Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning; -Soren Kierkegaard
I’ve spent the last three years working with individuals who have mental health disabilities. The first two years were spent mostly working with adolescents, in which I found some success, but this last year was spent working with adults. I believe that if Jesus were here on Earth today, people who have mental health disabilities would be a high priority on His list. One only has to do a short survey of the gospels to see that He spent time with the socially marginalized. He was changing lives and promised us that He would equip us to do the same. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these you will need in great excess when it comes to working with individuals who have mental health disabilities. In fact, “Gentle Teaching” is the driving philosophy behind most mental health programs. I prayed daily before each and every shift that these attributes would be the guiding force behind my interactions with the people I worked for. I learned a lot and I grew a lot from this position. On occasion, I was even presented with the opportunity to share the message of Jesus. In the end however, I had to walk away. Although I prayed for the Spirit to help me in my work and believe that He did grow these attributes in me, it never became something I enjoyed doing. It was always a struggle, like trying to smile when you aren’t really happy. I questioned for a long time my inability to find satisfaction in this work. If I was truly a Christian who was empowered by the Spirit then shouldn’t I be better at this? Shouldn’t there be less of a struggle and more success? Shouldn’t I be better at doing something Jesus Himself would be doing? In 1st Corinthians, Paul talks about gifts. He tells us that God has equipped different people to do different works. The conclusion I drew from re-reading this scripture is this; although working in mental health is a good thing, that doesn’t mean it is what God has designed me to do. Lots of works are good, but we aren’t called to do all of them. Jesus would definitely be investing in people who have mental health disabilities and healing them of these paralyzing conditions, but He would also be doing other things too. John tells us this about Jesus; “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) What are you called to do? So many people spend their lives unhappy doing things that they aren’t designed to do. Maybe instead of being called to do the things we know Jesus did, we’re called to do the “many other things” instead. I want to encourage you to know yourself, know your creator and find out exactly what He has designed you to do.