Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
A few minutes ago, in the local drug store’s parking lot, a woman smiled at me warmly as she stepped out of her car. We are strangers, yet around here people tend to smile more at each other during the late autumn months.
About two hours ago, I left a church where songs of praise to God and our Lord Jesus were joyful, and the sermon, inspirational. A larger crowd than usual greeted each other with welcoming attitudes. I am new there, and only three of today’s hellos were by name. However, that is not what mattered.
What is special about Christmas time is that briefly, society takes on a sense of obligatory friendliness. This is not to say it is insincere. In fact, I think the holiday season gives us permission to reach beyond ourselves in ways that may seem out-of-place the rest of the year.
A similar phenomenon may occur when a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder is part of our reality. There may be predictable times of the day, week, month, or year that our symptoms tend to flare up. One of those may be holidays.
In the middle of episodes, our emotions are heightened and we see only how we feel. The truth of people’s best intentions can bypass our notice. That warm smile from a stranger may seem like mockery. Greetings at church (if we venture out at all) can feel hypocritical. After all, why don’t these people hear us screaming desperately for help? Why does no one care?
Truth is, as much as family, friends, church leaders, therapists, and even strangers may want to be there for us, they cannot see beyond our masks and walls. Meanwhile, Jesus is already aware. He sees us, knows our every thought and pain, and loves us still. He does not reserve his welcoming stance for his birthday. Year ’round, every minute of the day, he is available to anyone who is ready to turn to Him for salvation, wisdom, and change of heart.
I speak as one who lives it. In those times we sense emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, or feel out-of-control, the answer comes from that baby in the manger. He is no longer a child but is the King of kings. Heaven is his home, yet he lives in human hearts. He is not an illusionist, a philosophy, only a good teacher, a liar, or religious fantasy.
He is the Redeemer.
Jesus is the redeemer of my major depression. In the pit of despair, I sought death while he offered life. My eyes focused on pain, while he extended his hand full of promise. He did not reject this daughter who lost her way emotionally. Instead, as I barely hung on yet believed in my Savior, he guided me to the right helpers. Over time, through these people and his Word, he met needs I did not know were unmet. He allowed me to go to the bottom so the whole of my spirit could be healed.
It took time and is not done yet. That is okay. Mood disorders are tough. Their roots run deep. Learning to manage them may take years.
As for now, this Christmas Eve and Day tomorrow, you and I can turn to the Savior whose birthday we celebrate.
Allow the King to redeem your Christmas.
Today’s Helpful Word