I watched the turmoil in his eyes as our son Douglas wrestled with envy at the news his younger brother, Jonathan, had just bought his first house. And when his little sister, Joanna, completed her master’s studies, Douglas struggled again. After all, he was the eldest. Shouldn’t he be first in all things?
And yet there he was, grappling daily with the challenges of bipolar disorder, sidelined by an invisible, debilitating illness while his siblings moved forward, enjoying the benefits of healthy, well-functioning brains. Because mental illness had ambushed him in his late teens, Douglas, nearing middle age, was still living with his parents, working a part-time job.
Since the world bestows worth mainly on the successful, rich or powerful, and Douglas had few realistic hopes of being independent, let alone successful or wealthy, he felt he was worth less. Though he treasured his wife and children, he felt there was not much value to his life.
His experiences are common among those dealing with mental health disorders. Often they become “stuck” at the stage of life they were in at the onset of the illness. In many ways they have been robbed of their future or potential. But they should never be deprived of their worth.
As caregivers and those who love ones crippled by a mental illness, perhaps our first and most important job is to remind them of their intrinsic value as people made by God and redeemed by Jesus. May we find grace to help them see the worth He and we ascribe to them.
Recently lines from the familiar Christmas song “O Holy Night” reminded me afresh that none of us—not Douglas nor Jonathan nor Joanna nor you nor me—derive our worth from what we do or how wealthy or credentialed we are:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.”
We know our worth, we feel our worth, because grace and truth appeared in Jesus. Jesus came to show us the love of God and lead us into the heart of God.
This Christmas may your “weary soul rejoice” in finding your soul’s worth in Christ and helping your loved one do the same.