I have not experienced very much peace in my life; some factors of this being circumstantial and self-imposed, while others are simply out of my control. Although I was seeking out counsel from friends and mentors, the aching feeling that was the weight of a rock in my soul closed off any feeling and openness I could muster. Horrific grief stilled climbed into my soul no matter how much I prepped for it. The very thought that catered to any form of darkness caused severe distress and uncontrollable worry for so much of my young adult life. I had given up the fight to attempt to believe in good and stopped yearning for any glimmer of control.
I had loved and then lost.
Hoped and gave up.
Felt and became numb.
Dreamed and experienced disappointment.
Kind dreams and soft words were shoved far away. Laughter became noise. Joy created distaste. Love for life seemed like a fading echo than a once blazing reality.
Before I turned 20, I had experienced the ripping pain of that comes with losing a loved one but several times over. Within a year, I had lost my mentor, my niece, my childhood classmate, and my grandfather all to either sickness or tragedy. Before this period of my life, I had a starry-eyed view of God and a iron belief that the Lord knows what we can handle and won’t ask us to go through anything we can’t.
But friends, the raw truth is this: I couldn’t handle it. And I still can’t.
Prior to this year of loss, I had already gone headfirst into a battle with destructive body image patterns and several years of depression. If earthly wisdom was true, I would have created a shield against all unpredictable tragedy and loss, that I could bear anything because the Lord created me to do so. But that’s the thing: the Lord did not create us to be mini-Gods. Or to be self-run, problem-solving machines.
I was created to know where to put my reliance and where to put my hope. I was created as God’s child, to find my father in this world.
“But when I am weak, He is strong.“
To be introduced to the dark home of anxiety and grief, it is not something I would ever wish for someone to enter in. I will not give glory to the dark days that later feel wasted or the mornings that still threaten my soul and well-being. It was a horrible sick and twisted time in life that I pray you, dear readers, never have to go through. My parents were the most incredible supports in my life during that time, and even when their efforts were exhausted and they could no longer help me, they continued to wrap me fiercely in love and love me so unconditionally I do not know I will ever be able to repay them. I still remember to this day my mom reading Scripture and truth over me but also giving me the blunt truth when I needed to hear it most: “Sarah, it is a renewing of your mind that you need to focus on. It won’t happen overnight. It is a choice you have to wake up every day and consciously make. You need to stop being self-focused and worrying about all your own problems. Think of someone else”. Although that may have sounded harsh to my ears then, my mom was right. Depression quite often links to us feeling incapable and down on our own life because we can become so purposeless. I became so into myself and what was happening to my mind that I forgot that our significance and meaning is not weighed by the bad things that have happened in our lifetime. I had to start making a choice: to believe the lies and attacks that I felt, or set my heart and future on truth while praying for strength. I simply had to choose where to devote my energy, time and thoughts.
It has been the hardest battle I have ever fought.
Moving to the college I would attend for the next several years was one of the biggest steps and life changers for me. I was not only surrounded by a driven and passionate student body, but by people who came alongside me and said “Me too.” My demons I had hid so cleverly during high school were released by the simple grace of my peers who sought to see me as the Lord seeks His children. I have wept with a broken heart more times than I would like to admit, but these past years have by cleaned and completely gutted of the guilt and shame of my past. There were such times when friends would wrap me in blankets, read scripture to me, pray over me in restaurants, or sit with me as I cried. They poured into me and put truth in me when I believed none.
My anxiety had taken a heavy toll and this past December it started to affect my daily life in a new way. I remember getting coffee with a friend and was attempting to hide that I was having a panic attack in that moment when she asked me if I needed to go for a walk. “Sarah, you seem so miserable.” She listened to me, assured me, and urged me to make a change. After talking it through with my parents, they urged me to seek out a church community that could come alongside me as well as seek out my old school chaplain to talk about counseling. My roommate had just signed up for a Bible study at the church I went to, and in dire need I quickly asked her if I could join.
Friends, this Bible study is changing my life. We are reading Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer, and she uses Scripture and life examples to completely overturn the power of anxiety, doubt, and fear by simple renewing your mind to the Lord’s promises. Our small group of 5 has quickly become a place to share the gut of our week and be a support for one another. Every single woman in my small group has a history of depression or anxiety. During our time we discuss, question, cry, support one another, and are tools in the Lord’s healing process. It would would be pages and pages before I could fully proclaim what a tool Power Thoughts as been, so please check out this study! Another book that was brought up was A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I was told by three different individuals to read it but had yet to pick it up. Funny, the book was literally handed to me a couple days ago by the sweet mom of whom I babysit for and I started reading it the next day. Oh. my. word. It’s incredible. It’s as if God used these women to write these books as a love letter for my very soul. Ann Voskamp talks of the beauty of a thankful heart and how it helps us seek God at every point in life despite horrific tragedy. I have not finished it yet, but am being humbled, challenged, enlightened and given a gift of hope through the reading.
For the first time in my life I have been giving healing through tears,but not just as a way to feel pain. I served God as if I didn’t believe that he could completely heal me. I was convicted one day that I needed to pray to be restored, not just to be able to live a life half-empty. For 6 years, I woke up having an anxiety attack every morning. Fear of becoming something I wasn’t, disappointment, grief, anger, danger, and a constant spiritual attack on my soul propelled me into many years of hanging on by a thread. I constantly asked, “Lord, why aren’t you healing me?”
We are more than conquerors through Christ.
The peace I am living I can’t even explain. Yesterday, I found myself smiling. The kind of moment where it overtakes your face and you feel it stretch across your cheeks. It felt full. The previous night I had slept restless and could have very well tumbled into negativity that would have affected my attitude of the day. Instead, I chose to thank God for a body that desires to move (and for some reason only needed 7 hours of sleep!). I woke up completely at peace. Not just one day, but several in a row.
In this journey of reading Power Thoughts and A Thousand Gifts, its as though I am in a class for mental wellness and life appreciation. I feel like a kid again; only now it is sprinkled with the gentleness of adulthood and full gratitude of the gifts I have been able to open these last (almost) 22 years.
After 6 years of sickness, I pleaded in hours of prayer on my knees, support of friends and family, and confiding in the Lord to pull me through. Until that point, I just wanted God to heal me without any effort on my part. Friends, the Lord isn’t going to do anything unless we open our lives to Him and give Him permission to make the change. I started seeking out the root of the problem: fear and disbelief. I had never taken the time to get to know my God and challenge what I believe. I wanted Him to POOF! heal me and I could go on my merry way. Oh friends, as weird as it sounds, doubting my God helped me fall more in love with Him. He doesn’t want us to just mindlessly believe without every seeking out why. He is not offended by our whys or doubts. We were created to wonder. We were created to seek out TRUTH at all costs. Because the truth will set you free: free from condemnation, lies, fear, hurts, and shame. Does God hide truth from us? No. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13. He wants to give us fullness. We must seek Him in fullness.
The past three weeks, although still holding ups and downs, I have felt the supernatural peace of being covered in prayer. I can’t even explain it. It’s as if someone is holding me up without me trying. There will still be days when I tune my mind to the wrong radio or choose to focus on how I feel vs. what is true. But if I am being honest, God is accepting my open heart and is strengthening my effort. Yes, it is my choice to set my mind on right things and truth everyday, but in doing that the Lord promises to be my strength and handle the rest.
The following books have been such a comfort for me these past few weeks and I encourage you to check them out.
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer
I humbly ask that if you think of it, to keep me and my thought life in prayer. It is been a harsh, harsh battle and prayer is the most wonderful gift.
For those who have struggled with the same thing or something similar, know I am praying over you today that you do not give up the fight, but rather you surrender it to the Lord and let Him fight for you. He died for our hang-ups and those sleepless nights. So why do we keep living like He didn’t?
” I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalms 27:13-14 NKJV)
Until next time.
So much love to you.