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7. Derailing Depression

7. Derailing Depression

by Vicki Nunn

“Why am I so overwrought, why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me, my God.” Psalm 42:11 [Voice]

Introduction

Depression is a mental illness and Christians can suffer it too, although there are some Christians and churches who think they know better – ignore them because they are uninformed. We discussed this in more detail in our article “Can Christians Have a Mental Illness” in the Dec 2016/Feb 2017 issue and have shared it on our website (link here.) We even took a glimpse into the lives of well-known Christians and Biblical people who struggled with depression at some point in their lives.

sadness-depression-unhappy-fake-smilesmWhile sometimes depression may arise from sin, more often it does not, and no amount of confessing our sin or asking for deliverance or just having enough faith, will necessarily remove it.

As someone who suffered depression and anxiety for several years, I know that mine was the result of ongoing bullying and harassment combined with terrible, long-term physical pain and lack of sleep, which eventually led to depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Mine was not the result of sin, or not having enough faith, or being disobedient towards God.

Unfortunately for some of us, depression can be a nasty cycle where the depression causes unhealthy behaviours, eg avoiding people and social activities, not getting enough sleep, not eating properly etc, which can then contribute to deepening of the depression and perhaps other disorders, and around and around it goes.

As we begin this topic, may I remind you that God’s love for you is unchanging. When we are weak or troubled, God loves us no less than when we are strong.

God has no wish to inflict pain and suffering on us – why would He desire to see our child raped and murdered; or to cause us horrendous bodily harm; or to see our family persecuted or our home burnt to the ground? It’s not in His nature to wish harm on us.

He can and will use our experiences though, to stretch and shape us, and from them we can develop more empathy, compassion and understanding for others who also suffer. Since one of our greatest commandments is to love one another, then developing these traits can be a helpful gift for us in our interaction with those who suffer.

While personally I would have preferred not to experience horrendous pain and depression, I believe that I’ve become a more compassionate, understanding and tolerant Christian as a result.

What is Depression?

Depression is a feeling of sadness that doesn’t pass quickly and can include lack of enthusiasm in our normal activities, stress at the thought of interacting with others or attending work, and ongoing negative thoughts and feelings that are not normal for us. Some people can experience other symptoms as well such as anxiety and panic attacks.

Many people with depression try to mask it and can outwardly appear happy, but are twisted up inside. They fear judgement by their fellow Christians, as if they’re failures. Those who have never been through depression, haven’t a clue about the suffering and pain that depression brings.

Where Does Depression Come From?

One of the problems with depression is that it’s not something we can be talked out of by “just getting over it,” “by looking on the bright side of life,” “confessing our sin,” or “having more faith.” It really is a serious issue that should be tackled and in many cases, it can’t be overcome without help.

Depression can stem from trauma and stress, even dating back to our childhood. It can result from being in a hostile work or home environment, from ongoing financial hardship, to worries about what is happening in the world, concerns about our children and family, loss of a partner or family member, health issues, long-term illness and so on.

It can also occur due to a physiological problem such as a chemical imbalance in the brain, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, lacking in particular vitamins or minerals or even not getting enough sunshine. It may stem from another mental illness, or as a side-effect from some medications, use of narcotics or alcohol etc.

Statistics suggest that as many as 45% of the Australian population will suffer a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around one million adults in Australia have depression, and more than two million suffer anxiety. It is claimed that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide1.

Symptoms of Depression

Some of the symptoms of depression can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or too much sleeping;
  • Finding ourselves focussing on the negative and unhappy things in our life;
  • Difficulty enjoying things we once took pleasure in;
  • Feeling emotionally numb or apathetic, or feeling like crying, screaming or shouting even over trivial matters;
  • Complaining a lot, particularly if this isn’t something that we usually do;
  • Worrying much more than usual;
  • Overeating or not eating;
  • Feelings of guilt that don’t seem to pass;
  • A physical reaction such as knots in the stomach or tightening of the throat muscles that won’t relax;
  • Lack of enthusiasm for socialising, lacking the motivation to leave our home or perhaps even wanting to close the doors and windows and turning out the lights, as if we’re trying to shut out the world;
  • Anger with people around us and even God, which may be out of proportion to the situation, or won’t go away;
  • Lack of patience and even lashing out at others over small things;
  • Doubting that others love us, including God or perhaps feeling like we aren’t worthy of love;
  • Reluctance to read the Bible or pray, or to attend church or Bible Study;
  • Feeling hopeless or even like there’s no point in going on, perhaps even as if we’re in a deep, dark pit with no way out; and
  • Thoughts of suicide.

If several of these ring a bell, particularly suicide, I would encourage you to seek help as soon possible. There’s no point in delaying or making excuses, because in many cases, depression doesn’t go away on its own. Obtaining medical help in the early stages of depression can make it much easier to manage than when it’s in full swing.

While God sometimes does heal depression, for many people it will be a part of the struggle of our life’s journey, perhaps even one of the burdens that we carry for life.

There are many things that can lead us down the path to depression including unhealthy workplaces, nasty people, broken people in our families, and even our own learned responses and behaviours may be unhealthy and can contribute.

Blaming Others – Nasty People

There’s something important that we should know – we can’t blame others for how we feel or react to a situation – it is entirely up to us about how we deal with our emotions. Our emotional responses are ours to deal with. Nobody else is responsible for our feelings and our reactions.

While it’s true that nasty people can affect us emotionally, we may have options about how to deal with them. In the workplace we may need to take the situation to a manager, someone in a higher position, or the Personnel Officer. If it’s a toxic working environment, sometimes it may be necessary to seek employment elsewhere.

Prayer is vital, particularly asking God to help us to ignore any nastiness, and as difficult as it may sound – praying for the person responsible and asking for God to bless them. That’s a shocking thought isn’t it – that we should ask for God’s blessings on such a horrible person? Our natural human response is to say, “Hey! That’s not fair! They don’t deserve it.”

Having worked in such a situation myself, daily asking for God’s blessings on a particularly horrible person for two years, I was slowly able to let go of that person’s rudeness and pass it onto God, even though on occasion they still managed to hurt me. After a while, I began to feel sorry for them, because they must have felt so unhappy and miserable with their life, for them to act like that. Through my prayer, God was slowly able to change my attitude towards them, and my anger began to dissipate.

In time, I came to a point where I was able to forgive them. That doesn’t mean that I ever trusted them or expected them to change their behaviour. Forgiveness isn’t so much about healing our relationship with that other person, but about healing our own broken or hurting heart, and then being able to move on.

There’s a well-known passage in Luke 6:27-38 about loving our enemies. I particularly like the way it’s worded in The Voice Bible version:

“If you’re listening, here’s My message: keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary – love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward – you will be children of the Most High – for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back – give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give.” [Voice]

Aren’t those words in the first verse challenging?

Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you.”

Perhaps I should print that on a poster and put it somewhere so I’m reminded of it every day.

Time to Move On

Sometimes workplaces are toxic, particularly when the management encourages awful behaviours – I’ve been there too! Eventually, despite our prayers and our best efforts to ignore the nasty behaviours, we may have to accept that it’s time to move on. God doesn’t expect us to stay in a situation where it contributes to us developing or adds to our depression.

Is it possible to move to a different branch within the business? We can work at making ourselves as employable as possible by undertaking new training, and then seeking a job elsewhere.

While we aren’t responsible for suffering depression, we are responsible for trying to overcome our own emotional responses to difficult situations. Sometimes though, it’s ok to give up on a situation or a person – it doesn’t mean that we’ve failed – it’s just time to move on. We shouldn’t stubbornly cling to the belief that a particularly nasty situation or person can improve – sometimes they do, and sometimes they never will. That was a difficult and painful lesson for me to learn.

This is the same for our relationships with friends and family – people can be toxic anywhere, even within the church. As mentioned, prayer is vital in these situations. Pray also for clarity in any difficult situation – ask God to make it clear about whether we should stay in contact, or if it’s time to move on.

We Have the Right to Healthy Relationships

We have the right to have healthy relationships with others. If someone is nasty, just because they’re a relative or a Christian in our church or in our circle of friends, that doesn’t mean we have to put up with their awful behaviour. There will be times when we can’t avoid those nasty people and we may have to take the step of speaking to them (as scary as that sounds), eg if they say something racist or nasty, we can say “I didn’t feel comfortable with that comment.” If they say awful things about others, we can respond “I don’t feel comfortable with gossip.”

If the person continues with comments that make us feel uneasy, we can add, “I think it’s time to change the subject.” There are times when no matter what we say, a person will continue with their negative remarks. In those circumstances, we have the right to walk away.

Getting Help for Depression

Sometimes when we’re depressed, it can be hard for us to recognise that what we’re experiencing is depression nor understand that we need medical aid. We should listen to our family and friends if they’re suggesting we seek help. Depression isn’t something about which we should be ashamed, especially when we consider the earlier, startling statistics about depression in the general population, and yet it’s something seldom discussed, as if it’s some terrible thing we should hide it because people might think we’re weak or weird, or as in some churches, that we must be terrible sinners.

  1. eye-with-tears-and-makeupsmSee Our Doctor

If we’re suffering depression, our doctor should first rule out any physiological cause for it. If it stems from a physical issue, then our doctor should be able to help with the right medication, vitamins etc, by switching medications if necessary, or looking into other medical interventions.

  1. Get Medication and/or Help from a Therapist

On the other hand, if our depression is not from a physical cause, then our doctor should be able to guide us to where we can find help. They may recommend a course of anti-depressants combined with guidance from a qualified therapist.

If our depression arises out of another mental illness, then our doctor should be able to put us in touch with a psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in mental disorders.

  1. Pray, Pray and Then Pray Some More

We should be keeping prayer as the cornerstone of our day. This can be challenging when we are depressed, but if our relationship with God is not at the core of our life, then it can make matters worse and is likely to deepen our depression.

Happiness Habits for Helping to Keep Depression at Bay

If we’re suffering depression or heading towards it, and they don’t have a physical cause, are there some happiness habits which we can put into practice? Yes, there are, although I can’t guarantee that this is some magic cure, but it should hopefully contribute to an improvement in our mood, and help us to handle each day a little better. It may even stave off severe depression.

What are these habits?

  • Prayer;
  • Counselling;
  • Focus on facts – not feelings;
  • Look after ourselves;
  • Find things to enjoy; and
  • Find God’s purpose for us.

1. Prayer

While it may seem obvious to pray when we’re depressed, it can sometimes be difficult for us to do so, because our depression can mess with our minds and cloud our thoughts. We may struggle with finding the enthusiasm to pray, or the depression may overwhelm us so much, that we simply can’t focus other than to say a few perfunctory sentences.

Because prayer is such an essential part of every Christian’s life, we can’t afford to neglect it. I’m not suggesting that prayer will cure us of depression, though in some instances, getting into a regular prayer time may help us overcome it more quickly, but if we aren’t regularly in communication with God, than how can God help us? For that matter, how can we possibly have a relationship with Him without prayer? In all of our interactions with others in our every day physical life, communication is vital to the health of any relationship, therefore it’s also vital in our relationship with God.

For many of us, prayer is HARD – we don’t all have the gift of prayer. I can tell you that in my thirty years as a Christian, I still struggle with my prayer time. There are days when I’ve felt too lazy or when I just couldn’t seem to settle my mind, or when I want to allow the busyness of my life to take priority.

In addition, it’s far too easy for us to get into the habit of just praying for ourselves, and when we do that, it can cause us to focus on what’s going wrong in our own lives and can add to our depression. In a way, it’s a bit like acting as a petulant, spoilt child because prayer becomes all about “Me, me, me!” (I’m putting my hand up there and admitting to indulging in that one at different times.)

In an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine, I shared about a simple prayer technique which has stood me in good stead over the years: JOY. = Jesus; Others; and lastly Yourself:

(a) J = Jesus.

First, praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. For some of us, it can be a struggle to praise God because we are so focussed on our physical life, that sometimes it can almost seem like that’s all there is.

Spending time in a regular prayer routine, can help us to change our focus, our attitude our mind and our spirit towards God. There are many amazing resources on the internet about different prayers for praising God, and lots and lots of good books. An old hymn book may aid us in this matter, and daily devotionals can be a great source of inspiration. The Bible has many prayers of praise and can remind us of God’s unchanging love.

Hebrews 13:15 reminds us that believers are supposed to keep offering praise:

“Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing.” [Voice]

Following are some suggestions for praising God:

  • Praise God for His salvation.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read:

“For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.” [Voice]

  • Praise God for His loving kindness.

In Psalm 117 it says:

“Praise the Eternal, all nations. Raise your voices, all people. For His unfailing love is great, and it is intended for us, and His faithfulness to His promises knows no end. Praise the Eternal!” [Voice]

  • Praise Him for His goodness.

In Psalm 135:3 it reads:

“Glorify the Eternal, for He is good! Sing praises, and honour His name for it is delightful.” [Voice]

  • Praise God for His wonderful grace.

See Ephesians 1:6 which reads:

“Ultimately God is the one worthy of praise for showing us His grace; He is merciful and marvellous, freely giving us these gifts in His Beloved.” [Voice]

  • Praise Him for His mercy, justice and holiness.Psalm 99:3-4 reads:

“Let them express praise and gratitude to Your amazing and awesome name – because He is holy, perfect and exalted in His power. The King who rules with strength also treasures justice. You created order and established what is right. You have carried out justice and done what is right to the people of Jacob.” [Voice]

(b) O = Others.

woman-young-upset-cryingsmSecondly, pray for others, including our family, friends and our church and its Pastor. I’ve personally found that praying for persecuted Christians very helpful, because it takes my focus off myself and my own problems or needs. It also helps me to put my own problems into perspective and to see how truly blessed I am. Previously I’ve mentioned that we have a prayer page on our website with prayer needs for many of our persecuted brothers and sisters which you may like to use.

(c) Y = You.

Finally, it’s time to put forward our own needs and problems to God. We shouldn’t be discouraged or worried about opening up to God – He already knows what we think and feel, but opening up that communication between us will enable the Holy Spirit to commune with us, so that God can speak with us. We should discuss our depression and the struggles we’re having, and asking God for guidance and clarity about how to manage them.

(d) . = Stop.

Yes, that’s a full stop there. We should endeavour to take some time to try and sit in silence and listen to God. Don’t worry if this is difficult to do – I always have a few dozen things going on in my head at the same time and have trouble switching it off. Sometimes on days when I have so much going on in my mind, that I just tell God. “Sorry Lord, there I go again. I don’t know why I can’t switch it off. Please help me to focus on what You have to say.” Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I can try and I’ve left a channel open for God to reach me.

Occasionally God speaks to me, or puts ideas or thoughts into my mind, but on most days, I don’t hear anything from Him. I figure that the more I try and listen to Him, the more easily I’ll recognise His voice and His guidance.

2. Seek Counselling

In the past, if we’ve experienced harmful or negative relationships, particularly in our childhood homes, or if we’re currently in a difficult marriage or have friends or family that cause us stress and anxiety, we should seek counselling to try and work through the issues.

I’ve known several people who grew up in an unloving or harmful home environment, and as adults several struggled with developing healthy relationships. If we’ve grown up with unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards others, we may not be able to clearly see them in ourselves.

It may take years for a trained counsellor or psychologist to help us break through and perceive how our thinking proce sses and our behaviours need to change, because in our mind they’re perfectly normal – that’s how we were taught to think and behave.

Without this insight, we are unlikely to change, and the more we continue with our unhealthy and even harmful behaviours, the more ingrained they will become.

Counselling can help us to put things into their proper perspectives and can enable us to learn appropriate and healthier behaviours in our adult relationships, and particularly with our spouse and our children.

In any marriage that is troubled or where poor communication is an ongoing issue, both parties should seek counselling to improve their relationship.

There may be some local support groups we can attend where we can share our problems, eg Al-Anon if we’re from a home with an alcoholic. Sometimes just knowing that there are other people who struggle with depression or who understand what we’re going through, can help us to recognise that we don’t have to do it on our own, and that our responses and behaviours are normal, and we aren’t weird or unfixable.

One of the worst things about depression is that many people think they have to manage it on their own, perhaps because some see depression as a weakness and are afraid of being judged and looked down upon. From what I understand, this response is more common in men than it is with women, often because men have been taught to ‘tough it out,’ or not to talk about their feelings.

3. Focus on Facts – Not Feelings

Feelings can be wrong, but true facts cannot. If we find we’re looking for the negative too often in our life, it can mislead our thoughts into feeling that things are hopeless or that nothing is good, and may lead us down the slippery slope into depression.

I remember going through a period like that many years ago, and one day I realised that I was losing my enjoyment and enthusiasm for life. There was nothing seriously wrong, but I had allowed my thoughts to become pessimistic which led to feeling negative.

I didn’t like feeling that way, and so I made a conscious decision to focus on what was good and to try to let go of the negative.

Some people allow pessimism to control their lives, and whenever I’ve encountered someone like that, they’ve usually been a misery to be around.

If we’re too critical of ourselves, we may allow ourselves to feel useless and that we have limited skills and abilities, or that we aren’t very clever. Perhaps we compare ourselves to others, or are always too negative about our efforts, particularly when we make mistakes. Maybe we are highly critical of ourselves when things don’t go right or even blame ourselves for other people’s mistakes. Perhaps we exaggerate the size of our mistakes and blow them all out of proportion. This is one way that we focus on our feelings and not the facts.

The fact is that yes, we all make mistakes, even those people who seem to have it all together. Yes, we may not be the cleverest person in the world nor have any wonderful talents, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. At my age (53) I’m still learning. When I look back over the past thirty years, I can see how much I’ve grown, not just as a Christian but in my talents and interpersonal skills. I’ve accepted that there are some things at which I’m never going to be particularly good, eg sports, book-keeping or growing geraniums, but I can improve if that’s something that I really desire, though I’m realistic enough to know I’m never going to run a marathon. We don’t have to aim to be the very best at something. We can learn new skills or develop old talents and lear n to be content with our development.

How do we focus on facts and not feelings? Grab a pen and a pad and make three columns. On the left-hand side, write down all of the things about which we’re feeling negative. Then in the middle column, write down as many positive things we can about the item on the left, and then in the right-hand column, note down how we may be able to fix it if we need to (see the table at the top of the right-hand column.)

When we focus on our feelings instead of the facts, situations can often appear ‘unfixable,’ or just too hard to deal with.

Writing it down helps to clarify the circumstances and can cement the facts, rather than the feelings, in our minds. This may provide us with ways to overcome the problem, or simply to improve the situation, or reduce our feelings of negativity. Perhaps it can enable us to change our mind-set which had been focussed on the negative emotions, so that we can perceive and concentrate more on the good and positive things instead.

4. Look After Ourselves

(a) Keeping Busy

Keeping ourselves busy, both physically and mentally is an important part of keeping healthy, and helping to turn away depression. I’m not suggesting that ‘busyness’ for the sake of being busy is the aim, rather that our purpose is to work at developing our body, mind and spirit.

(b) Improving Our Relationship with God and With Others

If we are developing our under-standing of God, and endeavouring to maintain a good relationship with Him, that is also good for us spiritually and can improve our emotional well-being.

Let’s not be content with the status quo – if we actively seek to develop our understanding of God, of others and of ourselves, we can more fully develop as Christians – endeavouring to act as brothers and sisters who love as Jesus would have us love.

(c)  Improve Our Knowledge and Understanding of the Bible

We can develop our minds and spirits with regular Bible study or other Christian learning activities. There are many good websites where we can obtain free, daily Christian devotions, or even do online Christian courses.

Even at my age, I am more mindful than ever that I cannot be content to think that I know all of the answers. The day that I start thinking that, is the moment that my growth halts. Show me a Christian who thinks they know it all, and I’ll show you a shrivelled up, hard-hearted, stunted human being who is useless to God, to others and to themself.

(d) Looking After Our Health

In the busyness of our lives, particularly when working, raising children and giving of our time and efforts to the church, the community and/or charities, it can be challenging to find the time or the energy to develop our own minds, spirits and bodies.

If we are to continue working well for God and to sustain our relationships and our well-being, we should make an effort to maintain our overall health, or eventually we’ll run out of energy, physically, spiritually and/or mentally. If we work ourselves too hard, it’s actually possible to wear ourselves out and sometimes, we may not ever be able to return fully to our previous energy and health levels.

I understand that it will be difficult, if not impossible for those who suffer from poor health to be physically active or to maintain a healthy body. It’s important though that we take the proper medications, to regularly rest and eat well, and if at all possible, to attend occasional social activities.

(e)  Keeping Up Our Social Skills

From my own experience, I know that it can be easy for us to lose our social skills if we rarely leave the home, and have little social interaction, it can encourage depression to take hold more easily.

For those suffering depression, especially anxiety and panic attacks, it can be difficult to overcome our reluctance to leave the home and face people. The fear starts taking over, our heart begins to palpitate, and we may even feel physically ill.

Perhaps we can set a goal in the beginning, to get out of the house just once a month to attend a Bible study or social group. Once a month, say for one hour, that’s just one hour in 744 hours. Then we can aim for two hours in the next month if possible, and so on.

Remember it’s not a competition – we don’t have to push ourselves too hard, but we should push ourselves at least a little.

(f)  The Little Things That Make Us Feel Good

When we’re even mildly depressed, we can start getting slack with our appearance and our home environment. Sometimes it all just seems too hard and takes too much of our energy.

When we start going down that path, it can become more and more difficult to keep it under control, and it can contribute to a deepening of our depression, particularly if our home environment begins to look (and smell) like a pigsty.

  • Keep up the good hygiene – bathe regularly, wash our hair and keep it trimmed;
  • Wash our clothes, iron them and repair if necessary;
  • Do the dishes every day and put them away. It’s awful to have to get up every morning when we’re already feeling down, to be faced with a sink full of dirty, yucky dishes;
  • Make the bed every morning and change the sheets regularly. It may all seem too much, unless we break it down into how long it actually takes us. Thirty-seven seconds in our day to make the bed, really doesn’t seem so hard;
  • Keep our appointments with our counsellor or mental health worker;
  • And so on

While these things seem obvious, they can sometimes be one of the first areas where we lose our focus. The more we let it go, the harder it will seem to even want to bother. Before we know it, we can be living in a such a messy and dirty environment that the task to fix it will just seem too overwhelming. We should get to it before it gets out of control.

Conclusion

This article developed into a much larger and wordier piece than I’d anticipated, but there are so many areas that contribute to our well-being which can discourage depression that it seemed appropriate to include as many as possible. I’m sure there are many other things we can do in our efforts to reduce our vulnerability to depression, but hopefully we’ve covered some of the more important ones.

We must remain mindful that God desires for us to be healthy in our bodies, minds and spirits, and to have a healthy and balanced self-image. There are behaviours and thought processes that are unhealthy for us to indulge, and which we should avoid.

I hope you will be encouraged to start these techniques in your life and your every day living, and to actively look at ways that will derail depression before it begins to take a hold, while at the same time ensuring that your first priority is your relationship with God above all others things.

  1. Find Things to Enjoy

Each of us can make conscious choices to undertake activities or change behaviours which result in a boost of the good chemicals in our brains which encourage us to feel more positive, and can reduce our depression. It’s exciting to think that we can actually make a literal difference in our own brain chemicals.

(a) The Little Things:

The happiest people I’ve known are not those who seek after possessions, power or position, but those who find enjoyment and joy in the small things. It may be as simple as taking the time to enjoy a sunset, the smell of rain, or a tasty dish of sausages and mash!

When we allow ourselves to wallow in a pity party, when we focus on the negative things in our life or what we haven’t achieved or what we don’t have, we’ve usually forgotten to enjoy the simple things. It often takes a conscious and sometimes daily effort to change our approach.

One of the things we discussed in an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine was a ‘Happiness Journal,’ were we daily write down some of the good things we experienced during the course of our day. If we can begin this habit, of pausing to enjoy something, and making a note of it at the end of our day, it can begin to alter in the chemicals in our brain which make us feel more positive – apparently it’s been scientifically proven.

(b)  Practicing Gratitude

There’s a reason why attitude sounds like it’s part of the word gratitude – changing our attitude can once again stir up those good brain chemicals. While this is linked to the previous section about enjoying the little things, this takes it up a notch or two.

We can use the Happiness Journal to write down something for which we are grateful every day. For some of us it’s easier to harp on about things that are going wrong, particularly if we’re depressed, but focussing our mind each day on at least one thing for which we are grateful, can help to knock depression onto its butt, or maybe help to derail it before it takes hold.

A neuro-psychologist by the name of Donald Hebb believes that groups of neurons in our brains that trigger during our life experiences, actually fuse or wire together if the experiences are similar. If we complain a lot and more often focus on the negative things in our life, those neurons that fire when we complain also fuse together.  The more we complain, the more easily those neurons are triggered until eventually they begin to fire much more easily than neurons that result from positive experiences.

That means that we teach our own brains to become wired to being negative and critical.

The opposite is also true – the more we focus on being grateful and endeavour to find joy in our life, the more easily our brains will trigger our positive and happier thought processes.

If we’re struggling to find things because we’re feeling down, it can be challenging to look past such difficulties, but there are almost always things for which we can feel grateful, eg a child or grandchildren, a partner, music, our eyesight, the use of our hands, a talent, our favourite food etc.

In time it becomes a little easier each day to write one thing, and sometimes we may want to write down even more. We can use our journal any way we want – there are no hard and fast rules – it’s ours to use to help us on our journey.

Then in a year, we may like to go back to those early entries to remind us of all of the things for which we are grateful during that period.

(c)  Setting Goals

Another way to boost those good brain chemicals is to achieve a goal. Whether it’s something small or large, we can set ourselves a goal and work out how we’re going to achieve it. There’s no point in setting ourselves a goal in which we’re likely to fail – no, sorry, you’re probably never going to be an astronaut. Set a realistic goal, and break it down into steps. Here’s an example – goal: to get healthier – aim to walk 5,000 steps in a day.

Step 1: buy an inexpensive pedometer;

Step 2: for one week, walk 1,000 steps;

Step 3: for week two, walk 2,000 steps;

Step 4: find a nice park to walk to and aim for 3,000 steps every day for one week; and so on.

… Step 6: walk 5,000 steps!

If we’re prone to being tough on ourselves or being far too competitive and want to push ourselves too hard, remember the aim here is to reach a goal. We’re not actually required to punish ourselves if we don’t achieve that day’s or that week’s goal. There’s no need to beat ourselves up, because that’s going to mess with those lovely, happy-feeling chemicals going on in our brain.

If we don’t achieve that day’s goal, that’s fine – we can continue the following day. That’s hard for those of us who are competitive – to let go of our need to over-achieve. We must remember what the aim here is: to get healthier – it’s not about killing ourselves and over-extending or possibly even harming ourselves. We’ll feel pretty foolish if we tear a tendon in the first week because we pushed ourselves too much!

Once we’ve achieved that goal, we can celebrate with a silly dance; reward ourselves with a night out at the movies; or do whatever appeals to us. After that, we can choose to continue our 5,000 steps each day (if we have the time and enthusiasm) then set ourselves a new and different goal, eg read all of the Psalms in one month; learn how to paint; take up archery; or save up enough money to buy a new camera.

We should start planning for our next goal just prior to completing our last one and we’ll be ready to go when the time arrives.

While small aims are great, we should also encourage ourselves to set big ones as well.

If we’re feeling uninspired, we can go online and read about the goals other people have set themselves, or think about those little dreams we’ve had over the years.

When I was eighteen I undertook a ceramics course, and I enjoyed it so much that I promised myself that I would do it again. It wasn’t until thirty-four years later that I was able to finally achieve that goal!

While there may be limitations to achieving all of the goals we had when we were younger, whether due to limited finances or physical restrictions, I’m sure there are still many things that we can achieve, even when we’re well past retirement age.

(d) Hugs, Friends and Puppies

While that may sound like a strange title, having friends, giving and receiving hugs and owning pets, particularly dogs, can boost the good chemicals in our brains as well.

Culturally, at least in Australia, we don’t seem to get anywhere near as many hugs as we need, particularly adults. While men may feel uncomfortable with that thought, we human beings are made to be hugged. I’m not suggesting that we rush out and grab hold of complete strangers or start hugging everyone in our workplace – that’s unlikely to be well received!

If we feel uncomfortable with hugs, perhaps it’s about time we should overcome our hang-ups, otherwise if possible, we could get a dog and be prepared to give and receive lots of doggy love. Cats can be good too, though they may not always be in the mood for a hug when we need it.

(e)  Remembering Our Achievements

Another brain booster is reminiscing about things in our past that we’ve done particularly well, or were commended for. While I’m not suggesting that we focus all of our time thinking about the past or wishing things were as good now, indulging in a little spot of day-dreaming every now and then, remembering those achievements, is good for us.

It’s not supposed to be about pride, but more about reminding ourselves that we’ve done some pretty good stuff, and that we still have the capacity and the time to achieve more.

(f)  Releasing Endorphins

Most of us have probably heard that eating chocolate or laughing can release endorphins (more chemicals) which make us feel good. While it may seem almost fake if we have to force ourselves to smile or to laugh, oddly enough, it really can work. Just by stretching our lips into a smile for ten or twenty seconds, can start stirring up the endorphins. The more we smile and laugh, the more our endorphins kick in. Throw on a comedy or a classic TV series we used to enjoy, and even when the jokes are old, it can still make us feel good.

We can add more to the list of things which may boost our endorphins including smelling vanilla or lavender, eating spicy foods, or just stretching our bodies. Perhaps stretching soon after we arise in the morning might just be a good way to boost our mood, and to start our day well.

A good dose of laughter each day, or just smiling and getting those smiling muscles moving, really can make us feel good.

(g) Eating Well

In the rush, rush , rush of our busy lives, it can be easy to leave good nutrition out of the equation. If we aren’t obtaining the proper nutrients from our diet, it can certainly impact on our health and also on what is happening in our bodies and brains, which ultimately affect our moods.

It’s not my responsibility to nag you – so take the time to improve your knowledge and perhaps even your cooking skills. I’m not suggesting that you need to be an amazing cook or to get obsessed with nutrition, but to practice and improve your knowledge and skills. I’m not a great cook, but I’ve certainly improved from practice, and I’ve put together a small recipe folder with my tried and tested easy recipes that I go to time and time again.

 (h) Meditation

The majority of us find it difficult to meditate, especially in a world where we are switched on most of the time with our electronic devices making phone calls, sending text messages and tweets, keeping up on social media, watching television and so on.

While it may have been easier for our predecessors to meditate in the past because they had fewer distractions, they also had much less leisure time than us and were likely physically more tired than we are.

Meditation isn’t something that many churches seem to discuss or encourage Christians to put much effort into. Meditation is a learned technique that can take a long time to master, but it’s a God approved practice which is discussed and encouraged in the Bible:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” Philippians 4:8 [Voice]

“Often at night I lie in bed and remember You, meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window.” Psalm 63:6 [Voice]

“And yet I can’t forget the days of old, the days I’ve heard so much about; I fix my mind on all You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands; I reach out my hands to You. All that I am aches and yearns for You, like a dry land thirsting for rain.” Psalm 143:5-6 [Voice]

“Your majesty and glorious splendour have captivated me; I will meditate on Your wonders, sing songs of Your worth.” Psalm 145:5 [Voice]

What is meditation and how do we do it? We often think of meditation as someone sitting cross-legged, eyes closed and monotonously repeating the mantra “Aum,” or something along those lines. (That isn’t Christian meditation but rather Buddhism.)

Meditation can form a part of our daily time with God, and it’s a prayer where we meditate or focus our mind on the nature of God and His works, such as Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

We may choose to look at the wonders of His creation, or His holiness or majesty. Otherwise we may just sit quietly in His presence, trying to be open to the touch of His Holy Spirit.

To begin meditating, we must put away distractions and give ourselves sufficient time to relax and focus on God, even if it means we have to get up a little earlier each day. Find a comfortable spot in which we can sit straight, but not stiffly. There’s no need to sit cross-legged or to have any special pose. For some it’s helpful to close our eyes, while others may find it easier to concentrate with our eyes open. (If I close my eyes, I’d likely fall asleep!)

Some people like their meditation to be quite structured because it helps them to channel their thoughts, while others may be more relaxed in their approach. Some find it easier to talk out loud, but meditation for many people is usually quiet.

There are myriad books and websites that provide suggestions and techniques which encourage us in our desire to mediate on God. While eastern mysticism also suggests the use of meditation, we should avoid any cross-over between the two, particularly repetitive phrases that quickly lose their meaning.

The Psalms can be a good place in which we can find ways to praise God, or to encourage our minds to focus on His greatness, such as Psalm 145:5-9:

“Your majesty and glorious splendour have captivated me; I will meditate on Your wonders, sing songs of Your worth.

We confess – there is nothing greater than You, God, nothing mightier than Your awesome works. I will tell of Your greatness as long as I have breath.

The news of Your rich goodness is no secret – Your people love to recall it and sing songs of joy to celebrate Your righteous-ness.

The Eternal is gracious. He shows mercy to His people. For Him anger does not come easily, but faithful love does – and it is rich and abundant.

But the Eternal’s goodness is not exclusive—it is offered freely to all. His mercy extends to all His creation.” [Voice]

We don’t need to chant but simply to focus on an aspect of God and to try and brush aside the random thoughts that flit through our minds. It will be challenging at first because we’re so used to letting our minds race around with no focussed control.

If this is something that we desire to pursue more deeply, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to develop the necessary skills and to quieten our thoughts, and with time and practice it will become easier.

  1. Find God’s Purpose for Us

God gives each of us gifts which we should be deliberately working at developing. Those who’ve grown up in unhealthy environments as children, may have come to believe that they’re not a worthwhile person, or that they have no gifts or talents.

Some people miss out on opportunities to develop their talents as they’re growing up, and others may not even be aware that they have any. Some of us come to believe that the little talent that we have isn’t worth anything, or isn’t as good as those of other people, but that isn’t true.

We seem to honour people whose talents are more in the frontline of the church such as the pastor or the worship team, sometimes forgetting the many unseen or forgotten workers whose talents keep a church operating such as: cleaners, gardeners, teachers, IT people, church accountant, secretary, treasurer, organisers, deacons, missions co-ordinator and so on. There are many people whose work outside of the church are also important: RE teachers, prayer warriors, Bible study leaders, missionaries, and many more.

Nobody came into those positions without putting in effort to develop their talents in some way. We have a responsibility to seek out areas in our lives and our skills where God can use us, and as time passes, we may find opportunities to develop further talents.

Conclusion

This article developed into a much larger and wordier piece than I’d anticipated, but there are so many areas that contribute to our well-being which can discourage depression that it seemed appropriate to include as many as possible. I’m sure there are many other things we can do in our efforts to reduce our vulnerability to depression, but hopefully we’ve covered some of the more important ones.

We must remain mindful that God desires for us to be healthy in our bodies, minds and spirits, and to have a healthy and balanced self-image. There are behaviours and thought processes that are unhealthy for us to indulge, and which we should avoid.

I hope you will be encouraged to start these techniques in your life and your every day living, and to actively look at ways that will derail depression before it begins to take over, while at the same time ensuring that your first priority is your relationship with God above all others things. [End]

———————————

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.

Bibliography:
No author, no date, All About “Praise to God,” available http://www.allaboutprayer.org/praise-to-god.htm accessed 28/10/16
No author, no date, CBN “Overcoming Depression,” available http://www1.cbn.com/overcoming-depression, accessed 28/10/16
No author, no date, God Questions.org “What does the Bible say about depression? How can a Christian overcome depression?” available: https://gotquestions.org/depression-Christian.html, accessed 29/10/16.
Johnson, Andy J, PhD, 2016, Life Counselling Center “Understanding and Overcoming Depression” available: http://lifecounsel.org/pub_johnson_understandingDepression.html accessed 30/10/16.
No author, no date, Wikipedia “Christian Meditation” available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_meditation, accessed 01/11/16.
Hampton, Debbie, no date, The Best Brain Possible “How Happy Happens in Your Brain” available: http://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/how-happy-happens-in-your-brain/, accessed 31/10/16.
No author, no date, OpenBible.info “What Does the Bible Say About…Meditation” available: https://www.openbible.info/topics/meditation, accessed 01/11/16.
No name, no date, The Hearty Soul “How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to be Anxious and Depressed,” available: http://theheartysoul.com/complaining-brain-negativity/?t=MAM&W=spirit, accessed 07/11/16.
[Voice] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Good Grief: Coping with Chronic Illness

Good Grief: Coping with Chronic Illness

Vicki Nunn

by Vicki Nunn

Introduction

To the rest of the world, any person with chronic illness, particularly when it’s invisible, can sometimes appear to be faking it. We often don’t look sick. We may not be in a wheelchair or use walking-sticks or other visible forms of support to enable us to get about. We may have all of our limbs. We may seem too young, or happy or we don’t complain.

While our scars and our pain may be hidden, our struggles are very real.

People with chronic illness have to deal with many everyday issues due to their conditions, from medications and tiredness, or pain and physical restrictions, high stress, inability to perform normal tasks, lack of energy and much more.

An added and unnecessary burden is the many able-bodied and healthy people around them who are dismissive of them and their very real needs, and the effect their illness has on their everyday activities.

For many with chronic illness, there are long-term physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological impacts of which the world is often not aware. To those with chronic illness, it sometimes seems is if people around them don’t care about their struggles.

Things people say to us when we have chronic illness

Open image up for more details

What is Chronic Illness?

Generally a chronic illness is a condition that lasts a year or more. While in a small percentage of cases, chronic illness can sometimes be overcome or managed, for many people it is a condition they have to deal with for the remainder of their lives.

There are many conditions classed as a chronic illnesses and the effects vary from person to person. Some people are born with chronic medical conditions, while some may only have mild cases or the illness doesn’t progress very far.

For others, the illness comes later and has serious impacts upon their well-being and the way they live. Chronic illness can include conditions such as: lupus; diabetes; chronic fatigue; lime disease; glaucoma; heart disease; cancer; arthritis; epilepsy; haemophilia; kidney disease; asthma; Crohn’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; muscular dystrophy; and multiple sclerosis and many, many more.

Chronic Illness Impacts More Than One’s Health

Financially

One of the consequences of chronic illness is its financial impact and the stresses that result from that. Sometimes people can’t continue their studies or remain in employment which limits their income. Many have high medical costs including insurance, at-home-care, medications, operations, and the need for specialised equipment and even motor-vehicles and home renovations. Sometimes a spouse has to quit their job to provide full-time care for their partner which means that neither receives a decent income.

Sometimes the medical expenses have been so large, that people with chronic illness have had to declare bankruptcy. I can’t imagine how they manage after that.

Emotionally and Psychologically

The emotional and psychological impacts can be huge. As a result of their illness, once physically active people can lose their independence and sense of self-worth. They struggle with depression and feelings of inadequacy and may feel they are a burden to their family and friends.

Others who found their joy and purpose in their careers or their volunteer work, may struggle to find any kind of meaning once their lives are impacted by chronic illness. Some worry how they will manage in the coming years and the thought of the struggles they face may seem overwhelming. This is particularly difficult for single people who have no-one to care for them.

Younger people with chronic illness in particular, wonder if they will ever find someone to love them, or wonder if there is any purpose to their life.

Coming to terms with chronic illness and its impacts can be difficult for many people. Depression is common for those suffering chronic illness. While some Christians who enjoy good health think it should be easy for Christians to shrug off depression (or even suicidal thoughts), a person who daily lives with chronic pain, its restrictions, medications, tiredness and the constant worries about finances and concerns for the future – joy can be difficult to find, let alone sustain.

Living with a chronic health issue and its associated problems day in and day out, month after month and year after year, eventually take its toll. I’m sure even the fictional Pollyanna would struggle to remain cheerful.

For Christians, it may be difficult to forgive God or to understand how He can allow someone to suffer this way. This is particularly true when they’ve been obedient and had perhaps given up stable secular jobs to do His ministry and work.

Grief is Part of the Chronic Illness Journey

Coming to terms with the consequences of chronic illness, and its psychological and emotional impacts can contribute to the sufferer feeling grief. They may grieve for the life and opportunities they’ve lost, for their independence or even the chance for love.

Even if a person with chronic illness comes to terms with the impact the illness has on their lives, they may later discover further problems due to the progression of the illness which they hadn’t considered nor for which they’d been prepared. This can lead to higher levels of stress and new feelings of loss.

Younger Person’s Grief

For a younger person, there may be a sense of grief as they learn to accept the real limitations their illness has on their life. It may affect their ability to study, obtain a career or find love. They will see their friends living normal lives and grieve for what they are missing, such as the normal ability to go out and have fun. They may grieve for their lack of independence and their reliance on others for their everyday needs. They may grieve for a life without pain or restriction, or even the ability to communicate easily.

In many cases, young people may be stigmatised by others in their peer group and may face shame and ridicule and prejudice. One frightening statistic suggests that violent crimes against disabled people are on the rise.

Older Person’s Grief

An older person will feel much of what a younger person does, but for a person who has had a career and found a sense of purpose and joy through their work, their hobbies and other activities such as volunteering, the loss of these due to ill health later in life, can lead to extra feelings of grief such as inadequacy and loss of purpose and meaning. It can be especially difficult for them to see how their life after the onset of the illness can possibly be of any real consequence or purpose.

How Can We Show Compassion to Those with Chronic Illness?

We should understand that it may be especially difficult for someone who has enjoyed their independence to ask for help after their body and health betrays them. If we want to help a chronically ill friend or church member, just ask them to let us know how you can help, and follow it up, particularly if they seem dismissive or we suspect they’re refusing help out of a sense of pride or even fear that others may think they are troublesome.

Please don’t offer, if you really have no interest in following through with it. Being let-down by someone who offers to help, may reinforce their belief that they’re a burden and it may make them less likely to ask for help when they need.

Also, don’t expect that it’s easy for those with chronic illness to perform everyday functions that healthy people take for granted. A great example of what this actually means is given by Christine Miserandino with her “Spoon Theory” (see below):

Spoon Theory

What is the Spoon Theory? It is difficult for healthy people to understand why day-to-day activities can be so challenging for people with a chronic illness, eg, getting ready in the morning can take an enormous amount of energy.

Most people with chronic illness or disability have a much more limited amount of energy than healthy people and therefore have to choose into which activities they place their energy each day.

Christine Miserandino came up with this theory when a friend asked her how her illness impacted upon her life.

You can find out more about the Spoon Theory on Christine Miserandino’s webpage on this link.

Churches and the Chronically Ill

Life with a chronic illness can be challenging physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It impacts every single area of our lives.

Few churches seem to know how they can help those in their congregation with chronic illness. Sometimes it seems that churches almost forget about these parishioners, particularly those who can’t attend regularly due to their condition. Perhaps they assume that because they aren’t regular attendees that they aren’t serious in their church or Christian commitment which is often far from the truth.

The reality for many with chronic illness is that oftentimes there are specific reasons why they do not attend regularly:

• they are not well enough and/or are in too much pain to attend;

• they have to choose between attending church and another activity;

• simply don’t have the energy to both attend church and do their normal everyday chores;

• didn’t sleep well enough to attend church; or

• feel invisible and/or ignored and uncared for in their church.

Often it is those with chronic illness that need more support from their church family than many others. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone needs to turn up at their door every day offering to cook, clean or mow, but at least a regular monthly visit or fortnightly phone contact will ensure that the ill person doesn’t feel isolated or that they are looked upon as someone of little value, or a burden.

We should understand that people with chronic illness contribute to God’s kingdom in a variety of ways. I personally know of people who have their own ministries and are a great source of encouragement for their brothers and sisters, and there are others who are amazing prayer warriors. But even those who are too unwell to contribute in such a way are still valuable in God’s eyes aren’t they? Perhaps it’s time then to reconsider the value of those in your church with chronic illness.

Could your church create a group of volunteers who can put aside a couple of hours a month to reach out to those in their congregation with chronic illness? Has anyone within your church even bothered to ask the person/family what specific needs they have?

When was the last time your church instigated a program like this? If you’re healthy, when was the last time you considered volunteering for it? Don’t be one of that group of regular church-goers who give little if anything of themselves, who seem to expect everyone else to do the work.

It is part of Jesus’ command that we love one another. I don’t ever recall the Bible verses saying that we should love one another “only when it suits us,” or “when we’re in the mood,” or “when it’s easy,” or “those tasks were meant for someone else to do.”

Why Does God Allow Us to Suffer?

If you are suffering chronic illness, it is perfectly natural that you may experience a grieving process. Be aware that as you go through your daily struggles, you may not ever quite come to terms with the impact on your health, mind and spirit. As your illness progresses, you may find there are times when you still have to readjust to new losses and problems.

Remember though, that God sees it all, and even when you feel that you’re alone, this is when Jesus is standing right beside you, His heart filled with compassion and love, His arms stretched about you.

It is difficult for us to understand why God would allow such terrible pain and suffering, especially when we’ve been faithful. We should realise that it’s not some form of punishment, nor as a result of our disobedience. The fact is, pain and suffering always have been and always will be part of the Christian journey.

All we have to do is look back at early church history to see that from the first, Christians have suffered: Paul’s journeys were fraught with danger and difficulty. Church leaders in some of the very churches that he established, later resisted his guidance. Most of the disciples and many early Christians were martyred for their faith. Their lives were not easy physically, financially, relationally or emotionally.

Conclusion

Because we are Christians, it doesn’t mean that life will be perpetually good, problem-free or that we will always feel happy. While others around us may not seem to suffer pain or ill-health, it may seem unfair that we are burdened, but we should remember that it’s not a form of punishment from God.

I say to people that for me it’s “part of the package deal” from God. I jokingly say, “God made me pretty amazing in every other area of my life, so He had to find a way to balance that out.”

While we may never understand why God has allowed this to be part of our journey, we can choose to resist God every inch of the way and stay angry and resentful, but that will not change the situation. Instead it will keep us mired in our depression, hurt and anger, and our relationship with God will suffer as a consequence.

Alternatively, may I encourage you to pray for strength to make it through each day – just one day at a time. Focus on what you can do in the short-term. Ask for courage and to regain your joy. Tell God about how you’re feeling – He won’t feel angry or upset with you. He won’t turn His back on you if you admit any negative emotions towards Him. Jesus Himself understands where you are coming from because of His own personal experiences and suffering as a human being.

Perhaps through your struggles, you will become a powerful leader for God, whether as a prayer warrior or through a ministry, or you may inspire others with your courage and grace. Perhaps instead, your simple, quiet faith will be motivation for others to persevere during their own trials and struggles.

So …. hold on! Just hold on and keep going. Perhaps there will be days when all you have to grasp onto is God’s promise that one day you’ll cast off this broken body and be made brand new.

Even if your life feels grey because of illness, there’s no grey in your relationship with God. His unwavering love for you shines as brilliantly as the brightest rainbow. You are His own child. His heart aches to see your pain.

You aren’t just another face in the crowd. He hears your voice – He personally knows your voice – because you are His beloved!

Bibliography

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201403/the-extra-burdens-faced-young-people-chronic-illness author: Toni Bernhard 2014

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ author: Christine Miserandino 2016