To the one Struggling: Hang on just a Little Bit Longer

One life saying that has gotten me through many hard trials and seasons of suffering is this, “The last catastrophe you thought would end you didn’t.”

In a sense, every time a new hard trial or task would face me, I would remember that the last time I felt the anxiousness, the fear of the unknown, the questions, and the heartache, I got through them. I am a standing testimony of the many trials and tests I have been through; and so are you.

You may be facing something old or something new that is rearing it’s ugly teeth at you, making you want to run as fast as you can away from everything. Whether it’s a sickness, anxiety, depression, a personal loss, a personal tragedy, a broken relationship, whatever it may be, let this encourage you. You’ve made it through hard things before; you were made to face hard things, and you can do it again.

There was a time in my life, in the pit of despair and anxiety, that I was walking outside. It was a beautiful day on the outside, but inside my mind was full of dark clouds of fear and depression. I remember walking and talking with God, and just telling Him, “I can’t do one more day of this. Please Lord, deliver me or take me. I can’t live like this.” Tears streamed down my face. Not hard sobs, no I had done plenty of that. These were just the remnants of what strength I had left, rolling down slowly. Each tear represented one more plea for freedom, one more begging request for ease to my soul.

I remember saying that to God and looking up at a branch above me. There was a bird and if you know me, you know birds are my favorite animal. They fly with such freedom; live with such a peace that God will take care of their needs. If they need food, they know where to find it. If they need shelter, they know where to go. I looked up at the bird and heard a still small voice, “Remember the last time you felt like this? You made it through. Keep going, I will strengthen you. Just like that bird, fly in freedom and know I am the supplier of your needs.”

I walked home, still anxious. I went to bed that night, still heavy. But I had a new way of thinking, I will make it through this too because He is taking me through it. I wanted my life to end that day if it meant carrying that heaviness one more second. Had I had my request granted, I would have missed the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and more in my life. At the time of this story I was single, childless, directionless, and weak. Now I am married to a godly man, have an angel baby in heaven and a baby here with me on earth, I have learned how to renew my mind in the Lord and fight against fear and anxiety, and I walk with hope for the future and joy in my heart. I couldn’t have imagined how much God would do between then and now. But that is my point. In the midst of your despair, don’t make decisions that can be permanent. Hold on a little bit longer.

Remind yourself of the last heartbreak you went through; you made it. Remind yourself of the laughter and joy and peace you have felt since the last time you felt anxious; it’s possible. Remind yourself of the other traumas and pains you have made it through; life continues. Sometimes we believe that the next catastrophe will end us…. then it doesn’t. I am not discounting your pain, your hurt, or your trial; what I am saying is there is hope for a future, so don’t give it up.

My undergraduate and graduate studies are in psychology and counseling. One interesting study I read once has really helped me through many tough times (I love when my faith and education combine; it’s beautiful). The study found that the “high” joyous times in our lives are not as amazing as we would imagine them. For example, you get that raise and you are joyous, but then come back down to a happy medium. But on the flip side of that, the “low” times we dread are not as bad as we imagine they will be. So when asked what you would do in a hard time, you imagine it way worse then it actually will be. Why does this help me?

Because when anxiety tries to make me dread something in the future, I remember that it won’t be as bad as my mind tries to make me believe. I remember that I am not alone to face hard battles; and if you find yourself alone on Earth, you are still not alone, because our God never forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). When that next trial or test or temptation comes against you, fight it with the strength of God instead of your own strength. Align your thinking with the Word instead of your “reality”. Thoughts stuck in a negative cycle? Make yourself think on good things, things of good report, things worthy of praise, things that are pure and true (Philippians 4:8).

One of the lies of the enemy in our lives is that we are stuck. We are stuck anxious, we are stuck depressed, we are stuck struggling, we are just stuck with no hope for change. But darling, let me shine some truth on that lie. You will never be stuck, not as long as you are breathing. 1 John 4:4 says that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world! That means whatever is coming against you, you can know for a fact that the One on your side is more powerful. Then why isn’t He working on my behalf, you ask?

Sometimes when God is trying to work, we can be working against Him. If you know you struggle with a sin and continually open yourself up to it, that is a matter of self discipline. Pray for wisdom and self discipline and He will give it to you. If you are continually choosing relationships with people who are abusive and in bad lifestyles, don’t continue to choose those relationships. Pray for discernment in people and good, godly relationships. If you know that you tend to be pessimistic and negative in your thought life, don’t be a slave to your thinking, renew your mind and make your thoughts come into alignment with the Word. Surrender every part of your life to God, and let Him do His work while you do yours.

All of this is to let you know, that if you are in the midst of a life storm and struggle, whatever it may be, it is not your last chapter. It is not your end. Life will continue and you will get up from this. And there will be laughter again, and joy will spark your heart once more. Peace will be there waiting for you and love is still alive. What is barren will bear life, what is dry and thirsty will be quenched. What is dead will be brought to life. Don’t lose hope, and don’t be a prisoner of your struggle. Instead, be a prisoner of hope. When life tries to force your hand to succumb to despair, instead choose to remain a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12). Be in a place where you cannot stop hoping for change.

Know that whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever struggle you are enduring, keep enduring and hang on just a little bit longer. I am praying for you in this season and know that what was meant for your ruin, God will use for your good (Genesis 50:20). I love you all and pray for you earnestly!

The “What-if” Trap: How I Broke Free from Anxiety

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon

I remember that time during my life, when anxiety was my “normal” state and I couldn’t remember what it felt like to just not worry. About anything. At that point I remember worrying about things that really didn’t matter; what people thought of me, if I was doing enough as a Christian, if I would ever make it in life or be successful. You may think those things matter but honestly, while I was worrying about them they were falling together without any help on my part in the background. My worrying was getting in the way of promises coming to pass.

But I worried still. One thing that really stuck out during that time of testing in my life was I continuously had to go to God. What felt like the darkest, most trying time of my life also was one of the times of my life I felt closest to My Father. I had to learn during that time complete reliance on His strength for my everyday. Honestly during that time there were days I would not have made it one my own; but God.

One thing that God taught me during that time was that had He just delivered me from anxiety, I would have never known how to fight anxiety when it tried to come back. You see, anxiety will rear it’s ugly head to everybody whenever it gets the chance. Some have learned to turn it away, others embrace it. During that time God had to teach me to stop embracing every anxious thought and instead cast it down and cling to His Word. So that three years later when an anxious thought tries to come back, I have the tools to tell it where to go.

One thing I realized as I tested every thought during that period was that most often, every anxiety attack began with two words: what if. What if I don’t get that job? What if I never get in that relationship? What if I get sick? What if that person I love walks away from me? What if I get hurt again? What if I’m not good enough? What if I am rejected again… what if… what if… what if….

It was a prison. A cage. A trap. Every time a thought began with “what if” I knew what would follow. A thought that led me down the path of fear into the storm of anxiety. I knew what I was thinking wasn’t true… I knew that it was fear and anxiety attacking me… but I didn’t know how to not embrace the thought.

One day as I was praying to God and crying out, I just began to be at my wits end. “How do you expect me to break free of it if you do not tell me what to do?!? ‘Fear not’ is easy enough to say, it’s the doing that’s hard!” In my frustration, He quieted my soul. “I have told you what to do. Read My Word.”

Begrudgingly I went to the Word and turned to one of the many verses on anxiety I had memorized at this point. I’m going to post it below because I believe if you’re reading this post, then you need to read this scripture:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:6-8 AMP

As many of you know and some may not, my undergraduate and graduate studies were in psychology and counseling. As I read this scripture, immediately I thought of psychology and counseling concepts for people with anxiety, trauma, and depression. The thought behind many of the techniques used for people with those struggles is to locate maladaptive thoughts and replace those thoughts with the truth and positive thinking. While I contemplated what this scripture meant, I realized our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, can help us do the same thing.

He essentially told me right then how to deal with anxious thoughts and cast them down. The above scripture is a formula for anxiety.

1. Take what is making you anxious and pray to God about it. Give specific requests (supplications) and thank God for His blessing and hand on your life; knowing that whatever may happen He has you.

2. Filter your thoughts through the list above. Is what you are ruminating on just, true, pure, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, virtuous? Or is it anxious, fearful, angry, bitter, lustful, dread-giving, prideful? You will essentially live out your thought life. So a way to combat an anxious life? Stop anxious thinking.

You may be thinking, “That’s easier said than done.” And you would be correct. It was very hard work to be free of anxiety. For two years I filtered every thought I had; it was the most emotionally draining thing I have ever done. But it is not impossible to be free of anxiety. You are not doomed to it forever just because you struggle with your mind. The issue is to retrain your thinking. If you struggle with anxiety and depression I do recommend reading a book by Dr. Carolyn Leaf who is a Christian Neuroscientist. She helps explain your thought life and the physical and spiritual aspects of it. This book really helped me live free of anxiety and depression. I will post a link of it below!

Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf (2007-05-03)

So after I read this scripture I asked God, “What does that look like practically? Replacing my thoughts?” And He simply told me what began my walk to freedom. “Instead of thinking what if something bad happens, simply turn it around and think what if something good happens.”

So when a “What if I never get married,” thought came around, I turned it around and said, “What if my God has my husband waiting around the corner?”

“What if I am never free from this bondage?” instead “what if my deliverance is tomorrow?”

“What if they don’t like me?” “What if God has anointed relationships and friendships waiting on me?”

“What if they reject me?” “What if rejection by them is what will put me on the path to the right relationships?”

You see it’s all about outlook. Anxious thinking is truly thinking without God in mind. But when you remember who you are and Whose you are, you remember to add Him into the equation. Then we remember that whatever the enemy means for our evil, God can turn around for our good (Genesis 50:20). Even if those bad things do happen that you are anxious about (which they most likely never do), then you have a God Who restores, replenishes, and redeems.

The what if trap steals your hope for the future, wraps you in anxiety, and chains you in fear. But if you begin to filter your thinking and align it with the Word, you can and will be set free. Freedom is not unavailable to you. If you have been trapped in fear and anxiety for 2, 5, or even 20 years, you can still be free. My mom lived in anxiety for over 40 years. And she walks free of it today. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you that this is your forever. Begin surrendering your thought life to God and see His freedom today!

I will be sharing more of what I learned on my two-year journey with anxiety. Be encouraged and please let hope spark in you again. Happy peaceful homemaking!