When I entered the mental health unit of the local hospital, I was alone.  My wife and daughter came to see me, and my mother called on the phone, but I was alone.  Twenty-one hours a day I was surrounded by strangers—the majority of whom were mentally ill!  My walls of self-defense and self-reliance were firmly in place, and for a day all I did was watch the others in silence.

1Kings 19:4, 13-14  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers…. (13)  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (14)  And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

After my second “Community Meeting,” I realized that I was not alone by myself; everyone else there was alone too.  Despair has a way of isolating us; we feel solitary and useless, as Elijah did.  But when I saw that the other people alone around me understood what I was feeling, then I began to bond with them—our community  became like a modern-day colony of emotional lepers, thrown together by circumstances, but united in the common cause of survival. 

            The most traumatic experience of my hospitalization came when the staff told me that I would have to leave my community and move to another floor.  I had a meltdown, and retreated far within the cave of my pain and self-pity.  I felt more alone and abandoned than I had ever felt before.  I wouldn’t eat, I didn’t want to see anyone, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to see me. 

            But as I stepped out of the elevator on my new floor, my face wet with tears, all my possessions in two paper bags, who should step out of the adjacent elevator but my daughter Elizabeth and my friend Tim.  Inwardly I cursed God for letting them see me this way.  But He knew what he was doing.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  (10)  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  (11)  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  (12)  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

They helped me through the next hour, and they have helped me through many hours since then.  My wife Darlene, my son Jeremy, my friend Lee, Pastor Dan—these and a few others have made a point to check on me, hold me up when I need it, and leave me alone (nearby) when I need to decompress.  My daughter Jennifer even flew in from northern Canada to help in my recovery.

            People in numbers still overwhelm me and I tend to withdraw; but with one or two at my side, I can stand on my wobbly legs and work on making my way back to the land of strength and health.

Matthew 18:19-20  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.  (20)  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

I have taken great comfort in the story of Elijah referred to above.  The prophet had a tremendous victory, followed by a severe bout with depression and suicidal thoughts.  But he never forgot God, and God never forgot him.  When Elijah was ready, the Lord told him to join up with Elisha and to continue his ministry with this faithful man at his side; that was what he (and I) needed—God and a friend.  Then, almost as an afterthought, the voice from Heaven told him,

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.  ( I Kings 19:18)

God had an army held in reserve for the day when they would be needed!  What a comfort and encouragement!

            I am not alone.  I am blessed to know that so many people are thinking about me, praying for me, struggling along with me, pulling for me—and it is wonderful to know that there is an entire fleet of ambulances (figuratively speaking) ready to rush to my aid.  But for now, the ambulances can stand by on alert–what I need personally is a walker or a pair of crutches to lean on as I take that next step.