It has long been my belief that the most holy, most sanctified, and possibly the most important prayer one can pray is also one of the simplest:
Often I find my emotions going one way and life circumstances going a different way and I am stuck in the middle, feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. It is at those times, which are frequent, that I pray this one prayer.
“Help me, Lord.”
There is also a personal adaptation of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ that I sometimes sing to myself on these occasions:
Jesus help me, this I ask
I’m insufficient for this task
I need you to light my way
Every night and every day
Oh, Jesus, help me
Yes, Jesus, help me
Yes, Jesus, help me
I need you every day
Sometimes I feel ashamed that I am in constant need of divine help just to make it through some days. But who else would I ask for help from? I already take my medication. I ask for prayer from my wife. But the quickest way to fix the situation is to go straight to the Source. And when I pray, I find my emotions calming down, my perspective shifting a little, and a bit of peace coming in where there was unrest.
“Jesus, help me.”
Perhaps much of my prayer seems self-centered. But how else should I pray? I cannot help others if the spark of joy, creativity, contentment, and peace are not active within me. Without that stability that comes from God, I can do nothing. I can’t write, I can’t sing, I can’t do much of anything. But what I can do is hunker down and ask God to help me.
‘He is the vine, I am a branch; without him, I can do nothing.’ Thankfully, with him we can do everything that’s necessary. All we have to do is ask for help.
Note that the post title is meditation, not medication. This post is about Christian meditation and how it’s slowly helping me overcome the breakthrough anxiety that my medication can’t quite reach–those thousand little worried or panicked feelings throughout the day.
I’ve never spoken about meditation before, but I imagine from articles that I’ve read that, when this practice is mentioned, there typically follows a fear of ‘New Age’ philosophy. I hope the readers of this blog would know me better than that, and have the intelligence to Google ‘Christian meditation’ before panicking. This fear has been addressed hundreds of times before, so I won’t go into that here; rather, I hope to be practical here and explain what exactly I am doing and how it is helping me.
How does meditation work? I’m not sure, but I have heard that it’s really good for one’s mental health, and I have found that to be true. In times of meditation you quiet your mind to focus on a single thought–perhaps a single verse of Scripture, perhaps a concept. The quietness apparently helps, or at least it seems to help me.
No matter what you believe about hell in the afterlife, if it’s literal or figurative, some of you, like me, have have been through hell on earth, and can testify that it’s no fun. Some of you have a loved one or friend who is hurting inside and you don’t know how to help. Hopefully this post will help you or them a little.
First, though, the music: This Feeling by Ryan Ellis, off the album Kingdom Glory–just because it’s catchy and fun. It helps to listen to good music when you’re talking about serious things.
It is my hope that in communicating with you on this blog, that I’m not giving the impression that I’ve ‘arrived’ and I’m completely healthy now. I struggle every day, one way or another, and probably will for a while. It’s been years since my mental breakdown, but with God’s help, I am getting better every day.
When it comes to mental health, here is what you need:
Get a good doctor. Good doctors will listen to you and patiently help you through the medication and counseling process. If you don’t have a good psychiatrist and you live in the Atlanta area, email me (stephentshores at gmail dot com) and I can give you a referral.
Take your medicine, and keep taking it. You’re probably going to go through a few different medications to stabilize your moods. During that time, it’s important to keep your doctor apprised of how you’re doing.
Take your medicine, no matter what the ‘faith preacher’ says. God isn’t displeased with you because you’re having to rely on medication. You might have to be on some sort of medication the rest of your life. God is still happy with you and loves you no matter what. Faith is not going off your medication–that’s stupidity and lack of wisdom.
Sometimes faith is just simple trust in God, asking him to work through the doctors to get your medication right. And think positively–maybe you will be completely healed! I had severe, debilitating depression that went away after a revival at my church. It eventually came back, but it was much, much less and basically went away with a small adjustment in medication.
Take care of your physical health. A good walk or run might be just what you need to help kick depression, or at least take the edge off. Take a look at Sad Runner for some good stories of how one man is kicking his depression through exercise.
Keep track of how you feel when you eat certain foods or drink certain drinks. If they make you feel depressed or anxious, stop eating/drinking them or moderate yourself. If I drink too much caffeine, I get anxious, too much chocolate and I get depressed. If I moderate those, I’m fine. Food that makes you sleepy should be avoided if you get depressed when you’re sleepy, as I sometimes do.
Remember that you’re not alone. Ask around and you’ll find that probably dozens of people you know are on some sort of medication for anxiety or depression. These are difficult times, and there are many, many people who need help, but there is still a stigma associated with mental health that makes people hesitate to tell anyone that they need help, or are currently getting help.
Take your medication. If it makes you feel bad, talk to your doctor until he or she gets it right. If your doctor won’t listen, find another doctor. But keep taking your medication.
I pray for you according to Paul in Ephesians 1, emphasis mine:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…
I pray that God renews your hope, and also that you’ll ask for and receive wisdom, according to James 1:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(‘Without reproach’ means that God’s not going to make fun of you for asking for wisdom–that’s what the Holy Spirit is there for, to be your Counselor and Guide.)
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my self-talk, trying to be more positive about work in particular: that forty-plus-hour block of time that I somehow have to deal with, one way or another.
Every day I have a few choices, and I’ve always been told that this is a binary thing: I can expect the good, or expect the bad.
I may have found a third choice that works. We shall see. It’s still in the experimental phase, and I might drop it if it doesn’t work. This choice goes like this:
It’s going to be a good day, whether it is or not.
I tell myself this strange little phrase several times in the morning and often throughout the day, depending on how hard the day actually is. I don’t know why this helps, but it seems to help keep me neutral during the day: bad stuff will come, good stuff will come, whatever, but it’s still a good day.
This approach takes the good and the bad into account. I’m going to get easy calls, I’m going to get terrible ones, but I don’t have to let outside circumstances destabilize me–at least not at work.
I wouldn’t say I’m a happier person because of this, but happiness is not the goal. Stability, evenness, and a sense of well-being, that’s more important than happiness to me.
Try it out and see what you think. If you’re having problems keeping stable, this might trick your mind into being able to deal with things a little easier. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if it worked for you. Thanks.
The other day someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that music is like a drug. He dismissed it as it was like any other psychiatric medication. I disagree that it’s ‘just a drug’–but maybe that’s because I’m a ‘user’.
For many years, silence was painful for me. Without something in my ears, I was terrified that ‘demons’ would overtake my mind, and the pressure cooker would explode. Music was often a comfort, especially when I was in private and could cry as much as I needed to. There are so many comforting albums that I relied on during the hard times that it’d be hard to list them all here. The aforementioned Fred Hammond album is one–most of the songs speak directly to things I faced, and sometimes still face, in my life: the desire to see my destiny fulfilled, to have a clean, unencumbered heart–all of it.
For a while I couldn’t come back to the music that helped me get through the pain. Some music I was listening to during profound times of deception, such as during my ‘Messianic Jewish/Torah Movement’ or ‘Drunken Glory’ kicks, I would never return to–but the albums that helped me through the generally hopeless and heartbroken times, when I come back to them, sometimes they don’t hurt any more. That’s how I know I’ve grown up a bit–that God has worked in my life to heal the hurts. I’m still a work in progress–it’s an everyday thing, believe me!–but I am thankful to God that he hasn’t given up on me–and indeed, has promised never to, Phil. 1:4-6:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
If you’re someone for whom music plays a fundamental part, and you’ve gone through a long time of healing, you might occasionally test your progress by trying some of the older music that you listened to while you were healing. If it brings back old hurts, then there’s no shame! You’re still a work in progress and it’s totally OK. If the hurt has dissipated, mark that down–God has healed you, and you’ve made progress.
Think of this as if you’ve broken your leg and someone prayed for it to be healed. Most folks praying for you will ask you to test it out. With mental and emotional healing, it’s invisible and there’s nothing to test. Results may occur right away, but you won’t know for weeks or months exactly what the impact was. Music is a quick test for that. Does it still hurt? That’s OK, just rejoice that God’s helped you make progress elsewhere and then come back to it later. You’re on your way.