Amy Simpson’s first book, Troubled Minds, was a great resource for me as I became an advocate in the church for families dealing with mental illness. Her latest book, Blessed are the Unsatisfied, has much to say to any of us trying to make sense of the muddled world we live in and the desire for better. I’m so grateful she is willing to share a bit of her story and wisdom with us. – Catherine
Let Your Longings Lead You to Hope By Amy Simpson
When my mother’s undiagnosed schizophrenia finally became impossible to explain away—and then was diagnosed—my family lost a lot. My siblings and I lost a caregiver and the luxury of dependency. Dad lost the partnership in his marriage. We all effectively lost someone we loved. And we said goodbye to expectations, pictures of how we thought the future would look, as the family’s meager resources coagulated around care for Mom and we all developed our individual ways of coping. Almost without acknowledgment, many of our family’s established ways and rhythms, habits, and traditions were set aside in favor of a severe pragmatism born of necessity.
Mom was ill for years before I was born. Schizophrenia already had a foot in the door at age 19, when she married Dad and moved across the country. But her own intelligence and concealment conspired with the ignorance, fear, and familiarity of the people around her, and her illness was overlooked for years. Until the day my mom lost reality itself and everyone ran out of excuses. And in my mind, family history is divided by that day—before and after we fell apart.
I’ll bet your family’s history has its own day of demarcation. It’s a day when you lost dreams and your vision of the future. It’s a day when caregiving became part of your routine and you began to learn a whole new lexicon. It’s a day when—whether or not you realized it—fear found a few new comfortable corners in your heart.
Like my family, you might have adopted a firm kind of pragmatism that comes to us in times of emergency. It stays alert, assesses needs, and knows how to get the job done. It keeps us in action long past exhaustion, and it helps us compartmentalize life so that grief and longing don’t intrude on what needs to happen today.
Like many ways to cope, that detached practicality can be both blessing and curse. It can help us function in times of crisis, but it can also destroy the best parts of us. It can train us to live in personal crisis even when no crisis looms, because it’s all we know how to do anymore.
As comfortable as that kind of coping may be for you, please don’t lose yourself to it. You were not made for a purely reactionary life. You were made to live with dreams and hopes and longings, the deepest of which will not be fulfilled in this life. It’s our longings that connect us with hope, and hope is the gateway to anticipation, which can reframe our whole experience. Witness this kind of power in the words of the apostle Paul, who endured excruciating suffering and who wrote in Romans 8:18, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Whether you feel blessed or not, as a follower of Christ, you are. Your future is secure in the hands of the one who made all time. You have your own caregiver, who knows better than you do that this life is not what it should be. When you let yourself live with longing, you make room for eternal hope and anticipation.
Perhaps you’ve packed your longings away like keepsakes of a time before everything changed. God wants to hold them for you, grieving with you at what you’ve lost and building your anticipation for what he has in store. It takes courage to live in awareness of both what is and what you long for. Draw that courage from the God of all hope.
Amy Simpson is an author, speaker, and life & leadership coach who helps influencers get clear on their calling and thrive in times of transition so they can see clearly, lead boldly, live true, and fully engage in life with guiding purpose. Her newest book is Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World. Amy lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, two teenage girls, and two dogs. You can find her at AmySimpson.com.