The Truth about Mental Health: For you and for your children


I would like to proclaim a truth about mental health:

It just is.

Mental health is something we all have. I know we’d like to relegate it to people with some diagnosable illness, someone far different from ourselves, or some distant cousin that no one talks about, but you have it. I have it. We all have it.

Mental health is part of all of us. It’s made up of our neurons and hormones and synapses. It’s made up of our emotions, our sensory system, our experiences, our heredity, and our relationships.

We have this gigantic part of us that we are ignoring, wishing, hoping-for-the-best that it stays on the up-and-up.

Let’s proclaim a new truth together: Mental Health is.

We all have it. It’s a part of us. Sometimes it’s happy and doing well. Sometimes it’s struggling. Some of us struggle with it more, others of us less. Sometimes it needs treatment, medications, and more support than we’d like, but it’s better that way; peaceful, functioning well with some help. But it’s important to understand that it’s a thing inside each of us, not relegated to someone less than, outcast, or disconnected. It may look different in each of us, more dramatic perhaps in some of us, mostly happy in others of us, but it’s always there, a part of us, woven and knit in us by our Creator, messed with by a world full of sin.

In today’s podcast I present more on this truth. I pray it helps lighten the shame associated with mental health, for us and for our children.

Sometimes, we think we need to “keep it together.” We need to be at the top of our mental health game and so does everyone in our households.

When we read Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

we think “training them up right” means that we just need to teach them the Word, good values, good morals, good character, and then they’ll be able to “keep it together.”

Truth: It doesn’t work like that.

Training them up means sharing hope and sharing the struggle. It means gathering around the Word so that when the hard times come we know where to turn and so do our children. It means helping them learn that there is no shame in sharing the burden, getting help from experts, and being honest about brain chemistry, individual needs, and when mental health goes awry.

Our children won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect. Often mental health is out of our control, out of their control; but it is never out of God’s control. He is in the realm of synapses and emotions and struggle too. He is God of even this- when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s ugly.

Truth: We all have mental health.

Let’s normalize that. Let’s rejoice in the gift of one another for support and encouragement when we each need it. Let’s thank the Lord for the creation of medicines, for doctors and nurses and therapists who are in the know, for hope in a God who values our tears when we’re hurting and holds our arms up in the triumph…for us, and for our children.

 

I Love My Shepherd Podcast, Episode 17: The Truth about Mental Health

Fear and the Crazypants Cycle


Fear does funny things to us.

We once could look at life reasonably. We could hold discussions, share opinions, eat across the table from someone we disagreed with and not want to rip their head off.

But that’s anger, you say, not fear? Isn’t intent to harm, even when it’s deep inside us, never actually expressed- that’s anger?

No, no it is not, and it’s time to get honest about that. We are destroying one another, not because we are angry, but because we are afraid.

When I sit down at my computer, when I open my google plus tab, when I connect with my friends across miles and space, I see fear written all over the internet, and it makes us crazypants, which looks a whole lot like angry.

Let me introduce you to the crazypants cycle. I jest, but it’s real.

First, we are afraid.

We are afraid for our finances – will there be enough money? will I be able to make ends meet? will I have a job next month?

We are afraid for our marriages – will he still love me? do I make her happy? will we make it through the storm and the struggle?

We are afraid for our children – will a shooter come to their school? will they understand the values I try to pass on? is this world screwing them up? am I screwing them up?

We are afraid for our neighborhoods – if people look different, will I understand them? will they understand me? Different makes us uncomfortable, unsure.

We are afraid for our churches – where are all the people? what if we close? will our people hear the Gospel? will it change anything?

So many questions and so few answers. So much of life we don’t know, we don’t understand, we aren’t in control of. It’s scary. Life is scary. The world is a scary place, because this isn’t the way God intended it. Sin and divisiveness, hurtful words, selfish ambition, isn’t what we were created for. So we make assumptions, we jump to conclusions. We make accusations.

Enter anger.

We say things that should be said in person. We refuse to let someone disagree. We eat, sleep, and breathe this climate of anger until it sucks us in. We become unreasonable and we so desperately need to be right, that we become rude without noticing. We shift from speaking the truth in love to speaking the truth in rage.

And next, comes shame.

Words come out and relationships are affected in a way that “whoops” just can’t fix. So we crawl back under our original rock of fear, which was Satan’s original intent after all. Work done, he slinks under his own rock, slimy and satisfied.

But there is a solution to fear, which anger and crazypants can never give.

The Holy Spirit. 

He’s real. He’s a gift, left for us by a Savior that knew we would need Him like fish need water. He freely gives This Spirit in the waters of baptism. He welcomes the little children, the sojourner, the weary, and the weak, the disgusted, and the disgusting.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Let us lay our fears down at the cross of Christ Jesus, instead of the mob of social media. Let us lift our prayers to Him like incense, rather than battle uphill to be heard.

He gives us His gifts in our anger, and He gives us His gifts in our shame. He gives us His gifts in our crazypants. He never treats us as less than. He doesn’t need us to be right. He just offers us Redeemed.

So let’s bust out. Let’s bust out of the Crazypants cycle. Let’s call fear what it is, so we can put on love and self-control.

No longer a spirit of fear. Crazypants no more.

 

Clergy and mental health

 

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Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.

I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy. That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk. We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk. In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it. Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have junk. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk. Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk. Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk. “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world- it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of that world. God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth. Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff. Every member of our church has some stuff. This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family. It is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage? By asking for help. By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church. And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need. How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. Run to Him. Ask Him for help. Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something? Send me an email. This is what I do and I’m happy to help. Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.