Since I was a little girl, probably around the ages of 7 or 8, until recently, I really wrestled with anxiety. I remember one specific Christmas when the only thing that genuinely brought me any kind of joy was the fact that I had received an Easy-Bake Oven as a gift from my parents. I remember being so nauseous from all the anxiety I was feeling that I didn’t want to eat anything, but at least I could play for a few minutes with my new gadget.
I asked my aunt to come into a room with me so I could tell her my “secret”. I told her that I kept having thoughts in my head that I was going to go to Hell, that I wasn’t truly “saved”, and that no matter how many times I rededicated myself, I still wouldn’t make it into Heaven. Such a strange thing for a 7 year old to be worried about.
But I was.
As I got a little bit older and we moved to Oklahoma, I struggled with the same thing. I was a 4th grader who refused to eat anything because I felt worried that God didn’t love me and that maybe I didn’t love God either. I stopped eating for a few months, slept most of the time I was home, and was too ashamed to try and explain myself to my parents.
When we went to the doctor to see if anything could help me, they gave me some medicine to physically help me, but my mind was still reeling and I still struggled.
One day I came home and my mom directed me to Psalm 91:10-16.
“No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra. The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. ‘Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.'”
From that day forward, when I had depressive feelings or anxiety in my belly, I’d say that out loud to myself. I hadn’t yet fully figured out how to develop a sustainable relationship with God so this was the only thing I knew to turn to when I was struggling. As I got older and got further into my later middle school and early high school years, suicidal thoughts began to creep their way into my life.
The tightest grip of the strangle of suicide was when I was 17. I was sitting in my room after an explosive conversation with my family and I remember the plan I’d laid out in my mind of just how I could do this. I could end it all and it would be better for everyone around me.
I scared myself. I was ashamed that I’d allowed myself to struggle this much. About a week later, in my mom’s car, I said, “Mom, I feel like I want to hurt myself.” She began regularly checking in to see how I was doing.
College was a bit easier. I was constantly surrounded by people who encouraged me, loved me, and prayed for me. Senior year, though, was different. While socially I was doing well and I had been doing the best I’d ever done academically and musically, I was spiraling. I began to allow destructive behaviors into my life, I closed off any personal communication about how I was truly doing with everyone, even including my roommate who saw me every day, and I began to dread going to church because I’d have to see people who had known me my whole life and I’d have to pretend I was okay.
I absolutely hated myself.
The only happiness I felt was when I was out with my friends, standing on a stage, or working out. Otherwise, I felt numb, sadness, or anger.
A few weeks after graduation, I was sitting in church, listening to my dad preach and I felt the inside of myself break. I left service early, drove to the cemetery where my grandma was buried, and sobbed in my car. I was honest with God. I had finally come to such a point of brokenness that I had to face Him, honestly, fully, and with no filter.
I used real words with Him. I used words with Him that I had never used. I told Him that I hated myself, that I was angry with Him, that I wanted to die.
He listened. He loved on me. He held me.
Since then, I’ve still struggled through some strong feelings of numbness and my relationship with God has been a process of constant honesty and different events that are too detailed to put in a single blog. But I don’t fear the waves of anxiety that previously had capsized me. I face that mountain head on. I’ve since learned to speak directly to my mind and call it peaceful, to speak directly to thoughts of depression with words of life and truth, to speak honest words to My Father who loves me and has provided a friendship that is deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Earlier this week I asked some friends what they did to cope with feelings of anxiety because I know that sometimes, in those moments of darkness, it can feel like you’re dealing with it all alone. YOU’RE NOT. We all have feelings and we’ve all dealt with heartache. Every person on this planet has experienced pain because it’s a fallen world full of fallen people. Some cope by working out, some by writing, doing breathing exercises, reading or reciting scripture, some by prayer, some by reaching out to another person. Whatever it is, know that you are deeply loved. Know that anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are real things that can and MUST be spoken to.
You do not have to allow it to tear your life apart.
Anxiety is real but so is the power of The Living God and His Word.
Colossians 3:15 says we were called to having peace as the body of Christ. Peace destroys anxiety.
Psalm 23:4 says even though we walk through the darkest, deepest valleys, He will be with us to strengthen and comfort us.
Romans 8:38-39 says that NOTHING, not even death, demons, suicidal thoughts, or anxiety can pull us from the love of our Jesus.
We aren’t just warring against feelings, friends. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are very real things that have names – names that are lower than the name of Jesus that conquers all.
Weeks ago as I sat in my quiet apartment, I felt the flood of anxiety coming over me. I felt scared, nervous, thoughts were whirring around. And suddenly, I knew what to do. I said, “Jesus, I need you to be with me.” I opened my Bible, read Psalm 139 and reminded myself that I am precious to Him. I immediately felt relief. I felt His closeness and His peace wrapping itself around me. I wasn’t and never will be alone.
We live in a world that makes it seem like anxiety is inescapable and inevitable. I’m here to tell you that it’s not only something you can escape from, but it is something from which you can be absolutely freed. In Him there is no anxiety. In Him there is no worry. In Him there are no suicidal thoughts. In Him there is no depression. There is only love.
Let’s work through this life together, hand in hand with Our Father who has every answer and has the matchless ability to calm even the most chaotic mind.
“Though we walk in the midst of trouble, He will revive us…” Psalm 138:7