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Biblia Luna #25
Welcome to Issue #25 of Biblia Luna, the weekly newsletter about the intersection of mental illness and faith. We’ve got a few new subscribers this week! Welcome!
New Podcast Interview: “OTR - Achieving Mental Health for Real”
Crazy Lectionary: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Sunday, February 5, 2023 is the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany. The readings assigned for this Sunday are Isaiah 58:1-12; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; and Matthew 5:13-20. There is a common theme that runs through all these readings, I think. The theme is, “Just get out there and do it!” Isaiah tells us that if we do God’s work, it will be accomplished, and we will receive guidance and fullness.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:9b-11, New Revised Standard Version)
The Apostle Paul knew that his efforts were weak and trembling, but he still followed through, because he trusted that God would use his weak efforts for something amazing. He writes in 1 Corinthians:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling…so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-3, 5, NRSV)
And in Matthew, Jesus tells us very clearly:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid….let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-14, 16, NRSV)
What a message! You are important! You matter! You have gifts that need to be shared with the world! But people living with depression know better than that. We know that we are not useful, that we are weak, and broken, and that such words don’t apply to us. It’s just part of living with this disease. Some of us almost hear voices, voices that tell us, “Don’t listen to that garbage. You know that you are worthless. Don’t listen to these words. The people who wrote them didn’t know you. They didn’t know that you’re the exception to this rule.”
So how do you reach out to people like this? How can they (we) hear the good news? It’s not easy; those dark voices can be very convincing. But the trick might be to try to give them tools to talk back to the voices. Perhaps you could remind them that God has claimed them, yes, even them. That God’s voice is stronger even than the voices in their heads. Perhaps you could remind them that one way to lessen the effects of depression is to get out of their own heads, and be of service to others. It’s hard to focus so much on yourself when you are doing something for someone else, and sometimes it’s precisely that change of focus that can help. Studies have shown that volunteering is one of the most rewarding and healing activities for people with mental illness.
People with mental illness are every bit as much children of God as anyone else. And they are just as capable of serving God with all of their being. But they need to hear this over and over again. All of us probably need to hear this over and over again, because there are so many voices outside us that tell us we’re worthless. But perhaps people with mental illness need to hear it more, because they also have extra voices within that repeat these same things.
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How Can I Help?
I’ve mentioned this book before, in a “Helpful Resource” section, but it’s so good, and so important, I think it’s worth mentioning again.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently published its first book, You Are Not Alone by Dr. Ken Duckworth. It’s packed with information that can be helpful to people in need of mental healthcare, and also for people who love those people. I bought and read the Kindle edition of the book when it was released, but I just purchased a hardcover copy to have in my office. I think it will be an excellent reference book to have on hand.
I would encourage anyone who wants to have information about how to help those with mental illness to purchase a copy.
And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life?
(Matthew 6:27, NRSV)