Carl Longman

Darkness can drive a man into a solitary place

Mental health issues are all too frequent these days, says Carl Longman... speaking from personal experience

It wasn’t that long ago that in a space of a week I had five conversations with different people, on separate occasions, on how long-term stress has affected the health of the ones they care for. There’s no doubt about it: work pressures are increasing while the financial belt is being tightened. Demand is out-stripping supply.

We are at the height of technology, yet victims of our own success, as more is expected from people and at a faster rate. It often takes longer now to fill out paperwork for a task than to actually perform the task itself. Throw a bereavement or difficulties with relationships into the mix, and a man can be brought to his knees with a yoke he can barely carry. Stress, anxiety and mental health issues are top of the list these days.

Recently I found myself in just such a place; broken, spent and completely exhausted. As I walked along the coast, distraught, with a deep anxiety that had taken hold, I had one question running through my head: how could the world be so cruel? I felt like I was in an unrecoverable place.

The first response to this was to get back to church. My heart had taken a hit about nine months previously and my coping method was to withdraw. This was a mistake. Darkness drives a man into solitary places, alone with his thoughts.

The Church that is united in Jesus and genuine in love is where we all need to be. To love and to show love to your kin in obedience to God fills the heart with peace beyond understanding. Fellowship is key, this cannot be stressed enough. Your mind may think of all kinds of scenarios not to go and be with your brothers... but go anyway!

Jesus found his secret place with his Father in Gethsemane – make sure you find yours too. A place where it is just you and him. Thank God, praise him and pray for yourself and others. Have normal conversations with him. Your anxiety will soon fade away, I guarantee it. More importantly, though, your intimacy with God will climb to a greater level.

I’ve made up a little saying recently: the mind thinks, but the heart knows. What I mean by this is that the heart knows more about what it needs than our minds care to imagine.

The Word of God and true prayer from the heart are essential to the inner life, and come together in sacred communion with the Lord.

Trust God as you are being refined. Just as precious metal feels the heat, so you will probably agonise as your impurities are drawn to the surface. Your weaknesses will become more greatly exposed, but as you draw closer to God in your weaknesses, his strength will be perfected in them.

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