Anxiety and Depression Series- (5)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

Not exactly the response you were expecting?

Yeah… me neither.

None the less, here we are, 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?

 

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 his wife away 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. I believe fear in and of itself is not sinful, 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 can not emphasize the aforementioned enough in the fight against anxiety. It was a key that unlocked a door of understanding for me, it was solid truth to stand on in this battle for my mind.

I find that I behave 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 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!

Click on over here for the next post in this series!

686 Shares

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 at 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!

 

559 Shares

Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 2) My Story

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

 

Anxiety is defined as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fears often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating and increased pulse rate) by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. Merriam Webster online dictionary

The very core of anxiety is found in the last sentence of the Merriam Webster’s definition – Self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.

Torn in 2 Directions

The Greek word Merimnao, found in several verses within the new testament of the Bible, including Philippians 4:6, be anxious for nothing – Has a meaning of being pulled apart.

Merimnao= part, as opposed to the whole; drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts.

Anxiety is most definitely a pulling in two different directions. It is standing on the tightrope between hope and panic and feeling that any moment I could fall into the latter. It is the overwhelming trepidation that says impending doom is near, all the while, the opposing voice of truth and sanity explains you’re fine.

Anxiety is a dividing, a pulling between the truth we know and our emotions that take over. Every day we choose between fear and faith, trust over worry and as the dictionary’s definition explains, it is self-doubt that fuels anxiety.

This is precisely where my story begins.

 

Anxiety

For a very long time, I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew something wasn’t right.

From some of my earliest memories, I was afraid. 

Several things terrified me as a girl, including heights, death and the dark. Many children have fears, however, mine loomed far larger than simple childhood apprehension. I worried obsessively about things that an eight-year-old shouldn’t have been concerned with.

I have vivid memories of sweating profusely as I cowered on the floor of our car, positive we were moments from death because we were driving over a high bridge.

As a young girl, I went through a phase where I was certain I was going to die because I was too skinny since I could see my ribs. Images of my body simply giving up and my heart stopping bombarded me. My mom would tell me to eat more if I was worried and explained I would be fine, but I struggled to believe her.

I also suffered from severe migraines as a child and into my teenage years. I have wondered now if they were partly due to the stress I endured from fear.

There was no practical reason for my phobias as a child, this was simply a part of who I was. Aside from my fearfulness, I was a happy child. My parents tried reassuring me when I was afraid that nothing bad was going to happen…

Until it did.

Where fear becomes reality

When I was ten, my oldest brother died in a car accident. He was 17, a senior in high school and he died only three months before his 18th birthday.

Gazing backward over the layers of time since his passing, I see now that he was just a baby, only two years older than my own son currently is. A life that had so many possibilities, cut short.

Losing my big brother exasperated my worries and made the fear I struggled with seem insurmountable.

At just ten years old, standing huddled in the street between our house and the neighbors, I heard the words coming from my dad’s shaky voice that would change our family forever. “There was an accident and your brother died.”  I had four brothers, so when he said “brother” I wasn’t sure who he was talking about. I looked over and saw James standing next to me sobbing, Robert, several feet behind my dad, face stained with tears. And there, next to my mom just a short distance behind us, my littlest brother, Daniel, oblivious to any crisis since he was six.

It was Paul Michael, my oldest brother, and my father’s namesake who was missing from the picture.

Dad was laughing as he spoke, which confused and upset me. I gazed upwards, seeing his dark-rimmed glasses with the sun just behind him peeking through the trees. Hearing unfamiliar noises slipping from between his lips, I realized then that his laughing was actually gut-wrenching sobs. I had never heard my father cry before and mistook it for laughing. An anguish I couldn’t comprehend passed from his lungs into the warm September air.

Having three children of my own, I can only imagine the grief my parents must have felt that day. They went from having five children to four in an instant.

Reality slapped me square in the face and I discovered my mortality in a very real way. The rest of my family, much to my dismay, was also quite mortal. I would spend much of my time worrying about them for years to come.

We spent the next several days in a haze as my mom and dad laid their oldest son to rest in a cemetery on a hill…far too soon.

And their only daughter became entangled with fear that would, unfortunately, follow her closely the rest of her life.

The painful reality of life and death

I became well acquainted with death at an early age and not just because of my brother. For the next several years my family would receive phone calls about deaths of people close to us, family and friends alike.

I had gone to more funerals than weddings by the time I was 20.

The harsh realities of life and death became apparent to me, and in turn, I feared the possibilities. The terrible feeling of impending doom was a constant in my mind.

Fear, it seemed, was something that was innately etched into my personality. Dealing with death at such a young age combined with my already fearful disposition left me vulnerable. Because I had never learned what to do with my fear and grief, I didn’t understand that there was an appropriate way to handle these emotions.

No, these deaths were not the cause of all of my anxieties. However, every circumstance in our lives has the capability to shape who we ultimately become.

I didn’t know this as a ten-year-old girl, but fear was shaping who I was becoming.

Coping

By the time I was older, I had developed coping mechanisms that kept me living a “normal” life. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings or what I went through in my head. I learned to shove, shove, shove.

Due to this, a perpetual cloud of worry hung over my head. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop… so to speak. Over time and as life marched on, this feeling began to build in the back of my mind.

I decided that if stayed just one step in front of the worry monster, I could outrun it.

Until the day it caught up with me…

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, Betheeinspired, and  #TeaandWord link-ups today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

   

Grace&Truth-300x300

 

618 Shares

Have you ever noticed how loud fear is? Take Courage!

I am well acquainted with fear.. and it’s close friend, anxiety. As I look back over most of my life these two have been my constant companions. When control was out of my reach, fear was close at hand. When answers were unclear and I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn, anxiety had a perfectly rational explanation.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s always made sense to run with the fear that was in my heart and mind, it was over-powering. It was the oppressor in my daily life that I just could not seem to shake. It followed me around and demanded I hand over my peace and rest like a schoolyard bully demands your lunch money.

Have you ever noticed how loud fear is? Fear yells. I mean, it just screams. You can’t possibly hear anything else when it’s siren is so loud in your mind.. at least that’s what fear wants you to believe.

Have you ever noticed how loud fear is? Take Courage!

Truth doesn’t shout, not at first anyways.

Fear always seems to shout. It comes at you with a fierceness that is piercing, confusing and almost always loud. Fear demands our attention, I believe, more than any other emotion. If you have ever struggled with anxiety, fear, panic, or any synonym that closely relates to the aforementioned words, you know exactly what I’m saying. When you are so deep into the pit of despair that fear causes, when someone speaks truth to you it can sound barely audible, like a faint, far away whisper. The shouts and incessant clanging of the lies that surround you in that pit can be all-consuming and life sucking.

When you hear that little whisper behind the leers and shrieking of the demons that shake their chains in your face;

.Listen, I mean, really listen.

 because after all, even the loudest shout sounds like a whisper when you’re at the bottom of a pit.

Once you listen, once you open your ears to that truth, don’t let go of it. Grab onto that truth with both hands, and no matter how bloodied they become, don’t let go until that truth whisper becomes a shout. Hold on while you feel the fear falling away into the darkness of the pit as you are being pulled up by the rope of truth.

Hold on, friend. Be brave enough at that moment to grab hold and listen.

It’s scary when fear is screaming at you in the face, isn’t it?

When I’m in that place, I tilt my head a little to the right,  just past fear’s hideous face and I see Jesus.. walking on the water.

Take courage.

In Matthew 14, after a day of ministering and feeding over five thousand people, Jesus put his disciples on a boat and sent them off to the other side while He went up on the mountain to pray. In the early morning hours after the disciples had been out on the water for hours, Jesus came walking on the water to them. The text reads that when the disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the sea they thought it was a ghost or a spirit. Uh.. yeah, I’d be shaking in my boots also. But I just love Jesus’ answer, depending on what version you read, his basic words were this;

“Take courage! It is I; do not be afraid.”

In some translations, there is no exclamation point after taking courage, but I like to think that Jesus spoke with the emphasis that the exclamation point adds. Take courage! I just love this. I imagine Jesus effortlessly walking upon the waves and coming towards the boat as the disciples are terrified at this phantom gliding towards them. And what does Jesus say? He says take courage.

It’s the words I bring to the forefront of my mind when fear is screaming at me. It gives me the perspective I need at that moment to look past fears ugly face and stare at the truth. The truth that He is with me, I’m not alone in this and I am His.

And you know what? I like to think that’s why Jesus said take courage before he said do not be afraid.

Because it takes courage to not be afraid.

It’s not exactly easy to not take the fear route. It’s hard. Especially if you’re anything like me and it’s hard-wired in you to just be afraid. It takes patience, perseverance and practice. Jesus knew that. that’s why he said it.

Fear and anxiety don’t exactly like to retreat easily but I’ll tell you this, in the presence of Jesus even the ugliest fear screams can’t stand. That’s truth, it’s rock solid ground to stand on when fear makes you shake in your boots.

So, take courage, my friends. Do not be afraid, listen to this whisper of truth if you are currently in a pit; you are His, He is with you and you are held. Look past the ugly screeching and before you know it the truth of Jesus will be shouting louder than the fear.

 

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”