In Be Held, first-time author Sue Nickel tells her own story of living with depression, weaving her personal experience together with her professional experience as a nurse and clinical counsellor, with helpful information on mental health and illness, and words of comfort and encouragement.
Her purpose is to come alongside others living with depression, especially during the early stages of diagnosis and beginning medication. I haven’t had to walk that path, but I’ve come alongside others dealing with mental illness, and I can see how the book would be a good companion during an eight-week medication trial. For daily encouragement, the fifty-six readings may be read consecutively in order, but they would also work very well for dipping in here and there. An index lists readings on the topics of comfort, grace, hope, information, joy, suffering, plus a list of shorter readings for days when that might be all you can handle.
Today I’m pleased to share two short excerpts from Be Held with the author’s permission: from Day Twenty-Three on prayer (pages 78-80), and a benediction from Day Forty-Eight (pages 186-187). Whether you’re on medication or not, whether you’re living with depression or not, I hope you’ll find these as inspiring as I do.
Day Twenty-Three: Well-Loved and Chosen
I often feel like I can’t pray when I feel so wretched, and this leads to even more despair. Anne Lamott says in her book Help. Thanks. Wow. that prayer is about seeking union. She says that this is done even if we are “bitter or insane or broken” and that, in fact, these are good prerequisites for engaging in a process that will help us, in the end, get it together. She adds, “Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up.” [quotes from Anne Lamott, Help. Thanks. Wow. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2015, 5, 6]
Trusting this thought–that I am loved and chosen–girds me as I try each day to muster the strength to mutter or scream, “Help!” It helps me as I smile or groan my thanks, and it nudges me to crack my eyes open, even if just enough to see something or someone that causes me to whisper “Wow.” Come to think of it, just musing upon the thought that we’re all loved and chosen, regardless of our thoughts and actions, is cause for a hundred thanks and wows.
The glorious, magnificent good news is that even if we can’t muster any thanks on a given day or given moment, the Holy Spirit will do it for us. We can trust this because we read in Romans,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Hundreds and hundreds thanks be to God.
When you find a place where you cannot pray, ask yourself what you’re expecting your prayers to be like. Eloquent? Flowing? Intercessory? Praising? Now take a deep breath and start anew. Sit still and ponder the thought that there is no right way to pray. You are seeking communion with God, and God is already present. Trust that. Trust that you are already well loved and chosen, that there is nothing more for you to do but choose to believe in that truth.
May you be protected in the light as you struggle with your darkness, so that you may come to be filled with that glorious truth: you are God’s chosen and beloved one. Go forth today in the power of that bold truth!
Day Forty-Eight: May God’s Peace Reign Grandly in Your Brain
This is my benediction for you today. I pray it will comfort and bless.
May our gracious and eternal Lord gather you into God’s arms and hold you as the dear and beloved child that you are. In your mind’s fog, may your eyes be powerfully focused upon Yahweh. May God’s peace reign grandly in your brain, dispelling all your confusion and pain. May the Almighty be your vision, may your weary soul be rested, and may God breathe gentle mercy upon you. May Jesus’ loving kindness break into your unknowing so that you will know deeply of God’s care for you. May each and every breath be calmed and evened out, so that, stilled in the Spirit, any and all agitation may cease. May Jesus take your hand into His own and be your Shepherd, as He longs to do.
May the Spirit of comfort lead you into God’s presence to live a whole and joyous moment with the Three in One, a moment to which you may return time and again during what may be difficult days ahead. Know that through it all you will be held and kept in the promises of God. You are precious in the Lord’s sight; you are honored and you are loved. Do not be afraid, for you have been redeemed; your Creator calls you by name. You belong. On the Almighty rests your deliverance and honor. Your mighty rock, your refuge, is in God. Yes, you will go out with joy!
(a paraphrase of Isaiah 43:4, 41:1; Psalm 62:10; Isaiah 55:12)
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What do you expect your prayers to be like–eloquent, flowing, intercessory, praising?
Disclosure: I’ve known Sue Nickel since we were part of the same church in Richmond, B.C., and I was thrilled when she sent me a complimentary copy of her beautiful book! She has worked as a pediatric nurse, clinical counsellor, and conference speaker. She has more than twenty-five years of lived experience with clinical depression and works as a mental health advocate within churches and non-profit organizations. Thank you, Sue, and may your book find its way to those who need the encouragement and hope it offers.
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