Preach // Being Mentally Transformed // Psalm 6

Mentally Healthy / Lives Transformed / 630 / Oct 2017

This is part of a 2-part talk. The first can be found here and they can both be listened to here:

Pt 1 Emotional health: Listen here

Pt 2 Mental health: Listen here

 

Intro

So we are continuing our series on lives transformed tonight, seeking for every part of our lives to be continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

Last week we looked at our emotions and seeking to be emotionally healthy and today we are going to move on from that, to focus on our mental health. We are really moving forward from what we looked at last week, this is the next step if you like.

I also gave a sort of disclaimer last week, that I want to repeat. This is not an easy subject for any of us, it can be very challenging, especially for those of dealing with mental illness of any sort or supporting those who are.

I’m not an expert, but I want to be able to encourage us to seek Jesus in these themes and in our own situations. This is such an important area and as a church particularly we want to be able to explore it together, with grace and compassion so if you find anything difficult or you don’t agree with what I’m saying, please do come and talk to me or one of the leadership afterwards or drop us an email. And as always we have our prayer ministry team here and would consider it a privilege to pray with you either now or at another time.

So today I want to focus on mental health. We looked last week at how our emotions can get out of control but sometimes it’s more serious than that. MH issues are medical illnesses that thankfully we are becoming increasingly aware of. Diagnoses are better in this day and age than ever before. But there does also seem to be an increase in people suffering too.

As a church, as Christians, we NEED to have a better understanding of how to support people struggling with Mental illness. We can’t and shouldn’t ignore M illness because we don’t understand it or don’t know what to say. For example, I spoke to someone recently who has had some Mental health problems for some time, and is rooted in a church context and asked if they had been ever been offered prayer and the answer was no! and yet I feel sure if that person had a physical illness there would have been plenty of offers!

 

As I said last week, I’m not an expert, but I have received some invaluable advice in the last few weeks from those who have experienced Mental illness first hand or who support those with it. And that is our best advice – if we don’t understand it or don’t know what to do – lets find out! Don’t use that as an excuse. Ok?!

 

What is it

Did you know I in 6 people suffer from a MH issue of some sort. That means a significant portion of us here will be suffering with something, maybe anxiety, depression or other conditions.

It is a huge area and it is not something to be ashamed of, scared of, or something to be avoided.

Mental Health issues affect people in different ways, and come in many different forms, however what it IS, is illness, it might be through chemical imbalance, result of trauma, response to a deeply felt situation or another reason.

Someone said to me recently, and I think this is a very simple but helpful description:

They said: ‘we live in a broken world and I have a broken brain. As a consequence of that other parts of my life can be affected, my physical health, my spiritual health, and like any other illness the devil uses it to pull me away from God.’

 

And I’ve chosen Psalm 6 as a starting point today, I think it portrays some of the deep and all consuming nature of many MH conditions.

The Psalmist cries out: in v3

My soul is in deep anguish – can we really grasp the depth of what that means? His soul – deep inside is in unrest, and he can’t find his way out – as he says how long, how long Lord? So many MH conditions are long term, and can seem never ending.

 

In vs 1-2

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

There is that sense of wondering if the Lord is angry with him, is this his fault? Is this some kind of punishment?

NO! God is not like that, he is a God who loves us.

And verses 6-7 too are full of the physical outworking of that soul in distress: Worn out from Groaning, endless crying, growing weak with sorrow

and in v 10 David talks of his enemy being overwhelmed, so on the subject of the enemy, let’s address the elephant in the room shall we – the demonic or the spiritual angle.

Now, I know it’s controversial and people take differing views but here’s what I find most helpful:

 

: everything in our lives is spiritual, or has a spiritual element to it. We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image, with mind, body and spirit and we live in a world created by God too, in which the spirit is at work.

So if we can accept that everything is spiritual then we could say of a common cold for example, that it is spiritual – it’s not God’s intention that there is illness of any kind and it won’t be like that in heaven. But to be honest we wouldn’t say, the devil has given me a cold would we? And it would probably not be entirely helpful to attempt to cast out the cold would it? Might be better to go to bed and take a lemsip right?! But if that cold means we get overly angry at God for allowing us to be ill then something, potentially spiritually, is pulling us away from God.

Actually we can treat Mental illness in exactly the same way, it is not what God had planned for us, in the same sense as anything else then it is spiritual, but just as we would take lemsip for a cold, people suffering from Mental illness can and should be helped by medication – or therapy or by other means.

Now I’m not saying don’t pray, of course we pray and we seek healing for any sick person who wants it. We are always happy to offer to pray for healing and we should be open to doing that in compassion and grace and with sensitivity. I would always suggest that when we pray for healing we ask the person how they want to be prayed for first.

And I know of people in church (in the wider church) with MH conditions who have been hugely damaged by the suggestion that they are possessed or have a condition that is demonic. In some cases that has stopped them seeking medical help. So the spiritual attitude of someone else, has caused them to deliberately avoid seeking the medication that could help them become well. That doesn’t sound very Godly either does it…? So you could ask where actually where’s the force of evil in that?

So I’m not saying things are not spiritual, the opposite, everything is.

basically everything in our lives has a spiritual element, but that is no more so necessarily for those with MH conditions. There is nothing wrong and usually everything good in medical treatment and that it is not really all that helpful to go around suggesting that anything is demonic. And to attempt to cast things out of people who are already suffering deeply.

I’m more than happy to chat about that if you want to know more or question that!

 

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Encouragements from the bible – David and Elijah etc

 

Now, I want us to look at a few biblical examples which might help us as we look at Mental illness and mental health.

Someone shared with me last week that they saw it like this:

God knows the world is broken, he knows as a result of that there is pain and suffering, including M illness, and so his response is to give us things to help us through that: being medical professionals, scientists who produce medication that can help with chemical imbalance, people to come alongside us and support us, he has not left us alone in it… So lets seek where is he in each situation?

 

So let’s start with King David, the Psalms

Last week we looked at Psalm 139, tonight Psalm 6. And I want to reiterate how great the Psalms are for looking at emotion and outpouring of our feelings from joy to absolute despair. They can be so helpful as we face our own situations.

Now David experienced great highs and lows in his life.

He started out as a shepherd boy before being chosen by God as the future king.

He had great riches and wealth as well as times of living in caves and being on the run.

He loves God but does not always walk the right path. He even suffered the grief of losing a child.

And much of all of this we can read through the Psalms. They cover a huge range of David’s emotions and different mental states. And actually a lot of what we see in his expressions of emotions has caused some to ask whether he was actually bi-polar.

Now we don’t know and the rollercoaster of his life’s circumstances might just be reflected in his continual extremes of emotion and behaviour.

But here in Psalm 6 we can see a bit of that where he starts from using words like being in agony, deep anguish, being worn out, weeping all night. TO the end where he declares that it’s all going to be ok because God has heard him and will overcome his enemies.

David takes his feelings, his wretchedness and puts it before the Lord in prayer.

It can be hard for us NOT to turn away from God when we are struggling or suffering.

All our Good positive spiritual habits we have built up can be torn down by the strength of the illness we face.

But I want to encourage you to keep the lines of communication open between you and God, even if it is to tell him exactly what you think of him right now – I’m sure he’s heard worse!

Think of it this way, if one of your children or someone you are really close to was suffering and struggling, wouldn’t you want them to be honest with you, for them to recognise you can be a support to them.

God feels the same. He loves you no matter what and he wants to be there in the agony as much as the celebration, perhaps even more so.

 

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And as those of us seeking to support those with mental illness we need to be people who can help and enable others to do this, to pour own their emotions to God. To be willing to sit with someone while they cry uncontrollably; to hold their hand while they swear at God, but on their terms.

Not to take offence if they are angry and can’t face seeing you;

Not to try and fix things necessarily,

not to try and provide the answers – because sometimes there just aren’t any. Sometimes things are just bloody awful and there isn’t anything more to be said.

And that’s a tough ask coming alongside someone in that. But perhaps you can be a real gift to that person. The gift of being able to walk with them as they fight through the journey of depression, or anxiety or bi polar or anything else, unconditionally and with patience and understanding and on their terms…

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So, another example for us to look at is

Elijah. It has been suggested that Elijah was suicidal or perhaps even pyschologically disturbed.

Elijah, was an amazing prophet and servant of the Lord. You can read about him in 1 Kings & very start of 2 Kings.

He had seen amazing miracles happen through God. God sent ravens to feed him, Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead, he called down fire from heaven against idol worshippers and then as a result revival swept the nation.

So he’s not who you would expect to suffer from depression or suicidal tendencies is he? But that is the thing, sometimes there are markers or pointers, but actually its not always easily predicted.

And here Elijah, not who we’d expect to, spiralled into despair. In 1 Kings 19:4 we read:

1 Kings 19:4-9

He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”.

He wanted to die and we don’t know what might have happened, except that God sent his angels to Elijah:

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

 

Did you notice that God said to him, the journey is too much for you.

Elijah clearly felt he couldn’t bear what he was having to face here, so much so that he wanted to die.

And what is God’s response?

he responds with compassion, and with simplicity. He sends an angel with food and drink and as I read this week this passage described as ‘ God is present in the wilderness with the broken’ – what a lovely way of thinking about it. And he is. He’s there with us in all seasons.

 

There’s also a lesson there for us in how we support those with M I. To just be there sometimes, to provide basic support if needed, but also to help point to spiritual nourishment, to draw the person towards Jesus when they feel that can’t do that for themselves.

We might suggest ‘Church is the best place for you’ – but it might actually be the opposite, someone who is struggling with M illness might find coming to church impossible. We do not beat them up for that, we can find other ways to support them for that season… and lets do so but gently and encouragingly, not prescriptive, and give them time.

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So we can see how God helped Elijah through what he could not bear, even seeking death. And I’ve spoken about suicide before and I’m not going to go there too much tonight, but briefly I want to say:

does God, in seeing someone in their darkest hour, their absolute moment of need, suddenly become uncompassionate and turn away? When a person might be the most in need of some love in their entire life? I don’t think that sounds like our God does it? Despite what some church teaching has said in the past and particularly in relation to Judas, we just don’t know what happened at the point of his death, but we do know that our God is about redemption, about taking people out of brokenness, of healing, of wholeness with God. Mercy and grace are all about us getting what we don’t deserve. I think it’s more helpful and encouraging to focus on that isn’t it?

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Naomi

And one last example. Naomi, who we can read about in the book of Ruth. She lost her husband and both her sons and becomes understandably overcome with grief and bitterness and as she says in verse 12 – she feels there is no hope for her.

 

Ruth 1:11-13

I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me…?

No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

 She goes back to Behtlehem, her home town with her dil Ruth and when she arrives people almost don’t recognise her: She says to them:

 

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.

She feels that God has taken away all goodness from her and instead afflicted her with a life where she will be consigned to poverty, where she has no one to look after her in her old age.

She has named herself ‘bitter’ but that gives us a good lesson –

the illness does not identitfy the person. We show compassion to the person not the illness, we don’t want to loose sight of who they are. Every one of us is made in God’s image. As we looked at last week with Psalm 139, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our identity is not ‘depressive’ or ‘anxious’ or ‘schizophrenic’ it is in being a child of God.

So when we come alongside people let’s see them not the illness, when we identify with a condition we have or others have, lets not allow it to take over who we are. Those suffering with Mental illness are not ‘a problem to be fixed’ but children of God needing to be loved just like anyone else.

 

John 10;10 SAYS :

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The devil will do all he can to draw us from God and take us away from what God has for us – the abundance of life he has for us. We should not forget that.

A person who is ill in any respect, has a life, a purpose, and wonderful gifts from God, and is as worthy as anyone else, as loved and precious as anyone else. Steve was talking last week in the morning about how sometimes we can see people as worth-less, as worth less than us. And that is not how God sees us. He loves each and very one of us the same. Lets remember that…

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And what seems to help Naomi out of her situation?

I think it is in having someone alongside her in Ruth. Ruth commits to Naomi when she doesn’t have to, she works to help them both survive, and she humbles herself, she seeks advice from Naomi, giving her some sense of self worth and being able to do something useful. And even when Ruth is later married to someone else she remains with Naomi, in her life, she even offers her, her child. She has committed to her completely.

We need to support people with MH conditions and we need to commit to it but not to do so lightly.

and on that… – The ‘how are you’ question.

So here’s the thing, if you see someone looking upset or sad or down at church, whether they might have MH issues or not, ‘how are you?’ is not a great question. If that person is struggling they have 2 options – to lie and say everything is fine because they don’t want to have to face it all right now, or to tell you the truth that things are not ok. They might have just about being holding it all together and then suddenly a question like that breaks into it all.

I’ve been there when it has taken everything in me to drag myself to church and then to be just about holding in the tears when someone said how are you?

Cue the damn opening and and it was not someone who I wanted to share how I was feeling with. And they clearly had no idea what to do next anyway, so it was horrible and awkward and I just wanted to run away.

Of course we want to be people who care and to have compassion so I am not saying don’t look out for other people, but if you think someone might need a friendly face or you want to enquire, why not go and start a less threatening conversation with them instead? – can I get you a coffee? I like your jacket, what have you been up to his week? – which easier to respond to and less intrusive.

And more, do not ask someone how they are if you are not prepared to pick up the pieces if there are some. Or if you are not prepared to follow up with them later in the week and see how they are doing, or to take them out for a cuppa to chat or whatever it might be.

If someone is already feeling low or struggling with how they are mentally. If you offer a hand and then withdraw it, that can be hugely damaging. It would be better not to offer it in the first place.

 

 

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So there’s just a few examples from David, Elijah and Naomi and there are plenty more in the bible that might give us help or encouragement in situations of mental illness.

If you are struggling with a MH condition remember you are not alone, perhaps you can take some comfort from those who have been there before, who have expressed their pain and despair in God’s word.

Try and keep those lines of communication open between you and God, like David, tell him what you are thinking, let out the emotion and pain.

And try to remember that God is always with you, you are always precious and loved, fearfully and wonderfully made.

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And if we are supporting someone with MH issues, lets try to learn more of how we can be helpful. How we can support. And let’s do so with love and grace and compassion (and not by asking how are you?!)

Lets be: present in the wilderness with the broken, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

 

 

however you can always contact us if you’d like some one to pray with you another time..

Preach // Emotionally Transformed // Psalm 139 //

Emotionally transformed // Psalm 139 // TRINITY 630 service, 24th Sept 2017  

Listen here

Intro //

So we are continuing our series on ‘lives transformed’ and over the next 2 weeks we are going to look at emotional and mental health and transformation.

Now I want to say up front that this is not going to be an easy subject for any of us! The whole area of emotional and mental health is huge and can be very challenging. I want you to know I am not an expert in mental health conditions, far from it!, I simply want to, over these 2 weeks, help and encourage all of us to seek Jesus as we look at these themes, both for ourselves and for others. Especially for those who might be struggling in these areas particularly, or for those supporting people who are, I want to help us all to seek the Lord in those situations.

I should say I’ve been really grateful to a few people who I have spoken to while I was preparing these talks who have first hand experience of some of the things I’m going to talk about, however I do know it’s a tricky area and conditions can be quite individual, so if you have comments or questions please do come speak to me or one of the leadership or drop us an email. This is such an important area and we want to be able to explore it together, with grace and compassion.

And of course the prayer ministry team are on hand as always, so do make use of them later on if you feel God is stirring something in you this evening.

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So, this week we are going to focus on emotional health and build up to talking about mental health next Sunday evening. So what I am saying tonight might not really scratch the surface if you are struggling with mental illness of any kind. Tonight is really a focus on general emotional well being. I hope it’s accessible to all of us and I hope I’ll raise some questions and tools that can be relevant for us all.

But as I said I know that for some of us things are much more complicated and it might be that when we go a bit deeper next week into mental health as opposed to the emotional that might reach some of us more. So I want to encourage you to listen to both talks and if you can’t be here next week or if it might be a difficult subject for you, the talks will be available online to listen to or you can email me for a copy of the text

 

What are emotions – God given for a purpose

 

Our reading from Psalm 139, gives us a wonderful picture of us being made by God, and him knowing us inside and out, in great detail.

We are, made by God, it says: vs 13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

Every part of us made, known and loved by God, so that includes our mind and our emotions…

We are emotional beings, it is how we were made. We are meant to have emotions so they aren’t a bad thing – though often we can see them that way:

when someone gets angry about something, we perhaps don’t know how to respond, we get a bit scared maybe. Or when someone is crying we want them to stop, we want to make them feel happier, or perhaps worse, we just ignore them because we don’t know what to do.

But they are part of who we are.

 

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As human beings we have 6 basic emotions or predictable responses to situations:

happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, disgust and anger. There are over 600 words in English to describe them and we use 42 muscles in our faces to express them.

Over time, this list of basic emotions has been added to, changed and reshaped based on the idea that human emotions are universal, so we all have them

And psychologists think that there are two reasons for emotions:

  • they are the response to any situation we face or (so based on our mind )
  • as a result of changes in our bodies (based on physicality, that’s hormones and the like)

So they help us react to situations, setting off a physical behavioural reaction.

So for example when we feel fear it sets our heart racing, it gives us the impetus to escape from a dangerous situation if we need to. Less likely for us today to be in that kind of situation but for our ancestors they needed that emotion to survive. These days however emotions tend to (not always of course) help us make lifestyle choices rather than staying alive!

But they are also a social indicator. When we are happy we smile or laugh, which is a sign to others that we are happy. Sometimes that is contagious isn’t it – our emotions can affect others emotions. If we see someone crying, sometimes we find we need to join them in crying too. Emotions bring us closer to each other or give as an understanding of each others needs or feelings, which in turn helps to shape society.

Of course none of this is coincidental if we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And

the brain communicates with itself by transmitting chemicals from one neuron, or nerve, to the other. And those chemicals either stimulate brain activity or they have a calming effect, so they have a huge role in how we feel each day. But we also have hormones that are released by those neuro transmitters which also can effect our mood or mental health. These chemicals and hormones play a key role in our physical health as well as our mental health, so they are all there for a purpose.

So they key to be emotionally healthy is about maintaining a balance in those chemicals. And to some extent we can help maintain that health by looking after ourselves. But there are things that can cause imbalances in the chemicals which can then cause mental health conditions.

 

So science lesson over…

 

I read all of that and I find myself thinking, wow, all that detail and intricacy that God has designed, created, to make us ‘work’, to make our bodies function and not just function but abundantly function – we don’t just go through life as a machine, eating for fuel, going to work, procreating, we do it with a whole range of experiences and emotions that enrich our lives and enable us to flourish.

 

So Emotions are part of who we are. Just as they are part of who Jesus was when we was here on earth.

If we look at Jesus throughout scripture we can see his emotions at work:

He felt sorrow, he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, but also at the fate of Jerusalem (John 11:35, Luke 19:41) and in fact Isaiah (53:3) tells us that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”.

He got angry too, we see him in the temple getting angry with the money changers (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22) and he wasn’t particualry enamoured with the Pharisees either.

he loved, he showed compassion (Matt 14:14 and various places),

he showed joy (Luke 10:21), possibly even despair at the cross ‘my God my God why have you forsaken me?’ (Matth 27:46).

So just as Jesus did, we can and should embrace that full range of emotions given to us by God, but they key as Eph 4 says, but we should, not sin in them:

 

Be angry …and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26)

 

So the question for us is, how do we act on our emotions?

Do they get out of balance, out of control? Because it’s when things get out of that perfect balance, we can find a problem.

We need to express our emotions, if we hold on to past hurts or emotions, if we smother them and hold them in, they can end up taking over in other ways, we can become bitter and it can effect our own mental health. And in fact there is some scientific evidence to show that some physical conditions can be as a result of the pain of past trauma that has not been expressed.

Likewise if we express our emotions too much, then they get out of control or take us over, so that we find we can’t function as we should.

 

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As Christians we want to draw closer to Jesus I hope, we want to be more like him, we want to be growing into his likeness, and that should be in all areas of our lives, including in our emotions and our emotional response to things. So lets be seeking to see Jesus in all situations, all places, and all emotions. Lets ask ourselves: Where is he in my anger? Where is he in my hurt? Where is he in my joy?

 

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Now the bible is full of emotion and I think there are some key things we can learn from God’s word to help us to have healthy emotional lives that are being transformed into God’s likeness…

So I’ve chosen three examples here for us to look at:

 

Express /lament

The first is to express what you feel. The Psalms are full of David expressing his emotion, this one here Psalm 139 is full of Praise and declarations as to who God is. But David’s life is a rollercoaster – anf he expresses such vast highs and lows of emotion. But one thing that people often bring out of his experiences is the idea of lament. In fact there’s a whole book i the bible called lamentations!

We are not very good in the west at expressing our stronger emotions, there’s that whole British ‘stiff upper lip’ thing going on, we don’t always feel we can talk about how we are feeling or it feels easier to just shut it all in. But that means we are essentially ignoring the things that matter most to us in that moment or that season. We are in some sense, ignoring ourselves, not accepting who we are, just acting like a cardboard cut out of ourselves. (Simon Stocks) and more that ignoring where God might be speaking to us, helping us to be more whole even.

As we’ve already heard emotions are part of how God made us, they are not something to be ashamed of, so we need to get better at releasing them and expressing them.

Lament is all about recognising the sorrow we are facing and feeling, so in biblical terms we see phrases like beating ones chest, tearing ones clothes, falling down, were all examples of people expressing a deep sorrow or pain. We see it still often in the middle east when people have lost a loved one for example and they wail and cry very publically. It can seem quite alien to us, but it is a natural human and emotional response to the pain they are experiencing.

I think we need to get better as the church at allowing a space for lament, and allowing people to express their deep-seated emotions without fear or shame or worry at what people will think. Often people feel they can’t express how they are feeling, they can’t make themselves vulnerable because they are worried about the response they might get. And I’ve heard some awful things people have been told in church in response to them making themselves vulnerable. Let’s not be afraid of emotion, and emotional response, actually let’s get in there with that person, get alongside them. Mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice…

If we can allow space for that then for some it will be a true release of what they need to let go of, and not let it build up into something more damaging.

 

So express your emotions!

 

Guard your heart //

Secondly, guard your heart

Prov 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Often in the bible where it talks about the heart, it is referring to the mind or to emotions. They thought the heart was where feelings and emotion originated.

So Guard your heart, meant to guard your mind in that sense, look after your mind, so as Rick Warren puts it ‘garbage in, garbage out’. If you fill your mind with stuff that is not going to help you be emotionally healthy you won’t. From what you read, what you watch, what you hear. It all shapes us.

 

David says here 5-6

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

 

He just wants to be filled with the knowledge of God, aiming to fill his ind with more of the Lord and his truth.

But we can’t always choose what goes in though can we, even with the best intentions because well, because other people, right?

I can still remember some harsh words that were spoken over me as a child, as if they were yesterday. I can picture what I was wearing, how I was stood, the person as they said them. And those words have in one part shaped who I am now. I was a child, I didn’t now what to do with those words other than to internalize them. But as adults we can try to choose to make a choice as to what we hear, what we accept (it isn’t always easy of course, we get hurt by things said about us as adults too).

But I think of that expression ‘taking offence’ .The key word there is take’ we don’t have to take hold of the offence, we don’t have to take hold of those difficult words, or those negative sentiments, we might respond to them emotionally but they key is to not let them settle in us. Vs 10-11 says even in the darkness God is there… so if we’ve been hurt by thigns said of us, or we’ve taken on board thigns we maybe shouldn’t have done, lets seek God in there.

2 Cor 10:3-5 says:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ

So we can bring things before the Lord and seek him in them whether they are new to us or historic. Is there anything good there? Is there something we need to take in or can we leave them with him and walk away? Let’s weigh up what we believe, what we think, what we hear. Take hold of your thoughts.

And if we need to, replace the negative stuff with Godly truth Let’s not believe lies!

You look in the mirror and see someone ugly – well God’s word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made!

You are told you are useless? God’s word says he has gifted us all for the common good 1 Cor 12

& that he has plans for each of us, to prosper us and to give us a hope and future Jer 29:11

Think you are too old? Well grey hair is a crown of splendor (Prov 16:31)

Lets seek out the truth of God not take on the rubbish

 

 

And let’s nourish ourselves and our minds

Scientists tell us that to a certain extent we can help ourselves to be healthy physically and emotionally by looking after ourselves, by eating the right foods, getting exercise. So it makes sense that we should do that spiritually too.

Nourish was my one word for the year, my word to focus on and so my plan was and is to eat more healthier, run more and spend more time focusing on my relationship with God. All three of those things are key to me living a healthy and balanced life.

 So what do you find spiritually nourishes your mind, what helps you feel closer to God?

The Psalmist does that by spending time with God, pouring out his thoughts and feelings to God in every situation and asking God to cleanse him if you like or to point out where things might not be right.

V23-24

Search me, God, and know my heart;

 test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

He makes declarations about who God is vs7-8 all about God being ever present.

What helps you to draw closer to God – reading the bible, Coming to church, praying, praying with someone, listening to worship music, singing, walking, painting – what makes you feel closer to God?

Sometimes when we feel our emotions are dragging us down it’s hard to keep doing those things, our routines get out of place, we loose the impetus or the inspiration, sometimes we need a bit of encouragement – so here it is! What do you do that nourishes you spiritually and helps you to feel closer to God, really think about that and how can you make that a concrete and reguarl part of your life?

 

Romans 12: 2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We should seek for our minds to be renewed, made new, made whole, made in God’s design, God’s image not the image of this world. And more than that, that in itself will help us to become closer to God and knowing his will for us!

And then we will be more able to follow God’s plan for our lives – his perfect plan not our own flawed one!

So let’s embrace our emotions, let’s express them, and if they get out of control we seek help.

Lets seek God in our emotions, where is he in our happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, disgust and anger?

Let’s guard our minds, think about what we et in, what we belive, what we take on board.

And lets nourish ourselves spiritually as much as any other way.

 

////

Now look, there are some pointers but I’m well aware that sometimes it isn’t that easy . Sometimes there are seasons to be worked through – necessary seasons – grief after death, dealing with something traumatic and so on, and sometimes we just need time or we need healing. Sometimes those things develop further and we’ll look more at how our mental health can be affected next week

But for now let’s remember that our emotions are not a bad thing, they are God given and help us to live a full and flourishing life.

 

Resources //

 

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/whoami/findoutmore/yourbrain/whatareemotions

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/whoami/findoutmore/yourbrain/whatareemotions/canyourecogniseemotions

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/what-are-emotions.htm

Songs for the Suffering – Simon Stocks

Mind & Soul Foundation

http://www.mentalhealthaccesspack.org/install/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Medication-and-faith-Bible-section-pdf1.pdf

 

 

 

Feeling useless…

For the sake of anonymity, this post is being published some time after I wrote it.

I woke up this morning feeling crap. Got to be honest I have got a cold but this is more. I was grumpy, rude, annoyed with my kids, and tearful, very tearful. I was feeling let down, unsupported and alone. I planned to do nothing but lay on the sofa even though I have got a mountain of things to do, I just couldn’t face them. I’m also a bit angry with God and because I was feeling tearful I was on the verge of even forgoing my prayer time as I couldn’t face what I knew would just be a time of crying and so I just pushed God out of my mind.

Well, I say that, I tried to. Turns out it’s not actually that easy, and well, if God wants to speak then he will…

So, let’s back track a little:

Yesterday I spent a short amount of time with someone with severe depression. I was concerned for them, but probably in the end rather unhelpful. And if there is one thing I have learned from supporting people with depression, there really is nothing you can do except be there. But yesterday I felt desperate almost, and I went into ‘solve it’ mode. Possibly one of the worst things you can do. And as a result I have potentially alienated the person I sought to help (although I hope not).

I came away feeling completely useless. And sad. Well more than sad but I can’t describe it, it’s like the hope is being drained out of me, but with anger too, and frustration and disappointment and tears, so many tears. This is what it is like for so many supporting people with depression, just the utter sense of being unable to help,  and this was just my little glimpse of it.

I don’t use the word ‘hate’ very often but I HATE DEPRESSION. It is such a cruel illness, robbing people, real people, people with lives, with gifts and talents, with families, partners. It robs people of their lives, for some for a season, for others it’s recurring, like a cycle, things can be ok for a while and then the downwards spiral starts again. As an outsider you can see it happening, it’s so clear, you can try and put things in place to halt it’s ugly twisted path but often it’s relentless. It drains the life out of people. And it seems to strike wherever it will like some kind of random evil version of cupid, sending out arrows and firing without aim. Of course for some there are triggers, but what makes one person able to cope with something and others not?

I am a Christian but I also believe in science. I know that depression and mental illnesses are to do with chemical imbalances in the brain – it is an illness and it needs proper treatment. But I also completely believe that the devil has a hand in it too. It’s exactly what the bible says: ‘the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10), that’s exactly the kind of thing he would do, drain the life out of people, leave them a shell, rob them of all joy. And that’s what I hate. I have seen people, such lovely wonderful people, with full lives and such amazing blessings, be completely drained of all joy and life.

So, this morning I woke up feeling like crap. Now I don’t in any way want to compare what I was feeling with those who suffer depression, mine is a temporary moment, so don’t hear me saying I know what it’s like, I don’t. But as I sat wallowing in self pity this morning (and really that is what it was) I just felt a moment of helpless uselessness. As I edged towards the sofa, calling me, inviting me, to a day of slovenliness I felt a gentle nudge from God. I was reminded of the pastoral theology classes we’ve been having at college, in which we learned some very basic counselling skills and looked at the how, the why, the what can happen etc. and I remember a conversation I had with a fellow student about how the tutors hadn’t talked much about the spiritual side of things. Some of the things that we experienced in those classes were painful and yet we were unprepared for what we would face in advance, both mentally and spiritually. We talked also about not taking on the feelings or the situation of the other person, and people gave examples of having had thoughts that were not their own but that echoed the person they were counselling, some time after they had gone. 

And so, this morning it was a simple thing that drew me from my pit, I just read the words, ‘Christ IS risen’. And in that moment hope returned. I realised that perhaps I had taken on some of the feelings from the day before, some of the situation, that perhaps the thoughts in my head were, in some sense, not my own. Oh how quickly I had forgotten what I was taught, how unprepared I was, I had not prayed, did not pray. 

And that of course is the one thing we can do. Something we can always do.

If you are struggling to support someone with depression, this is a helpful video…