Everyone faces different trials in their lives. Jesus said “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Not everyone can see the trials we walk through. One I face and have faced for many years is Bipolar disorder, an invisible mental disorder. The simple explanation is that it causes extreme mood swings, but has many other complications. I have fallen into deep, dark depressions and had chaotic manias when I lost all sense of self. Through it all I have learned to rely on faith. One Scripture verse I frequently go to is 2 Corinthians 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I have a service dog who is my battle buddy and is always with me. Having a service dog when you don’t have an obvious disability often leads people to ask questions. I don’t keep it a secret why I have him, but I also don’t advertise.
I want people to know me as a person first, not as a stereotype. I don’t want the first thing people to know about me is that I have Bipolar. I appreciate it when they ask in a personal setting instead of the middle of the grocery store; which, believe me, happens. I don’t mind talking about having Bipolar, but there’s a time and place for caring and open discussion. It’s my story so I should be able to decide to who, when, and where I tell it. I do home visits with our members, and that is usually when the topic of my service dog comes up. It amazes me how that one question has led me to learn so much about my congregation. My trials help me to connect with others in the field.
I have learned during my short time in ministry that if you are open and vulnerable, people will feel comfortable with you and want to share. We all have stories that make up our lives, and each one is unique and has formed us into who we are today. After I have told my story, people always open up to me about what’s happened in their own lives. Everyone I have talked with has also faced incredibly difficult times in life. It’s an amazingly humbling experience to be trusted enough to hear the ones that changed their lives forever. I have learned to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” (Romans 12:15).
I have listened to the account of a member who survived a drive-by shooting. Another who lost family members in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Families that have broken up over lies and unfaithfulness. A mother who doesn’t know if her child is alive due to drugs. I have learned of rapes and sexual assaults. Children that were removed from homes of severe abuse and neglect, and family putting other family members behind bars because of it. Friends and family holding the hands of loved one’s dying of cancer.
My heart aches at what each of these people have gone through. But I find solace that each one of them have found comfort and healing in the hands of our Savior. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:18). Our Savior places us in the field, with our own stories, trials and tribulations, but never without hope of eternal life and salvation found in him. As we are assured in Psalms 62:1-2, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”