(January 3, 2007) – from A Firm Place to Stand by Marja Bergen

“…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrew 11:1)

A leap of faith, from not believing in a God to trusting in him – someone I couldn’t even see – was like allowing myself to fall backwards, not absolutely sure there would be something there to catch me when I fell. But when I did that 18 years ago, it made a huge difference to my life. I want to share something I wrote for my book, A Firm Place to Stand. It describes the new coping skills I received when I began to follow God at the age of 42. I had lived with bipolar since the age of 19, relying on my own strength and inadequate medication.

With the greatest determination I could gather, I used to cling to what was left of my mind’s composure. I would feel as though I were hanging from the edge of a high rooftop, white-knuckled, a panicky fear slowly developing. ‘How long can I hold on like this? Can I maintain my strength? What will happen if I let go?’ Exhaustion overwhelmed me. Deep below was the hard ground and no one to catch me if I fell.

…But I did fall – quite a few times. These were devastating experiences and difficult to recover from. The support I received from family, friends, and my doctor was helpful. But my inner life was alone in the battle.

For twenty-three years I tried to live out Rudyard Kipling’s lines from his poem, If: “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will, which says to them, ‘Hold on!'” I tried with my best willpower to survive the mental turmoil when it overtook me. I was determined to be strong, hanging on to whatever I could, but not finding much of substance. They were times of anxiety and fear.

It wasn’t until I reached the part of my life when I could no longer deny that God is real, that coping with crises changed for the better. I realized that it wasn’t up to me to hold on. I could relax my grip and trust in Someone a great deal stronger than myself.

The faith I learned to have in a God who loves me too much to let me go, helps me cope better with stress. Extreme difficulties no longer develop as often. Sometimes I still have fears of falling, and reasons for them too. But today I have a Bible that tells me, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10) Remembering this gives me comfort when I need it. I am not as afraid anymore.

Challenging periods will always be part of my life. There will be times when I’ll have trouble. I may even fall. But I know that when I do, there will be Someone there who will catch me and stay with me as I recover. I’ll never have to be alone.

I have a photograph hanging on the wall across from my bed. A child’s small hand rests comfortably on her father’s big hand. Underneath are the words from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

During tough times, I look at that photograph and feel a sense of peace. No longer is there a need for white-knuckled fists – no longer a need to rely on my own inadequate strength.

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” (Hebrews 11:1, MSG)

Ain’t that the truth!