What does it mean to be a witness in this world?
I think, first, of the calling of others to place their faith in Christ. And this is certainly a central part of our witness. Yet, as I step out into the world through my newly released book, the story of my darkest moments walking through mental illness, I see a fullness to my witness.
I can share the hard and allow myself to be exposed, because the glory of God rests securely upon me through the spirit of Christ living in me. Through this, I can call others to a holistic healing from all the brokenness and fallenness of this world. And I can underscore this healing through proclaiming in a way interwoven with my story, that in Jesus, we overcome.
The following is an excerpt from my book, A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest. This is from the conclusion of the book, as I proclaim the truth of how I have overcome the devastation of mental illness through the healing of Christ:
From Death to Life
God spoke to me like I was altogether new in him. And I was. The woman who had twice entered mental wards in the past twenty-seven months had come through the fire and was refined. Those days of so much darkness and looming death were behind me. He was making a promise and urging me to hold it tight. I would not face the darkness I had once faced because he was bringing me from death to life in my mental illness journey.
It isn’t easy to affirm with integrity the promise of not facing so great a darkness as I had in my major manic episodes because my struggle is chronic and ongoing. Mental illness, like any other physical frailty, takes us into heartbroken places where we grieve what has been lost. Although I still struggle with symptoms, the all-out war upon my mind is over. God has led me through the battle, and I can see the sun shining brightly. My faith gives me confidence that I won’t be defeated.
Until that morning of sweet communion, doubt had haunted me. I feared that I might relapse or even be overcome by insanity. I could never seem to master the pull that the darkness had on me, and I feared that one day its lies would eventually take their toll and destroy me.
In my younger years, I always found it easy to rest in God’s presence and could easily connect and hear from him. But it had become a constant struggle to hear from God after my manic episode in Hungary. My mind raced like ants from a destroyed anthill, scattering in a thousand directions. I was weary from my struggle for genuine repose of any kind, and I wondered what had happened to the woman who used to enjoy the peace and presence of God.
I had left my ministry job and moved to a job in sales, which fit me horribly and exacerbated the problem of my busy, disconnected mind. The same questions continued to bubble to the surface: “How long can I go on this way? Will I simply survive with my mental illness or will I thrive?” I longed for the latter but feared the former.
But on that warm June morning, every voice of death was silenced. God spoke overwhelming victory as the narrative of my life. He called me to believe it right then and there. My faith had been like a sputtering light bulb after my intense manic episodes and their accompanying lies, burning bright on some days while flickering dimly on others. But now! I embraced my hope, the surety of my faith, like the fullest sunshine of a cloudless midday sky. What has followed is a sweeter communion with God as the remembrance of that morning has continued to illumine my path toward the new day. God showered his truth on me, and now I know without the shadow of lingering doubt that nothing can separate me from his love.
My friend, God wants you to know this deeper life also. He desires to renew your life by speaking truth into you again and again. He longs to see you truly rise from death to life. Colossians 1 says, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13–14). God claims you as his very own for all time and eternity, and he desires that in this moment, as you’re reading these words, his truth will set you free.
From Evil to Good
As I have written before, the Evil One wants nothing more than to destroy you. I believe mental illness is a part of our fallen, broken world but not spawned by evil. Therefore, mental illness itself is not evil. But the devil, the great liar, exploits our struggles with mental illness, making us more susceptible to patterns of lies, paranoia, and much more. He is the imposter, the thief, but not the true shepherd of our souls. He nearly destroyed my life, and he also wants to rip yours apart. His diabolical plans are bound in the lies he feeds us and his attempts to grow those lies. Yet, God is ever greater, infinitely rich in mercy, grace, and love.
It is easy to fall into a trap of shame and “less-than” thinking. Wanting to reach a “normal” place where I don’t need medicine and treatment to maintain my mental wellness, I can hear whispers of lies telling me something is wrong with me and I am too broken to be fixed. Wanting to be free of those voices can make me want to skip treatment and venture out on my own. Doing so makes me more vulnerable to the lies and to the evil one who wants to destroy me.
Only recently have I been able to really think about my places of pain before, during, and after my hospitalizations. In those times, I felt like I was fully being handed over to evil. Yet, I have come to realize that even in those days, a sovereign God held me and everything around me in his hands. I don’t write these words easily because the terror was so real. But when God poured into my heart that June morning, I recaptured my faith that he and his work are the greatest, most supreme, and sovereign of all.
In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis depicts a journey between heaven and hell. Those in hell are like ghosts, gray, ugly, and dead. Those in heaven are solid, grand, and full of color and life. Lewis depicts one man, a ghost living in hell, with a red, hideous lizard on his shoulder. This tiny, treacherous beast is incessantly lying to him. Yet, the man is terrified of the angel from heaven who is trying to remove it. During a struggle, the lizard warns that the man will die without him. Eventually, the man allows the angel to remove the lizard, and he almost instantly becomes a dazzling being, one of the “solid people” and the lizard becomes a great white stallion. The two become one and ride the heights of heaven with majesty and glory.*
(end of excerpt)
As I conclude the book, I talk about how that red lizard is like mental illness in my life. When I turn it over to God, he can make it my greatest strength which leads me perpetually to Him.
In the end, when I stand before Jesus, nothing will be between me and my deepest longing—the arms of God Himself. While mental illness has sought to own or define me, nothing truly owns or defines me except the perfect love of God given because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Will you own this same longing, and reach out to Jesus to heal you truly, today, tomorrow and forever?
Abby is a small-town loving, big city adventurer. She and her husband have worked with high school students most of their lives! Since their internship in Budapest, Hungary in 2005-2006, they have been working with the ministry of CRU. In May of this year, they moved to Hungary answering God's call to work long-term with the students of Central and Eastern Europe. Abby loves to laugh, especially at herself, has a passion for God and making Him known and is ever learning how to do that with three small children, ages 5, 3 and one month. She wouldn't trade the journey for anything! She blogs regularly at Fan the Flame