Amid the work we do to support and mentor people in their war with a mental disorder, I was struck recently with a sense of immense thankfulness.  In this post I would like to affirm the high value of support and divine intervention in my own life.  By doing so, my hope is that others will find strength and encouragement in my story–and the stories we all share.

My experience with bipolar is different from that of many others. Though our backgrounds are unique, I believe we often become so absorbed in other stories that we fail to realize the work of God in our own lives. I have never been hospitalized for a mental disorder, nor put on a 72-hour suicide watch. I have not hurt myself or others. Though I may not be as successful as some people, I am thankful to be more successful than others.  In many of our stories, we each can see the redemptive thread, that things are not as bad as they could (or maybe should) be.

My story is more about spiritual cultivation. For while I wondered why God spared me pain in some areas, I questioned why He allowed me to endure bipolar disorder. These questions have some validity as I process the events in my life. As I seek to help others and establish boundaries in their lives, I can see how certain divine boundaries have protected me.

This processing may become “navel gazing,” where I become so absorbed in my own journey that I fail to look outside myself. As Tullian Tchividjian illustrates in his book Glorious Ruin, when we focus on the “why’s” of our story, we fail to understand about the “Who.” God is present in every aspect of our lives. He is there in our joy and in our suffering. I do know that God is present in all of my journey.

I am reminded to be thankful. When I look back at wonderful times, I thank and praise God for them. When I look back at difficult times, I say with confidence that God was present and working.

Throughout Scripture, we read about experiences of suffering and trial. Often these experiences are followed by evidence of God’s work. Paul, for example, describes his affliction in Asia (2Cor. 1:8-9), then reveals that God used that suffering to generate more trust. I am convinced that my experience with severe bipolar disorder was the way to get help and become stable. Through it all, God cultivated a deep desire in me to help others and to remain ever dependent on Him.

When we consider the redemptive thread running through our stories, we can be wholly thankful for what God has done.