I’m lying in bed with the phone in my hand above my head, attempting to wake up by reading the BBC morning headlines. I scroll down to the features because the writer in me is always on the hunt for a good story, even when I’m sleepy. I click on The Teenagers Who Poison Themselves by Justin Parkinson. Why? I’m not sure, yet.
The more I read, I learn that self-poisoning is on the rise among young girls in the UK and Parkinson is attempting to answer the question, “What drives them to do it?”
“It’s like my brain has two bits: the happy bit and the bad bit,” says 18-year-old Jasmine. “The bad bit keeps pushing until it takes over. You feel like you’re losing control of yourself a little bit more and a little bit more. And then it happens.
“There’s something in my brain telling me to do it. It’s sort of like having a toddler who’s demanding things of you constantly. Eventually you just get so tired and the toddler is annoying you so much that you just give in.”
Jasmine’s words haunt me for hours.
This voice? It seems obvious who it is.
She’s describing the enemy of the soul; a repetitive accusatory voice on a mission to extinguish the flame God lights inside each one of us at birth. It is a voice that preys on weakness born in difficult circumstances, when darkness threatens peace and compromises the senses. A voice that whispers, “You are unlovable,” until we choose to believe it.
After I finish the article, I click over to the daily lectionary and I’m stunned by providence when I read these verses in Proverbs.
“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:34-36)
It’s as if God is answering the journalist’s question with simple, straight-forward language. What drives people to injure themselves? A failure to find God.
How do we find God? Hearing, listening, watching and waiting, declares the writer of Proverbs.
Most of those who self-poison say they do it because physical illness is easier to handle than enduring emotional pain. Revelation 14:10 describes continual upheaval and a lack of rest as the ultimate separation from God. Striving and a lack of rest in body, soul and mind ultimately results in a tormented life.
I turn the screen off, lay the phone on my stomach, close my eyes, think and pray for Jasmine.
I can read her story with grief and assume she has made God absent in her inner turmoil. I can see the situational sawdust clouding her perspective and miss the log stuck in my eye.
I often struggle to believe God loves me for who I am, not what I produce. I listen to the voices of experience instead of the Truth. I numb uncertainty with a glass of wine, scrolling through social media feeds, and binge watching “Downton Abbey.” What causes me to do it?
It’s not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves, it’s that I forget the truth that is foundational in claiming a restful heart.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103: 10-12)
Leave God out and quickly forget His love believes, hopes, endures and conquers everything. Whatever we do to numb pain and cope outside of love becomes an empty counterfeit for resurrection.
A heart at rest is a heart that knows it is loved.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103: 13-14)
Could your busyness and unrest be the result of a subversive message about being unlovable? How does knowing you are loved change perspective about your circumstances today?
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.