Book Review: Spiritual Warfare For Your Family by Leighann McCoy

spiritual warfare family

One of the most important subjects that Christians must study constantly is the issue of spiritual warfare. The author defines spiritual warfare as “the ongoing resistance that Satan launches against God by exerting his arrogant desire to be God.” This book that I have the privilege to review talks in depth about spiritual warfare as it relates to our families. The book is broken into 6 parts. The first 4 talk about various issues as it relates to spiritual warfare including our weapons in the battle, spiritual authority, how the home can be a battlefield in this battle and much more. The last 2 parts deal with some practical aspects of the battle including what we should watch for as our children grow up from preschool to adulthood and some of the issues that families deal with (blended families, additions, premarital sex, etc)

If there is one subject within the Christian faith that I haven’t studied much, it is the subject of spiritual warfare. Reading this book was a humble reminder that no matter what our socioeconomic status is, every family will face a battle that will require the hand of God to intervene. This book did a great job talking in depth about the issue of spiritual warfare and relating it to our families. It’s also a great reminder that the spiritual health of our families is nothing to play with. The biggest reason for this is because Satan’s attacks against our families are serious business. This book is really good for those who feel like their family is in the struggle of a lifetime. God is blessing my family, but I also know that there are some things going on in the spiritual realm that will try to tear apart my family. I see this book as a call for us to seek God for the strength to fight this battle which is not against people but against Satan.

I would encourage every family to invest in this resource so that you can see the seriousness of the battle we face daily. Satan is determined to win, but you have weapons you can fight with. Last but not least, I encourage us to see this as a call to be a caring community of believers. We never know what families are dealing with. Please do yourself and your family a favor and invest in this book. It will change you and your family’s life forever!

Disclaimer: Bethany House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

What I’ve Learned As A Youth Worker

I’ve had the opportunity of working professionally with children for almost 6 years. I started as a volunteer tutor for the organization I’m with and in almost 6 years I’ve served many children from Pre-K to high school. Every child I’ve worked with is unique in their own way. I’ve also had the opportunity for several years to work with our youth choir at my church, teach Sunday school and bible study. This year has convinced me further of God’s calling for my life and it has largely happened within the context of serving youth. Over these years I’ve learned several things as it relates to being a youth worker and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Everything rises and falls on building relationships. As we see in the sports world, you really cannot discipline a child properly if you haven’t built a relationship with them. Building a relationship with a child is about getting to know them on a personal level. We build relationships by hanging out, finding out their likes/dislikes and just taking a general interest in their lives. I’ve learned that I can be harder on the children that I’ve developed a connection and relationship with. This year I’ve done a better job of initiating conversations with young people in the organizations I’m a part of. I’ve even initiated conversations with children who may come off as having an attitude. In the past I’ve been more inclined to avoid those who look like they have an attitude. However, this year I’ve initiated more conversations with them and realized that that is a part of getting to know the young person. I’m all for being tough on our children and disciplining them, but I believe that discipline is useless when we’re not effectively getting to know them. If every conversation we have with a child is about an issue they have (more on this a little later), that child is going to act even more defiant against the adult always talking about an issue with them. I believe in a balanced approach in terms of relationship building and discipline. 50-75% of my talk with children should be in the relationship building mode, while the rest should be disciplining them. I am convinced that when we have a culture of relationship building in place, it creates more harmony and unity. To be effective youth workers we must be willing to get to know the child on a personal level. The child will remember you for your discipline, but they’ll also remember those times that you took interest in something they like. Never underestimate the power of relationship building when it comes to working with you.
  2. Focus more on the assets of the child instead of their liabilities. As I just heard someone say, as human beings we’re more bent to the negative in things than the positive. This bent is very destructive when working with children. Especially with teenagers, they already know that they have certain issues and problems. The last thing they need for us to do is remind them of their problems. I am not justifying this idea of sweeping problems under the rug (that causes more damage). What I am saying is that we should focus on the assets (strengths, talents, etc) of our children and develop them based on those identifiable assets. This will help them as they get older and move into adulthood. Too many of us adults do not have an accurate view of ourselves because we were reminded so much in childhood of what was wrong with us. As a result, we tend to focus way more on what’s wrong with us than what’s right. We must continue to help our children cultivate the greatness that is on the inside of them. We want to be responsible for developing children into confident adults. A part of helping a child develop confidence is allowing them to focus on their strengths and talents. Too much hangs on the balance for us to not help our children develop the confidence they need as they move forward in life.
  3. Children need and look for consistency from adults. Children are about fairness. From my experience, children hate when things are one way one day and another way a different day. Children appreciate things flowing the way it needs to flow on a consistent basis. I’ve learned this especially in disciplining children. As a youth worker, you lower your credibility when you discipline a child one way and another child a different way for the exact same infraction. Here’s the reality based on my experience: many children are already struggling with trusting others. We cannot make it worse by being inconsistent with them. I believe children appreciate it more when they can be a part of something and know how it’s going to flow. Inconsistency hurts your credibility as a youth worker, which is the last thing you want.
  4. Do not make any promises you can’t keep. This is one of the toughest lessons I’ve learned in my years of working with youth. As I just said, many children grow up struggling to trust others. When we make a promise and do not keep it, all we’re doing is giving our children yet another reason to have a cynical/distrusting attitude as they get older. I’ve learned that if we know we’re not able to fulfill a promise, it’s better to just be honest instead of breaking the promise and having to put out a bunch of excuses for lying. Many children have already been promised many things that their parents or others weren’t able to bring forth. We should not want to add more fuel to their fire. Children who have trust issues become adults who’s trust issues get worse as they get older. I say that because as I’ve learned becoming an adult, the world is based on broken promises. An attitude of distrust can lead to children not developing good relationships when they get older or developing relationships with the wrong person. At the end of the day, before making a promise, we have to make sure that we can keep it. Children are very hopeful and the last thing you want to do is kill their hopeful attitude. I say that because if you kill their hopeful attitude too much in childhood, it will be harder to develop it as an adult.
  5. In many situations, bad behavior is a symptom of a bigger issue going on in life. Let me start this by saying that just because a child doesn’t misbehave doesn’t mean that everything in their life is going fine. Let me also add that just because a child is misbehaving doesn’t mean that everything in their life is horrible. What I’ve learned as a youth worker is that when children misbehave, a lot of times (not all the time) it is rooted in something going on that we do not know about unless that child shares it with us. And let me say that if a child trust you with personal information, DO NOT take that for granted. Keep that information to yourself unless you know that it could harm the child in some way. Back to my point, when a child has told me about something going on at home, or something going on at school, it has allowed me to see more into the roots of their behavior. Some children act out because they want attention. How will you handle that situation? Will you use it as a moment to further shame the child for their misbehavior, or will you give that child some positive attention? Studies continue to show a connection between a child’s misbehavior at school and challenges in the home. These challenges include but is not limited to poverty, homelessness, conflict with parents, home instability (moving a lot), etc. When a child is misbehaving, if it doesn’t get better after talking with them, encouraging them and if necessary disciplining them, I think it’s smart to have a parent conference to discuss the behavior of the child. In a parent’s meeting, we may find out more about the issues taking place at home. This doesn’t mean that we tolerate misbehavior, but what it does mean is that we’re more aware of the deeper issues taking place.
  6. Boundaries is a huge must probably more now than ever. Thanks to sex offenders, pedophiles and those who do harm to our children, we must protect ourselves when working with children more now than ever. All it takes in a career working with youth is one negative incident involving you and a child to brutalize your reputation in the career of serving youth. There are many people who worked with youth years ago, made a mistake and now cannot be hired. I think our society is taking more seriously in this day and age infractions against children because of the long-term effects it can have. This is my advice to you who work with children or are considering a career in this work: if you have to ask if it’s a bad situation to be in, most likely it is. Protect yourself in every way possible. Your reputation when working with youth is too valuable to put it on the line doing something stupid. 
  7. Every chance you get, remind the kids you serve how valuable they are. As I said earlier, children especially teens are bombarded every day with reasons to believe they’re not good enough. Children/teens continue to compare themselves with their peers and those on TV. Many children are victims of bullying (a way to devalue the child) because they don’t fit in to what is “normal.” Many children who are not in “normal” situations struggle to see how valuable they are because they’re not like the others. As youth workers and adults, I’ve learned that we have to speak life to our children. We have to remind them that they are a unique individual with so much to offer the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if children aren’t reminded daily of their value to the world, they will have a hard time seeing themselves as valuable when they become adults. Don’t compare a child you work with to another child. Let that child be who they are individually. Cultivate those gifts and talents (as we talked about earlier). Give your children ample opportunities to express the God-given talents they have. Every child wants to feel special and validated. Let that validation come from the right source. If it doesn’t come from the right source when they’re a child, that validation could come from a bad source, which could lead to further damage. Be that positive source for them.

My overall life goal is to make a difference in this world. As I’ve discovered this year, my life purpose and mission is to lead broken people to wholeness. Many children that I currently serve and have served over the years are experiencing brokenness on some level. I hope that my service to them will get them one step closer to wholeness. I am absolutely thankful for God blessing me with many opportunities to serve the youth of our community. I have made mistakes over the years in serving youth, but I’ve also learned a lot that will help me be a better youth worker as the years go on. To God be the glory!

Are you a youth worker? Let me hear from you. Share with me some lessons you’ve learned as a youth worker so that we can all grow together. Stay encouraged in your calling. A part of being a youth worker is working with the reality that the change you hope to see may not happen overnight. It may even take some years to happen, but keep planting the seeds. Those seeds will produce something great down the line. Keep serving and keep working!

Book Review: Girls Slimline Bible

girls bible

For those who do not know, I have an 11 year old (turns 12 in a few weeks) stepdaughter that’s been an absolute blessing in my life. As a stepdad along with her mom, our intention is to keep our little girl grounded and rooted in God’s Word as much as possible. This is one of the reasons why I wanted my daughter to review this book.

Upon arrival, she was very excited about getting this Bible. She really likes the front cover. My daughter is very creative and the front cover just spoke tremendously to her creativity. The inside front cover is pink, which is one of her favorite colors (along with the letters on the front and other parts of the Bible). There are also a few maps in the back of the Bible. What I liked the most about the Bible is that it really is catered to a preteen girl. As I said earlier, pink covers many areas of the Bible. Also, the edges are glittery and my daughter really likes glitter/anything that sparkles. I also love that the translation used for this Bible is the New Living Translation. To me, the NLT is one of the easiest translations to understand. This makes the Bible very readable for my child. The only thing that I didn’t like about the Bible is that it didn’t have enough pictures in it for me. I would’ve like to seen pictures throughout certain points of the Bible to further illustrate some of the stories she may read. Outside of that, I cannot complain especially if it gets my daughter even more engaged to read and study God’s Word.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

Book Review: The Blessing Of Humility by Jerry Bridges

humility bridges

I’ve had the privilege to read at least 5 books written by author Jerry Bridges. All of his books have been a tremendous blessing to my life. This latest and final book of Jerry Bridges has been a blessing as well (he passed away earlier this year).

There have been many books written on the subject of humility. This book that adds to that collection focuses on the beatitudes as teaching tools for us to have more humility in our lives. Chapter 1 sets up the discussion of humility with chapters 2 through 9 dissecting the beatitudes. Chapter 10 focuses on the connection between humility and the gospel of Christ. Every now and then the author will use personal examples from his own life to highlight the point he is trying to make. At the end of the book, there is a piece taken from a memoir the author wrote in 2014 that demonstrates the power of humility in his life. He shares about his childhood and the blessings that have come through seeing childhood as a humbling experience. The book has only 119 pages and probably could be read in one day.

What I’ve always loved about books written by Jerry Bridges is that they get to the point of what they’re trying to say. While there is nothing wrong with a lot of stories and examples, I’m the type of person that likes to get to the point. This book is the same in that it focuses heavy on the content and point he’s trying to make. This book was further confirmation of my need to be more humble. I never thought of the beatitudes as a teaching tool in teaching humility. If you choose to read this book, I would encourage you to read it with a mindset of self-evaluation with a determination to be better. You will never be the same as you read and apply the information given.

Last but not least, let me take a moment and thank God for the life and legacy of Jerry Bridges. As I mentioned up top, Mr. Bridges passed away earlier this year. Therefore, this book, if I’m not mistaken, was the final book published by Bridges. From all accounts, Bridges was a very humble teacher of God’s Word. It is actually kind of ironic that Bridges final book is on a subject matter that he’s been known for: humility. Special prayers go to his wife and family as they continue to heal.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

Comparison: The Art of Robbery At Its Finest

comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy

Have you ever heard of the statement “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”? In one way these are the best of times. Look at the advancements our society has achieved. However, when it comes to the issue of comparing ourselves with others, it is the worst of times. Has there ever been a time in history where we can actively and consistently see what is going in the lives of others? Social media has been one of the biggest tools for allowing us to see the lives of others on a regular basis. While social media has been revolutionary in terms of connecting us with one another, social media has also enhanced one of the biggest struggles that many of us deal with daily: comparing ourselves with others.

Why is comparing ourselves so destructive?

  1. It creates a perfectionist mindset that keeps us from achieving. A perfectionist lives with an “it’s never good enough” attitude daily. This attitude keeps the perfectionist from going ahead and starting the business, starting the project or whatever endeavor they’re working on. One thing that fuels this mindset is the art of comparison. When we see how another person does what they do, the perfectionist will try to copy everything the person does instead of taking in the main ingredients from it. For example, when coaches study one another, they’re not doing it to try to be like each other, they’re doing it to see how they can become better individually. In the world of a perfectionist, it has to match what someone else does for it to be accepted. I will admit that more and more I see myself as a perfectionist, but I’m asking God to help me strive for excellence NOT perfectionism.
  2. It robs us of our unique value and contributions. You’ve probably heard this before, but I think it bares reminding: you are a unique human being! The art of comparison tries to make everyone feel like only certain ones have contributions to make. However, life has given us only one you. You are the only you that will EVER exist. When you compare yourself to someone, you pretty much say to the world that you do not have anything to bring to this world and that all you are is just a human being walking around trying to survive. I will discuss this a little more later, but for now, I want you to remember that God has placed you on this earth for a purpose. It’s about high time that you focus on that instead of what others are doing in their own life.
  3. It keeps us in a mindset of competing with each other instead of supporting one another. This is a serious issue that really annoys me. At the end of the day we have no business living with an attitude of competition towards one another. All of us are trying to navigate through this thing called life. As plenty of research has shown, there is infinite power in relationships. These relationships cannot be cultivated within the realm of competition and comparing ourselves to others. The art of comparison can lead us to viewing each other as enemies on opposite teams vs allies on the same team doing different things in various ways. When we compare ourselves to others, we view the person we’re comparing our self to as the competition. Instead of working within our sweet spot, we try to find a way to out do the person we’re comparing our self with. Life is too short and too precious to try to keep up with what others are doing. Instead, we should focus on what we’re doing and find ways to get better daily. As someone has said, we should view ourselves as our greatest competition NOT others.

So how do we overcome this stronghold of comparison?

  1. Admitting that it’s a problem. We should all know by now that the key to getting healed of any of our issues boils down to us being honest about what’s going on. One way to know that you’re struggling with comparison is by your attitude when you see others around you achieving. Are you jealous or celebratory? As we examine our attitude when we see others achieve, it will give us a good measure of how bad the issue of comparison is in our lives. You will never overcome the issue of comparison by hiding it or acting like it doesn’t exist. Remember that most attitudes are revealed eventually through our actions. I hate to use this word because I think it’s overblown, but this is where the idea of “haters” comes in. It’s not that the person actually “hates” you, it’s that the person hates the idea of what you’re doing. We have to admit that we have a hater mentality and work on getting rid of it. At the end of the day, confession is good for us and will put us on the path of victory over the issue of comparing ourselves.
  2. Reminding ourselves of how unique we are in the world. Let me repeat what I said earlier: you are a unique human being! I define unique has being different, extraordinary, special, etc. As we move forward in our lives, we should take time daily to remind ourselves that there will never be another version of us to walk this earth. These reminders will help me focus on doing my best with what God has placed in me (more on that in just a moment). What are you telling yourself daily? Are you focusing on what you lack compared to another person, or are you focused on what makes you stand out from the crowd? This is a huge issue for all age groups, but is vitally important in telling our kids. As our kids grow up, their image becomes a huge issue for them. When they are in school, they are bombarded with ways to compare themselves with others. It is the responsibility of parents, the supportive community and other positive adults to remind our children of their uniqueness. It is a shame and travesty when we compare our kids to another group of kids or our home to another home. Every home situation is unique. Every child is unique. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the child, discover their strengths and build on that. The last thing children need is another reason to say that they’re not good enough. And here’s the scary part: when we fail to cultivate the uniqueness of our child, we set that child up to struggle with this issue into adulthood and if it’s a struggle in adulthood, they are in trouble. Every single person in this world is unique, including you.
  3. Staying away from triggers that lead to comparison. There’s a pretty popular person that I know has admitted to struggling with comparison. He also stressed how social media can be a trigger (what I was talking about earlier). He recommended that if it’s necessary, we may need to take some time away from social media to help us overcome the issue of comparing ourselves. There may be other triggers in your life that lead you to comparing yourself with others. Whatever those triggers are, find them and get away from them.
  4. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude for your unique gifts. If you’ve never done this, I want you to take a moment and think about every gift and talent you possess. If you want to, write down your gifts and talents on a piece of paper (keep it and don’t lose it). Take some time and thank God for every gift and talent you have. When you have a mindset of gratitude, it keeps you from being jealous and envious of what someone else has. Instead, the attitude of gratitude allows you to focus solely on what God has blessed you with. We do not have to wait until Thanksgiving Day to give thanks for our gifts. I believe we should wake up each day determined to use our gifts and talents for the positive advancement of our world. However, it starts with thanking God each day for our strengths and gifts.

If you’re like me and struggle with comparing yourself to others, you are not alone. Many people silently struggle with this issue. Can I tell you this? As hard as it may be for you to believe this, even the most popular people struggle with this issue. There are so many adults who did not get their gifts and talents cultivated properly in childhood. Also, some of those same adults may have struggled with not fitting in as a child (and may struggle with it today). Whatever the struggle is, I want you to know that we’re in this struggle together. Life is too short and precious for us to be stuck in the boat of comparing ourselves to others. You are too valuable and precious in the eyesight of God. I challenge us today to go forth and accomplish everything God has placed in us. With God as the majority, you are on the path to do great things for the Kingdom of God! Go forth!!

Children’s Mental Health: It Ain’t A Game

children's_mental_health_matters

To the English teachers and majors, let me apologize for my very grammatically incorrect title. I’m using the title to express the seriousness of the issue I want to discuss.

I wrote a post this past Wednesday on the importance of mental health awareness as a way to acknowledge this month as Mental Health Awareness month. As I’m surfing the internet this afternoon, I find out that this month is also Children’s Mental Health Awareness month. It’s not a surprise to me, but I think I was caught in amazement that not only are we focusing on the  mental health of adults, but also focusing on the mental health of children. As a youth worker for the last 6 years, I’ve worked with various youth. I’ve worked with youth that came from a “normal” 2 parent home and I’ve worked with those who had interesting home circumstances. Regardless, every young person I’ve worked with is unique in their own way (I’ll be doing a blog post in the near future on what I’ve learned as a youth worker). However, we may not be aware of the mental issues that our children are dealing with. I want to share with you all three reasons why I would argue that while all mental health issues are extremely important, the mental health of our children is even MORE important!

  1. Every child will be a child ONLY ONCE.  This is a pretty obvious statement, but the magnitude of this statement is huge! I told you all in the previous post on mental health that one of the most frustrating aspects of life is not being able to go back in the past and change things. This frustration is also relevant with our children. Children have no way of going back in time and being in a different situation. Also remember that 99.9% of things that happen in childhood are beyond the control of the child. We’ve seen many times, especially in the celebrity world, what happens when a child is not able to have a decent childhood. Sometimes they try to live their childhood in their adulthood, which is a recipe for disaster. The rules of adulthood are drastically different from childhood (more on this later on). When a child is not able to take full advantage of the joys of childhood, it can do damage to the child as they grow up and realize that adulthood isn’t a game. What this means is that parents have a huge obligation to provide their children with the most “normal” childhood possible. Stuff does happen, yet it is a travesty when we rush our children to being adults unnecessarily. We have to let our children be children. We shouldn’t put them through the things that adults have to go through.
  2. What happens in childhood usually carries on to adulthood. What a child sees and experiences in their childhood has a way of carrying over into adulthood. How do I know? Ask adults who grew up in homes where there was an alcoholic addition and now they’re suffering through alcoholic addiction. You can ask an adult who was convicted of abusing someone in their family. Not all of the time, but in many situations, the child either experienced or saw abuse. Ask an adult who is struggling with trusting others (of course selectively but you get my point). A lot of times, their trust was violated as a child and as a result they may struggle for life with trust issues. As parents, we have to do our best to ensure that our children are as safe as possible from forces that would try to harm them. Childhood trauma, especially if it isn’t dealt with properly, has a way of carrying over into adulthood. There are many adults who are suffering today because of something they went through in childhood. I am appreciative of people like my wife who work in the early childhood field. Early childhood research continues to confirm that the experiences children go through from birth to elementary school can have long-term effects on the child as they get older. Again I stress that some things are beyond control. However, if the issue is within our control, we should our best to make sure the issue doesn’t harm our children.
  3. Adulthood is not kind to people suffering with childhood trauma. Let me be clear that I thank God for the privilege of experiencing adulthood. However, I’ve learned in my 11 years of legally being an adult that most of us are mainly concerned about our own issues. Most people are just simply trying to survive. When you’re in the real world, the focus is results. The focus is the bottom line. While we should seek the help we need if we’re struggling with childhood trauma, our work place doesn’t care about whoever hurt us when we were 5 years old. The main thing the work place is concerned about is if we can get the job done. We also have to think about the reality of how competitive things are in this day and age. For survival we’re not just competing with people in our city, state or country; we’re also competing with people around the world. This is why I stressed in the last post the importance of having a support system. With how difficult life is, we need to have people who we can be vulnerable and open with. If you can find 2-3 good people you can be vulnerable with, that is a blessing. Adulthood is rough, but it’s rougher if we’ve experienced childhood trauma and haven’t dealt with it properly.

I want to conclude by applauding every parent reading my post for doing the best they can to provide a safe, nurturing home to their children. There are events that happen in life that go beyond your control, but continue to reassure the child that everything is going to be fine. I want to encourage all parents to think strongly about what is best for the children. Too many parents make decisions that are about them, but end up hurting the children in the short and long term. If we want to see healthy and whole adults, we must do everything possible to raise healthy and whole children. If your child is dealing with some type of trauma or mental issue, lead them to the help they need now! The older the child gets, the harder it is for the issue to be dealt with. I’m reminded of a quote by Frederick Douglass that says “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (people).” Broken adults can be lead to wholeness, but many will tell you that it’s a huge battle. Let’s treat our children as prized possessions and do everything possible to provide the safest, most nurturing home possible. Children need our leadership. We can’t afford to let our children down. Too much, especially the future, is on the line!

Sources

http://www.cdc.gov/features/childmentalhealth/index.html (CDC’s page on children’s mental health)

On my Pinterest page, I have a board dedicated to mental health issues. I believe I have some pins on children’s mental health either in the mental health board or in the youth ministry board. Check it out.

Mental Health: The Hidden Issue

mental-health-awareness

So from the time that I woke up this morning to the time that I’m almost done with the first part of my work duties, my day is pretty normal. All of a sudden from no where, I’m having a nervous spell. I have these spells every now and then. I’m not sure if it’s an anxiety or panic attack. However, my hands shake and I’m just nervous. This little episode made me think about the people who I know personally that struggle with anxiety or panic issues. As I was thinking about those people, I was reminded that this month is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve never participated in a lot of awareness activities in reference to mental health. This year (maybe starting last year) I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health. I am thankful that it’s becoming a more talked about subject within our society, yet I feel like there is still more work to be done. I want to share with you all four reasons why I think mental health awareness is very important. Think about the people you know that are going through some level of mental illness. It may a friend you know or it may even be you.

  1. Most people are suffering in silence. I’ve talked many times about how we’re taught in society to fake it until we make it. We’re also taught to answer the question of how we’re doing with “fine.” The problem is that many people are suffering through mental illnesses without sharing the reality of what’s going on either with a strong support system or an actual doctor/therapist. When we suffer in silence, we rob ourselves of the resources and people that could be a blessing and source of healing for us. To make it in life, we have to be honest about what’s going on with us. I think a lot of people are afraid to be honest about what they’re going through because we have this “superior complex” attitude that we believe we must have all the time. However, we have to be able to embrace being vulnerable and not okay. No matter how “small” your mental illness is, surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart. Those people can encourage you, let you know that you’re not alone and lead you to resources that can put you on the path to healing. Please do not allow yourself to suffer with what you’re dealing with alone. Get a positive support system around you and get on the path to healing.
  2. There is a strong connection between mental illness and suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (via the CDC), there are more than 41,000 people each year who take their own life. Also, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults and 3rd among those 10-24. There are many many people, especially young people, who struggle with suicidal thoughts. I am convinced that those thoughts should not be played with or taken lightly. It makes me sad when I read on Facebook about a teenager putting up statuses that may have given clues that they were thinking about killing themselves and then weeks later they end up taking their life. If you know someone who even mentions the idea of killing themselves, you should take that seriously and lead them to the resources that would help them. Many go to suicide as the solution to their problems because it seems easier than fighting through the agony of whatever they’re dealing with. If we know people who are having suicidal thoughts, we have to share with them their value for living and why they matter. Again, this is why our young people (and everyone in general) need our support especially in the difficult times. Turning a young person away can be the difference between them giving up on life or persevering through the difficult moments. Extend your arms and let that person know that everything is going to be alright and that you have their back. That can make a HUGE difference to anyone, particularly a young person struggling with suicidal thoughts.
  3. Life trauma can have a huge effect on us mentally. Dictionary.com defines trauma as “an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.” Life events that can be traumatic includes but is not limited to: abuse (all kinds), major financial loss, rape, loss of a loved one, divorce, home instability, family drama, unexpected job loss, homelessness, etc. Everyone of us knows someone who has been through one of the traumatic events I listed (and even something that I did not put up). Traumatic events have a way of forever changing the trajectory of life mentally for the ones who go through it. And from my experience, I believe the older you are, the tougher it is mentally to navigate through the traumatic experience. Life has a way of beating all of us up in someway, but there are those out there who’ve really had a rough adventure at this thing called life. Knowing that we cannot change the events of the past is probably the most frustrating thing about life. However, as I said earlier, we have to be honest about the effect that these traumatic events have had on our lives. Too many of us try to live our lives as if nothing is wrong when our attitude, body language and behavior says the opposite. For whatever reason, too many of us have been taught to just throw our feelings under the rug. Yes God is greater than our feelings, bur I also believe that God wants us to be open and honest about what we’re feeling. Today, I encourage you to look over your life and look at the traumatic events that’s taken place. How are those events still affecting you today? Take some time to think it through and begin to seek out the resources to get assistance. Life has hurt all of us. I say again: you are not alone!
  4. There is a lack of discussion by many churches on mental health. I am basing this point solely on my experience and what I’ve seen via my local area and the internet. I thank God for Pastor Rick Warren having an entire conference devoted to mental health. The issue of mental health really became relevant for Pastor Rick a few years ago when his son committed suicide. Since that time, Pastor Rick and his wife have been huge proponents of the church talking about mental health. If there’s any institution that should be leading the discussion of mental health, it should be the church. There are many many people who walk in our churches week after week suffering through mental illness, yet all they’re told is to put a praise on it. There is nothing wrong with praising God in whatever form in the midst of whatever you’re going through. However, it’s a waste of time to run around and dance for 2 hours yet be no closer to the necessary healing needed. I believe God uses therapists, God-called pastors, counselors, and other helping professionals to lead us to the path of healing. I am calling on churches to invest time and money into the issue of mental health. How many churches do you know are actively talking about mental health this month? How many churches in our nation have a conference or event specifically designated to mental health? How many churches have helping professionals available to assist people struggling with mental illness? As an agent of change, the church should be teaming up with those who professionally serve people struggling with mental illness to lead the way in bringing mental illness to the forefront of conversations and action.

In this day and age, we must understand that mental health is as important as physical health. It’s good to be physically healthy, but I believe God also wants us to be healthy in our minds. If you’re reading this post and you’re struggling with any kind of mental health issues, I want to encourage you to seek the assistance you need. Do not be afraid to open up about what you’re dealing with. You and your concerns matter. There’s help available for you. Go and get it!

Last but not least, I want to thank all of you who work in the mental health profession whether you’re a counselor, psychotherapist, counselor, pastor or any helping professional. Your work is important and helps many people with their daily struggles. Stay encouraged and do not let ANYTHING stop you from serving. You are doing an excellent job. Keep it up!

Sources

http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Suicide

On my Pinterest page, I have a mental health board. Follow that board for my pinnings on mental health issues.