I’m reading a book recommended by a friend, Jim, bought for me by my wife Kelly. The book is called, “Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets,” by Craig Rennebohm with David Paul. The book is about a man’s journey into depression during college, and how that changed his life’s trajectory towards becoming a chaplain. He eventually worked on the streets of Seattle with the chronically homeless and mentally ill population there. He shares their stories, his story, and the story of how companionship or friendship, changes and transforms lives towards mental health recovery and faith.
I took some notes as I’ve been reading, and some quotes that stood out to me were:
“In our hardest moments come the toughest questions [about faith] and the deepest answers.”
“Many of us who journey with mental illness have a greater-than-average spiritual sensitivity.”
“Through Companionship, the gifts of the Spirit are made real.”
“Companionship is an unfolding and growing relationship, a way of sharing the world together.”
“The soul thrives not in isolation, but in community.”
“Thus it is that, in listening, we not only give; we also receive.”
These words and stories of companionship, faith, homelessness, and mental illness were and are powerful to me, because they remind me of my own struggles, spiritual and emotional poverty, and longing for the deepest human connection-intimacy-in friendship.
Often times when I’m at my lowest point with regard to my emotional, mental, and spiritual health, I seek out isolation, but that’s precisely when I need companionship the most. Jesus was acquainted with sorrows and loneliness. Isaiah 53:3 (CEB) says:
“He was despised and avoided by others; a man who suffered, who knew sickness well. Like someone from whom all people hid their faces, he was despised, and we didn’t think about him.”
I think we need to experience Jesus friendship and Jesus companionship in ourselves and in others in order for mental health and faith recovery to be possible. The quotes and verse above remind me of a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi which says:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, the truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”
I leave you with these two questions and this thought:
Are you a companion to someone hurting, isolated, or in need of a friend?
Has Jesus been a companion to you?
Be a friend, a companion, and a listening ear, and a person who walks side by side doing life together and carrying each other’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).