Last month our pastor preached about Christianity and mental illness. As both a Christian and a physician, I really appreciated this thoughtful, compassionate, well researched message. You can listen to it here.
My favorite part was when he said: “God has given humans the right to do science!” However, the part that had the biggest impact on my life was from psalm 42:5:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
As Pastor Dave put it: “Talk back to the voice.” (I would like to note that this was one of several tactics for responding to mental illness, along with seeking appropriate medical attention.)
Many people are subjected to an inner voice that is negative and demeaning, trying to convince them that the gospel is not true by imbuing a general sense of hopelessness. The psalmist was in that dark place. But he decided to focus on God and told the voice that there is salvation, and it rests in God. I too used to have that voice but it has been silent for over 20 years. I didn’t realize that it was replaced with another monologue.
Not long after I heard this sermon I was out for a run. When I got back to my car I hurried into my stretching routine. I have to do this after I run or my muscles seize up and I get low back pain. While I was trying to stretch, I was thinking through all the things I needed to get done that day and subconsciously thinking I should cut the stretching short. In order for me to adequately stretch and avoid the chiropractor, I need about 5 minutes. In the midst of this swirl of thoughts, it dawned on me: I do have an inner destructive voice. It doesn’t put me down or suggest hopelessness, it just whispers; “hurry hurry hurry.” It manages to convince me that cutting out a 5 minute stretch will somehow make a difference in a day filled with 1440 minutes; that saving those 5 minutes will help me get through my to-do list, despite the fact I am likely to end up hobbled and immobile, unable to even walk to my kitchen, let alone get anything on my to-do list done. It causes me to rush my children through their lessons, robbing them of the best thing about homeschooling – time to savor and reflect on what you are learning. It sets a tone of stress and trial in my home and robs us of the joy that can be found in everyday tasks.
I decided right there in the Glacial Drumlin parking lot, with my foot up on my bumper trying to stretch out my brittle hamstring, that I would reject that voice. Like the psalmist, I put my focus back on God, not my own busy little life. I told the voice that I will do each thing God puts before me, to my best ability, including giving it the time it deserves. I will trust in God to be successful in this. He has not given me more than I can do, so I will not worry about getting it all done.
This simple act has been liberating. And here’s the irony: I have actually been getting more done. I am checking off more things on my to-do list every day. My kids are learning more and enjoying school even more this year (their words, not mine!). That subtle whisper caused me stress to the point that I often became frozen, unable to start a new task. I felt exhausted by early evening and just wanted to crawl in bed and go to sleep so I could get up early and get going on that to-do list again. Now I am finding joy in the little things. We get home in the evening and I am inspired to clean my office, put together the new lamp I bought, read a book on homeschooling, hang curtains (we still have a lot of decorating to do). I feel like I have finally gotten to where I was rushing to all my life.
What is your inner voice telling you? How is it affecting your life, your attitude and your family? I’d love to hear about it!