Too often as Christians, we hide the darkest parts of ourselves. There are various motivations for this, but I think the biggest is self-preservation. Preservation of the image others have of us (and sometimes we do this to hide it from ourselves). However, I think this can do serious damage to God’s mission in the world. This leads to one or more of several potential outcomes: skeptics see Christians as self-righteous people who see themselves as perfect, nonbelievers see Christians as so good that they themselves are not worthy of God, skeptics see the perceived lives of Christians and come to the conclusion that it must be easy for them to believe in God because their lives are easy. None of these are true.
So, in light of this (and my sister’s inspiring honesty with herself), I wrote the scariest blog for me yet. Here I am being honest with myself and you about struggles I face on a regular basis:
I came to a jarring truth in a conversation the other day. One of those things you don’t even realize is true until you say it outloud. Here it is: If it wasn’t for God, I would have killed myself six years ago. Not in a melodramatic kind of a way, but in a cold and simple truth kind of way.
I’ve struggled with depression since I was about 15. Although I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 20s, I’ve battled general anxiety and social anxiety my entire life (my parents can trace it back to when I was a toddler even). This is easy to say and people think they understand, but I don’t think you can unless you’ve experienced it. It is irrational, life impacting, and can be consuming. It is not always a daily battle; it comes in phases. I’ve learned to control it (with prayer, medication, and counselling), but it’s still there. If you know me and interact with me regularly, you may not even know that this is an issue I face. However, when these phases are coming, I feel it physically before I can recognize mentally what is happening. It is like living with a pit in your stomach that radiates outwards, while also feeling something wrapped so tight around your chest you can feel it. Sometimes this just lasts for moments and sometimes the fight lasts a few days. It never quite goes away though.
Six years ago, it hit me the hardest and didn’t leave for several long months. We’re talking barely functioning, lay on the floor in the fetal position crying because you don’t have enough strength to sit up and cry. I knew if I died I would go to heaven, which had to be better than the emotional turmoil I was living on a daily basis. However, what kept me going was God. I don’t mean in the general, but true, “God is stronger than this” type of way. I have been blessed with the gift of faith. I have known and accepted God my entire life without question. This means that I have to trust Him and his intentionality. I KNEW that God put me on this earth for a purpose. I KNEW God made me who I am for a reason. I KNEW God had me experience this for a reason. This kept me going. One day at a time. One step at a time. One tear at a time. One breath at a time.
This is what continues to motivate me and guide my decisions. I kept returning to my mom’s favorite verse – ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”’ Jeremiah 29:11 This knowledge is a safe place to live. God is in control. He knows and loves me. He made me for a purpose. This keeps me going. Sometimes the battle against darkness may be internal and sometimes more difficult than others, but I am equipped with the knowledge that God made me this way intentionally; thus, I must live my life to intentionally serve Him.
What is served by me hiding this from everyone else, though? I get to bask in the knowledge that no one sees this part of my darkness. I get to create (on some level) the world’s perception of me. However, how much more could God use me in all my glorious imperfections to reach others than a perceived version of myself? We all live with different struggles, different darkness. Some people have it easier than others. However, God never promised life would be easy. Growth and faith do not grow in easiness. They grow through pain and discomfort. When I am brought low before the Lord, when my perceptions, my shell, my perceived reality, shatters – there am I most reliant, there am I most vulnerable, there is where God speaks to me the loudest if I let him. God’s power is best visible when He works through our pain and devastation. If we are perfect (or perceived as perfect), we get the glory. When we are fully honest about our struggles and pitfalls, God gets the glory of our growth, our success, and our conquests. So, my goal is not to be perfect. My goal is not even to strive for perfection. I know that is an impossible task. Instead, my goal is to be woman after God’s heart, a woman who is honest about who she is that I may better serve Him and bring Him glory.
“But He [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9