“What are you doing here?”
A Christ-followers struggle with mental ill health…
For the past few weeks, and longer I guess, I have been grappling with my faith. I have questioned my calling, my passion and the seed of a vision and dream within me as it relates to the “ healing emotionally” of those in distress, whilst at the same time ‘dealing’ with my own issues.
When I first began to follow Christ and placed my life in His hands I remember saying to God “Ok God, let’s do this. No half-hearted measures, we do this properly. But you need to help me through this…’cos this is all new for me.”
I had spent the last few months attending AA and NA meetings about three to four times a week. This as a result of crashing my “borrowed” dad’s car whilst extremely intoxicated…I chose AA as a way to get out of trouble. I was a mess! My life was a mess. I’d just lost a job in the Eastern Cape with a security Company because of my drinking problems. At least, I didn’t believe I had a problem. I would drink, fall down and pass out. No problem!
So attending the AA was my escape route. Not interested in Church at all, but something began tugging at my heart and I opened up to the possibility of a ‘Higher Power’
And so, back in the room in my parent’s house, I made that life changing decision. I even remember the scripture that hit home:
“Come now, let us reason together (let us sit down and talk) says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”
And, so I sat down and talked…and talked…and then listened.
People would say how I glowed and reflected the love and passion of Christ. I knew deep within; God was calling me into His Service. My prayer that God would use me to help others discover Him. I had been in darkness and in chains, now I was free!
During this period of discovering myself, Christ and more of the Christian walk, I would pray to God that He would impart unto me the “Gift of Healing”.
I wanted to be able to heal others. My prayer was motivated by the fact that my mother was disabled, and I had wanted to heal her. To help her walk again. My perception and concept of a healing ministry was of physical healing. “Help the blind see, heal the lepers and let the lame walk, Hallelujah!” I thought, how wrong I was.
The ministry journey God led me down was not to be physical healing, but that of emotional, mental and spiritual healing.
God worked through me to help many others, to support and to encourage. The ‘healing ministry’ for me wasn’t this instantaneous “Get up and Walk” Supernatural healing ministry, but one of connecting, restoring and rebuilding. There was a sensitivity within me that would help others, and God would use that to work through me and restore others to health.
But helping others came at a price: My own emotional, mental and spiritual health. I would be affected by the stories I heard, and so the prison that God had liberated me from, I would re-enter.
I would struggle with my own mental ill health. I would battle demons in my mind, I would fight off the darkness and the desire to drink or find new ways of slaking the insatiable thirst of an addictive personality. I was back in chains, or so I thought….
This wrestling match for me was about my own mental ill health and the inability to fight it off. For me, I felt as if there were days that I was free of any encumbrances, no chains or handcuffs, no darkness… but then I’d be back in prison. Moments of darkness interspersed with light.
Anyone who hasn’t gone through this wont understand. You don’t know what is wrong with you. “Why cant you sort yourself out?” You ask..“Pull yourself together” or “Be a real man of God…not a faker”: all these challenges made by yourself. And Lord forbid, that a ‘self-righteous, holier than thou’ Christian (or even non-Christian) would say anything – “You are a Christian, a Chaplain, a Pastor “HEAL YOURSELF!!! I would hear those same words spoken to Christ on the cross, “Save yourself…”
And so, this was the inner, private battle I fought daily. A mental wrestling match…a better analogy would be – a hard fought, dirty and muddy rugby match, one that you come away from bruised and dirtied.
And to be honest, this grappling has been longer than just a few weeks…its been months, even years! I would question why I would walk a few paces forward and fall metres backwards. My life and relationships would reflect this…always a struggle. And yet, the promise held before me was always this scripture found in Isaiah 58:10 and 14:
“Your light will rise in the darkness; your night will become like the noonday… then you will find your joy in the LORD”
Many times, I would ask and challenge God: WHEN LORD?” When will this happen? The promise those many years ago was that YOU would HELP me…. YOU would GUIDE me… YOU would HEAL me….
And in the silence, in the still, small voice of divine gentleness, God asks me:
“Who are you, Philip? What are you doing here?”
And I understood the question…. Who am I?
Thinking back to that moment at the age of 27 when I sat down with God and just spoke, I remembered:
I was and am “Redeemed, saved, set free, no longer a slave to fear and darkness,” I was a Child of God, a servant of the Living God, in service to the King of Kings and the LORD of LORDS” but I had forgotten.
In the same way that the Hebrews under Moses looked back to their captivity under the Egyptians and reminisced, I had been looking back and wanting the comfort of a dark cell. When anything went wrong, it was easy to blame my mental ill health. It was denial and absconding responsibility. Yet still, I asked myself…” does that mean there is no healing? “
Healing is an absolute, is it not? It happens and it is there for all to see when it is physical healing, but mental ill health, although unseen, is just as real.
Is there no complete healing from that? Can healing of mental illness only be minimised to salvation (as complete and great as that is) with a person’s decision to follow and not look back?
I don’t know, but I am still seeking that answer….
For now, though, I will remind myself of who I am in Christ and all He has done for me. The answer to the second question posed to me by God “What are you doing here” may take a little longer to understand…perhaps its not so much a question about my actions, but more an existential question.
Who knows! I’m not a philosopher, just another guy walking with God trying to learn more about His creation and His plans…
Or..maybe, just maybe, the answer is found in my desire to understand and help those who suffer from mental ill health.
How do those who struggle with angst, anxiety, stress, panic attacks and depression find healing when they cant make one right decision? How do those stuck in the pain, addiction and darkness of drugs and alcohol walk to the light?
Is there a complete release and liberation from these mental chains, or is it a daily cross we carry?
Jesus didn’t tell everyone to take up their cross and follow Him, did he? Did He not also just say: “ they are like sheep without a shepherd”, look upon them with compassion and recognize their need for guidance and protection and provision without expectation of service in return?
I believe God sees this need and has been telling us, we just haven’t been listening.