For years, I have been in the Valley of Achor. Sandstorms. Mirages. Heatstroke. Hosea can relate.

Hosea lives a crummy life. His wife, Gomer, is a prostitute whom he has to repeatedly bring back home after she has a wild night on the town. Gomer is just like God’s people of Israel, just like us, who in our hearts have sex with strangers, who are unfaithful to Jesus, our first love. There’s a lot of sorrow and shame and destruction in Hosea’s story. But in this darkness are promises.

God tells Israel and us that when we run away from Him who loves us best, He will bring us back. One of my favorite promises is Hosea 2:15. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (ESV).

Israel’s sin sent her to the wasteland, but that’s not the only way to end up there. The holy, beautiful, loving God doesn’t have to give us His reasons. For purposes of His own, He takes us into the wilderness, to the sand and the wind and the heat. And there, He speaks softly. He gives us something beautiful, a vineyard bursting with fresh grapes for new wine, for celebration and laughter and song. He makes the Valley of Achor–the Valley of Trouble–a door of hope.

My valley was comprised of the symptoms of Bipolar I. Manic episodes in which I wrecked my car and ran away from home because the voices in my head commanded me. Depression so low I thought about how easy it would be to drown myself in the shower. Drug-induced stability, then 5 years of a toxic and struggling survival. Migraines. Nausea. Weight gain. Sleeping for 11 hours and waking up exhausted. Looking in the mirror and seeing a face like a mask, eyes deadened by the dulling effect of strong psychiatric medication. Or violent nightmares that terrorized sleepless nights. Or paralyzing anxiety that reduced me to tears and kept me from leaving the house. I had to quit my dream job, twice. I was told that I was lucky because I listened to doctor’s advice, that medication would keep me stable, that I would deal with this disease for the rest of my life.

And now, after all these years in the wasteland, my Lord is speaking softly. He has planted a vineyard and the leaves and shoots of the grape vine are beginning to blossom and grow. I am crying quietly now as I think of it, of where I have been and where I am going.

I have been on the GAPS healing diet for 4 months, and completed 2 rounds of BrainCore neurofeedback therapy. As my wonderful naturopath said, I am a changed woman. I am almost completely off of my medications. My mind is clearer than it is has ever been. I’ve got my joy back, and I know it because I have started singing again. Songs of praise run through my mind throughout the day, even days when I have to rest or find a ride or feel afraid, anxious or depressive because I’m weak from killing off pathogens. There are many hours and many days where I am at completely at peace. And it’s getting better all the time.

If you or someone you love know what it’s like to be in the Valley of Achor, particularly if it is related to mental illness, leave a comment. Send me a text or Facebook message. Give me a call or come drink a cup of tea on our back porch. Whether you want to learn more about what I am doing to heal, or you just need someone to sit with you in your pain, I am here for you. You are not alone. I will testify to this: He makes the Valley of Achor a door of hope.