“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, The inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, Who created all this in the first place, Has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.” Ephesians 3:8 (MSG)
Mental health illness and challenges; part of our family for over 20 years.
Two decades should have been enough time to identify, treat, deal and heal from mental illness, so we could move on. I was tired. The desire of my heart was to move past the effects and put this behind us and find permanent healing so we could stop living under the umbrella of the stigma. When mental illness and mental health challenges are viewed by people through a negative and uneducated lens, stigma exists. Even self-stigma has a negative effect.
This one Sunday our pastor openly mentioned his mother’s long battle with mental illness. He occasionally would weave this topic into a sermon sharing a vulnerable detail about her and how it negatively affected his own family. He did this with such courage, yet grace. Every time, my heart was deeply moved since I shared the experience of living with someone who suffered in this way and everything that came with that.
This one Sunday would be different. This Sunday would send my life journey in a different direction. I recognized the familiar prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was clear and direct. God was prompting me to teach a Bible study for families who lived with the diagnosis of mental illness.
Suddenly I couldn’t hear a word the pastor was saying while an uneasy feeling filled my heart. OH NO! I couldn’t possibly do this; surely God would not ask me to do such a thing. “But God what if no one came to such a study after I opened up the door and allowed people to see inside?” I felt at peace when the next question settled in my heart: “What if many came?”.
The next several weeks a bit of panic rose inside me each time this prompting resurfaced. Once I acknowledged I had no inner peace because I was not following God’s leading, I did a google search. Momentary peace came when I searched for a Bible study designed to help families who have a loved one suffering from mental health issues. The search came up empty! WHEW! There was no study for me to teach; I was off the hook. My next thought was, “how odd is that?” Quickly I had the idea that I could write one: one where I could share how I consistently found God’s presence by turning to Him through the Bible. I could share where my faith grew, how I found answers, combated the lonely place of this diagnosis, and where I found the comfort, grace and wisdom of God in profound ways. My heart response during the months that followed God’s prompting proved, I was not ready to move past the stigma.
Over the next several months, the same responses were repeated. I resisted. I ran. I hesitated. I misunderstood. I disqualified myself. I busied myself. But, I knew I was disobeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
I recognized my response was rooted in the world’s ways, however I sensed by writing this study I could take a stand for Christ. I could share how my faith had beautifully grown over the years because of mental illness.
Once I decided to take action and begin learning how to write a Bible study I found myself way in over my head. No easy task for this girl. However, I committed to tell about God’s generosity and His never – ending comfort. I needed to share how He holds us together in ways that were supernatural and share this for the purpose of encouraging others.
This field of mental health is often complicated and clear answers are not easily found but I serve a God who is above all this and delights in coaching his children. God is with me and continues to comfort, encourage and equip this follower. I am writing a Bible study to help others find strength and the presence of God in the middle of mental illness and its effects.
The verse above, Ephesians 3:8 describes so well how I feel about writing a Bible study to encourage those who have a loved one who suffers with mental health challenges. I am writing it because God is calling me.
See tracyarntzen.com for an excerpt of the Bible study to be published in 2022