At the height of the struggle I had with anxiety, verses 4-5 spoke to me.
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”” John 10:3-5 ESV
Anxiety, among many other voices, cry out for our attention, but Jesus assures us that as His sheep we know HIS voice! If we really stop and listen, we can hear that voice. All the other voices shouting at us for His attention are only thieves and strangers. We as His sheep follow His voice alone.
Do not be distracted by all the shouting of lies in your ears! The truth is, when you are in Jesus, you know His voice. If you listen, you will hear it. Follow that voice! It leads to the one who tenderly cares for all our needs, our Good Shepherd.
My husband and I were as people in Missouri say,¨dirt poor¨when we first got married. Our honeymoon consisted of going back to the apartment I lived at in Columbia and staying there for 2 nights while my roommates found other places to stay. Then it was off to our new lives in another town and a new job for me. This year marked our 30th Anniversary. When we started talking about what we should do, I told my husband, ¨Let’s go big!¨ So we contemplated what it would take for us to swing a trip to Hawaii. Finally it was in our plans.
That´s where this week begins. For the past six days my husband and I have been living our Hawaiian dreams: walks during the sunrise and sunset on the beach, driving around seeing all the sights, a luau… It has been fun! Yesterday was an excursion on a catamaran around the island watching dolphins, turtles, and even a manta ray swim up next to the boat. But the star of the show was the humpback whales. Every year they migrate from Alaska to Hawaii for their mating season. We have been blessed to be here for the prime time of their activity. They were jumping, splashing their tail fins, and even breaching! It was breathtaking! Our Captain stopped the boat for awhile to allow for time snorkeling. Which was awesome! Just before we embarqued on our return back to the pier the Captain set up a waterproof microphone on an extra long cord and for a brief moment we were able to hear something amazing, the singing of the whales. What more could a Missouri girl ask for in a tour!
What struck me the most about the whales’ song was how it goes on and on yet it is often unheard. We can miss it!
This morning I woke up thinking about the ¨songs¨ we listen to and the most important ¨songs¨we miss. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” I have spent much of my life not really hearing the sweet song of Lord as He has sung it over me. Instead I have let the sounds of wind and waves drown it out with noise of fear and anxiety. Or I have missed the Lord’s song as the angry and bitter noises of loud commotion the enemy has echoed near me over and over. I have often missed the Lord’s song. I have chosen to focus on all the noise around me when He has called me away to sit with Him and hear Him sing.
When I woke up this morning I kept seeing the words, ¨choose your song.¨ They ran through my mind over and over and over. Then I remembered the whales’ song. We had to choose to listen to the whales singing yesterday as we sat anchored on the ocean. I have to choose as well. Our minds have been rightly called ¨a battlefield.¨ They are where we listen to the spiritual voices and they are where we decide. For years I have taken the lazy approach to my thought life, thinking I had no control over where my mind took me, or what ¨song¨ I listened to. The fruit of that kind of living was miserable. We must ¨Choose our song.¨ We must choose to listen to the song the Heavenly Father as He sings over us. His song is a song of love, joy, peace, and mercy. He sings it over us all the time! He is patiently waiting for us to listen and to respond to His singing. He longs for us to focus on His song and to reject all the noise the enemy tries to distract us with.
Lately, Ive been tempted to listen to all the distorted noises of the enemy. It’s so easy to find yourself tuning into His lies. It takes no effort to hear him… But my loving Heavenly Father reminded me by a moment miles away from my home, that He wants me to ¨listen intently¨to Him. Keep my focus on His voice. If I don’t I will miss His singing. Just like I could have totally missed the singing of the whales, had I not took the opportunity to stop and hear.
Our God is such a good, good God. May we listen to Him sing His song of love over us each and every hour of each and every day!
I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.
One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.
This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.
There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.
I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.
Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV
“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021
Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.
I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.
All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.
After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.
Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.
I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.
Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”
In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on. I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:
“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”
This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!
Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!
I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.
Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!
All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.
The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”
God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.
The Tea- “Gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop, the news …” -Urban Dictionary
Conversations with my 21-year-old daughter tend to prove to me just how old I am getting:
Faith: “Here’s the tea Mom…”
ME: “The what?”
Faith: “The tea… Gosh MOM! The tea, It means, the scoop on, what’s up with so and so, the…” and on and on…
My mind goes to “I am getting old.” But I assure you the next conversation I was asking, “What’s the tea on…?”
“The Tea” that was probably started due to tea parties or teatime where people sat together and talked about other people and all kinds of subjects.
It’s taken me awhile, but I am learning. We need to be careful of what voices we allow ourselves to listen to. This morning my Bible reading was in John 10. Jesus is describing the Good Shepherd and His relationship with His sheep. One thing that has been sticking out to me more and more lately is how the sheep know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how they listen to it. They won’t follow another voice. In John 3:5 Jesus says, ” they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” It occurred to me that not only do I not run away at times, there are times I sit down and have a regular old “Tea Party with Satan” where I listen to him fill me “Spill the tea” on others around me with accusations and assumptions. Or I listen to him give me “the tea” on myself: What I am, What I am not, what I’ve done or did not do. He is a very chatty “Tea Party” host if I allow him to be. Unfortunately, I had been attending Tea Parties with him, frequently. Here is where I make a very bold statement… I’m pretty sure the source of much of the anxiety and depression I have suffered is my frequent attendance to “ALL DAY LONG Tea Parties with Satan.” That he throws. He pulls out a chair, whispers a juicy lie, and offers me a seat to a morning, noon, and night, sometimes all night Spilling of the Tea. It usually starts with, “You know you are not enough for X,Y,Z you face.” “You know so and so doesn’t really like you, they tolerate you…” “You know, If your friends only knew this and such about you…” On and on and on…If I accept his invitation, and sit down for a listen, I find myself drowning in all the fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc. That he wants me to be overcome with. His Tea Party is a success.
Jesus said, “His Sheep run away from a strangers voice.” This has been resounding in my soul today. It is time to not only decline an initiation to Satan’s Tea Party, but to run. I must run away from his voice and run straight to Jesus’ voice. Jesus declares the truth. He declares the truth about who I am and who He and the Father are. His voice is there calling out. It truly is a question of “Who will I listen to?” and to “Who’s table will I run?” Jesus offers me a banqueting table, full of delights, that the Word says has “Banner of me of Love”. It is there that I find myself fulfilled, at peace, and with joy. But it requires that I decline my invitation to Teatime with Satan, that comes frequently throughout my day. And that I run from the tantalizing whisper of the lies he spews. Focusing instead on the feast of the truth and promises in God’s word regarding who He is and who I am. Positioning myself close to His heart. Where I can clearly hear Jesus. It is there that I am safe from the tea of anxiety and depression, and whatever other flavors of his deadly teas, Satan wants to serve.
Invitation to Teatime with Satan Declined!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?” Genesis 3:1 NIV
We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.
Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.
Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.
About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.
Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!
There is an account in the book of John chapter 9, in the Bible, of Jesus healing a man who was blind since birth. It’s been rolling around in my mind and my heart today. Partly because it is just such an incredible miracle and partly because of the response of everyone involved in the account of that miracle. First of all, you have Jesus, then the blind man, the spectators that saw the blind man healed, the skeptic/ religious men, and the blind man’s parents all played a role in its retelling. For some reason, today I see a reflection myself in the middle of it all.
When you struggle with an issue whether it’s physical blindness or spiritual blindness for a long time, possibly all your life, as the blind man was blind all his life, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut. For this man it was the rut of hopelessness with regards to his eyes, begging for the necessities to just get by, with no chance at a full and abundant life. From what is in the text, there isn’t any calling out, there isn’t any asking, no hoping against all hope, he quite honestly wasn’t even portrayed as looking for Jesus to swing by. Jesus simply saw the blind man as He was walking by him. Jesus’ disciples, like many of us wanted to know the “Why” behind the suffering so they asked Jesus “whose fault it was” That the blind man was blind. Jesus simply said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this has happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus healed him.
I identify with that blind man in so many ways. I have struggled with the spiritual blindness of anxiety and depression. They had dug a giant rut of hopelessness in my life. I found myself coping i.e., begging for the necessities to just get by, and really not living in the reality of a full and abundant life. Probably the one difference in the blind man and my own parallel stories is I had been asking Jesus to heal my mind, but I wasn’t convinced He ever would.
One morning I woke up and something was different. Jesus had pulled me up out of the rut. I simply thought, “This anxiety and depression is not a part of my inheritance in Christ”. Then the grip it had on me started to be peeled away, not instantly but much quicker than I thought it would ever happen. Jesus simply wanted for His works to be displayed in me, so the healing began.
This is the point I wanted to come to in this Blog. The thing that has been rolling around inside of me. All the other key players in the account of the Blind man being healed began asking the blind man “how did you get healed?” “What did Jesus do to you?” They wanted an explanation for the unexplainable. All the Blind man knew to say was “One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!” That is the beauty of God’s working in our lives. We get to experience the unexplainable! When Jesus comes by and touches you, setting you free, there is no way of saying “I did x, y, z and now I’m free.” Because the truth is I did not do anything. He came by and touched me so His works could be displayed in me. All of a sudden, the desire to place my mind on Jesus came. All of a sudden, the ability to fight against the enemy’s schemes and the strategies began. All of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by people who would fight with me to see His freedom a reality within me. People who would continually point me to God’s word having the power to renew my mind and God’s peace that abounds when our mind is focused on Him. People brave enough to say something that our culture and our world believes is simply impossible, “In Jesus, you can have total freedom from anxiety and depression.” All of a sudden, feeling of anxiety became less and less to none. All of sudden, I think I don’t need the Buspar, and I didn’t.
Like the blind man, who Jesus came to again after being grilled by the Pharisees because he didn’t fit into their narrative on how life was and who Jesus was, I find myself saying “Jesus whatever you want that is what I want”. Jesus asked him “Do you believe in the son of man…?” He had a simple reply, “Lord show Him to me. Lord I believe” and he worshipped Jesus.
Even though all this feels like I’m walking on wobbly baby deer legs, I say that as well. “Jesus, I believe. You can do anything, things I don’t understand. Thank you for taking time to stop by and touch me.” And this same God who touched me can touch you. He is no respecter of persons. He can, He wlll! He is Good!
I have some of the happiest of memories: the look on my groom’s face when I walked in the sanctuary of the church and slowly walked towards him down the aisle at our wedding, he had the biggest smile; The first time I saw my first born as the doctor held him up over this sheet that covered the area where the c section was being performed, he was one mad little guy; the curls on my first daughter’s hair as a 3 year old and her sucking her thumb; my second daughter watching veggie tales in her bouncy saucer sucking on her passy when she was around 9 months; and my youngest son, at the age of almost two telling me verbally he wanted to nurse on “the other side” … time to wean that kid. lol I could go on and on with the good memories especially now that I have the good memory pump primed. But I, like many of you have also struggled with some very hard memories, traumatic ones. Things that when remembered, cause my mind to freeze up for a moment and feelings of fear to flood me. Those memories are hard to shut off once they get to rolling.
I was thinking about the nature of traumatic memories this morning. Having went to counseling for over 3 years, there have been tools that were given to me to deal with the reoccurring memories that try to play in my mind: the 5,4,3,2,1 method, distraction by doing something physical like exercise, etc. They have been helpful, but lately I have been on a quest for “Shalom” in my mind. Peace but a little more than just our English word for peace. It encompasses well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, wholeness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” That perfect peace refers to “shalom” a wholeness in my mind. This is promised to the one whose thoughts are “fixed on you!”. During my time in counseling there was established a “safe place” in my thought life that I could go if something came up that was unpleasant to think of. So bad thought comes, think about safe place. When I first thought about it, honestly, I thought, that seems pretty dumb… But with help I established that place, “in my mind” and it did “help” a lot. But I don’t just want “help”, I want “whole”, and the Bible has a concept very similar to this that promises to bring the “wholeness” I am looking for it is “fixing my mind on Jesus”.
Years ago, I watched “The Passion” Not an easy movie to watch… The accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the beating he received just before it was horrendous. It occurred to me this morning just how traumatic of an event this would have been for his disciples to witness. It really is no wonder they denied, they ran, they hid, etc. Watching the torment of someone you love would be horrible. Watching the final breath… more than a person can take, traumatic. But God did not leave them there to deal with the repeated flashbacks of evil unleashed on the one they loved. God gave them a resurrection. Thank God that in Jesus there is always a resurrection! There is life beyond the hardships we suffer, the trauma we endure. He takes what was dead in us and makes it alive in Him. As the verse says He “makes all things new”. If there is a “Cross” and a “grave” in our life, there is always a “resurrection”. That should be the “safe place” in our minds, the place we go when the thoughts of a painful past try to replay over and over in high definition. That traumatic thought deserves its place nailed on the cross, but don’t stop there it deserves its NEW resurrected thought that always comes after the cross in God’s kingdom. “I am not there, I am FREE!”
The movie “The Passion” also has its short scene of Jesus in the resurrection. I am glad that Mel Gibson did not stop with just the death. In that scene, the grave clothes are empty and Jesus with His nail scared hands, stands, moving forward into His resurrected, victorious life. That will be my new “Safe place” thought. There is nothing safer than a life closely lived to the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. Traumatic thoughts of a crucified past… resurrected reality of our all-powerful risen Lord! Victory! There is no dead thought that can overpower the thoughts centered in His life! There is no thought wrapped in grave clothes that can hold His resurrected thoughts down! Hallelujah!!
Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.
The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!
I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.
One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.
I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.
It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.
I love a good Sci Fi Movie or TV show, especially Star Trek. As a child of the 80’s, one of my memories of Saturday was catching the old Star Trek reruns, complete with Leonard Nimoy as “Spock”. “Peace, live long, and prosper”. One of the reoccurring themes is the Enterprise getting caught up in some kind of tractor beam that is unseen pulling it toward the impending doom of the entire ship and crew. There seems to be no answer then somehow miraculously, Scotty figures out how to get a little extra power after he exclaims in a thick Scottish brogue, “Captain, I’ve given all the power she’s got!” Yep! Good old classic TV.
As one who has battled frequently with anxiety through the years, it occurred to me how similar a bout with anxiety is like being the Starship Enterprise being sucked into a Vortex of Doom. The tow begins with a thought and before you know it you feel like you’re swirling around the edges of plunging into the unknown. My approach for breaking free from it’s tow was much like the crew on the Enterprise, giving it all I have for effort and then hoping that somehow it would be enough to break the pull. Not very affective and quite the miserable way to go.
Thankfully, this is not the way God wants His girl to live, and He has been showing me a new and living way (HIs grace) to stay above the pull into the “Vortex of Doom”. This is to simply get my eyes off of the “Vortex” i.e. the problem and onto the problem solver, Jesus. When I say simply, it is, but there are times it doesn’t feel that simple. So I need to be reminded that the tug of the Vortex does not mean to it’s time to throw up my hands and surrender to it’s pull. Nor does it mean that, in my own strength, with my own devices and coping mechanisms that I “cope” with Anxiety or even try to fight it. Relying on God’s grace to be free of anxiety is me looking to Jesus, calling out to Him, focusing on who He is: His Faithfulness, His Goodness, His Love. Then in His strength fighting the battle and standing in the victory He gives as I believe what He says about who I am and who He is in His word, the Bible. As I am writing this, I am reminded how new to me this way of freedom from Anxiety’s “vortex of doom” feels to me at this moment. But this way to freedom has been there all along. Jesus paid the price at the cross and won the battle with His resurrection from the dead. His Freedom has been there all along not only for me but for you as well. Because He loves us and He is Good!
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in HIm.” Psalm 40 1-3 NIV