I love the holiday season. Love the Reason for the season, love the time of Thanksgiving for all we’re so richly blessed with, love the sparkly lights and the jingly bells. Love the sights, the sounds, the smells (oh, my, the delightful smells of cloves, sage, evergreens, gingerbread, wood-burning fires, fresh snow).
But for many years, I’ve let my holiday season be controlled by a dear, precious loved one who suffers from mental illness, but was only recently diagnosed.
We hear mental illness tossed around all the time, and we recognize the symptoms and behaviors. But what does mental illness look like on the home front?
For us, this year, it once again involves:
- Law enforcement – while I have great appreciation and respect for LEOs and the work they do, I despise the sounds of sirens and the flash of blue and red lights
- Mental health facilities (some great, some not so great)
- Medications (some that work, others that do not; some that are taken as directed, others that are not, some legal and prescribed, others prescribed but not legal)
- Erratic eating and sleeping and work schedules
- Waiting for the next shoe to drop; waiting for the outcome of each day’s actions
- Waiting for answers to questions you don’t know to ask
- Waiting for some sign of a breakthrough – yes, always hopeful for one, even if everyone else is convinced there won’t be one because we’ve been down this path many times before
- Taking away when you really want to keep giving, but knowing that the giving is enabling
- Taking away even when the need is so great
- Pain, heartbreak, tears
- Tough love
We hear that last one tossed around frequently, too. Most think tough love is tough because a parent is being hard/strict on her kids. And that’s part of it, sure. But the really tough part means the parent’s heart is breaking, because she has to implement rules, guidelines, boundaries to hopefully help the child once and forever, but also to help all the other loved ones involved, including herself.
She has to be tough so the wayward child will learn and grow. And hopefully get well.
She has to be tough to bring sanity back to her family.
All while her heart aches and breaks.
All while her brain tries to make reason of it all.
All while her spirit questions whether she’s doing what Jesus would do.
All while she second guesses herself, argues with herself, beats up on herself – because whatever decision she makes, she has no guarantee it’s the RIGHT one. No guarantee that this time will be any different than before. No guarantee that this time won’t send the child off a ledge from which he cannot return.
But she has HOPE because she KNOWS God is in control. She knows that HE can make sense of all this. That HE has all our best interests in mind. She KNOWS and CLINGS to this promise in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She knows this verse is true not only for herself, but for her sick child, too.
She prays verses over her entire family, knowing God’s promises are greater than the world’s trials.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that
the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom,
you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you.
~ James 1:2-5
She prays. She trusts God for the outcome, regardless of whatever it may be. And she hopes. She reminds herself to count it all joy.
She never gives up. She never stops hoping. She never stops hoping that one day, her child will be well and that we’ll all look back at this season and see how God was working in the midst of all the pain, working to get us all to the place He needed us to be to minister to others traveling that same hard road.
May God be glorified through it all.
Never Give Up Hope