Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "We're Marching To Zion"1 (Lyrics)
Psalm 119:71 – It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (NIV)
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
I am a person living with a mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder many years ago, when I was in my thirties. Given the nature of the illness, I have naturally had ups and downs. Each and every day, I need to make sure that I am looking after myself properly, particularly getting enough sleep and managing stress. Over the years, I have wrestled with the stigma of having a mental illness. For the most part, I have chosen to suffer in silence rather than risk being judged or misunderstood.
As a result of my illness, I have had to lean on God, especially during bouts of depression. Although joy and laughter had disappeared, and it felt like life was not worth living, I had to press in and trust the Lord, because I had nowhere else to turn. I picked up my Bible during those long and dreary days and read the Psalms. There, I found comfort and strength that encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have dealt with my own sense of shame in having bipolar disorder by reminding myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made — faulty brain chemistry and all. Above all, I have found peace in knowing that Jesus loves me.
I have sometimes felt sorry for myself and wondered, Why me, Lord? as I suffered such losses as my career potential and fun times with my daughter when she was young. But now, I marvel at all the blessings: my daughter becoming the lovely and successful person that she is today; being able to stay in the workforce for thirty years despite having to take medical leaves at times and handling work that was often stressful, intense, and demanding; and the gift of a beautiful home and neighbourhood.
Looking back now, I see how God preserved me in my struggles and gave me the right physicians and supervisors to support me. I am also very aware that because of my experience with bipolar disorder, I know God more. My faith and trust in Him are so much stronger than they would have been otherwise. Gaining the assurance of eternal life is much more important than the temporary trials that we have to endure. With the psalmist, I can look back and say that it was good for me to be afflicted because of the abiding faith that ensued. And I am thankful for the circumstances that caused me to know God and love Him more.
We all cope with difficulties of one kind or another in this world. It can be very hard to give thanks in the midst of trying times or to see any good come from them. But even then, we can have confidence that there is something to be thankful for, although it may not be apparent until much later.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that we can rely on You in times of trouble and that You bless us in different ways that enable us to persevere and endure. Help us to recognize how You are working in our lives to bring good out of afflictions and to give us a reason to be thankful in all circumstances. Thank You for Your love for us and for Your Word that reassures us and reminds us that our hope is in You and that You are always with us. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.