or incompetent counselors. Also, I encourage Christian counseling! A Christian counselor will look at God’s word and the truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. They will not forget the spiritual component of you. Find a counselor you are comfortable with and who you feel actually listens to and hears you. The process is not always easy–it forces you to confront truths about yourself and your past (or present) that may not be pretty. Yet the goal is for healing and wholeness. Counseling holds benefits for many types of people! There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you are struggling with your thought patterns or difficult situations in life, past or present!
Have you gone to counseling and found benefits in dong so? Do you have any questions about counseling?
We are all a part of one another and can’t exist except in relation to others. Our past, present, and future relationships all have (or will have) a profound effect on us, whether we realize it or not. Thus, we will start the series with relationships!
So, how do we work toward positive mental health in regard to our relationships?
Build a strong support community. It is so important to surround yourself with people who are positive and who build
you up, helping you to grow in healthy ways. People who criticize or undermine you just aren’t worth your time. (If you are searching for community, pray! It will and can come to you in interesting ways! A solid church home is important as well.) Think about it this way: Are the people you spend time with helping you grow closer to the person God created you to be, or does your time with them leaving you feeling like an inferior version of yourself? (“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Learn signs of abusiverelationships and get out! (Here is a number you can call if you are in the USA and need help getting out of an abusive relationship.) These relationships are immensely harmful to your mental health/emotional state, and their impact is very negative. Find freedom and go back to the step above.
Recognize where your current sources of difficulty may have come from past relationships. If you grew up with a father who told you that you were useless–or a father who just didn’t seem to care–it’s going to affect you today. This goes for any kind of abuse, neglect, rejection, etc. Bring these to the Lord, and if needed, to a counselor (no shame!). All of us have these areas, even if we are not aware of them. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring these specific areas to light and to heal them.
If you are taking care of others, don’t forget to take care of you! Most of us are taking care of someone, whether it be as a parent, a teacher, or helping your grandparent or older parent. Self-care will go a long way for not only your mental health, but also for the relationship. An empty vessel cannot fill other vessels. If you forget to take care of yourself and keep pouring out on the other person, you may even grow to resent them.
Set boundaries. This goes along with the above point. Even Jesus set boundaries. Remember when He went away on the boat Himself? The crowds even tried to follow Him (Matthew 14:13). Boundaries are important in managing stress and doing only what you can. Again, you need to be filled up. Boundaries are important in building healthy relationships. A relationship is unhealthy if one person walks all over another or takes advantage. People need to be clear and honest about their boundaries with one another.
Forgive. The main person you are hurting by not forgiving is yourself. Not only that, you are harming your relationship with God! (If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.(Matthew 6:14-15)) Forgiveness is seriously important. When you hold onto hate or anger, it can lead to bitterness and anger. These do not lead to positive mental health, and even affect our physical health negatively.
Last, but definitely not least, keep your relationship with God first! If you are truly seeking Him, it will keep you grounded. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect and that you won’t struggle with any type of mental health difficulty, such as depression or anxiety. Having God in your life will give you the grace and tools to fight whatever battles you face. I’ll touch on this more in the faith and mental health post.
Next up: counseling and mental health!
Together journeying toward the Creator and becoming the creations we were meant to be.