Captive to Captivated

From A Captive to One Who is Captivated - The Story of Mary. #Mary #Jesus #Easter #hope

She stood stunned, shoulders shaking, hands clasping the bottle of oils as tears rolled down her cheeks and soaked her dress. Grief left her staring in disbelief at the emptiness of the tomb she had been waiting for three days to go to.

He was gone.

His body, the one they broke had vanished, snatched away in the night as she was coming to honor Him. She longed simply to be near him one last time before the tomb would be closed for good.  


From A Captive to One Who is Captivated - The Story of Mary. #Mary #Jesus #Easter #hope

That First Easter Morning…

The twentieth chapter of John opens like a theatrical work, creating a vividly heart-wrenching picture. The sorrow Mary expresses while standing at the gravesite of Jesus is nearly palpable in just a few short words.

She was most likely physically and emotionally exhausted from the last few days. I can only imagine the despair that was battling for her mind.

When I think of Mary Magdalene I sometimes wonder that many of her emotions must have been rather new and uncertain. What did a woman who had been possessed by devils have to battle with?

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark…”John 20:1

Not until I had labored through the trenches of anxiety and depression, did I begin to be in awe of Mary Magdalene and her journey on that first Easter morning.

I was fresh from the exhaustion of life over the past few months and began to simply read His word. Focusing your mind on anything while in the pit of depression is almost impossible. However, there came a day I found myself walking that early morning path with Mary, tears rolling down my face as she wept at her beloved savior’s grave.

I could see her, making her way through the dim light, oils in her hands and the crackle of rock under her feet. Her breath visible from the chill and the anticipation of arriving at the tomb propelling her forward.

As I’m sure He has done for countless others over the last 2,000 years, God whispered hope to me through the woman who once lived captive to demons.

Until Him…

Seven demons held Mary prisoner before she met Jesus. Few would even dare to try to envision the degree of torture she endured.

She was a person hopelessly lost and left for dead…

Until she met Him.


What did Mary Possibly feel?

Weeping as she reasoned, who will save her from those that would seek to destroy her now?

Who will keep them from coming back?  A cold chill creeps up her back at the thought.

The memories seep in, threatening to strangle her as she stoops to gaze in at the empty tomb. Hope drains from her heart and out of her eyes, sobbing inconsolably at the prospect of walking this world without him.

The men that had come to see have long since returned home, back to before. 

But not her.

She stayed.

She stood, unable to choke back the tears; there was no going back for her.


Held Captive

Humanity is held captive.

We wrestle daily with any number of captors. Though they may not be demons, we have demons of our own, don’t we?

I have loved Mary’s story and can read it time and again without it growing old. Maybe it’s because I can relate on a small level.

I know a little of what it feels like to be held captive. Obviously not to the extent that she did. But I do know that the very emotion God gives us can take us captive. I have lived for years in bondage, bowing down to fear. I know first hand how ugly it can be.

There is really no emotion in the world that I dislike more than fear. I have spent a lifetime battling it, coming to a place of understanding it and finally, learning how to live with it.

Fear can blind you.

Mary saw the empty tomb and ran back to tell the disciples, however, she still remained unbelieving.

The apostle John ran and entered the tomb and when he saw the grave-clothes folded, it simply states:

“…He saw and believed.” John 20:8

The disciples went home believing but Mary stayed weeping.

…She saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  John 20:12-13

She loved Jesus fiercely and knew on a profound level just how much He was capable of and yet she wept.

When she said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus… John 20: 14

I believe her feelings and fear overrode the truth that was quite literally standing right in front of her.

How often do we miss the good right here because we are too occupied grieving at the empty tomb of what was?

We can become so burdened with the possibility of the “what if” that we forget to rejoice in the freedom we have been given.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” John 20: 15-16(partial)

He spoke and she still didn’t recognize Him! She was so bound by her sorrow that she didn’t recognize the One she came to see.

Her vision didn’t clear until He spoke one simple word.

It happened to be her name.

He Speaks

I still get choked up when I read Him speak her name. Something broke inside of me the first time I read that after going through my valley. I heard Jesus speaking truth in one word, not only to Mary but to me as well-

“I never left you, never once. You couldn’t see me working, but I was always there… with YOU personally.”

At that moment her entire perspective flipped.

 She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “…go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”

The first messenger of the resurrected Jesus was not only a woman but a woman who had been demon possessed.

I think we can all agree this was no coincidence. What better person to proclaim what Jesus accomplished than a woman who had been held captive by demons and released by Jesus.

He Releases the Captives

May we never forget His power and authority in any circumstance through the memory of the empty tomb.

He is a chain breaker.

Deliverer.

No. Matter. What.

“He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed…” Luke 4:18

 


 

Anxiety and Depression Series – Have You Been Transformed?

Anxiety and Depression Series - Have You Been Transformed? #transformed #hope

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

 

“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2 NASB

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge out of its chrysalis? It is truly fascinating because it is an entirely different creature than when it went in. I love watching them gingerly ease out of their transformation station and flex those new, beautiful wings. It takes some time, of course, for them to get used to those wings, but when they do – they fly – and they’re stunning.

We Are New

If you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, you’re a lot like that butterfly.

You. Are. New.

All of your junk from the past is gone the minute you believe in Jesus. Every last bit of our sin-filled past was nailed to a cross roughly 2,000 years ago.

However, there does remain the fact that we still live here in the in-between. We are left with our humanity, our habits, and our struggles.

Transformation Takes Time

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition…Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Philippians 4:6 & 8 (condensed)

All of Philippians 4 is amazing. You should read it – seriously.

The aforementioned scripture is quoted time and again when cautioning a believer as to where they should set their mind. This scripture is necessary and powerful, however, when you struggle with anxiety and depression it can feel condemning rather than comforting.

Obviously, it’s not meant to be that way. As with other scriptures, I think we miss the point a little when we just look at this verse all alone.

So, come on down with me to the next couple of verses. 

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Philippians 4:9 & (Partial)12

Did Paul miraculously know all he needed about the Christian life once he met God on the Damascus road?

*spoiler alert – no.

He learned and he practiced.

He learned how to be content in any and every situation.

I think this very real, logical point often gets missed in the Christian walk. I especially think of those of us who deal with anxiety and/or depression. Not only do we have brains that are wired to worry, we tend to feel guilty about the anxiety we feel.

For a very long time, I would read Philippians 4:6-8 in the completely wrong context. I was sure God wasn’t pleased with me when I had a particularly anxious day.

Transformation Takes Kindness

Before I say anything else, let me point out something specific in God’s character;

…But you are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness…” Nehemiah 9:17 (partial) 

He is abundant in kindness.

I think my wrong view of these scriptures was really a distorted view of who He is. I focused on the wrong thing – anxiety has a way of doing this though. When I switched my focus to His kindness I realized that He is a teacher, not a harsh task-master.

The whole point of these verses in chapter 4 isn’t perfection, it’s practice.

When we put into practice what we have learned, we are transforming our minds just as Romans 12:2 says. We do it one verse, one thought, one choice at a time.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I used to read these scriptures and think “Yeah, thanks, Paul, you didn’t have anxiety and depression, easy for you to say.”

Out of God’s kindness, I heard in my spirit, “How do you know?”

Ouch – good point.

I don’t know what Paul dealt with or any other Christian for that matter. So, who am I to scoff at this plain and simple advice. No matter what we are dealing with today this is the formula;

Whatever you have learned, received or heard… put into practice.

Anxiety?

Depression?

Fear?

(*insert here what you are struggling with today…)

Pray. Learn. Practice.

Is it easy and a quick fix?

Pretty sure you already know it’s not.

But as I tell my kids – nothing worth having ever is.

 

Anxiety and Depression Series - Have You Been Transformed? #transformed #hope

Transformation Takes Power

It’s time we believe in the power of what He has done and renew our minds through His promises.

Perhaps you need to ask the question I asked myself several years ago. “If I trusted Jesus to save my soul then why aren’t I trusting Him with;

Today?

This moment?

This thought?

This depression?

This anxiety?

This panic?

(*you know the drill…)

As I found out, through much trial and error, when our belief system changes, we change.

Afterall, freedom begins with believing you are already free.

Freedom begins with believing you are already free.

Don’t forget that He is a kind and patient God that understands our frailty, this means we have room to learn. We will trip, we will fall and we will make mistakes. You know what else I love about this group of verses? In verse 9 He says put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you. His peace is already with us in the practicing, not once we have perfected it.

Practice turning your gaze upward. He did the hard work and paid the price. He said, “It is finished,” and then He sat down.

Because of this, we can practice renewing our minds and see the transformation He intends. So let’s spread those beautiful wings and fly!


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!

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!

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 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. 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. 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, laughing 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, nope, 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.

By observing my feathered friend on this crisp winter morning I am 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 IN 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 – sometimes fighting doesn’t mean pulling out weapons and battling until you’re bloody.

Occasionally it means 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 the while I 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!

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Holley Gerth

 

          

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