My junior year of college was one that I will always remember. That sounds really dramatic, but it really was a year that changed my life. My junior year of college was the year that I realized I struggle with depression and anxiety. Until that year, those words were just things I learned about in my psychology classes, things that affected other people but not me. My junior year of college was the year I decided I didn’t want to continue living the way I was living.
Depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads in different ways for different people. For me, they show up in the form of fear, fatigue, avoidance, and hiding. Yep, you read that right– I said show and not showed. Depression and anxiety are still things I deal with to this day, nearly four years after their first discovery. Depression and anxiety ebb and flow– there are highs and lows, good days and bad days. Through my psychology classes I was able to put a name to what I had been feeling for so many years, and through counseling I was able to pinpoint why I was tired all the time and why the only thing I ever wanted to do was watch Netflix. I was able to realize that the way I deal with situations that cause me to be fearful and anxious is to run and hide from them.
In college “fear” became my middle name. I was paralyzed by fear of the future. I was tortured by fear of what other people thought of me. Fear made me want to stay at home in my bed watching the show of the week. Fear made me unsure of who I was and gave me insecurities about myself that constantly flooded my brain. This time in my life was one marked with darkness, and darkness means absence of light, which means absence of Jesus. But Jesus was always there, whether I felt Him there or not, through every high and every low of anxiety and depression.
It has been almost four years since I named my anxiety and depression and brought them into the light, and Jesus is still with me every step of the way. Depression and anxiety have not been things that have gone away with time. There are days when I feel so far from Jesus, so deep in the darkness, that I just want to stay in my bed and never leave. But the Lord has called me to higher and deeper things. All Sons and Daughters says it well:
I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again
But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
Most days this is the desire of my heart– to follow wherever the Lord leads me. But on those low days, I want to ignore God because I know He is going to call me to something that isn’t easy.
The Lord has called me into full-time ministry, something that isn’t easy and that can sometimes bring up fears, anxieties, and insecurities within me. Having to raise support for my ministry is something that has brought back all of the fears and lies from the enemy that I was believing in high school and college. Every day the devil bombards me with lies about who I am and who God is. He feeds me lies that God isn’t good, that He doesn’t hear my cries or feel my pain. He convinces me that I am not good enough, I am all alone, no one cares or understands, and I’m a bad Christian who just isn’t trusting God enough. He makes it hard for me to believe the truth of the gospel because he knows that remembering who I am in Christ and who God is will help dig me out of the darkness. When I am sitting and hiding in the darkness, I am exactly where the devil wants me to be. I’m rendered useless for the Kingdom of God if I can’t get out of the bed.
BUT GOD. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). God is greater than my anxiety and depression. God is more powerful than my anxiety and depression. God is able to save me from my anxiety and depression. God is good; He is kind; and He is loving. He desires for me to live in the light with Him. He understands my pain, and He longs for me to walk in freedom and joy that only come from Him.
In a weird way, God has used depression and anxiety to show me who I am in Him. I am not my fears, insecurities, and anxieties. I am not what other people may or may not think of me. I am not a failure or disappointment to everyone in my life. But I am free, righteous, clean, loved, cherished, and forgiven, not because of anything I have done to save myself from the darkness, but because of the great love, grace, and mercy that God showed me through the death of His Son on the cross. I can have victory over any and every lie the enemy throws my way, not because of my own strength or power, but because of God’s. These are things I have to remind myself of every single day. The gospel isn’t just for people to be saved from sin and enter into heaven; the gospel is for me–someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, someone who forgets who God is and who I am in Him every. Single. Day.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 4:7
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy (God). He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.” –The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis