Anxiety and Depression Series- Whom Do You Fear?

whom do you fear?

**this is an ongoing series here at Carry on my heart, you can read the first part here.

“There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know” – ‘Oh my soul’, Casting Crowns

At some point, what we put above God must come down and meet with Him face-to-face. I had always assumed that fear was an uninvited guest at the table of my life. When in reality, I had unwittingly given it the head seat.

I would eventually come to find that every knee will bow to Jesus – even my fear.

Do not rebel and Do not Fear

In Numbers, chapter 14, we arrive on the scene in time to witness the Israelite people as they catch a glimpse of their new land. If you are unfamiliar with this story, a quick synopsis goes like this: God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through Moses and several astounding miracles to bring them to a new promised land and freedom.

Twelve men were sent to spy out the land and report their findings back to Moses. The spies return and disclose what a delightful land it is – aside from one little problem – enormous, mountains of men lived in the land. The majority of the spies deduced they’d be better off cutting their losses and heading back to Egypt with their tails between their legs.

The only people out of thousands that believed God’s promise were Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. They were convinced He had already given them the land and began to beseech the people on Gods behalf;

“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9 NASB

In short, these four men were warning the people, actually, begging them. Verses five through eight show these men falling on their faces and tearing their clothes before the people to convince them to not give up on God.

Can you guess how the people responded?

“But all the congregation said to stone them with stones…” Numbers 14:10

Hundreds of thousands of voices threatening mutiny,

All because of fear.

The Israelites didn’t enter the promised land at that point, instead, God sent them out to wander the desert for 40 long years. Subsequently, most would die and never enter the promised land at all.

All because of fear. 

For much of my Christian life, I read the aforementioned story about the Israelites with a superiority complex – “wow, really? Didn’t they remember what God just did for them?”

Until I saw my own reflection within this story.

Whom Do You Fear?

“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land,”

You’ll notice that rebel and fear are all snuggled up, working together in unison here.  Fearing these people of the land equaled rebelling against God. They obeyed the fear they felt rather than God.

The word fear in the scripture listed above is yare = to fear, stand in awe of. It also means reverence, honor, and respect. This particular word is used in roughly 300 different verses within the scriptures.

I’m a bit of a word nerd. They have the uncanny capability of giving you an entirely new perspective when you dig deeper into them.

I used to foster a belief that a large chasm between fear and reverence existed. I reverence God and fear everything else, right? Not necessarily. If I am willing to do whatever it takes to escape something, I am giving it a place of prominence, I revere the very thing that frightens me.

Plain and simple – we reverence what we fear.

“Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand…” Joshua 10:8

This, of course, isn’t the only place in the Word of God where people are told not to fear. These words are all over the Bible, and for good reason, for at the core of fear, you find unbelief.

The Israelites reacted out of fear. They were so controlled by it that they were willing to kill men and go back into slavery.

Fear causes us to do bizarre things

Fear, in general, causes people to react in peculiar ways. I know that when I obey what fear whispers, I end up looking very little like the person God made me to be.

I’m not alone in this, there are several ugly behaviors mentioned in the scriptures that transpired out of fear:

Adam and Eve hid from God out of fear.

Abraham gave away his wife out of fear.

Elijah ran and hid because of fear.

Peter denied Jesus out of fear.

As with any other emotion, fear is a normal human feeling, but when put above God, it can produce terrible effects.

I think when God is saying “don’t fear” – He’s not saying don’t feel fear – He’s telling us to not obey the fear we feel.

I find myself behaving in the most erratic of ways when fear is in control. It says jump, I say how high. In contrast, when I obey what God says, I act in a way that exhibits self-control and strength even in the midst of the most troubling of times.

I no longer believe there is a great divide between fear and reverence, in fact, they are closer than we care to admit.

What I found in the story of the Israelites paralleled my own life in the fact that I was allowing fear to dictate my choices. I realized I was giving a disproportionate amount of attention to my fears.

Every decision I made for a very long time was run through the governing management of my fear-based belief system, rather than through God.

I have found fear falls in line under the authority of the almighty God when I submit my emotions to Him. Where one time there was chaos, now there is peace and self-control.

God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, he gave us power and self-control. (condensed from 2 Timothy 1:7) He tells us not to fear because He knows when we are truly afraid, it rules us.

And friend, nothing should rule us when we are new in Jesus Christ.


 

If you’ve never heard this song, give it a listen, it’s amazing!

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I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed…

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed. #hope #believed #despair

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage;”

Psalm 27:13-14 nasb

 

I sat down to finish writing something entirely different, but my fingers wouldn’t type.

So, I walked away.

I find myself in a familiar place today –

Afraid.

Too anxious to sit. Too scrambled to articulate sentences and think up pretty words.

I’m not myself – or rather, a previous form of myself.

I don’t like her very much and I struggle to give her grace when she shows up.

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed. #hope #believed #despair

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed…

I’m battling a cold and tiredness seems to engulf me today.

My youngest is home sick, he woke up at three a.m. with a high fever and cough. After giving him medicine and a cool towel we sat together and watched some of the Olympics. My little guy drifted off sometime after four and I sat alone in the dark thinking.

I know better than to go deep when the night is heavy around me…

Whispers from the past pull me down

Lying in bed next to my sweet, sleeping cherub, I wander to a place years ago in the midst of postpartum depression, when my older son was sick. Back to a time when life seemed unbearable because I was having severe anxiety and obsessive, intrusive thoughts.

I was physically present but not so much emotionally and mentally, which left my memories blurred.

My boys are no longer little. Two of them are teenagers now and my tiniest—as my husband and I call him—turns nine next month. Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital?

The nagging voice in my mind whispers – Time is short... I shift uncomfortably in my bed because I am all too aware that I can never get those days back.

My breath catches as tears fall while I grieve the past.

It hurts.

The would of’s, should of’s and what if’s are there waiting—so are the fears that once swallowed me whole. None of them truly leave and if I rummage long enough, my emotions match my thoughts. 

I am left feeling helpless and anxious.

Today I am Tired

Memories have that effect on me.

I struggle when ghosts from my past trigger emotional reactions, especially in weak moments.

Today my body is fighting off sickness while my mind fights to stay present. When I’m tired I am more prone to anxiety and then depression always follows closely, seeking an opportunity to descend.

I’ve been waiting for a day like today. I knew it would come and I’d have to write about it…

 

We hear all the time how hard it is to be transparent.

Well, it really is… Hard.

Then the lies…

Who do you think you are to write about overcoming anxiety and depression? You’re still here…

You have nothing to offer…

You’ll never get over this…

The ripple of a stone thrown years ago in the lake of my life still reaches me, even today, on an average snow-covered February morning.

If only life were a sitcom, where we could laugh while all misfortune is neatly summed up in 30 minutes.

But it’s not.

Life is complicated, tangled and imperfect.

I’d love to tell you I am wrapped up in the prettiest paper and neatly tied with a bow. But this would be a lie because I am a work in progress. Bad days happen when you deal with anxiety and depression. And often for me, it’s the memories that set one in motion.

But God…

Making some soup for my boy, I spotted the most beautiful little bird amidst the snow outside my back window. He didn’t seem to mind the frozen ground, pecking and digging until he found a worm. Satisfied with his loot he flew off to the nearest tree and sang a song until another sweet melody responded.

Observing my feathered friend on this crisp winter morning, reminded again that God is faithful.

He was then, He is now.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed…”

I love the King James Version of this scripture – I would have lost heart unless I had believed…”

Oh, how I lose heart when I forget to believe! It is so tempting to look back and try to manipulate the events of our lives – although, the only thing altered is us – we are left defeated, sad and helpless by lingering too long in the unchangeable.

But God…

“I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

He reminds me of His faithful goodness IN the land of the living.

Right. Now.

When I dig through the icy memories at my feet I find Him there. The goodness of the Lord, even in the cold, even in the muck. When I do, I rise above the cold to sing a song of rejoicing for where I am AT this moment.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage;”

I texted my husband to ask for prayer and my sweet guy told me to look at the cross. “You don’t have to try harder, He did it all, just look up in faith to Him.”

Today I wait.

I wait for this to pass.

I fight to stay in the moment and remember that sometimes fighting doesn’t mean pulling out weapons and battling until you’re bloody. Occasionally it looks a lot like waiting. Allowing your heart to take courage by standing firm in the truth you already know. It takes a little time for our heart to thaw and take in courage.

Then my guy told me something else. “Don’t try… Just write,” he said.

So, I write

My little boy is snuggled in watching movies next to me, his fever warmed skin pressed against mine. I nuzzle my face into his sweaty head of hair as his blue eyes gaze up at Wreck-It-Ralph. All while remembering to breathe out a quiet thankfulness for this moment, time alone with my Tiny while my older two are at school.

Days like today take place, they just do.

Triggers come and sad, anxious days will occur. But just as the delicate bird sings his song amongst the wintry frost, I choose to believe I will see the goodness of the Lord IN the now.

Reminders of past victories and present grace.

Hope.

Won’t you join me today in thanking Him for the hard days as well as the good? They will come and that’s okay.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble… God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” Psalm 46: 1-2 &5 NASB

 

I’m linking up with some fantastic fellow bloggers this week – click on the links and join me over there!

Grace&Truth-300x300

 

Holley Gerth

 

          

dreamtogether-linkup

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How to overcome Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 4) – The Spiritual Side of Anxiety

Overcoming anxiety and depression photo

***This is part 4 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here.

 

Many years and 3 kids later, I had made a reluctant agreement to do life with anxiety and fear. I also experienced postpartum and perinatal depression with all three of my boys.  (This is an entire topic close to my heart that I will cover separately in a future post.)

During the time I lived daily with severe anxiety and depression, I put an unnecessary importance on the spiritual side of my battle. Through a combination of half-truths and wrong focus, I gave far too much credit to things that had already been beaten.

I was a prisoner set free – cell door wide open, sitting sadly, defeated.

Overcoming anxiety and depression photo

How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Getting back to Basics

The human experience has 2 great enemies; sin and Satan. Both would see us annihilated and both have already been defeated.

I believe the majority of Christians struggle in their Christian walk because we have forgotten who we are in Jesus Christ. I learned first hand how crippling it can be to live life outside of the power I possessed.

The Adversary

Satan knows each of our weaknesses, he is an observer, after all, as evidenced in the scriptures. The things I experienced as a child contributed to the fear that had grown inside of me and I have no doubt my enemy played upon those circumstances.

 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”   1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

When I take my boys to the zoo, one of my favorite animals to see is the majestic lion. He sprawls himself high upon his rock and scans his surroundings with a predatory gaze. When he opens wide his toothsome mouth and thunders out the most magnificent roar, I am thankful for that sturdy layer of unbreakable glass.

Satan is referred to as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I often zeroed in on the devouring part and felt like a sitting duck. My battle with anxiety and depression made me feel as though I was already in his grasp.

“The truth will make you free…” John 8:32

You see, Satan is my adversary, this is true, but what I neglected to focus on was the fact that he had already been defeated.

There is the sturdiest and most protective glass between him and me –

My precious protector, Jesus.

We give the devil too much credit when we attribute all of our woes to him, just as we can often ignore the part he plays altogether. Both are his deceitful tricks, focus too much or not at all.

So, what do we do with our adversary in light of the truth?

  • Be alert and sober-minded (or calm and collected.) 1 Peter 5:8-9
  • Resist him. Resist= withstand, oppose, to set against. – Standing firm in our faith. *see James 4:7
  • Be aware of his scheming; being aware is not fighting with him. Even Jesus Himself simply rebuked him with truth and Satan fled. *see Matthew chapter 4

When we believe the truth of his defeat, we understand how little power he truly possesses. He rejoices when we believe we can not escape because he knows what we don’t in the moment, we’re already free.

His lies are like thunder, it’s loud and uncomfortable but cannot harm you.

A roar, no matter how booming, is only noise…

The Wrong Focus

Along with overcoming an inappropriate fear of my adversary, I had another hurdle that held me back from the freedom God intended for me.

Sin.

I saw in myself and other Christians an obsession with hunting down the sin in every situation. Yes, sin is ever-present because of the broken world we live in. Even so, it does not mean that every trial we go through is a direct sin issue.

In the heart of my struggles, I would periodically gain the courage to open up about what I went through but would often receive unhelpful advice from well-meaning Christians:

“Is there a sin you haven’t confessed?”

“The Bible says we’re not supposed to worry because it’s sinful.”

I was already dealing with so much guilt and confusion, that comments such as the aforementioned were extremely unhelpful. As Christians, we often end up unintentionally wounding those in pain with our words.

“How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” Job 19:2

I believe words have great power to either be instruments of hope and healing or weapons of hurt. How much more does a loving God intend for His words to be used for hope and healing?

Please do not misunderstand me, I was just as guilty as those that sat next to me on my ash pile. I battered the Bible over my own head as much, if not more than others. Every stone I had unturned elsewhere wasn’t answered, so, clearly, this must be a sin. The Bible became nothing more than a tool to “fix” me.

Why do we as Christians often use the Bible as a weapon rather than the love letter it was intended to be? I have found a tendency to slap the “sin sticker” on everything we can not understand.

Of course, this way of thinking is nothing new…

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 NASB

Maybe what you’re going through today is simply the birth of a beautiful work that God wants to display.

Our mental and emotional struggles typically have a spiritual side because we are intricately made of body, soul, and spirit – one is not separate from the other. However, it is usually not the only factor. As intellectual as we are – we are not God – and can not possibly know in what way one affects the other.

Correcting our Focus

An inordinate emphasis is put on sin when we forget we have victory over it. Are we perfect? No, not here, not yet. Do we sin when we have a wrong focus? Sure. But are we to do constant sin hunts and dwell on that? I don’t think so because when Jesus Christ is our savior, we are new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I spent a very long time staring at the old, gazing deeply into the grave of where I had lain. Staring so long and hard, in fact, that I was missing the greatest love story ever told;

My very own redemption and transformation.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I was given power, the same power that had healed the sick and rose Jesus Christ from the grave.

Try Something New 

When I began switching out the fear of the defeated for the victory of the conqueror, I saw a change in myself. I implemented His words with the purpose He intended them for and when panic hit, I tried something new – I tried resting.

In Him.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted…”Psalm 46:10

I love the NASB version of this verse, “Cease striving…” To cease means to stop. Stop fighting. (I would suggest reading this entire chapter)

In practical ways, I began to rest and stop fighting. When fearful thoughts intruded my mind and panic hit, I began to breathe deeply and speak the truth that Jesus is my savior and He will fight for me.

Was it automatically easy? Nope. But I knew I had Him on my side. There was a power behind my resting. Slowly over time, I began seeing the freedom that was mine all along.


Want more encouragement to help you to overcome anxiety and depression?

Part One – http://carryonmyheart.com/with-anxiety-and-depression/

In Part Two – http://carryonmyheart.com/anxiety-and-depression-series-part-2-my-story/

Part Three – http://carryonmyheart.com/anxiety-and-depression-series-part-3-my-story/

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, #SittingAmongFriends and Coffee with friends Link-ups today

      

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Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 3) My Story

***This is part 3 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here and 2 here.

Coming face to face with my monster…

Everything I thought I knew about myself changed with my first panic attack.

I was newly married and in my early 20’s, working for a law firm as a legal assistant.  I was enthusiastic about my job, happily married, and had family and friends that I loved spending time with.

There wasn’t a logical reason for me to have a panic attack, however, as I would come to find out, fear and anxiety are rarely logical.

Panic Strikes

On a random night before work, I was in my closet picking out the next day’s outfit. I couldn’t tell you now what I was thinking of, besides the enormous decision of whether to wear pants or a skirt.

In an instant, the closet began to feel as though it was closing in on me and a creeping terror climbed up the back of my neck. There was literally nowhere to run from the fear that had completely ensnared me.

My brain had been put on hyper-speed, shooting me messages that were nearly incomprehensible, although, I felt them loud and clear;

I needed –

To run.

My mom.

Somewhere safe.

Feeling as though I could barely breathe while clutching at my chest, I left the closet to lie down on the bed. The sensation of being far away, as if I was outside of my body, overtook me. I was positive in that moment that I was going to die.

my “new normal”

I began to experience severe anxiety and panic attacks daily after this initial incident.

Baffled as to why this was happening, I dove inward, searching and questioning every thought and feeling I had.

As if the answer was in my own head.

Nope. Turns out that is not a fun place to be.

Remember those fears I had as a kid? They had matured right along with me and were more fearsome than ever.

Consequently, I was exhausted and at the end of my rope. I like to assume it’s how Daniel felt in the lion’s den, except the only lions staring me down were in my head and they didn’t have their mouths shut.

My life suddenly looked unrecognizable and in those next months, I had what I would consider a full break down.

Breaking apart

I couldn’t work.

Or eat.

I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t drive.

After about a month and a half, I lost roughly 40 pounds. I learned that applesauce and scrambled eggs came in handy when my stomach wouldn’t tolerate anything else, but sometimes those wouldn’t even stay down.

At one point early on in my journey through anxiety, I didn’t sleep for 3 days straight. Not your typical tossing and turning that can happen. I am talking eyes wide open, heart pounding, terror in the middle of the night, not sleeping. Night time was frightening because I was all alone with my fear.

My sweet husband would drive me to doctors appointments and care for me on his days off. When he worked he would leave me with my mom and grandmother during the day because I couldn’t be alone.

I was a mess… to put it lightly.

Digging Deeper Inward

I am naturally gregarious, an undeniable people person and a talker. I love my people and I love being with them.

But anxiety.

It morphed me into someone I no longer recognized and my world began to shrink. I rarely laughed anymore and life had taken on a strange color of sadness. I lost all interest in being with my friends and social situations terrified me.

The anxiety I experienced began to intermingle with depression. The longer I stayed in this intense place of panic, a hopelessness developed within me that became an unintended, integral part of who I was.

I spent days, weeks and months trying to cope, grasping for ordinary and forgetting what it looked like. I tried desperately to live my new normal, clumsily slipping along with many, many days of breakdowns.

What is wrong with me?

I had gone to every doctor imaginable, from a family doctor to a neurologist. Someone must have an answer and I was intent on finding it.

Yes, I was that hypochondriac patient.

During this time, I received a stern talking to from a nurse. After checking my vitals she placed her hands on either side of the sterile white paper where I was sitting. She leaned forward until her breath warmed my face and glared unsympathetically into my eyes, “There is nothing wrong with you, you’re completely healthy and fine and this is all in your head!”

Tears streaming down my face, I gazed back with earnest and stammered, “But I feel like maybe there is… something wrong, I mean.” Said with an almost child-like questioning, the words floated in the air as she briskly walked out of the room.

I scolded myself, feeling embarrassed by my lack of self-control and decided then to stop searching for some elusive answer that clearly didn’t exist.

After this, I began trying to reintegrate into my pre-anxiety world, all while still having panic attacks and spiraling down through depression.

I eventually lost my job because of my inability to fully concentrate, I was forgetting important details. Not to mention all of the time I was missing for sick days and doctors appointments. This caused even more depression since I felt like a complete failure at life.

What on Earth was wrong with me?

The worst part – no one seemed to have an answer.

Where was God?

Although I believed in Jesus as my savior when I was a young girl, God currently felt like a distant deity –  unhelpful and far too big to care what I was presently going through.

I was doing all of the “right things,” praying and reading my bible. So, the question remained, why was I still going through this and when would it end?

The more I heard that worrying was a sin the further I sunk into my pit. The thoughts I struggled with were horrific and overpowering. Surely, no other Christian could possibly have such thoughts. I came to the conclusion that I was a defective Christian, or worse yet, maybe I wasn’t one at all…

Shutting my mouth

The fear of my own mind overwhelmed me and led me to a place of despair. Sadly, I decided to no longer speak openly about what I suffered, for fear of what people would think.

During the many years of pain and silence that followed, I came to understand why people would take their own life. This feeling terrified me most of all. And from here, a belief system grew, coiling its way through my every thought, fed by numerous lies and fears, that took root deep within me.

The Enemy had me right where he wanted – alone in the dark, feeling helpless and hopelessly cornered.

Thankfully, the truth of Jesus burns brightest in the darkest of places…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, link-up today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

 

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