All right, I know those little bamboo thingies people use as gag gifts are actually called Chinese finger traps, but I’ve always called them Houdini handcuffs, probably because of a certain cartoon that showed the skeleton of Harry Houdini and a finger trap on his index fingers as if it was the one thing he couldn’t figure out how to escape. Hence, Houdini handcuffs (plus it’s alliteration). Anyway…
There is a pandemic occurring, and I don’t mean COVID-19. The mental pandemic of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts is prevalent and increasing. Many of my friends and acquaintances, old and young alike, struggle with these, and I myself struggled.
Notice the past tense of that last verb? I’m living proof that victory is possible and attainable!
How? I don’t pretend to be an expert, and I am not certified in any way, shape, or form by human standards. But I’ve experienced freedom and healing from these, and I want to share my journey to deliverance.
First, allow me to describe point A and point B of my journey. Point A was in the darkest days of my life. Dreams were disappointed. God felt distant and antagonistic. I rarely smiled or laughed with any real joy (although I was a great faker). I felt like a huge failure, burden, and less worth than dirt. Words that appeared almost daily in my diary included “self-loathing,” “unlovable,” and “worthless,” among others. Many of my diary entries began and/or concluded with, “I’m such a mess.” Sound familiar to anyone? Point B of my journey was in the last year, facing a worldwide pandemic and all that came with it, more disappointed dreams career-wise, financial struggles (also sounding familiar to anyone?), and a six-months-and-counting severely debilitating medical condition with unknown cause or cure. YET in the midst of this, abiding peace and joy, deep and increasing gratitude, and many smiles and real laughter. I think 2020 has been the best year of my life so far – not kidding!
How did I get from point A to point B? It was a journey for sure – not one giant step – and required commitment and perseverance. There’s not one sugar-coated spoonful of medicine to take and be cured, so shake that out of your mind if you’re serious about being delivered.
This journey is also deeply personal, and yours will likely look differently than mine. However, I’m going to lay down some guidelines/principles that guided me and may also benefit you. Here goes…
The first thing to know is that there are truth and lies, and we often believe lies, which doesn’t make them true. And these lies are the cause of the majority of our pain. God created us, and He is Truth. His Truth is imprinted in the very cores of our beings as surely as an artist’s fingerprints. When we believe lies, the lies contradict the truth of God, and that conflict is excruciating to us.
When I was first struggling to find release from depression and the excruciating conflict caused by the abundant lies I was believing, a very dear friend told me something like this (paraphrased), “You say the lies are like a dam blocking the river of God’s Truth from reaching your heart. The Holy Spirit is giving you a weapon to bring down that dam, and maybe it’s just a fork. But that fork can bring down the dam eventually. Just stab wherever the Holy Spirit tells you to stab when He tells you to stab.” The point being that no matter how small the effort may seem, doing what God says to do is ultimately effective. As the beautiful song says, “Trust and obey.” The dam will ultimately fall, and the river of Life will flow from God’s heart to your own.
“For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert”Isaiah 35:6b, ESV
There are several habits which helped me break down that dam and turn my fork into a bulldozer to allow the living waters of God turn my heart’s desert into a garden of life. These are some of the major ones:
1. Tell yourself the Gospel, the real Gospel.
Here is where the Houdini handcuffs/Chinese finger trap analogy comes in. See, for most of my life, people tried to help me in my struggle with depression by telling me nice things about myself, how wonderful I was, how much I meant to them, etc. But that only boosted my feelings for a short bit, then I crashed back down, sometimes even lower than before, because I knew deep down how much of a mess I was and how much of a failure I was. People kept trying to be helpful by telling me that what I was feeling wasn’t true, yet like pulling apart on Houdini handcuffs, the depression only tightened around me. I found release when I pressed into the “handcuffs” instead of pulling away from them. What does this mean? I confessed and accepted that I really am a failure. I stopped trying to resist the idea or hope that I wasn’t a failure. I pressed all the way in, took the cup of bitter self-realization, and “drank it to its dregs.” I suck at life. AND THAT’S OK. The only reason that’s ok is because Jesus Christ died for me, took away my sins, rose from the dead, and exchanged my horribleness with His awesomeness. That is the true Gospel! If you keep trying to convince yourself you’re a good person, you’re missing the Gospel entirely. But when you press into the truth that we all deserve to be thrown into Hell forever, then you come across God’s grace, His forgiveness, and His unmerited love for you. Unmerited – that’s such a beautiful word! It means that God’s love is not dependent upon you or what you do in the least; it is dependently wholly and solely on who He is. That is Truth!
And that’s a big deal. See, when I tried to make myself a good person, not only did I fail miserably again and again (resonate with anyone?), but I also equated God’s pleasure and love for me with my futile efforts at making myself better. That made God’s love tenuous, feeble, and at times nonexistent in my perspective. But when I confess that I’m a terrible person deserving of death but that Christ died for me anyway and loves me unconditionally and exchanged His sinlessness for my sinfulness, then suddenly everything changes. Now God’s love and pleasure with me is based upon how Jesus Christ lived, not how I conduct myself. Now His love is never disappointed with me because God was never ever disappointed with Jesus. Now His love is massive, strong, and sure through any circumstance and any failure of mine because Jesus saved me.
That is the real Gospel. That is truly good news of great joy!
The habit associated with this truth is to tell it to yourself often, even daily, even multiple times a day, because we need it told to ourselves that often. Pray and tell it back to God too – He loves that. Tell Him that you’re a horrible person and have no merits of your own and that your only merits come from Jesus Christ. Thank Him for grace. His Truth will flow.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'”Luke 2:10-11, NASB
2. Pray and listen.
This is a tough one for our chronically attention-deficit culture, because it requires stopping and doing one thing only. Now, to clarify, praying can take place anytime, anywhere, all the time – and should. What I’m speaking of here is a very specific kind of prayer, which my friend who introduced me to it calls “listening prayer.” When I do this kind of praying, I most often do so at night when everyone else in the house is asleep or at least in bed. Morning larks might prefer the early dawn hours instead. But the basic thing is to be alone and as distraction-less as possible. Phone goes away, computer gets shut down, and if necessary, door gets locked, etc.
I need to make a short rabbit-trail here. FYI, not all of the voices you hear in your head are your own thoughts. Some are, of course, and sometimes you might be hearing from God or one of His angels, and sometimes you’re hearing from our enemy, the devil and his demons. Especially when you hear accusatory, condemning thoughts inside your head, those are more than likely coming from the devil/demons. I used to make the huge mistake of assuming all the things I heard inside my head were my own thoughts, and that was terrible. Any time the devil/demon put a truly wicked idea in my head, I took credit for it and was shocked at my own horribleness. But it wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong; I can think horrible things all on my own. But a large part of the horrible things popping into my head were not coming from me at all, and once I realized that, I could deal with them more effectively. I also used to make the enormous mistake of judging God based on my own thoughts, when the correct way to do it is to judge my own thoughts based on who God is and what He has said in His Word, the Holy Bible. God never contradicts Himself, so when whatever you’re hearing inside your own head doesn’t line up with what the Bible says, it’s not God you’re hearing.
Back on track, after getting alone and eliminating distractions as much as possible, then I do the really hard thing and get quiet. For many of us, our thoughts are never quiet. To do this well takes lots of practice, and we must start small and practice. I started with five minutes. I started by sitting on the edge of my bathtub, soaking my feet in warm water, and trying to imagine in my head God on His heavenly throne – for five minutes. Whenever I became distracted, I didn’t waste time beating myself up for it but just prayed a quick “sorry” and refocused on that image.
Now, to hear from God gets a lot easier with practice and also with starting with confession. Confession is not earning God’s favor or renewing our forgiveness; it’s more about clearing the air and getting ourselves straight with God – it’s for our sakes, not God’s. (If our forgiveness depended on our recognizing and naming every one of our sins, we’d be in big trouble!) Confession allows us to reorient into humility, recognize where we’ve gone wrong, allow the Holy Spirit to point out corrections, and to most of all remember the Gospel. My confessions often end in gratitude and thanksgiving for grace. Confession doesn’t relieve our guilt itself, because only Jesus’ blood does that, but it does often help us release our feelings of guilt and shame. It’s an important part of this process.
After confession, I ask God to help me listen, then I do it. I listen. Pay attention to this: I have never come before God in listening prayer and left without hearing Him say something. Not a single time. God wants to speak to us! He’s waiting for us to listen! Now, I’m not speaking specifically about asking God a particular question and getting His answer about it. I’m speaking about sitting at God’s feet and asking Him, “What do You want to say?” Most often He says, “I love you.” Many times He has given me insight into something. Sometimes He says multiple things and wants me to ponder them. Let me tell you something, all the truths I have tried to push from my head down into my heart make the journey a lot more effectively when God is the One saying them to me. All I had to do is listen to Him, to give Him the opportunity to speak and say whatever He wants.
The habit is to do this often and practice being quiet for longer times. There have been times when I was particularly flustered and couldn’t focus, so I stayed on my face (literally) in prayer for over an hour until my thoughts finally settled and I could listen to what God wanted to say. Persevere and don’t stop coming to God in listening prayer. I can say from experience that when I listen-pray to God daily, my attitude soars, but when I begin to miss days, it doesn’t take long until I feel disconnected from Him and frazzled again. It takes commitment and intentionality and persistence, just like any good relationship.
“Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live”Isaiah 55:3a, NASB
3. Read the Bible.
Find a good translation that you can understand and dig in! There are audio Bibles for those of you who learn through hearing, and there are tons of studies, commentaries, maps, and other tools to help you understand what you are reading. One thing I will say as a helpful tip: Read it like it’s God’s autobiography. The Bible isn’t a rulebook for you to check and see how well you’re living life. I confess, I used to read it that way, and it was dead to me. It felt like an unwelcome chore to read. Then I came across Exodus 34:6-7 and realized this was God describing Himself, and since He knows Himself better than anyone else does and since He always speaks the truth, this is who He really is! This is what He wants us to know about Himself! When I took that and explored the rest of the Bible, searching for His characteristics – His sovereignty as God, His compassion, graciousness, being slow to anger, His abundant and kind steadfast love, His unerring truth, the generosity and faithfulness of His love, His remarkable forgiveness, and His unfailing justice – I found them in every story. When I made Him the main character of the Bible, suddenly the Word came to life for me, so much so that sometimes I wondered if I had ever read the Bible at all, even though I have since my youth. It came together for me, and I began understanding things in new (well, new-to-me) ways. It’s God’s autobiography; it’s His revelation of what He wants us to know about Himself, who He is and what He’s done. It’s excellent reading when you approach it that way.
Reading the Bible is extremely important. How can I recognize God’s voice in my life if I don’t know what He has said? People say I write like I talk. (And if you say that means “too much,” I will give you a frowny face… then laugh and shrug.) God writes like He talks, too. If you want to know His voice, get to know His Word. They will always sound alike. The better you know His Word, the better you will know Him and His voice. To use an analogy, imagine you’re going scuba diving. You’re on a boat in the middle of open water, and a treasure ship is sunk below you at the bottom of the ocean. You have an air tank and other scuba gear with you, and those represent prayer. That is how you get down to the treasure ship – or in analogy form, that is how you connect with God on a deep and personal level. But without an anchor, you’re going to get lost. Not only is your boat going to drift with the always shifting wind and currents, but you might even get lost on the way down! For those of you who haven’t been scuba diving in deep water, there comes a point in the descent where you cannot see the surface above you and neither can you see the ocean floor beneath you. It’s an eerie place to be, and your only reference point is that anchor line you’re following down. Lose sight of that, and you could end up far away from your target. The Bible is your anchor line leading you to God. Cling to it. Keep it in sight always. Come back to it when you get distracted and drift away. Don’t get lost.
There is an issue of time for many of us when it comes to reading our Bibles. “We don’t have time,” we say, while we set aside hours to watch streaming, tv, and movies. We’re very good at making excuses and not so good at doing what is actually best for ourselves. Reading our Bibles is nourishing, flourishing, and vital. I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of many others that the more time I devote to reading the Bible, the more I am happier and at peace. Earlier this year I was spending 7-9 hours a day in God’s Word, and I can’t remember ever being more at peace, more settled and calm in the midst of strife and hardships, more down on my knees before God, and more joyful in Him, overflowing with His praise. It was a great time. Now, obviously, spending that amount of time every day in the Bible is not something everyone can do. But you can make some time. And some time produces some fruit. Some time and some fruit produce some love for reading the Bible. And some love produces some desire. And some desire leads to getting creative about finding more ways to dig into the Bible more often throughout the day. I use a Bible memorization app like it’s a game, and I love it. I’m tucking God’s Word away in my heart whenever I’m bored. There’s not a set standard for how long you should be reading your Bible or studying or whatever. But it’s very important and should be among the highest things on your priority list, right up there with eating. Trust God to bring good out of whatever time you devote to His Word – He’s promised to. Give some time, even much time if you can. Cling to your anchor line.
The habit in this is to keep going. Keep reading. Keep trying to understand God through His Word. A couple of more tips: The Bible is a whole. Taking verses that sound nice out of context might be great for memes, but it’s a bit like choosing steps out of a recipe that sound nice… not the best idea. For the full recipe to work properly, you have to do every step. For the Bible to fully make sense, you need the whole of it. Also, second tip, judge your feelings based on the truth of the Bible, don’t do it the other way around. I used to judge the Bible’s truth based on my feelings, and that’s a deadly mistake that leads to rejection of truth and leads to depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Choose to believe that what God says is real and true. Tell yourself it’s true, and don’t worry about your feelings. Feelings are like puppies on a leash; they can add a lot of fun to life, but it’s a bad idea to let them lead the way. They might resist your pulling on the leash sometimes, but don’t stop pulling or you’ll be led astray. Keep pulling and they’ll stop resisting.
“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’”Exodus 34:6-7, NASB
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”Matthew 4:4b, NASB
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”Isaiah 55:10-11, NASB
4. Change your expectations.
Most of us think that being in a good relationship with God will bring us ease in life, but the Bible explicitly says the opposite. We will often be disappointed with and confused with God if we expect from Him the opposite of what He has promised us. Suffering, in particular, is a rocky topic with many Christians, especially those of us used to the egocentric, instant gratification culture of the first world. I compiled a list of verses that deal with suffering and what I should expect, and they have been perspective-shifting, to say the least. This is important, because when we think God is going to act toward us a certain way when He is pleased with us, when He acts differently, we begin to fear He is angry or upset with us. We might begin to view adverse circumstances as God’s punishment or even His absence/neglect. We might become depressed, feeling rejected by Him, or we might become angry with Him and think of Him as unkind or unfair. Our entitlement syndrome might flare up, making us feel like God owes us something, instead of being overwhelmed with gratitude for what He gives us freely out of His grace, not our deserving. Some of us might not think that we believe this “prosperity gospel”, as it is known, but the real test is when we are suffering. When suffering strikes or when it lasts longer than we think it should or when multiple sufferings strike one after another… our reactions are the indicators of what we actually believe. Here are the verses that have helped reorient my own expectations (in no particular order):
2 Timothy 3:12
1 Peter 4:1-2
2 Timothy 1:8
2 Timothy 2:3
1 Peter 5:9-10
1 Thessalonians 3:2-4
1 Peter 2:20-24
1 Peter 4:12-19
2 Corinthians 1:3-9
This is not an exhaustive list, just one I have compiled over the last several months as I’ve read the Bible. More than these verses, even, consider Jesus Christ. He had God’s ultimate favor and affection. God said of Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NASB) Immediately after God said that, what happened? Jesus was sent out into the wilderness by God’s own Spirit in order to suffer hunger, thirst, and harassment from the devil for 40 days. But Jesus judged His circumstances based on God’s Word, not the other way around. He didn’t call God the Father a liar or claim He no longer loved His Son. Instead, Jesus submitted to the suffering without complaint and believed God’s love and truth the whole way. Then He lived a completely sinless life, and what was His reward? His ultimate reward is spectacular, but what He received on earth were false accusations, condemnation, more suffering, scorning, humiliation, abandonment by His friends, severe pain and trauma, and death in one of the most gruesome ways possible. Through it all, He clung to God the Father, who raises the dead, and He triumphed. Do the same.
The habit here is to meditate on the truth. Our minds/hearts tend to believe whatever they hear the most often. More than that, we are at a disadvantage because scientific studies have shown that our brains form a connection faster with negative information than with positive information – which means we are more susceptible to remembering and believing negative things than positive things. To form a positive mental connection requires sustained effort. So, don’t just tell yourself the truth once. Tell yourself the truth over and over. Reorient your expectations to what God has promised: we will have trouble in this world, but He is Immanuel, God with us, and He will always be with us in love and truth.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33, NASB
5. Be honest with God.
Honesty in any good relationship facilitates intimacy. The Bible says that God already knows your thoughts, so you have nothing to lose – but much to gain – by telling Him everything that’s on your mind/heart. Don’t always expect a rebuke. When God described Himself, one of the first characteristics He said was compassionate. He knows it’s hard to suffer. He knows intense grief and pain, trauma, disappointment, rejection, and so much more. He has borne not only your personal sins, but also your personal griefs and sorrows. He is the only Person who knows exactly how you feel. Openness and honesty with Him lets Him in so you do not suffer alone. Not that you are actually alone (because you aren’t; He is with you), but it opens you to His input and presence.
One of my beloved cousins gave me a grand suggestion earlier this year. She suggested I make a journal and plan to burn it after using it and in it putting every thought and feeling I’d never voice aloud. It was so freeing! I did not censor myself at all but put everything down, everything thought, feeling, regret, doubt, fury, desire, etc. I found myself going back into my past and writing out memories and feelings I had, expressing myself in details I’d never shared before, and facing things that had weighed on me for decades. I expressed anger, pain, sadness, shame, and all of it was expressed before God (because He knows everything), inviting Him into it. And did He come into it! When I opened myself in a no-holds-barred sort of way, it was like I allowed God to meet me in a no-holds-barred sort of way. We communed on such a deep level. He brought healing to places that had pained me for years. He gave me His perspective, and I saw things and events in a way I never have before. He brought truth to places that had been scarred by lies again and again. He released me from so much shame. These are things that I might have tried speaking to Him aloud or inside my own head in prayer, but it was so much different writing them in a journal. I cannot explain why, only that it was. I highly recommend it. Anxiety was put to rest. Shame was slain. Regrets were released. Anger was pacified. Frustration was soothed and eased. God met my every emotion with the perfect answer. He was just waiting for me to be honest. I’m no expert with honesty-journaling (my term for it), but my experience with it has been fruitful in amazing ways. (Note: The journal may remain secret, or you may want to share its contents with someone else. I shared mine with a trauma counselor/friend and received additional healing and insight.)
The habit in this is to continue being open and honest before God. Things build up sometimes, and we distance ourselves without realizing it. Don’t stop coming to Him. Keep coming. Keep being honest and open. When shame, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. start to compile and you feel the pressure increasing, go to Him again and courageously spill everything you’re feeling and thinking before Him. King David certainly did in the Psalms! And he was called “a man after His (God’s) own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14 NASB) God loves it when we open the door of our hearts/minds to Him, just as we are, no masks or pretending or changing ourselves, just as we are in our moments of greatest weakness and deepest neediness. He loves that. He will come in. All we have to do is open the door. He’s knocking.
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”Psalm 145:18 NASB
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”Psalm 139:1-4, ESV
“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”Isaiah 53:3-6 NASB
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”Revelation 3:20-21 NASB
6. Love others with your words and actions.
I almost didn’t add this one – not because it’s not important; it’s highly important – but because it’s not something I struggle with a lot. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and this happens to be something more on my strength side than my weakness side. There are plenty of things on my weakness side! However, because this is so intrinsically important, it’s worth adding to this list. Loving others with your words and actions could succinctly be worded as serve others. Did you know you were created to be a servant? When Jesus came and lived the epitome of how we all should live, He did so as a servant.
“…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Mark 10:43b-45 ESV
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”Philippians 2:5-7 NASB
Did you know that selfishness is contrary to our design? It feels very natural; it is certainly instinctive, yet it is opposed to our original design, which is probably why it brings us so much unhappiness. Humans are stubborn creatures. We try what doesn’t work over and over again hoping for a different result. Selfishness doesn’t work. It doesn’t make us happy in the end. It also lies – it promises to make us happier, and it tells us that any misery we’re feeling is because of others/our circumstances rather than ourselves. But it isn’t. Selfishness is a miserable way to live. Want proof? Try looking at King Solomon. He is most well-known for being the wisest man to walk the earth (until Jesus came). He proved that selfishness doesn’t work with his own life. Sometimes selfishness deceives us and claims the only reason it’s not working for us is because we need more of something – money, sex, promotions, acclaim, accomplishments, etc. But Solomon sat at the pinnacle of all those things. Wealth? He had so much gold that silver was almost considered worthless. Unrestrained lust? He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Power? He was head of the most prosperous kingdom of that time. Fame? He was known and respected throughout the world, and leaders of other nations honored him with many gifts and praised him. Achievements? He undertook and completed huge, magnificent projects, including the building of the original temple for God. And how did all of this make him feel? He wrote a book called Ecclesiastes and in it said that everything left him feeling empty. Depending on the translation used, his words were, “Everything is vanity!” or “Everything is futile!” or “Everything is meaningless!” All the things he chased left him unsatisfied. His conclusion? That God is the only way to happiness. And God’s way is the way of serving.
There are several celebrities who have figured this out. Even if they don’t believe in God, following God’s way still works. Serving leads to satisfaction. It makes us feel significant. Several celebrities have discovered that fame and wealth did not bring them the everlasting happiness they hoped and dreamed it would, just as Solomon discovered. Yet they’ve also discovered that serving other people makes them feel really good inside. They give away their wealth and free time – Why? Because they have so much of it, therefore they are obligated to? Not at all! – but because they’ve learned the secret that living willingly as a servant, aka loving others in tangible ways, brings happiness.
If you’re feeling like you have nothing to offer someone else, that’s a lie. You do. Just try it. It doesn’t have to be large, major things like spending a million dollars to help orphans in war-torn countries. It can be something simple. A note to someone. A phone call. A batch of cookies. An afternoon spent visiting. A painting given. A song sung. A prayer. An apology. An “I love you.” Anything that takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else and what they need that you can fulfill. It might feel like you’re just picking a need at random, but God’s hand will guide you, even if you don’t feel it. How do I know? Every good deed we do originates with God. Did you know that? You will never do a good deed except that God prepared in advance for you to do it. Not a single one! That’s very encouraging to me, because it reminds me that Immanuel – God with us – is helping me do whatever it is He wants me to do. Life is never as random as you think.
The habit here is to keep it up! Oftentimes we serve once or for a short while, find happiness in it, then we stop and find ourselves unhappy again. And once we’re unhappy, we don’t feel like serving anymore – thereby cutting ourselves off from the very thing that originally made us feel happy. Break the cyclical unhappiness by persevering in serving. Caveat: There is balance here. You cannot, nor are asked to, solve all the problems in the world or even one person’s problems. You and I are called to serve out of love. That’s all. God’s in control of the world, and solving problems is in His domain, not ours. If your serving is focused on fixing, you’ll be discouraged and burn out. If your serving is focused on loving, you’ll burn brightly. Let God guide you in where to love and where to let someone else share the gifts/talents God has given him/her. Love others through your words and actions – because your thoughts and feelings don’t help anyone; only thoughts and feelings that turn into words and actions affect people in marvelous ways when done by love.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”Proverbs 11:25 ESV
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10 NASB
Now, this has nothing to do with being saved from our sins and established in eternal life. Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that’s the beginning and end of that. This list is about escaping from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, among other ailments. This list is more about treasure than about life. Let’s go back to the scuba diving analogy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the lifeguard who pulled you from the ocean when you tried to swim to the sunken treasure ship on your own and drowned. This Lifeguard breathes life into you and gives you a boat called Faith. The boat takes you out into the ocean, the Bible anchor line secures you to who God really is, and prayer and listening to Him give you the scuba gear to go deeper in relationship with Him and discover the treasures of who He is and what He has for you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21 NASB
This list might sound like “How to be a better Christian,” but the main point is that this is how God set me free from depression and lies and feeling worthless. It was a journey, but it’s well worth it. It’s a journey I’m still on, and I’m finding within myself increasing gratitude, peace, and joy as I continue doing these things. That’s why I’m writing this to you. I’m not trying to convince you to be a better person or to change who you are or anything of that sort. I’m trying to convince you to just open the door to God. That’s all. Once you do that, He’ll be Him and will do what He always does. 😀 But if someone had said to me, “Open the door to God,” when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea how to start. That’s why I created this list of things that helped me open my door to God. God did and will do the rest.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:6 NASB
7. Check your environment.
Since writing this post, I’ve learned/experienced another important factor to mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health (because we are multifaceted beings and all those sides of us affect each other). That is environment. I learned this year that I’m allergic to mold – when I’m around mold, my body panics. That sends signals to my subconscious trying to warn me that something’s toxic and I need to get away from it. My subconscious then contacts my conscious mind so I can make a decision. But the signal gets garbled in translation. What actually happens is I feel anxious and stressed and can’t figure out why. I’ve learned, now, to realize it’s my body trying to talk to me and to stop and listen, then I can often (but not always – still learning!) figure out what the message is and react accordingly.
Another factor is food. Did you know we can have food sensitivities without actually being allergic to anything? It’s hard to figure out because sensitivities can appear up to three days later. In blood tests, food allergies are found by measuring IgE. Food sensitivities look for IgA and IgG. No, I don’t actually know what all that means; I’m just saying they’re two very different things. My functional medicine doctor had another patient who struggled severely with depression and suicidal thoughts and had no success with any other method he tried. He assumed he was just wired that way and would have to learn to deal with it as best he could. Then, after working with her, he eliminated toxins from his environment and adjusted his diet, and in less than a year he was like a new man with no depression or suicidal thoughts! It was all stemming from his body trying to tell him that he needed to make a change, but until someone helped him translate the message, he was caught in depression.
When our body hurts, it tells us. It doesn’t always use pain receptors, though. Sometimes it uses anxiety and depression to let us know it’s stressed internally and that something is wearing it out. I have Lyme Disease, which is known as an opportunistic disease. When I’m otherwise healthy, my immune system can naturally suppress the Lyme Disease and eliminate symptoms by keeping it under control. But when I add mold toxins to the mix, now my immune system’s attention is split, then opportunistic Lyme Disease takes advantage of that and starts rising up and causing symptoms. When I get really sick, then my MCAS kicks in (which is basically the immune system freaking out and attacking everything in sight), and my body starts sending me all kinds of signals, so much so that it’s hard for me to decipher one from another. I need someone’s help to sort through what’s happening and get it all calmed back down. That’s what my doctor does for me. Please find someone you trust and get help when things are chaotic. It helps!
Now, not one of these things outweighs the others. The system of our body that handles blood, the one that handles air, the one that handles food, and the one that interprets our senses are all very different from each other yet are all vital to the body, AND they all affect one another. Our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sides are all like that – all vital and all interrelated. So when yucky feelings and dark thoughts are enslaving your mind and dampening your life, check all the factors. Don’t forget the physical, but don’t underestimate the spiritual either.
May God bless you with health of mind, body, and spirit!
“[Jesus said,] I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”John 10:10, ESV
“Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.”
🥰 thanks for sharing this, Sara. I am so glad for all of it. Joy! Love you ❤️ Sent from my iPad