Community is God’s idea. And it’s a great one! We see it first in the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We see it in the Garden of Eden when Adam needed Eve. We also see it demonstrated by Jesus as He gathers the disciples to be with Him. As a small community, together they explored the depths of His love and came to know the extent of His sufferings. After Christ’s ascension God created the Church, a community tasked to love and care for one another and to share His good news everywhere.
God calls us into community so that together we can discover His truth, determine direction, develop compassion and deter loneliness. It is in the midst of community that His love is magnified and His name glorified.
However, for families dealing with mental health issues, it is common to feel isolated and to believe there is no one who understands. The path seems lonely and the journey, solitary. Finding others who can empathize appears impossible. We continually face the barrier of stigma, with the cruel deception of unwarranted shame. Sometimes we can’t even dream there could be a community of people who could compassionately reflect God’s love in the midst of our situation.
But there is. There are gatherings of those who care for loved ones dealing with mental health difficulties who come alongside each other for mutual support. They come together to learn, to cry, to laugh, to pray. They care for each other in the tragic places and rejoice together in the peaceful places. They share information, ideas and hope.
Nelson and I have not only been encouraged in our groups, but we have been enriched through the friendships we now have with such courageous and faithful people. Together we are learning how to help our loved ones move into recovery. We teach each other to take care of ourselves and find rest for our weary hearts. We reflect God’s ever-present love and faithfulness. And we bear each other’s burdens.
As the new year begins, consider stepping out to find or form a family support group. Several networks and groups are listed below (secular included). If you are looking for fellow sojourners, consider reaching out to one of these resources. YOU may be the one who will need to get something going in your area, but there are those who can help you get started. And be sure to follow the Sparks of Redemptive Grace Facebook page, where we regularly post information and ideas from other caregivers and support networks.
You are not alone. Your family’s mental health situation is not unique. There are those who understand. Join them. Community is God’s great idea.