I did it again. I walked out of worship. This time it was during prayer. I gathered my things, scooted out of my pew, and headed for the parking lot. The usher in the lobby kindly asked, “Tony, are you okay.” I apologized and said the only thing I could say to partially explain my actions: “I’m hearing voices.”
The voices I hear that prompt me to leave are often indistinct, a cacophony of screeching sounds commanding my attention. At best, I’m unable to pay attention to what is being said around me. At worst, an urgent fear rises up within me that I will say or do something harmful. Something like strip my clothes off and run through the aisles screaming, “Unclean. Unclean.”
My fears, though perhaps not based in extensive history, are not groundless. Once, when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I had a psychotic episode that led to a black-out. I became quite aggressive (which was unheard of for me), and it took seven staff members to subdue me. On another occasion years later, I responded to a voice telling me to take handfuls of psycho-tropics to end my life. I know what it is like to be in a position where you have lost control of your will and you do the very thing you want most not to do.
So, what do I do now? I asked myself. I could wring my hands and feel helpless behind my diagnosis – physical, psychological, or spiritual. While it helps to somewhat grasp the source of our suffering, ultimately we have to find a solution.
The simple solution many would suggest would be to just try harder. Press on. Force yourself to get through it. This tough love approach has merit and deserves careful attention. It is true we have to do at least the bare necessities to get by in life, to meet our own needs and do our best to serve others. Sometimes we do have to just “buck up” and “get the show on the road.”
But ultimately it is impossible to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” Speaking for myself, when I try to solely or even primarily rely on my own will to get by, I only produce more imbalance. Either I become inundated by manic activity, or overwhelmed by guilt for not doing more.
So what is the answer? I believe it is both incredibly basic and excruciatingly difficult. The key is to surrender our suffering to a Savior – Jesus Christ. This does not mean Christ will take away our pain. Far from it. It most likely will mean we will carry our cross until the day we die. It will mean the thorn in our flesh we’ve prayed God might remove will remain, and we will discover God’s grace is sufficient.
God’s grace. This is what we gain when we surrender our pain to our Savior. God’s grace may not be all we want, but it is sufficient. And by the grace of God, we develop the capacity to delight in the Lord who gives us the desires of our hearts. Our desires become God’s desires. Peace, love, and joy become more than words on a page, but present realities and future hopes.
[The above photo titled “One reason for my hope” is credited to Tony Roberts]
Like what you read? “Heart” this story above, comment below, or consider submitting your own story!