Free Indeed

I figured it was time to update, though I don’t have a well thought out devotional post ready.

Things have still been really challenging with the bipolar. For a while there, I was doing pretty well, but the mania is starting to creep up again. It’s a really lousy feeling. I told my mom that sometimes I feel like there is a monster inside me. I hate the way my thoughts work, how angry I can get over the smallest thing. Even when it doesn’t erupt into the external world (and it doesn’t most of the time) I hate having those thoughts inside me. They feel so foreign, so alien. The truth is they are. They aren’t me. They are this mental illness – something I can’t control. By God’s grace, most of the time I can keep them from erupting out into the world around me, but I still find it exhausting and frustrating to have them in me at all.

Speaking of frustrating…one of the things about all this that is really irritating is that, like a small child, when I get frustrated, I cry. The mania makes a lot of things frustrating and it doesn’t take much to get to the point of tears. I can’t stand that feeling. It’s so embarrassing, so childish. And I can’t stop it.

And all this is why bipolar is a great cure for legalism. I have struggled with legalism for my whole Christian walk. I think that a lot of new believers start out fairly legalistic. It’s like we swing all the way from the license of our lives before we met Christ to the opposite end of the pendulum. Theoretically, we eventually come into the balance of grace and liberty. I’m a slow learner and spent the first 4-6 years of my Christian walk trapped in legalism. But bipolar forced me into a place where I had to accept God’s grace.

When you are flat on your back with depression, wanting to kill yourself, your little list of what a “real” Christian does, or what you have to do for God to be happy with you goes right out the window, because you just can’t do it. You can’t read your Bible every day and pray for all those people and serve in ministry and and and.

So then you are left with a choice and a question. The choice answers the question. The choice is: either I am no longer a Christian/not a good Christian or even in this, I can rest in God’s grace. How you choose determines the answer to the question: is God angry with me? If you think that you are a bad Christian, then of course you will also think that God is angry with you. You have defined your relationship with God by your performance, so when you can’t perform, your relationship with God is strained. And if your relationship with God is strained then, duh, it’s got to be your fault.

Praise God, there is another answer to the question! If you are resting in God’s grace, then God isn’t angry with you, and that changes everything. If God isn’t angry with me that means my relationship with Him is secure, no matter what. I’ve decided (by His grace, of course) that my relationship with Him is not based on how I perform, but is based on who He is and what He’s already done.

I hope that it’s clear that the second answer is the right one; it is the one that the Bible provides for us. It is the only one that leads to real freedom as we walk with Christ.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-30

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36

I can honestly say that the freedom I now walk in with Jesus is worth all that I have been through. It’s hard to think about going through more, about how long this will be difficult. I want so badly to get to the right place with my medication; the place where I can discern between what is me and what is illness; the place where I how I respond to the events around me is not so handicapped by this illness. But I know that this freedom is priceless. I’ve always wanted to get to this place, and I know that I still have farther to go into His freedom. Isn’t it worth it, no matter the cost? Didn’t Jesus walk the road of suffering for glory before us? Why should it be different for us? From Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest:

Are you going on with Jesus? The way goes through Gethsemane, through the city gate, and on “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13). The way is lonely and goes on until there is no longer even a trace of a footprint to follow— but only the voice saying, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19)

looks like this got more devotional than I expected. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Free Indeed

  1. Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God ?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29, NKJV

    These are the most liberating words Jesus ever spoke, for with them He freed us from performance based religion. God is please with us simply because we believe. Period.

    No pressure, no deadlines, no performance treadmill. I like what Chuck Smith says in “Why Grace Changes Everything”: “God is more interested in what we are than in what we do. He looks for fruit; we try to produce works.”

    None of us are immune from trying to please God with our efforts, when He is pleased because we believe.

  2. It is true that God’s grace is sufficient.

    Imagine someday if you have a daughter going through what you are experiencing. Now ask yourself these questions.

    As her mom how would you see her through your eyes?

    What would you say to her?

    Would your grace for her ever be exhausted?

    How would you want her to see herself?

    Now consider your answers to the above questions and remember that God’s love is even bigger then yours.

    Here is something I wrote to Calvary Chapel High School student who interviewed me last week for a school project….

    Now here is a tip from me to you. God is love. Believe in love. Believe that love is the very essence of God’s power. Without love everything becomes worthless in God’s sight. You must take personal ownership of God’s love in order to receive all of the precious gifts God has for you. If you do not believe in love then you cannot believe in God. Believe that you are the center of God’s existence living on a planet in the middle of His universe and you are His bride. There will be none closer to you then your wife someday or God. The Bible says a husband and a wife become one flesh. God is one with His bride too and He lives inside of us, not in a temple built with human hands. No system, building or institution can contain Him.

    You have everything it takes to make it through this storm. The most important thing is your faith. Your faith is your shield so hold on to it as tightly as you can.

    Praying for you,
    Joshua Guild

  3. Rachel, What is really interesting as I read your first paragraph is that I went through what seems almost the exact thing.

    I have always been a pretty easy going man through the years. But when I developed panic disorder I became angry I had this disease and resented the fact that I would have to participate in getting better.

    Of course, I couldn’t tell God I thought He wasn’t on the job with me so I kept that line of thinking to myself.

    Later I began becoming angry with people I believed had hurt me but would never verbalize it. So the anger and bitterness built up in me and acted as poison. It wasn’t long before I would have these outbursts of anger and when I got going I would be yelling and letting loose, taking a few folks by surprise.

    Sadly, my beautiful wife was most often my target when I vented and I hurt her deeply. Praise God, that’s a thing of the past as God enables me. Yet for you, negative thoughts are part of your illness. I am not real familiar with bipolar so it’s interesting reading your experiences.

    Rachel, I shut down emotionally when I was maybe 11 or 12 to survive in an alcoholic home. I went about 20 years, crying only once, and that was from pure rage. My father had thrown me out for a second time for no reason.

    These days, I yearn to cry more, as my tears seem to release pain and poison that is within me.

    I recall when I was working in sales I had an appointment in Pasadena. As I was driving I could only get so far before panic began to set in and I didn’t have the coping skills to fight so I got off the freeway and turned back home.

    Well, on my way back I got back off the freeway and tried again and failed again, so I headed back home. I tried a third time and as I got to the point where things would fall apart for me I began to cry as I was so sad. And as I cried, I calmed down and I was able to complete my drive very peacefully. I don’t see you as childish at all for crying. It shows me you are human and I would have no issue with you crying one bit…. unless you threw yourself on the floor and began thrashing about and kicking your feet! 🙂

    Legalism. Yikes! Everything for me was black and white. Unfortunately I was that way with my three children which I so deeply regret but I trust God for them these days.

    I like how you can use your bipolar as a cure for your legalistic tendencies! I say that in no way minimizing the pain you have experienced at all. It is really insightful and made me smile as I thought about myself.

    I actually went through a two day span a few years ago where I thought I had reached bottom. I was sobbing and without hope and the thought came to me that my problems were because I really didn’t belong to God. That was the enemy trying to take everything away from me.

    Rachel, I felt dirty somehow. I had it in my mind that I served a perfect God, which we do, but there was something about me that prevented Him from helping me. My thinking had gotten so tangled up.

    I am seeking daily to live in God’s grace. I want to die to my flesh and be totally abandoned to God, and experience life with His Spirit living through me.

    God is walking me through my illness as He has me facing my fears a bit at a time and as I face them, I experience His power as I make it through in one piece, knowing I didn’t have it in me to do it. I will thrust my fist in the air and thank God for His mercy and grace.

    Your illness and your journey will be different than mine. You have a beautiful way of putting words to paper as you express yourself so well. I will pray for you Rachel that God would touch you in a special way and grant you the desires of your heart. You are a breath of fresh air and I just know your parents must be so proud of you and that our God is pleased with your heart. God bless! Allan

  4. Rachel,

    It is a pleasure to discover your blog. For now, just a thank you. I have friends and folks in our church who I will be pointing in your direction.

  5. dad: isn’t our God amazing!! can you believe that we ever thought living our lives for ourselves was freedom?? i love the fruit analogy, because it goes so far. Does fruit strain to grow? Does the tree try to “work up” fruit? Or does the tree simply chill out and be a tree and the fruit comes naturally? I don’t want to be some stupid silly barren tree trying to muster up fruit! Let me be the chilled out tree growing blossoms and fruit in season!

    Joshua: That was a beautiful comment, and so encouraging. Isn’t it ironic how we can be so gracious to others and at the same time so unmerciful to ourselves. Thank you for the awesome reminder of the extent of the Father’s love!! God has given us everything we need for life and godliness! (2 Peter 1:3)

    Erunner: Thanks so much for your visit and for your writings at From the Ashes. You are a real encouragement to me as I press on to write more here. We are in this together, brother! Now we don’t have to be vulnerable by ourselves! 😉 Your comments really encouraged me. 🙂

    Erunner said: “Of course, I couldn’t tell God I thought He wasn’t on the job with me so I kept that line of thinking to myself.”

    What I love about our God (and I’m sure you know now) is that we can do just that. As long as we bring it to Him, He accepts us and teaches us to see His work. Of course, sometimes we get the Job treatment (Job 38:4), but we also get compassion and pity!

    Erunner said: “Rachel, I felt dirty somehow. I had it in my mind that I served a perfect God, which we do, but there was something about me that prevented Him from helping me. My thinking had gotten so tangled up.”

    Been there!! I mean, if God loves me, He’d want to change this, so the problem must be me, right? What I didn’t realize was that He wanted to change me, and that to do that, He needed to leave my circumstances intact.

    Bill: Bring ’em on! The more the merrier and may God be glorified! I can’t imagine why He’d use a bum like me, but I’m willing if He is! 😀

  6. Rachel, I was alerted to your presence at PP by a friend who thought it would be nice if we “connected.”

    I came to your blog and read through it and the # 1 thing I came away with was the love between a father and his daughter. That’s such a beautiful thing to see.

    My journey from the time I arrived at PP to this day is an interesting one. It began terribly but God went about repairing that!

    I am now pretty much over at FTA as it’s difficult for me to multi blog! I am trying though and you muddy up things with this wonderful place! 🙂

    We deal with different mental challenges/conditions/defects/weaknesses/but
    God has met us in our pain and has chosen to walk us through, causing us to depend on Him and to experience the joy of having seen us through! Those are thrust your fist in the air moments for me.

    I used to depend so much on me and was almost terrified to trust God. We are both on an exciting, yet at times, painful journey that God is going to see us through!

    I so admire your ability to communicate! Have I already said that? 🙂 I pray God would use this blog as a means to touch the lives of the hurting and in building you up in your faith in Him.

    God bless you as you seek to serve our God. What a privilege!!

  7. …God has met us in our pain and has chosen to walk us through…

    and that’s the only thing that seems to break through the dark. 🙂

  8. Rachel,

    Praying for you. Your comments about legalism are so true. It is pervasive and destructive. I grew up in extreme legalism and it has been a lifelong battle dealing with it. It’s taken a long time for it to finally soak in that I can not live the Christian life. I can only surrender to the Holy Spirit and abide in Christ as John 15:5 says.
    God Bless You my sister.

  9. erruner; the relationship with my daughter was strained for years, largely do to my struggles with depression. It was not until I asked our heavenly Father to intervene in my life that our relationship began to change. My daughter (by the grace of God) saw a positive change in my life and it drew her back to Jesus. Wow – what grace!!!

    Rachel; yes, our God is amazing…and so are you dear child.

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