Recently, we took the kids to a conservatory near downtown to get out of the house and stay out of the cold.  My wife was in her happy place because of her love of plants and all things gardening.  My kids were having a blast in the maze of narrow pathways that funneled their tiny bodies on quick little legs past koi ponds and more unique foliage than they’ll ever see in our backyard. 

With their enjoyment came sharp little screams of joy and occasionally finding themselves in the way of strangers, which had me cringing that folks might find my not-yet 2-year-old to be even the least bit rude.  Among other burdens that were on my mind, I began to get uptight and overwhelmed, asking myself why my kids can’t just enjoy the world as a sensible adult might – quiet, calm, composed…

It struck me that I looked around that conservatory and saw Wilderness.  It reminded me of the wilderness that the Israelites found themselves in on their way to the Promised Land.  It reminded me that, although they were so forgetful of God’s grace and faithfulness in their lives and circumstances, He never left them.  Although I am so forgetful of God’s grace and faithfulness in my life, He never leaves me.  Yahweh Yireh, “the Lord sees”.  “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14).

God was preparing the Israelites for a life in the Promised Land where their trust in Him would be foundational to thriving and He did so by repeatedly asking them in the most difficult of times, “will you trust Me?”  They would have remembered the story of their forefather and mother, Abraham and Sarah, giving birth to Isaac in their old age (Genesis 21:1-8).  That should never have happened – except by God’s grace. 

In that conservatory, I looked into the eyes of my kids and in light of my past with suicidality, they should never have happened – except by God’s grace.

I have lived some impossibly long nights where I was suffocated by hopelessness.  It haunts me to this day that I didn’t realize all those times that God was right there with me.  I prayed for Him to be but I wouldn’t allow myself to see Him, every night, weeping alongside His lost child.  He was reaching out to me with hope that I could barely see through the haze of brokenness.

This is real life and it’s where people live.  It’s the dire reality of a mental health epidemic.  It’s the heartbreaking and hopeless reality of a sin-ravaged people – except by God’s grace.

This is why the Church, like Jesus, is an advocate for the broken and brings healing to the sick (Acts 10:38).  This pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Avon, Indiana, may never have met this community of believers.  I may never have married my bride and held my children in my arms because of the darkness in this world and in my own heart.  I may never have had the joy of ministering to our young adults, and larger church, had the Son of God not reached out to me in my sickness.

We have the beautiful opportunity to be God’s hands and feet to walk into the fire and carry out those who do not have the strength to escape.  We have the honor of communicating to people a picture of what God can do with a life.  There was hope for a childless Abraham and Sarah and even a sacrifice when Abraham was willing to deny himself and his greatest desires in order to follow a God he knew would provide (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17-19).  There’s Hope and a Sacrifice for us today. 

God loves you.  He loves the hopeless.  He loves the overwhelmed.  The discouraged.  The depressed.  The unwell.  The fearful.  The lost.  The vulnerable.  And He loves the Church who He sent into the world to be fishers of these vulnerable in our communities.  May God allot each of us the grace to then overflow to those inside and outside of the Church who need a “God of hope to fill [them] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [they] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

When I Found God in the Wilderness (Destigmatizing Mental Health: Part Two)

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