The One Hope When Anxiety Crushes You Low

A friend of mine asked me to pray for her husband. “He’s been really down lately,” she said. I expect she asked many people to pray, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she specifically asked me because it’s obvious I’ve “been there”.

A verse popped into my head, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

I’ve had an anxiety-filled heart. My mind often races with “do” things–things I should do, can’t do, didn’t do, did wrong, might die trying to do…

The Bible says that anxiety brings a man down. Can anxiety lead to depression?

Undoubtedly, it can. I’m sure many a psychiatrist would attest to that. The Biblical word for “weighs down” even leaves room for that interpretation. However, it’s the other angle of the Hebrew word shachah that grabs my attention.

Shachah can also mean: “to bow down, prostrate oneself in worship before a superior in homage, before God”.

What if my anxiety is meant to bring me to my knees? What if there is a redeeming quality to this depression? What if anxiety leads me to the place where I seek, implore and receive the superior power of my Father?

The Bible says that God causes all things to work for good. It may not feel like it. Sometimes my knees are bloody from being in this broken position. But it is here and only here that I find the strength to stand—and as Paul repeats—to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Why I NEEDED My Anorexia

rural-decay-1429230-mI needed my eating disorder.

Shocked? Good.

Now stoke the flames of confusion for a minute because I’m not going to answer that question right away.

Remember game days in high school? On the day of a big basketball or football game, the halls buzzed with fervency. It was the only day in most public high schools that anyone wore a uniform. Football players wore ties and button-downs. Cheerleaders wore their skimpy skirts all day long.

The night before, Coach had informed them of the dress code. Following those rules gave each member of the team or squad a sense of identity and belonging.

That’s why I needed my eating disorder.

One of the most obvious ways that anorexia manifested itself in me, was a long list of self-imposed rules.

I must never run less than I did before.
I must never workout for less than 90 minutes.
I must never have more than X fat grams in a day.
I must eat only X calories.
I must never eat restaurant food.
I must never let people see me eat. 

That last one was a biggie and in effect was the king of rules. By rigidly keeping that rule, I set myself apart from everyone else. My private list of do’s and dont’s gave me shape in this world, carved out my unique niche and proclaimed to everyone that I was not just one of the crowd.

Growing up in a godly home, I was told “you’re special”. I’d made paper snowflakes in Vacation BibleSchool and memorized cute songs about how no two snowflakes or people are alike. “God so loved the world,” was part of my earliest vocabulary. But I needed so much more than John 3:16. For me, the critical turning point from self-starvation to life was coming to not only pay lip service to my individuality, but to internalize that truth.

It doesn’t always help me to believe that God loves the world, because I don’t want to be lost on the globe. I don’t want to be one of the crowd. I need a God who counts hairs (Luke 12:7), I need a God who calls one single Chaldean out of the masses (Genesis 12:1), I need a God who selected 12 uneducated men to be his best friends, I need a God who knows my name (Isaiah 43:1). I don’t only want to only be loved. I want to be seen!

I needed to believe that I am special, unique and exceptional outside of my tightly structured cage of rules, that I wouldn’t disappear when I relinquished the disorder I called my own.

I love the story of Hagar, a little, despised, slave mother who had been thrown out by her jealous mistress. And as she lay panting in the desert, watching her only son wither away, God found her. God did a miracle that day. He provided for Hagar and her son. But after, she didn’t rejoice so much in that He loved her, she rejoiced that God had seen her. (Genesis 16:13)

That’s the a God I needed. That’s the God who found me. That’s why I don’t need an eating disorder anymore. I am seen!

When Life Feels Like a Gamble

dices-1385675-mPsalm 16:5-6 “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

“I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.” Albert Einstein

Though believers in Christ know the truth that God is in control; we cannot help but often feel as if our lives are as unpredictable as a game of dice. I am married to a military officer. Our life could hardly get less predictable. The location of assignments, the length of deployments—sometimes the Army plays its cards close to the vest. Or, take my dear friend’s life. Everyday is a waiting game, a baited breath, a prayer that her husband keeps his job in the midst of ruthless layoffs. Then there is the little boy I met at the hospital yesterday. I could see in his mother’s eyes that the slow and painful chemo feels like a die, violently tossed and refusing to settle. What will the outcome be?

Psalm 16:5-6 brings an extra measure of comfort to those days when I’m so confused, tired or bewildered that I don’t know what to pray. God knows that our lives often feel like a gamble. But He promises in His Word that He holds our lot. The lines (otherwise translated as “lot” from the Hebrew) fall in pleasant places for those who love God and are called to His purpose. We can trust and be thankful because God has qualified us to share in a beautiful, heavenly inheritance with the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).

This article was first posted on FaithWriters as a devotional

More than you know

The Prodigal Son charged into his father’s chambers and demanded, “I want all that you have for me right now. I don’t want it within the confines of your authority. I don’t want to wait for your perfect timing and I don’t plan to spend it on anything that would please you.” Essentially, give me my eternity now, I’d rather have a full and frivolous today than wait for the revelation of your mysterious promise of eternal riches.

Plodding my way through this familiar story on my “through the Bible in a year” plan, I was suddenly hit with a new perspective. I am not immune to society’s constant quest for youthfulness, perfection, wealth, security and self-preservation. My eating disorder is proof that I fell for the lie that today is all that matters and that I am the only person who can create my perfect destiny.

So I stole my inheritance from my Heavenly Father, this body, created personally for me. I took this brief, beautiful life and charged into the world determined to make the most of this moment, this life, right now and do it my way. It didn’t take long.

The Prodigal quickly wasted his inheritance. There is only so much to be purchased, briefly enjoyed and used up in this world. In no time, I too discovered limited returns on my ventures and unsuccessful attempts to obtain my imagined perfect life. I was unable to craft perfection, incapable of establishing my own lasting value.

Is that the critical error of man, to struggle for the fountain of youth, convinced that this is all there is to live for? What if we returned?

The Prodigal Son gathered  the remnant of his miserable days and trudged home. He planned to offer himself to his father for hire. He knew that even a second rate life, under the care of his father was better than he could do for himself.

So I gathered the scraps of my body, the tendrils of my sanity and limped back to my Father. There, I promised to clean myself up, hoping then He would take me back. I’ll try really hard, just please, please take me back. I’m dying. 

Our stories meld together. Just like in the story, my Heavenly Father laughed with joy and ran to meet me. He exclaimed that I would never have to work for his favor and that my squandered inheritance was pennies compared to the abundance I would partake of in his home.

The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of my recovery. I confess that I forfeited the good inheritance that my Father gave me. This body that is mine, ultimately belongs to Him. But I took it and manipulated it. I ravaged it for the sake of my own longings.

It took years for me to return. I languished in my misery, too humiliated to return to my good and loving Father. But when I did, I discovered that all He has is mine. He has spread a bountiful life before me. From now on, I plan to dig in.

Hereditary, Painful Privilege

My friend knelt beside her 10-year-old son. She was torn between shaking him and crying right along with him. He didn’t want her to know he was crying; she wished she didn’t know.

It’s my fault, she moaned silently.

Wednesday, after our workout, Delaney relayed this story to me. She hadn’t told her husband, and didn’t plan to tell him. He had just returned from a year-long deployment, during which the depression that had been mounting in her since her own childhood collided with the anxiety of being a single parent while he was gone, the fear of losing her husband in battle, the loneliness of establishing “temporary” homes every two years.

“My fears, anxiety and depression must have bubbled over to Tim,” she told me through reserved tears. “I don’t want him to suffer with this the same way I have.” Delaney had bravely shared with me her brief suicidal impulses during the last year. “Selfishly though, I don’t want to deal with him dealing with depression. I scared myself when I registered the thought, I wish I had another son.”

Delaney drudged through the pain in her heart, piling big shovelfuls of muck to the side her pit of despair. It helped to air out the anxiety, before it sucked her down into its tomb. Watching Tim, she feared that she could spiral back into her old depression.

A Bible verse came to me.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Cor. 1:3-7

I am no stranger to depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair. In fact, if you’ve read this blog with any regularity, or if you’ve even just selected a random post, you probably understand that most of what I write are the shovelfuls of my own muck, thrown up on the side of my pit to air out my own anxiety.

“Delaney,” I said. “God has specifically prepared you to be Tim’s mom, more perfectly than anyone else. You can empathize with his weakness, comfort him as you have been comforted. You will know the right things to say. You can rest in the fact that God has delivered you from this pit and He will just as assuredly deliver Tim.

“It is absolutely not your fault that he feels this way. It can’t be. Tim is Tim and is in charge of his own decisions and feelings. Besides, if he observed your pain, he will observe your deliverance.”

Actually, I wish I had thought to say all that. I did say most of it, but as usual, when I write, I gain greater understanding of my own thoughts. At the time, I didn’t even know the whole passage, but I looked it up to share with you. Amazingly, in Great-Godness, the whole passage is more relevant than part of it.

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters,b about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Cor. 1:8-11

There is a privilege in pain – it is preparedness. If our prodigy is a blessing, then so is the pain that fills us with the wisdom and understanding to love them fully.