Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
God does not waste pain on us. For me, it took despair and suicide attempts to discover value in living. Those ruins of loss and struggle have become building blocks for the restructuring of joy and the real me.
A man named Paul wrote half of the Bible’s New Testament. He also strained against something he figuratively called “a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he prayed for it to go away. God’s answer was that it was through Paul’s weakness that God would prove himself to be enough to keep Paul going. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Do you think anyone in Paul’s time, or even Paul would have imagined that the persistence of his “thorn” would become a powerful lesson reaching countless numbers of people for two thousand years?
We do not always know why we suffer. For most of five re-building years following my dive into major depression, I tried to make sense of personal value and purpose. Remembering Paul, my broken spirit almost daily asked God, “Can my thorn also be a blessing? Will you ever allow me to help other people again?”
One afternoon at a 12-step meeting, a young woman shared that she was trying to escape the trauma of being raped multiple times by her youth pastor.
An inward nudge from Jesus’ Holy Spirit pushed me to go talk to her. We were strangers, yet she searched my eyes in desperation.
“Why did God send him?” she said. “Why did he send a man of God to rape me?”
She could not be free from the chain of addiction and self-medication until she was free of her deepest anguish. It was not the horrific memories nor lack of safety that had her bound. It was fear that she had lost the God she had always known to be good.
Referencing the Bible book of Matthew (chapter 7, verses 15,16), I said, “Have you heard about wolves in sheep’s clothing?”
“Yes!” She rose in her chair. “Is that what happened?”
“He was not a man of God.” I said. “He was a liar and a wicked man who used the church to cover evil. God loves you. He did not send that man to rape you.”
“Really? He was not a man of God?” Her eyes were wide.
“No. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
If I could ever find words to describe the scene playing out in her eyes- it was as clear as a movie. From desperate fear and searching to flickers of hope, then wide-eyed wonder and finally, freedom.
The timing that day was perfect, and the God who knows all hearts used my unsteady one to speak life to her dying one. In one moment, the Restorer of souls fashioned ruins into life-giving shelter.
Stone hearts become flesh again, human weakness is covered by divine strength, spiritual poverty becomes wealth in faith. Chains turn into testimonies, lost is found, damned is saved, and pieces of shattered minds are Tenderly gathered by the Savior.
This is what Jesus does for people. This is his amazing grace.
Your ruins have purpose in the Master Builder’s hands. If you are willing to be free, God will incorporate all that is broken into formation of the you he always intended.
Today’s Helpful Word
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!