grayscale photography of woman sitting near body of water

How to Surrender in the Midst of Depression

My spirit was grieved heavily the other day by depression. I grappled to understand why I was feeling disconnected from God, and I felt very peculiar. When I started to generate ideas for this article, I wasn’t quite sure where my thoughts would take me. Should I write about suffering and examine Bible verses from Hebrews? Or should I try to address the myriad of Biblical characters who have all been subjected to feelings of despair?

It seemed to be that I was trying to make a connection between human suffering and mental illness. Or was I trying to understand how some Christian leaders view depression as a consequence of unconfessed sin?

You see, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. Admittedly, my conditions are relatively manageable. I hold down a full-time job and take care of my family. I have never been so inclined to abuse drugs, although I used to binge drink. Sometimes I drink too much coffee- I do this to help restrict my calories (I have struggled with anorexia and bulimia). Other than that, I manage well without prescription medications. I don’t wish to take psychotropic drugs. Not only have I experienced a plethora of unsettling side effects, but I just lost faith in antidepressants. Even the few that seemed to temporarily lift my mood, gave me inauthentic happiness. “Happiness” that was manufactured by man, corporate entities. 

Just as I’m certain that events and images from our lives are captured and stored in our psyche, I also believe that any of those “screenshots” from our sin and disobedience can manifest in a dream. They manifest to the believer, perhaps, if that part of yourself hasn’t been fully surrendered to God.

Not in every situation, but on this particular day, over the course of several hours of personal reflection, I came to realize what I hadn’t surrendered. Does this occurrence alone lead me to believe that all depression comes from unconfessed sin? The Bible directs us towards examples of people who sinned, were separated by God, they didn’t seek his restoration, and thus, were alone to fend for themselves. Had they confessed their sins (which some of them did confess), they would have known the power of His grace. It’s something we all can experience! 

In my own life, I can remember wanting to not carry on. I was 17 at the time. My beloved grandparents had passed away and I wasn’t prepared to face their death. In our family, we didn’t see death as a process, we didn’t explore grief, let alone talk about it. The way we observed death was immature. Some in my family turned to alcohol…instead of God. Nobody besides my grandparents seemed to know of God. Alcohol was the way to handle uncomfortable emotions. It was used to enliven bitter souls. In the end, those raw emotions were left untouched. Those emotions demanded more attention- Godly attention, but I turned away, just as many around me at the time did as well.

As I have stated before, I believe depression can be the result of spiritual attacks and physical vulnerability. There seems to be strong Biblical evidence pointing to unconfessed sin and disobedience too. Now when I feel depression creeps up on me, instead of turning away from God, I tune in and try to hear His wisdom on the matter. 

In just the passage of a few days, I’ve gone from feeling heavily burdened and peculiar, to feeling content. I’m neither too elevated, nor too depressed. I wish I could feel this balanced all the time. But, I’m also glad that when I need to examine my heart, God cares enough to allow my heart to feel burdened.

My inspiration for this subject came from my dreams and personal reflection. Prompting by the Holy Spirit lead me to search for truth. One website I discovered for enlightenment is the Biblical Counseling Institute.

woman wearing white dress raising her two hands surrounded white petaled flowers during sunset

Understanding “The Signature of God” by Rhonda D. Milner

God is everywhere in all things created- from the trees and flowers, and the ocean, to every human being and every kind of animal on the earth. When we are in touch with our Creator, it is much easier and much more enjoyable to see the beauty that surrounds us. Author Rhonda D. Milner does a wonderful job of creating awe-inspiring illustrations on God’s creations. She is able to see the most minute detail of wisdom and inspiration in each chapter she pours onto the pages of her devotional, “The Signature of God: His Name Written into Our Lives and the World ” (Green Leaf Books/River Grove Books).

As an avid nature lover, I was quite moved by the author’s words in the first chapter. She discusses the beauty and simplicity of trees, flowers, and moves on to sharing a beautiful illustration about the seasons God has created for all the inhabitants on Earth.

“We recognize seasons as a revolving cycle of life and death, predictable to us and often familiar in their characteristics. Yet seasons have wondrous and profound implications, which say important things about God.” (page 28)

“Deciduous trees, for example, lose their leaves in the fall…but in the spring, a miracle happens. The trees bud with new life…death begets life”, much the same way this life and death cycle take place in our physical and spiritual lives.

We can see similar devotion and beauty in the portions of the book dedicated to discussing the human body, human intelligence, and of course, the big bang theory. Einstein’s theory of relativity points out the energy and mass are two interchangeable elements. Energy can be converted into mass, mass can be converted into energy, but both can’t be created or destroyed. In other words, the energy and mass don’t emerge out of “nothingness.” 

I was delighted to read about animals and how God often uses His creatures to act and intervene on his behalf. Rhonda shares a powerful story about her late son. During his college days, he realized his drinking was getting out of hand. He thought about his grandfather, and the legacy he left behind. A week later, the son let the dog outside and was caught off-guard when the dog uncharacteristically ran out of sight. Without much thought, he leaped up with his wine glass still in hand. As he rushed to the door, he was greeted by some police officers, who arrested him for underage consumption. After this event, he put away his drinking habit.

We see how God uses animals to assist their masters in times of need. Most commonly, we see how dogs assist people with visual and hearing impairments. Dogs are used to sniff out trouble and help us track criminals. They also protect homeowners and serve as loyal companions.

Diving deeper into God’s signature, we discover the intricacies of relationships, both with humans and with God. By developing a deeper understanding of God, we can experience love instead of despair. When we experience loss, disappointment, and despair, He is prompting us to come closer to Him.

When we draw closer to God, we can experience his presence in extraordinary ways. Concepts like mercy, grace, joy, and hope will flow abundantly. I think the author has given us a taste of God’s abundance in this inspiring book!

Professional ReaderDisclosure and credit: A digital review copy was provided by Green Leaf Books via Netgalley.

silhouette of person standing on rock surrounded by body of water

Book Review, “Spiritual Life Hacks: Uncommon Solutions to Common Challenges”

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I can’t resist putting down. “Spiritual Life Hacks: Uncommon Solutions to Common Challenges” by Len Woods is uplifting, motivational and practical. Above all else, it’s conversational in tone without making me feel patronized. When I read this book I felt I could relate to the joys and disappointments illustrated by the author.

Len Woods’ book speaks to me, the average Christian, the non-scholarly, everyday layperson. In chapter 1, the author spells out the importance of the meaning of the word, “heart.” In a poignant illustration, he outlines the basic perceptions of “heart” and “mind”. For instance, “mind” would include such things as science, engineering, algebra. “Heart” contrasts “mind” with qualities such as art, humanities, romance, etc. Essential elements to the words, “heart” and “mind”, but he ponders why in our Western culture, do these concepts differ so widely, when in fact (as in ancient Near Eastern cultures), the lines between intellectual and emotional things are quite blurred.

In Proverbs 4:23, Soloman tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

This verse and its concept are referenced to in the subsequent chapters, along with other relevant verses.

So what is the “heart” and the “mind”? We discover that they are invisible qualities and characteristics (not entirely different from the things of God, although He is holy and we are not). Some things that come to mind for what is the heart/mind include attitudes, beliefs, opinions, convictions, and values. These “things” come from our minds and hearts (the words are used interchangeably). From a good heart- one that is cultivated with good things, goodness flows. Our natural inclination isn’t necessarily always conformed to “goodness” unless we take an active role in pruning and cultivating “goodness, is how I interpret the author’s perspective.

Spiritual growth and the disappointment we sometimes feel when our spiritual life is growing is dealt with in chapter 2. Len shares his disappointment about his spiritual journey at various stages. In a transparent and authentic manner, we learn about his shifting values through his early walk in the Christian life. 

Speaking about the illusions about Christianity, he states,

If you’ve been operating under the illusory idea that you could be jolted into holiness if only you could pray the right prayer, or have the right conference experience, or attend the perfect worship service- or if you have always assumed that to make progress in the faith, all you have to do is log enough years in Sunday school, I’m here to disillusion you. Paul’s command to Timothy (and to us) is to “Train yourself to be godly.” (page 32).

This is the kind of book that new Christians and those who are further along in their faith journey should read. Those who are new converts will need to be equipped with these verses and experiences, lest it is likely they too will encounter similar circumstances and challenges in life. Those who are already deeply rooted in the Christian faith will probably need encouragement and motivation, as well as gentle reminders about “Spiritual Life Hacks.”

Professional ReaderDisclosure and credit: A digital review copy was provided by Harvest House Publishers via Netgalley.

Rittman or Sterling, Ohio Farm- by Tracy K.

The Beauty of Rural Farms and Landscapes

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

While it’s true that beauty is subjective, I think most people can agree that which is made by God’s own hands- nature, is the purest beauty of all. We take nature for granted, driving by it each day, but never stopping to give it the appreciation it deserves. 

For the past few weeks, I have driven past beautiful, vast landscapes. Time and traffic were a hindrance in my ability to stop and bask in the glory of nature. Since the properties are private, I can’t get too close to snap photographs- I’m relegated to stopping at the side of the road and darting around to get just a glimpse.

Today I thought would be a good day to take pictures in the country. As luck would have it, traffic seemed endless. Drivers, disgruntled that I was doing the speed limit on an open, country road, whizzed past me with disgust. I had to plan a better route and position to capture nature’s beauty- but people were really testing my patience!

I found a road to turn down- Eby Road in Rittman, Ohio. I could see scattered homes, all modern in style. Along the way, I saw a house that had a kind of Swiss architecture and style. It intrigued me, but it was too close to a stop sign and I didn’t want to create a road hazard.

Within a few minutes, I found a large farm to photograph. When I got to the second farm, a man in a white truck rolled down his window to ask me, “am I good?” Yes, thank you. He slowly drove on and turned down a street that had a family farm. I came to discover it was actually part of an organic farming co-op. If I had more time, I might have explained to him I was taking pictures of farms. Maybe he’d have granted me permission to take photos of the farm in which he was associated with. I was feeling uncertain about my efforts to continue photographing, so I retreated towards home, where my kids were waiting for me to take them back-to-school shoe shopping.  But maybe I would try driving on the other side of town, closer to my home.

Somewhere near Rittman, Ohio. Photo by Tracy K.

Moments later, I found myself in the more familiar territory near Life Tabernacle Church. There were several work trucks pulled in the parking lot. Everywhere I looked, people were mowing yards or doing something outside. The air seemed better up here on the hill in my town.

Another farm on the outskirts of town. By Tracy K.

Driving down winding roads, I decided to pull over and capture an image of a roadside pond near Rawiga Golf and Swim Club. As I tried to enjoy nature without getting in anybody’s way or treading on private property, I was prompted to end my journey and get back to the business of the day- shoe-shopping.

Near Rawiga Golf and Swim Club.

I didn’t get all the angles and close-up I would’ve liked, but at least I got to enjoy God’s beauty. It seemed like people were uneasy about sharing beauty. Or, they thought it was odd. I noticed another car filled with gawking on-lookers, as we exchanged casual glances and obligatory hand waves.

Sometimes the world will try to keep you away from experiencing God’s beauty in nature. It’s odd and unusual. I’m okay with that.

 

woman sitting beside table and guitar

Who’s in Control of Your Thoughts?

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). 

Your thought life controls your actions. 

Actions manifest from our thoughts. Habits originate from our thoughts and attitudes. When my own mind was overcome by depression, I hadn’t been a Christian for very long. I don’t even recall reading the bible during this time- at least, not regularly. My quest at the time was to escape my circumstances, but I attributed every problem to those circumstances. As a result, I falsely believed that escaping my circumstances who magically make me happier. I failed to see what other things plagued my mind. I even thought that doctors alone could help me with a simple prescription. 

I didn’t fully trust God in my circumstances and I didn’t fully allow Him into my mind. As with many other people who’ve been crushed by circumstances beyond their control, I sought help in the world for many of my needs (financial help, food, shelter, legal help). Although these things in of themselves were “of the world”, God used these resources to lift my family out of a dysfunctional environment. He equipped these agencies to help people like me. I relied on this help more than He desired because I wallowed in self-pity.

Since I excluded Jesus from other parts of my life- my heart and mind, I wandered in a proverbial desert for many years. Without fully accepting Him, I saw only the ugly and broken in everyone and everything around me. Needless to say, my life wasn’t fruitful or enjoyable. I continued to blame the world around me for my problems.

I despised my neighbors. Every day, I saw them getting by in life rather effortlessly. Through the filtering of my own self-pity, I failed the humanity of others, even those who lived in sinful states of existence.

The importance of our “thought life” is recognized by remarkable leaders.

And it is often the most prominent “selling point” for many of these leaders. We all are subject to make the mistake of embracing positivity, or other “good” attributed to this world. Have you ever wondered why the self-empowerment movement (personal development) is such a lucrative industry? It entices you with the promise of achieving happiness and self-worth, glamor and wealth.

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.” Brian Tracy

Who is the watchman of your heart and mind?

When you alone are the “guardian” of your thoughts, it’s easy to become distracted and misled by human desires. The only way to circumvent our tendency towards that which is carnal is to allow Him into our thought life. Do you give him access and control to this part of your life? Or do you put up barriers? 

Trusting in man(kind).

Psalm 146:3 Contemporary English Version

“You can’t depend on anyone, not even a great leader.”

Jesus wants to be in your “thought life”.

Romans 12:2

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

1 John 2:15

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Many are deceived by the false notion that man alone has the power to overcome the things that can permeate our “thought life.”

Without the spirit dwelling in our hearts and minds, things can still seem fine at times. Are we going to be able to sustain the ways of the world by simply leaning on our own understanding? I know that I’m too weak to stand up against temptation. And yet, there are moments when I become arrogant because I’ve trusted in my own understanding. As always, the joy I had achieved is short-lived and my spirit-life is empty. I think we grieve the Lord when we exclude Him. 

woman meditating on floor with overlooking view of trees

Book Review, “Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality”

Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality: Making Space for God by Tim Stead, builds a bridge between “mindfulness” and “Christianity”. But I can’t help but wonder if this is a bridge I am ready to cross. The author does an excellent job of applying Biblical parables and verses to the practice of mindfulness. For instance, we see the illustrative parable of Mary and Martha. Most people- Christians as well as secular folks, are familiar. Martha, always busy and distracted, fails to live in the present. She misses the opportunity to engage in more important, relational and spiritual matters, unlike her sister, Mary.

The practice of mindfulness dates backs thousands of years to Buddhism. However, in the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., developed Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). While Jon Kabat-Zinn, a practicing Buddhist, understood the benefits of mindfulness and wanted to create a way for secular people to engage in the practice.

As somebody who has suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, I have fallen prey to seeking the ways of meditation and other new-age practices. Before turning away from the practice of mindfulness, I studied anything closely-related to mindfulness and positive psychology. As a Christian, I never really saw an issue with mindfulness- at least, not in the same “devious” way other people of faith may perceive it. I simply thought it was something that focused solely on myself- and that is a problem I because I am not my own God. 

The author of this book gives clear examples of how to practice mindfulness in a way that focuses more on God. It comes down to the belief of each individual if this is something that’s settled upon their conscience as a way to glorify God. I’m only somewhat skeptical, simply because mindfulness is a trending and saturated topic.

By bringing the Christian faith to the forefront of the mindfulness movement, I would hope that those participating in it would find there is a simpler way to peace. It would seem to be a harmless practice for Christians to take certain elements from the Buddhist tradition. Why should we “borrow” from other religions, if we are strong in our faith? The way of Jesus is simple. If some are weak in their beliefs, maybe mindfulness soothes their anxiety. As a believer, I have to put my faith in Him. When I am struggling with anxiety and depression, I’m not going to abandon God to follow the latest trend. I don’t have answers and I might not like the help God offers me. In fact, He may continue to allow me to walk in the proverbial desert before giving me insight.

Being still and quiet is a great way for believers to listen to God’s voice, instead of the world’s. In my own walk, I like to read the word, then pray and reflect. It’s the only way I can apply the word and God’s voice within my life. Since I have had the unfortunate experience of being raised in a new-age environment, I know I can’t even dip my toe back into anything akin to new-age practices.

John 14:6 (ASV 1901)
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

New-age religions are an intoxicating blend of various gods and goddesses. While such practitioners may recognize Jesus as a spiritual leader or prophet, they believe He is one of many ways to God.

Proverbs 14:12 (ASV 1901)
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Disclosure and credit: A digital review copy was provided by Barbour Publishing via Edelweiss Plus/Above The Treeline.

References:

  1. https://truthfortheworld.org/new-age-movement
  2. https://welldoing.org/article/basics-of-mindfulness-come-from
  3. https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.topic/ID/7283/Transcendentalism.htm
  4. https://thebuddhistcentre.com/buddhism
man kneeling down near shore

Why Self-Help Books Aren’t Fulfilling

“While I ridicule books of self-help, I’m also quite susceptible to them. They help simplify things.” -Amitava Kumar

My favorite genre of books is self-help. It’s been that way since I became an adult and sought wisdom and advice for any of the problems in which I wanted a deeper understanding. Of course, talking about your problems is supposed to be an effective way to gain knowledge, but there are times when we wish to keep things inside. Maybe your family caused you a great deal of pain when you were growing up and it’s hard to turn to them. Fear, embarrassment, humiliation- those dreadful, raw emotions that hinder our growth in they remain unattended. Most likely, these people who are supposed to be your confidantes are the same people that caused you the emotional problems you are dealing with. Do yourself a favor and seek people outside this group- but don’t exclude prayer and study from your life. (It will take a supernatural strength to overcome rejection and pain- and the ability to forgive those who have hurt you).

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

But when you don’t have the time or money for therapy, self-help books seem like an ideal choice. Have you ever considered why they are such popular books? One answer is obvious. We feel more disconnected in our relationships with others. So much so that we must pay money to a therapist or buy a book from a licensed professional to find solace. 

When shopping malls and brick-and-mortar bookstores were still a thing, I used to spend countless hours at Barnes and Noble, scouring the self-help section. I also casually perused the new-age books to seek enlightenment. I continued sinking money into the latest authors, hoping each one had a little more wisdom than the last. The book I read recanted the same message. The core of the message was “Buy this book and learn new ways to try to improve yourself”, thus, you will reduce or eliminate your problems. This technique never succeeds because we are powerless to help ourselves in matters concerning our spirituality. When we don’t seek help or prayer from God, we are leaving Him out of the equation and putting the entire matter into the hands of an idol (man). We aren’t leaning on and trusting God when we don’t include him in the process.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

I’m not saying that self-help books are inherently bad. Quite the contrary- many of them provide useful ways to improve time-management skills, or develop a routine to help us accomplish our personal goals. But these things alone aren’t sufficient. The best way I read a self-help book is to apply some of the techniques in conjunction with my spiritual walk. Since I follow Jesus, I read the Bible and pray in His name. I wouldn’t say I’m the most devout person, but this path has rescued me from my path of destruction. There are times when I forget to submit to God and I try to obtain things on my own. Things of the world- money, success, influence, etc. 

The things of the world that I mentioned- money, success, influence, etc., these are some of the things that self-help books indirectly promise readers. How can that be? Well, you probably chose a particular book because if used a buzzword- like “simple” to catch your attention. The cover of the book looked simple and elegant, or bold and lively. On the back of the cover, you probably read the author’s bio and dreamt of having the same kind of success. Self-help books follow a strategy, of course, because publishers want to make money. They are shrewd businessmen that have analyzed the trends, ran the numbers and know exactly what you want to hear (or read).

But is this strategy in your best interest? Of course not, unless you read these books for sheer entertainment. I’ve always thought they lacked substance. One of these books can be easily read with no critical analytical skills necessary. How I read one of these books- if they are the kind of books not from a Christian perspective- is to skim. I could probably find the same information available on Pinterest, or Instagram. Simple techniques to improve my life. 101 ways to overcome anxiety. The path to personal enlightenment. I just need to “be” better and this book will show me how. I will gain a renewed sense of promise and hope.

Sometimes I overcome my stubbornness and I realize that the desire to be renewed was put there by God. He wants each of us to grow, but he wishes we grow towards Him.

The self-help book I got the other day tells me to develop a routine to nurture myself. This is a great principle. What’s even more effective is to take time to be “in the word”, as many Christian speakers refer to their time reading the Bible. While I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, but rather a kind of “hippy”, new-age structure, I am becoming familiar with how traditional Christians talk- their phrases and styles. I’m “in the word” every morning. At least 5 mornings. Maybe if I’d read the Bible more, I wouldn’t stumble so much. 

The fascinating thing about the Bible is that I can re-read it and still get something new out of it. With self-help books, I usually discard or donate them. The Bible has what some like to call “Evergreen” content, that is, content that is still useful and relevant years later. Can the same be said about some of these other books? Let’s suffice it to say I don’t have any of the other books on my shelf. They were entertaining and fluffy for a while. I got a sense of motivation when I read their message. They didn’t give me the answers because man’s wisdom isn’t lasting.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:16-18 NIV).”

 

person shadow boxing grayscale

How to Fight Back Against Spiritual Attacks

Growing up in my hometown, it was essential to how to fight back when others messed you. Although I’m not especially proud of this kind of fighting- because it hinges on pride, I’m all for learning how to fight against spiritual warfare. It’s is a particularly interesting topic for me because I know I have to be vigilant. Not only for myself, but for my family and friends- I feel a need to seek guidance on helping those I love.

Prone to Depression (Nature)

Depression seems to be a common occurrence with myself and others. It is my belief that depression is a complex condition for which there isn’t one singular cause. Some personalities are more prone to depression, such as the melancholy type. These are people who thrive on order and may very gifted artists. Melancholy people tend to be perfectionists. Throughout my life, I’ve kind of felt like a melancholic individual. I can’t really say if being orderly or artistic has caused me to be sad- or if these traits are simply just characteristic of melancholy. Brooding and worrying about things, appearances, and what others think, can certainly be draining.

Prone to Depression (Nurture)

Besides what personalities are more prone to depression, we have to consider other factors. How each person was nurtured is a significant factor in how we are more vulnerable to depression. It can take a great deal of time and effort to overcome certain memories of our early environments. Many people were lucky enough to be raised in good homes, free of dysfunction and poverty. Yet, these people still have to fight depression later on in life.

One thing I do know is that I lived in the darkness for many years. Even after I became a believer, I continued to battle depression and anxiety. I wasn’t instantly transformed! Yet, I was comforted through my trials. Those around me didn’t change- looking back, I am aware that I never prayed for the person who caused me to go through devastating circumstances. My prayers were focused on asking for help for my children. Things aren’t perfect, but I can see how they’ve been under God’s protection.

I’ve heard others talk about their experiences with seeing shadows and feeling haunted. I have been taunted in my dreams, and I think that is the way in which I get spiritually attacked. The other day I had a dream of a dark force- he was tall, dark and had wings. He was very logical and tried to fool me by luring me to a trap. He was trying to set the terms of the battle we were to fight. I told him I knew what he was going to try to do by luring me and not giving me a fair fight.

I’ve had other dreams similar to this one. In one dream, I could hear a bunch of hostile and aggressive beings, making noise and taunting me from my porch and living room. I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was screaming back at them and they got louder!

I have a tendency to use curse words, especially when I am compelled by anxiety and fear. This is something else I’m trying to overcome because we speak things into our words. They are powerful tools!

Maybe the one dream manifested because of my bad habit of cursing. What sin does your weakness compel you to do? Many people turn to alcohol or drugs when they experience anxiety or depression. My cursing is akin to the way somebody turns to substances to quell their discomfort. I’ve discovered CelebrateRecovery, a program available in many churches that can help anybody battling addiction, hurt, and pain. The weakness and vulnerability of mood and anxiety disorders isn’t the sin. The way in which we cope with is what brings honor or grieving to the Holy Spirit, as well as our loved ones.

People often confuse mental health issues with sin or spiritual cleanliness. In “When Does Satan Spiritually Attack the Believer?” by Don Stewart, he lists a number of ways in which believers can be spiritually attacked. I found #3 to be relevant to the subject of my post.

3. When Believers Are Physically Vulnerable

We also find Satan coming when believers are in a weak position – either physically or emotionally. Jesus was attacked after He had fasted for forty days.

“He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward, He was famished. The tempter came and said to Him, “If indeed You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:2,3).

If you are prone to depression and anxiety, it’s important that you realize the Enemy attacks you when you are physically and emotionally frail.

So, what can you do to protect yourself when you become depressed and anxious? It may require implementing a different way of managing your conditions than what you’re accustomed to using.

Today when I woke up, I started to feel hopeless. What then should I have done that would benefit me? Get up and mindlessly watch TV? No, I made a concerted effort to read the Bible, even for just a few minutes. I hadn’t read it yesterday, but I reasoned that it was ok because I spent time praying or reflecting. While praying and reflecting are good things, it’s misleading to think skipping reading the Word is acceptable. I’m not advocating that each person has to have a stringent reading plan- we all have various time-constraints. Is it so difficult to find 5 minutes to read it? When I feel darkness looming, shouldn’t that lead me to seek Him instead of my own understanding?

“I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me early shall find me.” Proverbs 8:17

Can “early” be the first thing in the morning? One should assume if we are reading and interpreting in a literal way, then that is what’s best. Could “early” also mean as soon as you realize the vulnerability of your human condition, then seek wisdom and guidance as soon as possible from your Creator, and not by your own understanding.

You shouldn’t throw away human understanding, however. Humans are gifted, but also misguided. Asking for help in understanding and coping should come from a higher authority.

Resources:

1. https://www.celebraterecovery.com/

2. https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_95.cfm

3. https://www.gracegems.org/B/Ryle_seeking_the_lord_early.htm

 

people sitting on grass field

How to Accept People Unconditionally

I don’t want to take my “biological” problems to others.

There are some things I’m unwilling to take to other people. These are things in which I’m not “comfortable” with sharing. My PMS, for instance. It is a time that I want to rest and avoid others because I have a propensity to be unhelpful towards others. I have an inclination to act mean and ungodly. This behavior doesn’t edify me, God or others. It’s one reason I won’t go to church or anywhere when my moods are all over the board.

Actually, my condition is called PMDD. PMDD has been listed as one of my conditions since 2012, but it dates back further. 

I also suffer from depression and anxiety, which significantly limit my ability to enjoy life as others experience. 

Luckily, my conditions have improved over the years. Some people aren’t so fortunate.

My flesh and body are weakened at particular times. It takes quite a deal of effort to shield myself from Satan’s darts. It’s not because of these biological conditions that I’m subject to sin. Satan attacks hardest when we at weak. Because of the Spirit, I have protection over my soul. When my depression, anxiety or PMDD cause me to use poor judgment, my heart is convicted and I seek repentance. I put my trust in Him. 

Help From Unbelievers

People always say that I should seek the support of friends. And I have found a few people I can talk to about my struggles. Some aren’t Christians. If I try to talk about my beliefs, they avoid me. They even try to “hook” me up with other Christians they know. Their intentions are good, but they don’t realize that we need more than just human connections. And they are resistant to spiritual matters. They haven’t matured to that point yet and I’m getting on their nerves

Although I can’t count on these friends for all of my emotional needs, I have to accept them. When they are having a bad day, I need to accept them. I have to accept that they don’t share my beliefs. It is a great division we don’t share something so important.

I have a friend who seems kind of shallow on spiritual matters. But, she shares in some of the same problems I have, like anxiety. We connect through this common thread, but I can’t discuss spiritual things with her. Just short of being rude, she dismisses the conversation. 

Being a Christian is often lonely. Being a Christian with depression is even more isolating. I share some of my human problems with unbelievers, but I can’t share my faith with them. Likewise, I can’t share my human problems with many believers because they lack humility and transparency with their own struggles. They are completely unaware of their sinful nature by the pure demonstration of the lack of humility. 

Being Authentic is About Boundaries AND Humility

How can believers step-up and follow the example of Jesus? He knew our sin, yet He wasn’t sinful. Many believers falsely attain a sense of piety by not seeking God first- they believe they can overcome the world in their own ways. It seems less messy for them. Less humiliating. Life is great for them, they have achieved all they need. A perfect family, a great job, and a sizeable reputation within the community. The church is something extra that makes them “look” good. Why ruin a good thing to be challenged as a believer? Because it’s what we are called to do. 

Luke 17:33

Self Centeredness, Self Sacrifice, Seeking Life, Losing One’s Life

“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

(Verse Concepts- preservation, risk, keeping oneself alive, giving of oneself, commitment to Jesus Christ)

As an individual with “female” problems, I feel it’s a healthy boundary to not share certain things with certain people. I can share it with other women who have PMDD and I can share it with my doctor because he/she can advise me properly on the condition. 

The mood fluctuations related to PMDD share a similar aspect to depression and anxiety because they are perceived as “unseen” conditions. As such, many people think these conditions are attributed to unseen forces, spiritual uncleanliness. Some people dismiss these illnesses as something in which the afflicted individual can control, if only they would simplify their thoughts and behaviors. 

When people fail to understand mood and anxiety issues, we hurt those who need help but aren’t as noticeable as others. I always think of how we readily help people that need food or shelter. It’s much easier to see their plight and provide the necessary resources. It’s also short-term help that is easily delivered and widely appreciated.

Those who are perspective realize these harmful stigmatizations and the recoil from socializing.

Perhaps believers should turn to the examples set by unbelievers. We should be willing to share in our afflictions, insomuch as we feel comfortable and in His timing. The world is in need of this from us. I should look for ways in which I can drink from His cup with those who are suffering silently. Then, maybe I will be less concerned about my own humility and dignity. I suspect many people want to be real with others but struggle with healthy boundaries.

woman's hair covering her face

Depression Keeps Me Away From Church and Others

Am I Normal?

Are you inclined to change moods frequently? I’ve always wondered how others perceive their own moods, and if I am on par with the norm. Is it normal to feel balanced at one point in the day, only to feel more elevated later? If so, does that mean I have bipolar disorder or depression? Do I need to have an advanced degree to get some peace about this, or should I simply trust my intuition? Does it take hard work and discipline to balance my moods? Why is this even an issue with me?

I always believed that, for the most part, every human being has their own unique foundation upon which their moods are consistent and static unless altered by circumstances. Diet and nutrition, stress, environment are relative things that can influence a person’s mood, but mostly, they can expect to be otherwise unswayed by shifting moods.

Abnormal Environment and Conditioning

When I say “environment”, I can’t help but think of the extreme ways in which some people have to live. For instance, my family life was disordered quite often, and at various stages. I witnessed alcoholism and the shifting, selfish, uncontrolled desires of people addicted to their vices.  When they had what they needed, all was well for the family. However, if the alcoholic had to experience the rawness and pain of life, they unleashed a hailstorm of fury on their bystanders. 

The cues I observed followed me into adulthood. Loud, elevated music still makes me manic. Sometimes I have to be mindful to turn off all music because I know my propensity to indulge in music that creates a dissonance within my spirit. Sometimes I have the insight needed to manage my triggers. And there are plenty of things beyond my control- genetic and biochemical factors, namely. 

All those afternoons I spent playing arcade games in the bar while mom played The Rolling Stones on the jukebox and drank rum-and-Coke. The loud music and alcohol made everybody feel high. Even as a kid sitting passively by, I felt a kind of contact-high, at least in my mind.

Humans are quite varied and complex. 

That’s why we have medicine- for doctors to help heal biological conditions. 

We have counselors to help us excavate our minds from the disorder in our minds. 

And yet, none of these things can exclusively ward off any mental health issues. Rather, they should work in tandem, without total reliance on one particular science over another. We have pastors that are in charge of shepherding the church. Still, many people struggle silently with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. They fear being stigmatized and misunderstood. Some don’t even step foot in the door of a church because they feel different from others.

Sometimes I feel like I can predict how a Sunday at my church will progress. And it should be predictable to some extent (1 Corinthians 14:40).

What I’m referring to is the dialog exchanged between people. Let’s shake hands, make small talk, pretend like we don’t really just want to sit down and be left alone. And so what if I just want to sit down but I go against my desires and rise to talk to you? I’m faking it because I want to just take in some wisdom and not really talk right now. Sometimes my heart is in a selfish place and that’s why I’m at church- to learn to overcome myself. 

There’s no problem in putting on a smile while I try to overcome my sinful heart, is there? The church is like a place for me to serve my conscience, my ego, my inner-altruistic, bombastic being. Yes, it became that to me once again. And that is why I temporarily quit going (I hope you will continue to not notice I haven’t been there in a while).

You see, for me, I need answers to deep and personal questions that are too overwhelming to be addressed at church. I’ve gone to counselors and they’ve helped me get through a hard time. The church, to me, is equipped with strong people that can serve everybody except people like me- those with mental health issues. But I don’t discount the church. Just because there is something I need to work on before I can go and help others, or even stand by others in service.

I stay away from church because-

  • Fear of intimacy with God and others (can’t grow effectively without it though).
  • A sense of shame. I wasn’t brought up and nurtured in the same way as church people.
  • Shallow dialog. Not only on my part but on the part of the church body.
  • Mistrust. What if somebody tries to hurt me or my family? 
  • Misunderstood. Who knows my kind of struggles?

I must get over my irrational beliefs to grow. Simply going to church won’t help. I need to work on the issues keeping me from the church. 

Each time I get depressed, I have to get little chunks of nurturance from those in my immediate vicinity. My kids can identify with the feelings of loneliness and rejection, although they don’t fully grasp my depression and anxiety. Sometimes, my co-workers can relate to something I mention. Other times I just read blogs and books. Mostly, I try to just think about my spiritual connection to God. I’m lacking in personal, human connection at times. 

I wanted to find a verse that tied in with my thoughts.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”