Love Your Enemies

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Following Jesus: Love Your Enemies

Following Jesus requires us to accept his invitation and to hear his teachings and ways. But not just to hear – to act. Many of the teachings of Jesus are uncomfortable and feel unnatural – He is calling us to live the Jesus life. Our text today does make us uncomfortable. Jesus demonstrated, ultimately at the cross, the principle that found a center place in his life and ministry.

It is the most unnatural thing in the world to love someone who has hurt you – someone who is an enemy in some respect – but that is what Jesus calls us to in our text. Today’s passage is one that demonstrates this.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:27-35

Among the teachings of Jesus, I can hardly think of one that is more complex or difficult than loving our enemies. We live in such a polarized time. It’s a time when we all have a megaphone shaped like a keyboard. We live in a violent time that is shaken by racism, injustice, crime, and brutality. We normally treat an enemy the way we were treated. Wiersbe: Hatred only breeds more hatred, “for man’ anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20). This cannot be done in our own strength, but it can be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. WW

The ability to have this capability begins with recognizing the source of this kind of love.

BEGIN WITH THE FIRST LOVE

Love is the greatest need in the world. No one expresses the love we most need more than Jesus Christ.

John 15:12-14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

Henri Nouwen calls the ‘first love’. “The first love says, ‘I loved you before you could love anyone or before you could receive love from anyone. I have accepted you. You are accepted. You are loved no matter what mother, father, brother, sister, school, church, society does. You are born out of my love.”

Experiencing First Love Frees us to Love One Another
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

Experiencing First Love Comes From Being Forgiven
Luke 7:36-48 a woman anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. Jesus says she must have been forgiven much because she loves so much. She understood how much she is loved, and this love set her free to love Jesus with all her heart.

Experiencing First Love is in Contrast to Worldly Love
Worldly love is a transaction. If we give something, we expect something in return. This is where conflicts and hostility come from. This creates anger, jealousy, resentment and revenge.

DEVELOPING THE ABILITY TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES

Follow Jesus the Supreme Example.
If not following Jesus, then it will be impossible. If we are following Jesus, we become windows of love of God – Jesus teaches us how to live it out. “We broken, limited persons are windows on the unlimited, unconditional, unbroken, perfect love of God.” HN

Enable Love with Prayer
“We enact this kind of love by prayer. We pray so we can walk around this world and not be so needy, not be wounding others, and not be giving so we can get something in return. We pray to be free….Following Jesus means to live a life in which we start loving one another with God’s original love and not with the needy and wounded love that harms others.” HN Pray for people that you do not like. You really have to work at it. Seek God’s help to rise above our emotions and hurts.

Speak Words of Forgiveness
Remember what he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34). Stephen – the first Christian martyr – in death asked God to forgive his enemies (Acts 7:60). Speaking words of forgiveness is where the love of enemies becomes visible.

Do concrete acts of forgiveness and service.
Do not wait until you feel better about things. Do not let emotions decide what you are going to do.

Conclusion: McKeever: When we do loving things for our enemies, 12 things happen:

-God is honored.
-Jesus is pleased.
-Holy Spirit is able to use our actions to accomplish His will.
-The devil is infuriated. You are not playing by the rules.
-The enemy–those who did the bad things to you–are puzzled.
-The critics of the church are silenced.
-The church itself is blessed.
-Christians going through hard times are inspired.
-Outsiders are drawn to Jesus.
-You yourself are blessed.
-Your anger goes away.
-And according to Luke 6:35, your reward in Heaven is great.

Nothing you and I will do in this life is more important than to show the love of Christ to people who get on our nerves, constantly harass us, persecute us for our faith, and make life miserable for us.

“We become a new person every time we forgive an enemy, because we let go of the angry person inside who was holding on to fear.” Nouwen

God will help us love this way, because He loves us this way.


Resources
McKeever, Joe. The Most Revolutionary, World-Changing Thing Jesus Ever Said

Nouwen, Henri J. Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Convergent, 2019.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament, Volume 1: Matthew – Galatians. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 1989.

Following Jesus: Hear The Call

If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

One of the ways we all initially follow Jesus is to hear his call – to become aware that Jesus desires for us to be in his family, to serve as He did, and to live forever with him.

2 Thessalonians 2:14  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The entire story of Jesus is, in a sense, a calling out to all of humanity that says, “I love you, I was willing to die to save you from your sins; I’m preparing a place for you.” Of course many reject that call, but what about you today? If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11, NIV

What does this passage show us about the call of Jesus?

The Call of Jesus Comes From The Word (Luke 5:1)

I do believe God can speak to us in any number of ways. I have heard people say that God spoke to them in dreams, in a hunch, with a feeling, through a vision, and voice. One thing I know is that the surest way to know God’s will is to read it in the Scriptures yourself. Every other way is subjective – and possibly not a message from God at all. But the word of God is a sure source of God’s wisdom. When Jesus preached, he preached the word of God.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

If Jesus is calling you today through the Scriptures, will you answer?

The Call of Jesus is Determined (Luke 5:2-3)

As people crowded Jesus, he became all the more determined to speak to them. He conscripted a nearby boat. It was left there by fisherman – they had fished all night and were washing their nets. Exhausted and not too happy for this stranger to want to get out on the water to hold a revival! Jesus was determined to share the good news of the kingdom with as many as he could. He took an overflowing crowd and tired fishermen and spoke the word of God. How determined is Jesus to speak to us?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

In 1893 Francis Thompson wrote his poem, The Hound of Heaven, to express the relentless love of God that goes to great lengths to save us. If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

The Call of Jesus is Demanding (Luke 5:4-5)

Peter speaks from the voice of experience, he knows there are no fish … he is exasperated at the request … but he obeys. Jesus always makes demands of us to help us grow and understand more about him. His teachings do not always make sense to us – or they challenge us in ways that will help us grow.

We should never be in a position to decide that what Jesus demands of us is too much, ineffective, of no use. The demands of Jesus are not effective because of our power and strength but because of His.

For example, many people do not want to be baptized.
I’ve already said a prayer.
I’ve already given up some things for you.
I’ve already become a better person.
I don’t see how it can help anything.

Hearing the call of Jesus doesn’t mean to only live for him in ways that we think are easy or significant …but to submit to His teaching and will.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19

If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

The Call of Jesus is Promising (Luke 5:6-7)

Those tired fishermen couldn’t have know what a blessing was coming their way. If we could only perceive the promises Jesus has given to us, it would break our nets and cause us to depend more on Him every day.

How many of us are praying with a spirit that expects God to provide a blessing? When we are disciples of Jesus He can use our obedience, our spirit, our attitudes, and our works to bring about His will in surprising ways!

If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

The Call of Jesus is Humbling (Luke 5:8)

Luke 5:8  “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

When we see who Jesus really is, hear his call, and decide to follow – we will have to realize that we never deserve the promises.

We can easily think too highly of ourselves, and we are intelligent. We do have wisdom. We do have resources. But in the shadow of Jesus Christ, we realize the truth about ourselves.

Romans 3:10 There is no one righteous, not even one

Only when we humble ourselves before God can we know the saving power of Jesus Christ. This is our ongoing life-long position – we are humbled in the presence of Jesus. If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

The Call of Jesus is Expanding (Luke 5:9-11)

Not only did Simon give himself over to Christ, so did the other fishermen there. In the Kingdom of God with Jesus as our King, there’s a new assignment. He’s going to make us fishers of men. We adopt the perspective of Christ – seeking, reaching, loving other people in hopes that they also will follow Jesus.

Conclusion

We hear His call – will we answer?

The Call of Jesus Comes from the Word, it is Determined, Demanding, Promising, Humbling, Expanding.

Following Jesus means that We Hear The Call and answer.

-In initial obedience – repentance, baptism

-In ongoing obedience
Rejection of sin and embracing a holy life
Spending time in the Word and Prayer
Working with others who follow Jesus.

If Jesus is calling you today, will you answer?

Proverbs 1: Marriage

Introduction to Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is originally titled The Proverbs of Solomon. It is known in rabbinical writings as the Book of Wisdom.  Proverbs is mostly written by King Solomon, though there are other authors mentioned throughout the book. Proverbs is written to teach the moral foundation of successful living and to give understanding. The goal of the book is stated right at the beginning (1:1–7): to describe what wisdom is and to help God’s people become wise. Wisdom is found in the “fear of the Lord,” and it enables believers to express their faith in the practical details of everyday life.

The structure of Proverbs is different than the other books of the Bible. It begins with ten letters from a father to a son encouraging him to embrace wisdom. This takes up the first 9 chapters of the book. This is followed by 21 chapters of proverbs. The book ends with chapter 31, an epilogue consisting of an acrostic poem honoring the wife of noble character. She is a great example of many of the qualities and values identified with wisdom throughout the book. 

Bob Deffinbaugh writes that there are several ways we can benefit from a study of Proverbs. Among them…

  • 1. It can help us develop and assess Godly Character.
  • 2. It offers to teach us to be wise. 
  • 3. It helps us to look at life realistically. 

One thing to remember is that proverbs are general truths stated in general terms. There can be exceptions to the general truth, but that does not make the statement false. 

Proverbs offers wisdom on a wide array of topics from daily life: diligence and laziness; friendship; speech ; marriage; parenting; peace at home; work; getting along and good manners ; eternity; and much more.

Over the next few weeks we want to explore some of these topics together and gain all the wisdom that God offers in this excellent book. In this lesson, we want to look at some proverbs that relate to marriage. 

King Solomon might not be the go-to guy for advice on marriage. We know from Scripture that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. After a lifetime of wreckless choices, he came to this conclusion:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Of course, we can learn from his mistakes – and maybe that’s where some of his wisdom came from.  Let’s look at some Proverbs that relate to marriage and gain from the wisdom of this interesting book.

Remember Your Covenant

Proverbs 2:16-17 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God

“Marriage is a covenant. The devotion, friendship, and sexual union between the husband and wife is a foundation that can continue to captivate their attention toward one another, quench and refresh their physical needs, and bless their relationship all the days of their marriage.” – Warren Baldwin

Keep your Love at Home 

Proverbs 5:15-18 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone,  never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

There are many temptations out in the world around us – so we must be diligent to save our love for our homes. As King Solomon advises his son in this area, I wonder what regrets he may have had because of neglecting the wife of his youth? What are we doing at home to let our spouses know that we rejoice in our relationship with them?

On the other hand, we have a warning …

The Danger of an Affair 

Proverbs 5:3,8 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house. (NLT: Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house!)

Her words are flattering – she is seductive – she knows how to attract (and it could be a he as well). Two areas of defense:

*Listen carefully and distinguish this kind of communication early.

*Remember what it will be after infidelity:

Proverbs 5:4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.

Proverbs 5:22 NLT An evil man is held captive by his own sins;  they are ropes that catch and hold him.

The damage done to our relationships, being captive to another relationship, and the unhappiness that all of this brings are warning signals to avoid the temptation of an affair.

Avoiding An Argumentative Home 

Proverbs 21:9 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 27:15-16 A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; 16 restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

Having an argumentative spirit is a choice – and there is need for self-examination of the heart when this continues to be a feature in our homes. 

Proverbs 17:14, 19a Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. … Anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin…

Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

The answer, of course, is love. 

Proverbs 17:9a Whoever would foster love covers over an offense…

How can we change arguing and conflict into support and encouragement through love? 

Be Thankful to God for Your Marriage

Proverbs 18:22 NLT The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord.

King Solomon writes to his son about finding a treasure in his wife, and it is true for husbands as well. When we value our spouses and realize that they are treasures through which God is blessing us with his favor, we regard them with our highest respect and love. 

How do you demonstrate to your spouse that you consider them a treasure? 

A Wife of Noble Character (Proverbs 31:10-31)

Proverbs ends with a description of a wife of noble character. This wife is independent, hard working, smart, Godly, trustworthy, generous – so many good qualities. 

This is not to make wives feel self-conscious or set the bar so high that no one can live up to it. It is to demonstrate the qualities that all of us should strive to have that will make our relationships the best they can be. 

Conclusion

As we go through some of the Proverbs, we should look at each one as a source for our own life choices and perspectives. What challenges do we see when we read these words of great wisdom?

Proverbs 24:3-4 A house is built by wisdom  and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.

What kind of house are we building? 

What is the atmosphere of our home?

Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house,  but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (that goes for men too!)

There are 31 chapters in Proverbs – making it an easy Bible reading plan – one chapter of Proverbs each day. That’s a lot of wisdom to soak in throughout a month. We are about to enter into August – and it has 31 days … wonder who would like to meet the challenge of reading one chapter of Proverbs each day in August!

We will post some resources on the Facebook page for further reading about Proverbs.

Resources
How Human Wisdom Become Divine

Introduction to Proverbs by Bob Deffenbaugh

Introduction to Proverbs | ESV Global Study Bible

Proverbs are Proverbs

Proverbs Marriage Tips – Cindy and Steve Wright

Books

Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks, and Other Gems from Proverbs by Warren Baldwin

Charging Grizzlies, Rude Neighbors: & More Gems from Proverbs by Warren Baldwin

Come and See

Are you following Jesus? That’s a question that we need to ask ourselves often. It is the key question of discipleship. We are going to explore the idea of following Jesus over the next few weeks. My hope is that every person listening will ask themselves: Am I following Jesus? What can I do to begin following Him? How can I follow Him more faithfully? What has changed in my life since I followed Him? What is stopping me from following Him today? My prayer is that anyone listening will choose to follow Jesus more closely.

Today we begin with The Invitation: Come and See.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

John 1:35-39, NIV

Imagine yourself at that scene … rough and rugged JTB … “Repent! You are sinful people. Repent! ”People are listening to this strange man in the wilderness. One day JTB sees Jesus pass by and says, ‘That is the Lamb to God who takes away the sins of the world.” James and Andrew, ready to receive what Jesus can give, start to follow. Jesus turns around and says, “What do you want?”

Bruner reminds us that these are Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John… ‘the simplest and yet perhaps the most profound question persons can ever be asked: “What are you looking for?” Barclay says this is a symbol of the divine initiative- God takes the first step toward us.

What do people seek when they follow Jesus? What do you want from Jesus in your life? What do they say? “Where do you live?”. Jesus: “Come and see”. That’s the invitation. They saw a man very different from JTB – Jesus the Lamb of God, the humble servant, Poor, gentle, warm, peacemaker, pure of heart.

Come and See Where Jesus Lives

Jesus invites us to come and live life with Him His house. Images of living in God’s house are abundant. (Psalm 27:5; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 84:10)

The idea of Home is found in Jesus’ teachings.

John 14:2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

John’s gospel opens with a vision of home. John 14:1-3, 14a In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

AMP And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us…

Jesus wants us to become part of intimate family of God.

John 15:9 AMP I have loved you, [just] as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love [continue in His love with Me].)

You are invited to dwell in the family of God. … to be a part of that intimate communion right now.

How Do We Respond?

Listen


We listen to the voices urging us to follow Jesus. If John hadn’t said “Look! There is the Lamb of God,” John and Andrew might have missed him. Who in your life has been pointing you to Jesus? Why haven’t you been listening to them? A parent or grandparent. Maybe it’s someone with their own set of problems. Maybe it’s a preacher speaking to you right now!

“We can come up with a thousand arguments not to look, not to listen. But be very careful. Listen. If you do not, you might never find Jesus.”

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

Ask


John and Andrew ask, “Where do you live?” It is very important that we want to know who Jesus is if we want to follow him. We ask this of devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We ask this of the Scriptures – your Bible – the Gospels. We ask this in prayer. “Lord, give me a sense of who you are. Some people say this about you, other people say that about you, but I want a real sense of who you are for myself.” – Nouwen (James 1:5 -ask)

Dwell


John and Andrew stayed the whole afternoon. “I just want to be where you are, dwelling daily in your presence” Dwelling with Christ takes time, patience, intentionality, desire.

“Be with him and listen. Listen to the One who invites you. Be quiet. Like a child dwells in the house with her mother and father. Just dwell. Play around. Be there. A half hour a day … Sit there and do nothing. Waste time with Jesus. (Mark 9:5)”

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

Don’t say “I am too busy.” Don’t say, “I have better things to do.” Just be there. Every day. Pray and discover.

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

Conclusion

Listen, ask, and dwell, and you will slowly grow in Jesus.

Maybe someone is wanting to follow Jesus today in a new way:

  • being baptized to begin a new life
  • praying to be restored to the Jesus life
  • seeking strength in some particular area

Following Jesus is focusing on the One who calls and gradually trusting that we can let go of our familiar world and that something new will come.

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

_________________

Resource: Nouwen, J. M. Henri. Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Convergent Books, 2019.

MENTAL HEALTH: Guest Post, Giveaway, and a Great Read!

This is a guest post by my friend Tony Roberts. I really cannot remember how I crossed paths with Tony in the vast online interwebs, but I’m so glad I did. His ministry to those struggling with mental health is from the perspective of one who has his own battles. I appreciate his honesty, his effort, and his writings. He has a new book coming out in September. In honor of that, I’m going to give away a free copy of his book Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission to one person who leaves a comment on this post. I’ll do this in a few days, so don’t tarry in leaving a comment for me or for Tony and you’ll automatically be entered. Now, enjoy a great post from my friend Tony Roberts. – John

Mental illness can be one of the most self-centered ailments there is.

By this I do not mean that people who battle mental illness are necessarily self-centered. No, I mean the illness itself consumes our minds in such a way that we become unable to see beyond the realm of our own emotional pain. This is not our fault. We are not to blame, at least not for the way our minds work. Contrary to what many believe, our aim is not to draw attention to ourselves. This may be the result, but it is not our desire.

One of the worst episodes I’ve had happened on December 1, 2016.

I was blindsided from the rear and, in spite of little physical damage, I went into sort of shock. I was taken to a nearby hospital. As they tried to transfer me onto a gurney, I became convinced I was paralyzed. They became increasingly frustrated with me and the more they did, the more I came to believe the hospital staff was plotting against me. It was a vicious cycle. I had the presence of mind to know what I needed was the medicine they were denying me and they were restricted from giving me my medication because so many people go to hospitals for drugs who don’t need it. I continued to get worse, abrasive even verbally abusive, until I was admitted to the medical-behavioral unit.

For the next 24 hours, I was the most selfish person I had ever seen. I needed an iPod charge, so I convinced a nurse to let me use her charger. I coaxed a church member to bring me earbuds and expressed dissatisfaction when they weren’t the ones I wanted. I refused to consent to an MRI until they agreed to pipe in my music, and only my music. I was awful. I wasn’t myself. Fortunately, my sister was advocating for me from 500 miles away, assuring the staff that I would get better once I slept and my medication kicked in. It did, and I was tremendously grateful. And more than a bit embarrassed. Ashamed even.

If you have a loved one with a brain disorder such as bipolar, please don’t take it personally when they put their needs before yours.

It’s true they may just be being selfish. They may not ever appreciate what you do for them. In many cases, however, it is the illness, not the identity that is expressing itself. Keep pressing forward. Certainly take care of yourself and don’t set yourself up for abuse, but don’t give up either. I have been so blessed in my life to have friends, faith family members, and loved ones, who were there for me even when I failed to appreciate it. Even when I demanded more in spite of all they gave.

So, how does one with a mental illness move beyond the single self-mindedness our brains focus on? One thing I have started doing when I begin to feel weighed down by my own worries is develop a discipline of intercessory prayer. This is simply praying for others. And not just naming people I know, but engaging in a prayer relationship where I ask for their deepest needs. I write these down in a journal and read them aloud when I pray. Then I check back in to see how these prayers have impacted their lives. One example happened around 3 am when I felt miserable about the state of my existence. I sent this message to a woman from my Hope for Troubled Minds group.

Hey Adrienne, I’m devoting time this week to pray for our community members. How can I best pray for you?

Hey Tony, that is incredibly thoughtful. I am almost at a loss for words. I help care for my Gran 94 and she is bed ridden. I have to pick her up 3 times a day and this morning I am in terrible pain, I pulled a muscle last night in my shoulder blade. She is also getting dementia and hallucinating a lot, I battle to deal with it and it scares me. Lockdown is getting to me. Thank you so much for your compassion.

Adrienne, I will certainly pray for you as you care for your Gran. May you find relief from your pain as well as guidance and protection in dealing with her dementia.

{one week later…}

Hey Adrienne, I have been praying for you as you care for your Gran. How are things going?

My injury is fine, depression is lifting and my patience with Gran has improved greatly. Thank you so much Tony.

This is wonderful, Adrienne. Praise God for answered prayer! Do you have any prayer requests this week?

Hope gives a measure of healing

Now, while God answers all prayers, the answers are not always what we want or when they want them. My point here is to highlight not just how prayer changed physical circumstances, but spiritual orientation. Adrienne and I were feeling very much alone in our suffering. God intervened through prayer and brought us together. This hope gave us a measure of healing that impacted our whole selves.

The Swedish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote:

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

When we pray for the healing of others, we escape the prison of our own minds such that healing happens to us as well.


Tony Roberts served two decades in pastoral ministry and now is the Chief Shepherd of Delight in Disorder Ministries. As a ministry who battles bipolar disorder, he offers real and relevant counsel for those impacted by brain illnesses, including loved ones. He also advises faith leaders on how to involve and include persons with mental illness into the life of the church. Tony is the author of Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission and When Despair Meets Delight: Stories to Cultivate Hope for Those Battling Mental Illness. These are available at Amazon. Autographed copies may be purchased at the When Despair Meets Delight webpage.