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CHAPTER 2: THE TURNING OF THE TIDE
Having been a Christian for four and a half years, I had a nervous breakdown. This was brought on largely through overwork. Ignorance, spiritual pride and stubbornness also contributed as did genuine suffering, truth and some good motives.
A happily married Christian friend had tried to warn me about doing too much, but my thoughts were, “You can relax and enjoy home life. If I stay in I am lonely and self-pitying. You have no idea of my feelings.” So I took no notice. I should have listened to her.
My breakdown was a nightmare. It made me understand something of what hell was like. I made many mistakes at that time which I afterwards bitterly regretted, and brought much trouble and worry to my family and Christian friends. I was deeply grateful that they stood by me and helped me to recover.
While I am aware that such conditions can have medical causes, in my case I knew primarily it was a spiritual breakdown and God’s judgement upon me. It was the great turning point of my Christian life. It humbled me to the dust, and taught me more lessons in six months than I would otherwise have learnt in 50 years.
Before, I had been unhappy, but now things were far, far worse and I felt in a spiritual dungeon. I had the stigma of a nervous breakdown and being a public Christian failure to add to that of being a spinster.
It took me some time to fully recover. I did not look ill, but often felt rotten. School was a great struggle. It had all largely been my own fault. I had made mistake upon mistake and had not listened to God. Having thought I was helping God so much, I had instead deeply wounded Him and spoilt His work. I wept and wept in repentance and tried to put right the damage I had caused as far as I was able.
One Bible truth was a great anchor for me at this time. I believed the doctrine of election and that God was Sovereign. No matter how big a mess I had made of things I knew, that if God had chosen to save the people I had caused to stumble, nothing I had done would prevent them from being saved. God could overrule.
I had to rest a great deal and I spent hours praying and reading my Bible and Christian books.
My Altering Views
I began to carefully listen to God and to judge my own self. God helped me to see and understand where I had gone wrong. More and more I came to value my time with the Lord, to think and to reflect. Gradually the realisation dawned on me that as far as my own soul was concerned, my breakdown had been the greatest blessing that had ever happened to me since my conversion.
During the next few years God took me through one situation after another in which I had to re-learn my lessons and correct past mistakes.
My view of my lodgings changed. They were not de luxe but I had all that was needed, if not what I liked. I had peace and quiet in the evenings and at weekends. Another advantage was that other Christians did not envy me. I tried to be a good lodger and learnt to be submissive to my landlady and respect her wishes. She mellowed a great deal as time went on, and so did I!
Although I still did not enjoy teaching, and no Mr Right came along to rescue me from it, I was now very thankful to have a job at all and to be able to earn my own living.
Looking at Marriages
Previously I had thought that happily married Christians lived in beds of roses. They were happy in this life, and would also be happy in the next. By comparison I felt I lived on a bed of nails.
However, I began to consider marriages more carefully. Many unconverted people were happily married, but they were on their way to hell. Other couples remained married but were not really compatible. Some people were unhappily married and that was far worse than being single. In some marriages one person had irritating habits that were obviously a great trial to their spouse. Some couples had dreadful problems with their children, some had worries about their health, or their job, or money, or unwanted pregnancies. Although I enjoyed housework myself, I could appreciate that mountains of washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning week in week out was a huge chore.
Many Christian marriages I regarded as mediocre and did not envy them. Some Christian couples were not spiritual equals and the weaker partner hindered the stronger one. The life-work of some Christians was totally ruined by an unsuitable marriage. Some couples had clearly taken a wrong spiritual pathway and ha encouraged one another in it. Other Christians had married for physical attractions only, with disastrous results.
Then I looked at couples who were very happily married, particularly well suited, and greatly used by the Lord, but even the best of them were sinners. Although they might help each other greatly, their sins and weaknesses also influenced their partners.
Obviously married couples know each other better than anyone else, but it is also true that they often “cannot see the wood for the trees.” They can be totally blind to their own sins and the sins of their spouse. Outsiders can often see this easily. This is why we need the church.
Then there was also the constant problem in Christian families, of divided loyalties and having to put God first.
I came to see that the beds of roses, were not so rosy after all.
Looking at Myself
I began to reflect upon my advantages. Under God I could spend my free time and money as I chose and had peace and quiet to wait upon the Lord. My job was secure. Meals for one were easy to get. My landlady’s garden provided an interest. More and more I grew to love my time with the Lord resulting in a greatly improved inner attitude.
I began to look at myself more carefully from God’s point of view.
Married Christians had been very hurtful and thoughtless to me, but so had I been to them. They did not understand my trials, but neither did I understand theirs. They were marvellously forgiving, forbearing and kind when I had my breakdown.
I had treated God like a convenience, someone who was only there to provide me with the happiness I wanted, so why shouldn’t others treat me as a convenience?
My sins prevented God from having spiritual children, so why shouldn’t I be childless?
I had not listened to God about my sins, so why should I expect married people to listen to me concerning theirs?
I had been a poor helpmate for God for years and years, so why should I complain at not having a helpmate?
My sins made God unhappy, so why shouldn’t I be unhappy?
My soul was a cold shabby, inconvenient home for God to live in, so why shouldn’t I live in a home like that?
I kept bossing God around, telling Him what He should do with my circumstances, so why shouldn’t I live with a bossy, domineering landlady?
My sins kept on hurting God and knocking His work flat, so why shouldn’t other Christians knock me flat with hurtful remarks?
I had often made God feel lonely by preferring the company of people rather than talking to Him, so why shouldn’t I feel lonely?
If I felt plain and unattractive it was only a just chastisement for having been vain and conceited as a teenager.
My sins had made me a miserable companion for God, so why shouldn’t I suffer from lack of companionship?
The state of my soul was the opposite of what God would have liked, so why shouldn’t my circumstances be the opposite of what I would have liked?
Other Christians did not understand my trials and viewpoint, but I did not understand what Jesus had suffered on the cross or how He viewed me. The hurts I had received from Christians were pinpricks compared with the way I had hurt God.
Jesus had been single, so had John the Baptist and so had Paul, so why shouldn’t I be?
God also burned into my soul that I had no rights. Sinners have no rights whatsoever. I had no right to the air I breathed, the food I ate, or the clothes I wore. I had no right to a husband, or children, or happiness. The only right sinners have, is eternity in hell. Any blessings or gifts in this life are given by God’s free bounty and grace alone. None of them are deserved. In hell they will all be gone forever.
God also said to me over and over again, “Aren’t you prepared to do for Me what you were prepared to do for your own selfish ends?” I began to see how self-centred and warped my motives had been for years. So little of what I had done had truly been for His glory. Many of my good works and much of my obedience had been done to twist God’s arm into doing for me what I wanted.
As I thought along these lines, my spiritual attitude improved, but my weakness remained. I had a deep inferiority complex. I was still desperately lonely and longed for companionship. It kept me a spiritual cripple.
Book © (Copyright): Betty Vivian