Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I don't believe in "If" anymore

" is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrew 11:1

A leap of faith, from not believing in a God to trusting in him - someone I couldn't even see - was like allowing myself to fall backwards, not absolutely sure there would be something there to catch me when I fell. But when I did that 18 years ago, it made a huge difference to my life. I want to share something I wrote for my upcoming book, A Firm Place to Stand. It describes the new coping skills I received when I began to follow God at the age of 42. (I had lived with bipolar since the age of 19, relying on my own strength and inadequate medication.)

With the greatest determination I could gather, I used to cling to what was left of my mind's composure. I would feel as though I were hanging from the edge of a high rooftop, white-knuckled, a panicky fear slowly developing. 'How long can I hold on like this? Can I maintain my strength? What will happen if I let go?' Exhaustion overwhelmed me. Deep below was the hard ground and no one to catch me if I fell.

...But I did fall - quite a few times. These were devastating experiences and difficult to recover from. The support I received from family, friends, and my doctor was helpful. But my inner life was alone in the battle.

For twenty-three years I tried to live out Rudyard Kipling's lines from his poem, If: "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will, which says to them, 'Hold on!'" I tried with my best willpower to survive the mental turmoil when it overtook me. I was determined to be strong, hanging on to whatever I could, but not finding much of substance. They were times of anxiety and fear.

It wasn't until I reached the part of my life when I could no longer deny that God is real, that coping with crises changed for the better. I realized that it wasn't up to me to hold on. I could relax my grip and trust in Someone a great deal stronger than myself.

The faith I learned to have in a God who loves me too much to let me go, helps me cope better with stress. Extreme difficulties no longer develop as often. Sometimes I still have fears of falling - and reasons for them too. But today I have a Bible that tells me,
"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand" (Isaiah 41:10) Remembering this gives me comfort when I need it. I am not as afraid anymore.

Challenging periods will always be part of my life. There will be times when I'll have trouble. I may even fall. But I know that when I do, there will be Someone there who will catch me and stay with me as I recover. I'll never have to be alone.

I have a photograph hanging on the wall across from my bed. A child's small hand rests comfortably on her father's big hand. Underneath are the words from Proverbs 3:5,
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

During tough times, I look at that photograph and feel a sense of peace. No longer is there a need for white-knuckled fists - no longer a need to rely on my own inadequate strength.

marja bergen

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living." (Hebrews 11:1, MSG)

Ain't that the truth!


Dream Writer said...

Marja - Great post once again! As we all know..."Believing is seeing!"

Faith gives us the strength to go on, to have the energy and power to conquer...

But I find it "funny" how there are so many people who "believe" and who has "Faith," but yet they are filled with such anger and frustrations...How can this be?

My mother believes in God, She has Faith, She watches Joyce Meyers...she's been to Joyce Meyers Conferences, but yet....she is an alcoholic...she really doesn't seem to have the "Faith" she thinks she has...if she did...she wouldn't self-medicate herself...Your body is a temple and we are suppose to treat it with respect!

So, why is it when people have so much "faith" and so much belief in "God" - they still cannot come out of their deepest sorrows and denials?

I just don't get it...

Dream Writer said...

What I also wanted to say was that a lot of us lets God in to "heal" much as I don't like to talk about you know...I believe in God and I let him in to heal me...that is why I don't self-medicate - I don't drink, smoke, do drugs, and I don't inflict pain to myself with cutting or whatever...

So if there are people who supposedely let God in to heal them why then do they self-medicate themselves to drunkness? To me that is denial, false belief, and dishonesty...

They THINK they are letting God in to heal them...but they aren't..

God is good...God is Love...God is not violence or abusive!

marja said...

Wow, Dream, you're asking a lot of tough questions. I think it would take a book to answer all that. But there IS a difference between believing in God and following his ways. There are so many people who go to church, worship and pray, and then go home and don't think again about God until the next Sunday.

And another thing: Believing in God does not automatically make us perfect people. We still have pain and struggle to know how to deal with it. We're all imperfect people.

To truly be who God wants us to be - or do our best to be - we need to walk with him, day by day. Spending time with him in prayer and reading the Bible.

I'm planning to do my next post on living a life of faith. Perhaps that will answer your questions more fully. (though I sure haven't been getting a lot of comments to my posts lately. Might I be turning people off with this kind of talk?)

I so fully sense your frustrations with your mom and am sorry your hurt so much for her.

bipolar_girl said...

dear Marja,

Thank you for this wonderful post. I wouldn't be here alive and living my life (although I think not yet to the fullest) if it weren't for my faith in God.

I only have compassion for others, myself included, who fall every now and then on the wayside in our struggle with this illness. What we have is a DISEASE that is best confronted with acceptance, treatment and of course, a lot of faith in God and hope that things will be better eventually. God is always there for us, whether we are in denial or not. Others make take a lifetime to accept what they are suffering from and continue to suffer in the process but the true meaning of hope and faith I guess is believing that things will change for the better, no matter how bad the situation may be for the moment.

Self-medication has always been a part of any mood disorder, in a desperate effort to ease onself of the terrible and excruciating pain and sadness one feels in the throes of depression and I guess God will forgive me when I do this once in a while because He understands that I could only take so much of this DISEASE. It's a disease and not a character flaw or a faith issue.

Dream Writer said...

Well, we all have the right to our opinions and I certainly respect yours, Marja and I totally Love You as the person you are. My posts to me, was not cruel or mean in was merely just my way of looking for answers, just curiosity :)

But, I kinda don't agree with there IS a difference with believing in God and then following his ways...

I don't know...that is a touchy me that would be Hypochricy.

You can't believe in something and then do what you want so to speak...that is like being a lawyer and then breaking the law...being a cop and taking drugs....being a teacher and molesting a child...Ya know what I mean?

Dream Writer said...

By the way, YOU are NOT turning me off...if you did, I wouldn't come to your blog :)

To be honest Marja, I went to College for Law :) I like a good debate :)

marja said...

Dream Writer: I LIKE your curiosity. It's exciting to be discussing this stuff. In fact, I conferred with my pastor (the cool guy) about some of the things that have come up here between the three of us. It was getting too deep, for little ol' me.

Bipolar Girl: You bring up some interesting points. I think I"m going to have to write another post to cover some of this stuff.

Dream Writer said...

I am GLAD you like my Curiosity and I am especially GLAD that you are taking my posts Lightly!!:):):)

You are very inspirational, Marja and I don't want you to think That I think otherwise:)

Of course when we post our comments and send emails we cannot see the other person's expressions...but believe me...when I comment on your blog...I am always smiling:)

marja said...

A BIG hug for you (((((Dream))))) I love you - AND your very active mind.