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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

“What do you dream about doing? What are your hopes for the future?” When I asked the questions, the young man looked at me—his dark glasses framing serious blue eyes.

“I don’t have a dream,” he said, shrugging with something like resignation.

“Then I’m going to pray God gives you a dream,” I responded—sounding more certain than I felt.

Shouldn’t everyone have a dream? The idea of something that inspires hope? Excitement? Possibility?

psalm 73

I think so…but this dear one—and many others—struggle with such joy killers as depression and anxiety. I’m not talking about the blues or generic concerns, but the sort of life-altering conditions that overwhelm with their intensity and duration. If you’ve experienced these types of struggles, you understand what it is to feel as if the future holds no promise…no hope.

 

The Church tends to throw Bible verses in the direction of those who experience the pain and loneliness of mental illness. Other believers—even the wise and well meaning—spiritualize the situation or question their fellow-Christians faith. You just need to pray more!

 

Fortunately, awareness is growing and more people are sharing their stories—reminding those in the middle of the storm that it will end. The rains may rage for a time, but one morning you will awaken feeling the sunshine on your face! Your hopelessness will be replaced by promise and your joylessness with laughter. Friend…you will release your burdens and dream again!

 

In the meantime—remain under your doctor’s care, seek wise counsel, and develop a support network. And, continue to rely on the truth of God’s love for you despite how you may feel.

 

Friends and family of those living through the hard of mental illness? Listen. Ask how you can help. Pray that your friend, child, husband, or other hurting one will soon be able to dream again.

 

Recommended Books/Resources:

Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengston

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (www.bdsalliance.org)

 

 

 

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woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood motionless…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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It’s that vacuous, indefinable place between here and there when—like Dante—you awaken near the edge of a dark valley. The valley yawns wide…deep…threatening and you squint your eyes searching for even the dimmest light beckoning in a direction—any direction.

But, fear prohibits the slightest movement. What lies ahead? Maybe it’s safer to remain on the precipice of the Unknown rather to wander aimlessly.

Googleimages.com

cliff

 

 

My limbo? It became reality five years ago when my husband deployed to the dusty, foreign lands of Afghanistan. One morning, we were laughing together over coffee and the next Dave was gone. For ten months, his place at the table remained empty and my heart was filled with fear…grief…anxiety.

For some, this prolonged state of uncertainty might come on the heels of a divorce. It may have been realized when the doctor uttered the word, “Cancer” or the day you finally admitted your child struggles with depression. There are hundreds of entry points into Nowhere—financial struggles, abuse, job changes, death of a loved one.

But limbo?   It’s a counterfeit imitation of hell meant to interrupt joy, dispel hope, and distract away from the beauty of living. I’m not saying limbo is always avoidable.  We may need to experience it for a time. I’m not denying we’ll all deal with the difficult and feel lost sometimes.

I am suggesting we seize that evasive, empty place and fill it with whatever is true before limbo is the habit and living disappears.

Instead of dwelling in the dissatisfaction of Nothingness, we can choose Something.

How?

We remain in the present—in the moment. Worry robs us of the time we might enjoy today because our focus has shifted to the what-ifs of tomorrow. Mindfulness opens us up to hope and possibility.

Matthew 6:34 exhorts, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

I encourage you, dear friend, to take a step…move ahead. Your refuge is in the Rock—not on the edge of one.

 

 

 

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What matters more than material blessings are the things He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley

It all began much earlier for him, but most of the nascent signs were quiet and crept into life bit by bit–a silent predator slowly introducing the victim to its presence. Then two years ago, the boy’s everyday life shifted with such suddenness there could be no doubt. Our son knew what it was to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Sleep oscillated between the extremes of non-existent and constant.  Recurring migraines…weight loss…lack of appetite. And my adventurous, full-throttle son retreated to a solitary world that seemed impenetrable.  Once in a great while I would catch a glimpse of the boy , but the cloud of oppression that hung over him was normally the more visible of the two.

There is no heartache quite like that a parent has for her suffering child and in my grief I confronted God.  I wept.  I raged. I begged.  I prayed.

Please, Lord, please!

After more than two years of trial and error…missed school days and fading dreams, we discovered the right combination of interventions and supports–not the least of which included medication.  Finally…some relief for the boy I had soothed with lullabies not so many years ago.

During this time, my boy continued to seek after God.  He wanted more of Jesus–and, unlike me, didn’t seem to struggle with blaming God for allowing this trial in his young life.  Despite the depression…regardless of the anxiety…in spite of the weariness.

One evening he returned from youth group, his face transformed by joy.

We asked God to heal me.  I don’t need my medicine anymore.

christian : Man worshiping god shot at yellow grass Stock Photo

I was skeptical…fearful…doubtful.  I believed in miracles, but this? A young man’s life could be at stake.

Slow and methodical in my response,  I have taken the “yes, but” approach to this precious boy’s healing. “Yes–God can heal, but…”

Yes, but…healing is not probable…practical…likely.

Yes, but…this could be temporary…time-inhibited…explainable.

Yes, but…are you sure you can sleep…function…manage?

And he continues to do well.  Feel well.  Live well.

I have begun to relate to the Bible verse, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” in ways I never expected.  And I wonder if any of you understand?  If you’ve lived it, too?  At some level, those of us who are Christians must grasp the mystery of such things–at least a little bit.

We trust in Jesus, after all.

Yes, but…a virgin birth is impossible…unimaginable…implausible.

Yes, but…a resurrected Messiah is unbelievable…incredible…miraculous.

Yes, but…can we know we are sanctified…rescued…redeemed?

Yes, but…He was born of a virgin, died on a cross, and rose again in three days.

Scripture for Reflection

Mark 9:24

Genesis 15:6

Isaiah 43:10

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A glance at the car parked next to mine quickly turned to unmannerly gawking when I noticed the condition of the vehicle.  Every visible space–except the driver’s seat–was crammed with fastfood wrappers, boxes, and cups.  The front seat?  Full of trash.  The back seat?  Brimming with garbage. 

I couldn’t help but think of the spiritual implications.  How many times have I refused to rid my life of the clutter I’ve picked up along the way?  Bad habits.  Feelings of inferiority.  Judgemental attitudes.  Every time I’ve allowed the cares and concerns of my past to crowd around me then I feel pressed in on every side–trapped and immobile. 

Christ offers a new beginning, though.   I can throw away all of the “junk in the trunk” and focus on the road ahead.  A road free of old debris. 

What habit or concern can you give to God today? Let’s de-clutter!

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