No Easy day

As I write this, this morning’s news is burning in my ears. I watched a young woman, unaware she was being captured on video, explain to an undercover cop, who was posing as a would-be hit man, that she wanted to kill her husband.

“It’s just easier than getting a divorce,” she said, smiling casually.

This way she would not have to endure the social judgment of her family, worry about court orders, child support, and, oh yes, she could collect the $400,000 from his life insurance. Sadly, and while not for the same reasons, I personally know someone serving prison time, having been convicted of the same crime. And so, at this moment, my outlook for the family is colored with a little too much blue, perhaps.

In his book No Easy Day, Navy seal, and member of the elite fighting force that captured and killed Osama Bin Laden, Mark Owen (the pseudonym under which the book was penned) describes the stealthy clearing of houses in enemy territory—invade, surprise, and shoot, to put it simply. This “close quarters battle,” or CQB, proved essential to the success of Seal Team 6.

Close quarters battle is what it feels like for so many of us at home. On one hand, we are fighting sophisticated forces from the outside—everything from the ultraviolent and sexual images that stream in through the computer and television to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for our children and substance abuse. On the other hand, abusive interpersonal dynamics, emotional and physical betrayal, threatens from within. It seems as if it would take an expert in group movements, vigilance, and communication to keep one’s home free from threat.

Your home may not be awash in this depth of evil, selfishness, and treachery, yet handy tips and fresh ideas for family togetherness just won’t cut it in the long run, not when so much is at stake. What is so serious, you ask? A love that Christ has for us, necessarily transmitted and transferred to others—in our homes in particular—through our families. What is at stake? The reflection in our homes of a permanent, unconditional, unwavering principled love of God. That’s what is so serious. We fail in this, and the divine vision of love fails to reach the people who need it most.

In the story of the Passover we see the example of penultimate sophistication of God’s justice and mercy, destruction and protection, as it moves in and around families. (You can read the story in Exodus 11-13.) No simple tips for families facing that moment. Destruction would visit each household and claim the firstborn, with the exception of the homes at which specific instructions were followed. The Passover lamb, symbolizing the precious, innocent life of Christ, was to be sacrificed, and its blood spread along the tops and sides of each door frame. When mass destruction targeted that community, God saw the signal of the blood, and in His mercy went around, or skipped over, the homes under its protection (Exodus 12:13, 23).

This protection and Passover is not a one-time event, but both immediate and ultimate. In the short term, then, it signaled a willingness to hear, heed, and avoid tragedy. In the long term it symbolized the same on a transcendent scale, the ultimate rescue from the ultimate destruction under the cover of the blood of the Lamb. In the now, “We are the people spared; “the homes passed over are our homes. The God who acted is still saving and acting now” (Jon L. Dybdahl, Exodus, Abundant Life Bible Amplifier). Dare I suggest to you that if you follow God’s plan for your family—hear Him, and heed Him—He will protect you from threats within and without? Yes. Do you have fresh ideas or tips that are better?




2013 September/October

2013 – Sept/Oct

This issue of Message Magazine covers the Family.

Other features includes an interview with Dave Ramsey

Hope in Sanctuary

 




2013 July/August

2013 – July August 

The July/August 2013 Message Magazine features stories from Jeremy Anderson, The Call of the Wild is our cover story, “Tried and true ways to tame your inner beast.

This Issue also includes

The Anatomy of Temptation
Trials or Temptations
The Power of a Praying Christ
God’s Sabbath for you!
Life after a Life Sentence

 




Relationship Rx-The Wedding Invitation

I received an invitation in the mail to attend my gay cousin’s wedding. I am conflicted about going. I love him, and his partner is a very nice guy. They both grew up as Christians. On the other hand, the Bible teaches against this, and I think I would feel uncomfortable at the wedding because of this. What should I do? Should I say anything? How do I maintain a relationship with them even after the wedding?

Mark – Atlanta, Georgia

life is truly becoming more and more complicated as society changes from more traditional values, based on a simple reading of the Bible, to a more postmodern reality filled with variations and multiple arrangements in relationships. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, a mostly heterosexual phenomenon, has given way to a number of alternative sexuality practices and arrangements, making life in the third millennium even more difficult to navigate.

So what is a Christian to do when confronted with a dilemma such as the one you have just posed? By your own admission, you would feel uncomfortable attending the wedding because of what you have read in the Bible about same-sex attraction and relationships. However, the question we should ask ourselves is: Would attending such an event convey our agreement with what is being done, or simply show support for the relative who was kind enough to send an invitation?

We hasten to offer that this is a dilemma each person will have to answer individually. Romans 14:23 states: “For whatever is not from faith is sin.” This means that whatever you decide to do must be based on the personal conviction of what you believe God is calling you to do. We cannot decide for you. We do know, however, God may have a special role for you to play in the lives of the couple getting married. It would be difficult to influence your cousin and his partner in the future if you simply ignore his invitation. Remember, Jesus frequently spent time in the company of sinners and people of ill repute, and the Pharisees were constantly accusing Him of being inappropriate: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ ” (Matthew 11:19).

The Gospel writer continues in Matthew 5:13, 14: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? . . .You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Salt is a preservative that can work only when next to that which needs to be cured and preserved; and light is valuable only when used in the darkness to illuminate the way.

We believe we must challenge ourselves to be salt and light. However, this reality will take place only when we live our lives as ministry in service to God for the salvation of others. It is not possible to save sinners if we hang out only with the righteous (let’s not forget that we too are sinners). We must press past the discomfort of our preferred perspectives to reach people where they are.

A prominent Christian writer of the nineteenth century declared: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.

Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905], p. 143). Let’s follow Jesus’ example so that by God’s grace we might be used as instruments of His salvation and peace. We will continue to pray for you as you grapple with this difficult and serious dilemma.




When Jesus Prays

Day 1

Read Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16.
Have you ever been so disturbed or drained by problems that you needed a break? If so, how did you deal with it? How did Jesus respond to such chaos? In the verses listed above, we note that Jesus spent time by Himself, on a mountain, at the seaside, or in a garden to restore His soul. He understood the importance of letting God lead Him to green pastures, places where He could be nourished.

Day 2

In Matthew 14:23-34 after Jesus finished praying, He saved Peter from drowning, and taught every one of His disciples about faith. In Mark 1:35-45 after Jesus finished praying, He preached the gospel, cast out demons, and healed a man of leprosy.

In Mark 6:46-56 the Bible says that after Jesus prayed, He crossed the lake, and people ran throughout that whole region, carrying the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

I’m sure that during those solitary times Jesus laid His entire heart before the Father in prayer, and because of this, God strengthened Him. I am sure He prayed for the people He would minister to, and for His disciples’ faith. It becomes evident that had Jesus not taken the time to get away and spend time in prayer, His ministry would have looked much different.

Day 3

As Jesus entered Bethany all eyes were fixed on Him. Honestly, it was because He was the only one who was capable of preventing the tragedy. Lazarus, His friend, died, and Jesus did not intervene. When He did arrive, His prayer started off oddly. He thanked God for hearing Him, but failed to mention Lazarus or His family members. The purpose of His prayer was to thank God for the death of Lazarus because it was an opportunity for the family to come to understand Him more clearly.

Take a moment to examine your own situation that is way beyond your control. Is it possible that Jesus is now offering a prayer of thanks for this seemingly impossible situation in order that He may receive the glory for what He will or will not do? Find a song that is custom made for your testimony that can be credited only to God doing something amazing for you.

Day 4

Read John 11.

In Mary’s mind death was the end. Her understanding of what happens when people die and her understanding of the resurrection at the end of the world was so strong that she probably had not considered asking Jesus to raise Lazarus. With a limited understanding of God, our faith limits the extent of our prayer. This, however, does not limit our God. Do not be dismayed. God has your best interest at heart even when your best interest is indiscernible to you.

Day 5

Read John 17.

The final prayers of Jesus are astounding. Though He was soon to be crucified, He prayed for those whom God had given Him. Understand that we are special to Jesus. And though we do not know how to pray or for what to pray, our Brother prays with pinpoint accuracy. If we were aware of the many unforeseen blessings, we would never cease praising Him. Post something simple for which you are thankful.

Day 6

Read John 17.

We gather from the other Gospels that while Jesus prayed, His disciples did not. They were fast asleep and unaware of the danger to come in just a few hours. By the time we realize it is time to pray, it is often too late to prevent an unavoidable pain. Have you ever taken a second to think that maybe things were not as bad as they could have been because Jesus prayed for us before we drove into that storm with blinders on? The next time you find yourself caught off guard by Satan, take a moment and thank Jesus for praying the right prayer on your behalf.

Day 7

Read Luke 22:31, 32.

Tension in the room was so thick that I imagine you could see it in the clenched fist of Peter. You could feel it blowing out of the flared nostrils of Judas. You could sense it in the shifty eyes of James. Jesus knew to pray for His disciples because of His foresight, and He was also keenly aware that Satan had demanded to test them. The Greek word for “you” in verse 31 indicates a plural, so He was not speaking just about Peter, but about all of them. He did not beg for him to overcome temptation; instead, He begged for Peter’s faith not to fail.

WARNING: this may cause you to shout hallelujah repeatedly. Sometimes God allows you to fall prey to temptation because His chief concern is your faith, not your record.

Day 8 Read Luke 22:31.

I invite you to Google a song by Laura Story entitled “Blessings,” and let us know what that song brings to your mind about the prayer that Jesus prayed.

Day 9

Read Luke 22:32.

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus Himself is praying? Do you believe that He prays for you? What does that mean? Go to http://crazylove book.com/videos.html and watch the video entitled The Awe Factor of God and let us know how this affects your thinking about the reality that Jesus prays for you.

We have already noted the significance of that for which Jesus did not pray. But look at what He did pray for—faith. Why is it so important to Him? In your personal walk with God and in your reading of His Holy Word, have you found any texts or experienced something that shows why faith is so important to God? We would love to know what God has shown you about faith.

Day 10

In His prayer Jesus implicitly revealed that there is a difference between following Him and being “converted.” Is it possible that our prayers, like those of Jesus in this passage, could focus on the faith of people, rather than their convenience, comfort, or conversion? Many people can testify to the fact that their conversion followed a supposed downfall. Will you prayerfully consider sharing with us a time that you “fell” and actually found yourself closer to God afterward?

 




The Call of the Wild

It happens in a moment. Something deep within cries out for satisfaction. Cravings are strong and will not be denied. Louder and clearer now, rationality weighs the pros and cons. Do you give in, or do you fight?

The call, the enticement, that whiff of something delicious is different for each person. For LaShawn, a 27-yearold screenplay writer, the call of the wild was screaming for her to break her diet with a chocolate muffin. This year, like every year, she started off with resolutions and diets, but the cravings for the chocolate are just too strong. Can LaShawn ignore the call of the wild, or will she fall victim again to her desires?

Meet Ray, a 38-year-old married father of two and an information technology expert. He receives the call from the wild quite frequently. His struggle has always been with pornographic Web sites, and while at church recently, he committed to abandoning them. Yet something within him just keeps triggering, and urges fire back strong. Temporary fulfillment feels good, but the mental pain of guilt afterward depresses him. Does Ray get on the site again, or can he ignore the call of the wild?

Jamie, a 42-year-old high school teacher, has been married for seven years. Her call came from an old boyfriend who found her on Facebook. He knows she is married, but makes sexual advances anyway. With little attention from her husband, a lack of intimacy and communication, Jamie feels tempted by the conversation. Her marriage is really suffering. Can she ignore the call of the wild?

The compulsion to pick up the phone, take a bite, or connect online seems undeniable. Like LaShawn, Ray, and Jamie, many want to be free, but do not know how. Even Paul, in the Bible, complained that “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18, 19, NLT).* In verse 23 Paul speaks of two members warring inside of him. This is the classic battle between flesh and the Spirit. To give in to the wild, or fleshly side, is a choice to please self. To fight urges and deny the desires from the flesh is a choice to please God. The choice lies within.

YOUR WORST ENEMY:

Allow me to share a harsh reality. The devil is not our worst enemy. That’s right! The reality is that “self” is our worst enemy. Satan has no power over us. Jesus said in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” The devil cannot make anyone do anything. He may tempt, but it is we who decide to give in.

The first requirement Christ gave His disciples in Luke 9:23 was to deny self. If we claim Him, then we embrace the concept of discipleship, and with discipleship comes the practice of discipline and denial of self. The call from the wild is a cry out from deep within to please self. To successfully fight off self, drastic measures must be taken.

Jesus’ disciples were accustomed to casting out demons. One day they met a possessed boy, but could not cast out the demon. Jesus came in after them and easily set the boy free from the demon. The Word of God says in Mark 9:28, 29: “And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’ ”

We pray to God to help us overcome things, but when was the last time we prayed and fasted over a specific problem? Fasting is another way to practice self-denial and completely lean on God.

After His baptism, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. After His fast, Satan tempted Him. Jesus, who was physically weak at the time, was spiritually strong and able to pass the test. When we add fasting to our prayer life, God honors our sacrifice. We build a stronger sense of self-control, powered by the Spirit of God. This empowers us to deny self when the call of the wild comes. LaShawn, Ray, and Jamie are real people who found success in this battle. Each of them found victory over the call of the wild by prayer and fasting.

Further, it is the power of the Holy Spirit working within us that gives us the strength to deny the call of the wild.

Also know that the very fabric of character is being weaved with every decision we make. If character is the only thing we will take with us to heaven, God will allow temptations to come that give us the chance to unravel character flaws.

Finally, observe Christ and His sacrifice for us. Remember the temptation He suffered. He too—even He—got the call from the wild in the Garden of Gethsemane. Burdened and plagued by our transgressions, He actually asked God the Father if there was another way to save humanity. Thankfully, however, Jesus quickly ended His prayer with “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Be of good cheer, my friends; you can have the victory over self. Whether it is that slice of cake, cheating on your spouse, viewing pornography, or the social pressures you face. All of these are chances to ignore the call of the wild, “deny self,” and embrace the Spirit of God. In that very moment of weakness, remember the sacrifice Christ made, and follow His example: Not our will, but God’s will be done.




When God Gives In

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.”. . . “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:4, 5, 20).

It just came to a breaking point, and the manna wasn’t doing it anymore. The newly emancipated and powerfully delivered Jewish nation had a taste for meat, but had none. Even though they had subsisted on the meager meals of slaves, they were accustomed to a certain diet. Here now, the wilderness was hot and dusty. Melons would have been refreshing, and the garlic and leeks would have seasoned the food the way they liked it. The requests were not unreasonable, but they came with so much whining that Moses almost had a nervous breakdown.

God heard them. He answered them. His mighty wind sent quail up from the sea, where they hovered over at approximately three and a half feet. The Israelites spent the day “catching” the birds, and collected tons of them to eat and dry for later. Their prayers—their whining—had been answered.

But while they were yet eating, the quail brought a plague on them—God had warned Moses that they would eat until satisfied. Actually, His promise was that they would eat so much of it that it would come from their noses. Everything you could want, your every craving satisfied. Apparently, it wasn’t such a good thing. An interesting case study in the spiritual science of the mind under the duress of temptation—the mind loses rationality and ultimately rejects God.

Never mind the fact that manna, created in heaven and delivered fresh, sparkled in the sun after the dewdrops evaporated. You can’t get more of a direct blessing than that. And that is exactly what Jesus prayed for when He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Never mind the fact that manna was rich, nutritious, and suited for the needs of the people. After all, the people were apparently hardy enough to wander, fight off enemies, and carry on their divinely appointed tasks. Were they not? Never mind the fact that manna was apparently versatile enough to bake, fry, and boil. Apparently, they could make it what they wanted it to be. Could they not? Yeah, but “all we get is manna, manna, manna,” they cried (Numbers 11:6, Message).*

So much worse than that, the mind in want, in varying degrees, rejects God. How the words “in Egypt” must have stung God’s ears. You mean in Egypt where you were a slave? In Egypt where you were oppressed? In Egypt where you were in tatters? In Egypt where you worked your fingers raw? He finally moved heaven and earth, after 400 years of slavery, to bring them out of Egypt. His timing, His miracles, His glory calculated to inspire the heart. Yet they wailed: “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”

An analysis of recent polling regarding “America’s favorite sins” is insightful (see “The Anatomy of Temptation,” page 10). Half of the participants in the study conducted by the Barna Group did not know why they give in to their temptations. Some respondents acted on their whims because they wanted to, or enjoyed it, or to feel less pain, or get away from “real life.”

Only 1 percent of Americans of any age are able to articulate that giving in to temptation might be caused by sin. Most Americans think of temptation more as a steady stream of highs and lows that must be navigated.

(“New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation,” www.barna. org/culture-articles/597-new-years-resolutions-tempta tions-and-americas-favorite-sins?q=favorite+sins).

Is that it? Is that all there is to it? That so few selfdescribed Christians even think their tendencies come from sin signals a lapse in understanding of who we are, the mark of sin on our psyches, and the gravity of even simple choices. Was your temptation just a low point in your experience? Was it really just about a taste for something, an inconsequential, but irrepressible urge? Or was it something more? Could it be your mind unconsciously rejecting the only Deliverer you will ever have for the things to which you are now accustomed?

 




The Act of Reconciliation

In the beginning god created Adam and Eve. He covered them with light. They stood before each other naked and unashamed, and it was very good. God gave them an exciting to-do list. Do be fruitful and multiply. Do eat from the fruit of the trees. Do fill the earth. Do have dominion over everything. Do name the animals. No name was out of bounds. Chihuahua, hippopotamus, and cockatiel all made the list.

There were many opportunities among the do’s, but Adam and Eve honed in on the one don’t: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They decided they would do that too. They disobeyed and rebelled against God. They chose to listen to the devil in the form of a reptile rather than to the Creator, then something terrible happened.

Their eyes were opened to sin and pain. The darkness they unleashed quenched the light that used to cover their bodies. When they stood before each other, they were naked and ashamed, and rushed to cover themselves. Immediately their relationship with each other was damaged. It remained to be seen what would become of their relationship with God.

God came looking for His children, the crown of His creation. Love rustled through the garden as He longed to cast eyes on them. The sound of His near approach struck fear in their hearts, so Adam and Eve hid from His presence. God called them, and the man eventually answered. He explained how rude it was to answer with no clothes on, thus the reason for his hiding and delay.

“Who told you were naked?” God queried. They blamed each other for their sin. Their relationship with God was broken. Enmity had set in. Humanity was at odds with the animals, each other, and now with God. The chasm the rebellion caused had grown so great that God “was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6). God decided to destroy man and beast with the Flood. Still, in His great love, He could not destroy everyone. He instructed Noah to build an ark. Noah preached God’s love and the coming destruction for more than 100 years. God provided a way for all to be rescued from destruction, but only Noah, his family, and some of the animals were saved (see Genesis 7:1-3).

Even then, God’s heart was broken that it had to come to this, and He vowed never to completely destroy the earth with water again. Time and time again, humanity’s rebellion would cause the anger and judgment of God. It would pain God so much. The Bible records that God would be sorry over the destruction, and would change His mind concerning the judgment that would come upon humans (see Exodus 32:14; Judges 2:18; Jonah 3:10).

The problem was that human beings were doing the sinning, but only God was feeling sorry about it. This continued to rip humans farther away from God. The prophet Isaiah reminded humanity, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Every relationship stood in jeopardy if something drastic was not done.

God sent deliverance and expressions of love. He sent salvation and acts of mercy, and still humanity had been largely unresponsive. Humans were too far away. Yet instead of writing them off, God wrote Himself in and decided that He would bridge the gap between humanity and Himself. From heaven God declared, “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory” (Isaiah 46:12, 13).

Jesus, the Son of God, laid down His life for us so that we could be reconciled to God. To be reconciled means to mend a broken relationship. We were enemies of God, yet He loved and rescued us from destruction with the cross. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

Though we were far off from God, through the blood of Jesus we are brought near (Ephesians 2:13). Our status changes from enemy of the state to children of the King! When we confess our sins, God promises to cleanse us. Jesus’ sacrifice offers forgiveness of our past and a new future. Heaven and all its resources are open to those who accept Christ as Savior. We are given an all-access pass and can boldly come to God and ask for help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Why would God go through all this pain to mend our relationship with Him? Relationship is important to God. He is relationship. God is love. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He would not allow our relationships to remain broken. Even the shape of the cross seems to demonstrate the restoration and reconciliation of God. The vertical beam points us to communion with the Father, and the horizontal beam points us to communion with each other. Paul tells us that Christ has broken down the middle wall of separation, and though we were enemies, Jesus became our peace and removed the enmity between us (Ephesians 2:14-16).

This God is simply amazing! He went through the pain of earth, so that we could taste the joy of heaven. Jesus restored our relationship through His dying, but we have to maintain the reconciliation by our living. We must treasure the relationship Christ’s spilt blood bought and grow it every day through prayer, Bible study, and worship. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).




Mental Illness in the Family

A few months ago my husband of 10 years had a mental breakdown and attempted to commit suicide. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. i always expected marriage to be challenging and was prepared to deal with that, but nothing prepared me to deal with a spouse with mental illness. i’m struggling with whether or not to leave him. i want my kids and me to be safe. What should i do? While you are the only person who can ultimately decide how to handle your present situation, we hope the following information will guide you in making the decision that is best for you and your family.

 

Mental illness can be a devastating stressor for any marriage or family. For too long, mental illness has been the “silent” illness in faith communities, and especially in the African-American community. Unfortunately, this silence has caused many to go undiagnosed and untreated, and has left family members unprepared to deal with a very real, and sometimes destructive, illness.

When a family member is diagnosed with a lifelong, lifethreatening illness, it can scare a spouse away or leave parents and other family members in distress. According to an article in the November 2003 Psychology Today, “Managing Bipolar Disorder,” in marriages in which a person has bipolar disorder it is estimated that 90 percent of these marriages end in divorce. Studies suggest that nearly half of the people living with bipolar disorder attempt killing themselves. The unpredictability and instability of volatile emotions of someone with mental illness can lead to insecurity and fragility in the marriage and the family.

In spite of daunting statistics, many marriages and families have survived living with a spouse or family member with mental illness. Recently it has become far too common for people to say of someone who is behaving strangely, “Oh, that person is bipolar.” Most people would not easily recognize signs of mental illness, and just because someone is a little moody may not necessarily mean they are bipolar. What is important is to identify if a spouse, child, or other loved one behaves in erratic and unpredictable ways that create a lot of tension and instability in the family. When you identify such disruptions, getting help from a professional counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist is critical.

Early intervention and proper diagnosis and treatment are important first steps in managing mental illness. As a supporting spouse or caregiver, educate yourself as much as possible on the person’s illness. Spouses and families must also develop coping strategies and safety plans for the person with the illness and the rest of the family. For someone who has attempted suicide and survived, it may take weeks, and maybe even months, before medication and therapy reduces their suicidal feelings. Empathy, kindness, and support from loved ones are a valuable part of their treatment. Of course, this may be extremely difficult for loved ones who are confused, frightened, and angry themselves. Learning to cope with both the behavior of the mentally ill person and one’s own reactions to that behavior often requires counseling for a spouse and the rest of the family as well.

One huge advantage for the Christian who is living with a mentally ill relative is faith in God. Recent studies have affirmed that a person’s faith plays an important role in helping such an individual cope with challenges in his or her life—including helping family members cope with the stress of caring for a mentally ill relative (Rammohan, 2008). However, this faith has to be intrinsic, rather than extrinsic (Pargament, 2001), meaning, the person must truly believe what he or she claims to believe in. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

We hope our response will help you and others in similar circumstances. Beyond that, always remember the promise of God in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”




Triumph After Trauma

I was worried that I’d miss my connection because my flight was late, but I got to Houston just in time. I was one of the very last to board, but when I finally got on and found my seat I, along with everybody else, was disappointed to hear the captain’s voice over the intercom telling us that there was a leak in one of the engines. We had to change planes.

I was already very tired after a very long day. The flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to land at 11:00 p.m. Pacific Time (which is 2:00 a.m. where I live). I was tired. So you can imagine how exasperated I was when I got settled on the second plane only to hear the same captain’s voice over the intercom saying that there was something wrong with this new plane. We had to change planes again?

The entire group of ticket holders groaned in concert, with the exception of one. The young lady who sat beside me on the plane, Erica, simply laughed out loud. She remained positive throughout the entire ordeal. She even managed to turn to the family behind us and translate the message for them in Spanish. She was smiling and upbeat, understanding that we wouldn’t make it to Los Angeles until well after 1:00 a.m.

I turned to her and said, “You are a very positive person.” Her response was, “I’d rather change planes than fall out of the sky.” So true, but so few people look at it that way, I thought. Boom, and the Lights Went Out Erica’s words forced me to focus on the very reason I had boarded the plane. I was headed to the famed hills of Hollywood, California, to meet the 2011 Dancing With the Stars champion and television star J. R. Martinez. He, it turned out, embodied the same type of perspective that kept my airplane buddy, Erica, so jovial.

You’ve probably heard the Martinez story already. He served in the Iraq War in 2003 as an Army security escort. While he was driving in line with his convoy on a routine mission, boom! As he said, “The lights went out.”

Martinez tells the story as if it happened yesterday. He said that the bomb’s impact was on the front driver side of the vehicle. So while his fellow soldiers were thrown out of the Humvee, he was trapped and burning to death. “I could feel the heat traveling up my body, and I knew I was going to die.” He did not die.

That was not the only time Martinez felt the heat of pain, suffering, and hardship. He grew up with no shortage of fiery trials. His mother was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. She traveled to the United States to make a better life for her two young daughters; then he was born. After his father abandoned them, Martinez watched his mother mourn the death of his sister Anabel, suffer in abusive romantic relationships, run from immigration, work menial dead-end jobs, and struggle to make ends meet. But today he’s still smiling.

Even after suffering second- and thirddegree burns over 30 percent of his body, and suffering through three years of painful treatment and surgeries, he’s still smiling.

That smile, he admits, came from his mother. “It’s more than a smile,” he said. “It’s a survival thing. It’s a love thing. It’s a wanting-to-share thing.” And share is what he does frequently as he travels across the country speaking to veterans, burn victims, students, and those who simply need some motivation and encouragement.

I wondered what made Martinez tick. What made him become a motivational speaker, while so many others are burdened under a load of anxiety and depression? He is a man of action. He believes in the power of moving on, doing something with your life, seizing the day, and taking hold of the things that you really want to change.

“We don’t deal with change very well. We don’t like change. In my life I’ve had to deal with a lot of change,” Martinez explained. “There are two things I’ve learned to do—adapt and overcome.”

Given the fact that he’d experienced such miraculous experiences, I asked him about miracles, and if he believes in God’s providence and working in his life.

“Absolutely!” Martinez exclaimed. “God just needs me as a body so that people can believe that faith is so important.” People describe God in their own terms to make Him a part of their group, but God determines to work in all of our lives in order to bring glory to Himself. Then he said something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He said he thinks that “God gives us all a backpack that has all of His work inside of it, and we just carry it everywhere we go in order to represent Him.”

“God is the one who saved my life,” Martinez testified. “God is the one who in my darkest moments was always there to turn on the light. God is my Father. God is my Brother. God is my battle buddy. God is my Savior. He is the man who will never abandon me. He is the man that understands; if I do wrong He’ll forgive me, and He’ll give me an opportunity to make this right.”

As I sat there dialoguing with him, I really sensed a deep sacredness in the moment. I thought to myself, Here is a young that there’s nothing we can’t overcome.

Even now, I think about not only the ones around us but also the ones who have gone before us, and how they have overcome as well. I think about Joseph in prison, the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lions’ den. David had to escape for his life from King Saul. And Mephibosheth was dropped as a baby, and paralyzed from the waist down. There were so many others: Job, Jeremiah, Paul—the list goes on and on. And then of course, there’s Jesus.

Jesus was falsely accused, tried in a kangaroo court, sentenced to death, and then hung on a cross to die. It is His resurrection from the dead that best reminds us that we too can have triumph over tragedy