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The Gift of Peace

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“Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (TNIV)

 

I spend time on Twitter and Facebook, and I notice that people frequently post that they plan to take a “social media break.”

 

Why? Generally, the reason people give is that they feel overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of news about what is happening around the world. The level of violence, conflict, chaos, pain, suffering, and constant tragedy can take an enormous toll on people’s hearts and minds.

 

In addition to the world’s problems, many also carry the constant pressure of worry and anxiety about kids, marriage, health, and even financial responsibilities. The weight of personal problems can feel too heavy to carry.

 

In the middle of all that is wrong in the world and upside down in our daily lives, perhaps the reassurance we all need to hear is contained in the angels’ declaration to the shepherds at Christmas many years ago: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14 NIV).

 

God saw our distress and spiritual alienation and sent Jesus to save us from our sin and separation. Through Jesus, we can be at peace with God right now.

 

Jesus also promised to send the Comforter—the Holy Spirit—to be in us and with us at all times. In John 14:26-27, Jesus told his disciples, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).

 

The peace Jesus said the Holy Spirit would bring will hold you when the bottom falls out, when the wheels come off the bus, and when you feel like you cannot survive another moment. God’s peace will sustain you. It is a peace that is unshakable.

 

Beyond the peace we can experience with God, and the peace he gives us to face a tumultuous world today, God also promises that when Jesus returns to earth he will bring complete and total peace to the whole world. Knowing God is going to bring peace on earth someday gives us incredible reasons to be hopeful about the future! The day is coming when Jesus will return, and he will bring peace on earth that will last forever. Oh, what an amazing day that will be!

 

“For unto us a child is born, and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And he will becalled Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (TNIV)

Posted by Kay Warren with

Sitting on the Edge of Hell

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In the last 5 years, hundreds of people have asked me how to help their loved one – particularly an adolescent or young adult child – who is living with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorder. They have a similar look in their eyes, a similar expression on their faces, a similar weariness that seems to come from their bones. Many weep – mostly against their will, because these brave mamas and dads have steeled themselves to not break down in public AGAIN over the anguish they feel for their beloved sons and daughters who are barely holding on, cycling through repeated “episodes,” relapses, jail time, rehab, hospitalizations, ODs and suicide attempts. These dear parents are doing all they know to do; have done it for years….decades…..and will do it until their last breath. They recognize that severe mental illness often leaves families with untenable choices: there are few “good” options, only “bad” and “worse.”

 

But some parents go even further in what they ask me. A few manage to cobble together THE question through tight lips that can barely form words, or in emotion-laden paragraphs via email. “Can you help me face the reality that my son/daughter may not survive much longer?”

 

My initial word to these terrified parents is “I'm honored that you asked me - and I’m so very sad that you even have to give it a thought.”

 

I remember the first time I allowed myself to wonder if Matthew was going to make it. I wanted to extinguish the thought as quickly and unbidden as it had come, as if somehow by my even considering the terrible thought it could make it happen. I remember the thousand times after that when fear and anxiety and the reality of his determination to die flooded my brain with utter helplessness. Sometimes I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t project positive outcomes. I know this place; I remember it too well. So, to any of you mamas and daddies in this terrible place of fear for your beloved son or daughter, here are my thoughts.

 

I call the place you find yourself "sitting on the edge of Hell."

 

It's the place where you as a mom stare down the enemy trying to destroy your child and know that your superpowers are not enough to guarantee your child’s survival. Your love may not be enough to save him. Your hours of anguished, fervent prayer may not be enough to save her. Your tears may not be enough. Your money may not be enough. Your carefully thought through, researched and detailed plans may not be enough. There is hardly any place worse as a parent who adores a child and yet recognizes the enemy is relentless and cruel and implacable.

 

Some parents are advised by professionals, family and friends to disengage emotionally - to choose "compassionate detachment" toward their loved one. I was given that advice. I rejected it out of hand. I mean, it sounds reasonable in a textbook or on paper or in a clinical setting. It's reasonable, perhaps, for a clinician who must build layers of protection against the pain of losing clients who die while in their practice. For their own well-being and ability to last as a clinician, they might need to find ways to emotionally disconnect from patients or clients so that work doesn’t follow them home. Adult children tasked with caring for mentally ill parents or siblings might need to find ways to emotionally separate themselves a bit for their own survival.

 

But parents?

 

How do parents tell their hearts to stop caring? How do you tell your heart to sit by and merely OBSERVE? How do you tell your heart "it's up to him?" How do you tell your heart to give up on hope? How do you tell your heart not to mourn over what mental illness and addiction are doing to your much-longed for, much-prayed for, much-beloved child? How do you tell your heart not to ache or be ripped apart by his illness? How do you tell your heart to let her go?

 

I couldn't do it.

 

So, I chose the path that left my heart completely defenseless to hurt, pain and anguish. I chose the path that discarded self-protection in favor of remaining soft and tender, exposed and vulnerable. I chose to suffer alongside of Matthew, feeling his hurt, feeling his anguish, feeling his despair, fighting the hopelessness that engulfed him rather than sit on the sidelines, with my heart encased in a steel-lined box. I chose to believe in the God of Angel Armies.....the God who parted the Red Sea....the God who releases prisoners from behind iron bars......the God who makes a way in the desert.....the God who is the champion of lost causes......the God who walked on water......the God who made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk......the God who rose from the dead by his own power. I knew that if I ever gave up hope, Matthew would sense the change in me and would fling himself even more earnestly into the pursuit of death. 

 

So I kept on believing, kept on hoping, kept on asking for a miracle, kept praying Scripture, kept begging others to pray as fervently as we were.

 

I knew Matthew could die. For years we lived with the knowledge that any given day could be THE day he couldn't fight any longer. I wasn't stupidly naïve or ridiculously convinced God would deliver. I just knew He could, and I would ask Him to do it until either HE delivered Matthew here on this earth or welcomed him home sooner than we expected.

 

So, to my fellow fearful mamas and dads - do what you're doing. Accept the excruciating possibility that your child will not live very much longer. Pray like a crazy woman on your face before God and ask everyone you meet to pray with you for a miraculous intervention of God. And keep your heart open and soft and tender so that your son or daughter never has to wonder what God is really like. Yes, it will hurt you more NOW. But if something should ever happen, you will know without a shadow of a doubt that you never withheld your heart from him. 

 

My heart is heavy for you as I write....for your child.....for your marriage.....for your other children. Yet I cannot give up hope. I will not give up hope. There is always hope.

Posted by Kay Warren with

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