I thought I was past all of this, but I guess I’m not. The closer I move towards publishing Memoirs of a Headcase: Held by the God of Hope, the closer I find certain monsters loom. Fear and anxiety have come calling again and the other night I could not drown out their voices. Why, God? Haven’t I learned this lesson? Don’t I know that You are good and that You will provide? Don’t I know that my success relies on You and not on me?
But still, I couldn’t sleep.
The next morning, I found myself toting each fear, one by one, to God. I am a helpless child, barely able to stand, I cannot carry what I thought I could. Lord, I’m worried about reaching the right people with this story of hope, but I know that You are bigger than my fear. Will You carry this for me? Lord, I am concerned about the expense of raising our kids and caring for my sister, but You have always taken care of us before. Will You do so once again? Lord . . .
My mind is a shifting, fragile thing. It tremors in terror as it looks on the world’s instabilities. It concentrates on the negative, it shuts out memories of what God has done for our family in the past.
It isn’t as though I don’t know the truth. It isn’t as though I haven’t learned from it, used it to teach my children, even ladies I ministered to — but still, my weak mind falters and I have to retrain it.
I have to know myself, know my vulnerabilities to recognize that my head, the source of my chronic migraines, is also the source of my war with depression and anxiety. In the past, I allowed too much to pull me away from what God wanted. My over-achieving personality drove me into a deep illness, and physically I have not quite recovered from it. Where on earth did I go wrong?
- I overwhelmed myself with the advice of experts (who didn’t know me)
- I neglected personal, life-giving relationships (with those who did know me)
- I allowed conflict to deter me from asking for help when I needed it most
- I did not practice healthy self-care
There are so many things I can now look back on and say, “If only I hadn’t stressed about ___________” But that’s hindsight and though we need to learn from the past, in order to move forward, we need to recognize what God desires us to do now. We have to truly understand what it means to take thoughts captive and make them submit to our Lord, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). In order to do so, we have to recognize them.
I admit, I still wrestle with this. Just the other day my husband and I had an oh-so-not-comfortable conversation about something that had slid in under my radar. During our fifteen-year-marriage, I have learned how much I need my husband’s words of wisdom. When I recognized the truth of what he was pointing out, I realized that if I hadn’t been neglecting my practice of journaling and prayer time, I might have caught the problem sooner. I know that not everyone is an introspective journaler or even should be. What I am saying here is that I have discovered that journaling is one of the ways that God uses to make me aware of what is going on in my heart and mind.
I also have to make myself available to correction. Notice that my husband was the one who helped me see what had crept in? He’s so good for me because he knows me and loves me and I can trust him to speak the truth in love. I have some other sweet friends who have my permission to watch out for me like this.
Most of us need some time in which to think, to examine, to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His spotlight on what’s lurking in the shadows. We each need “life-giving relationships” to help us see what’s trying to creep in.
Many of you know, I struggle with self-condemnation. I think thoughts like
- I’m not doing enough
- I’m too busy
- I’m not capable
- I’m too self-indulgent
I don’t know what your thoughts might be, what lies sneak in and keep you from focusing on God, keep you from recognizing Him as Lord over all areas of your life. The thing is, I don’t have to know, the Holy Spirit does. He wants to help you identify those weak areas, help you capture them, bring them into submission so that you can see them in relation to God. When I look at the lies and fears next to my great and mighty God, I am astounded by how tiny they actually are and how awesome He is. In that moment, I remember how good He has been to me, how well He provides for me and my family. Suddenly I remember that He can take care of publishing and bank accounts and bickering children and even getting supper on the table. When I make it a practice to bring my thoughts before the Lord, He fills my heart and mind with peace and joy. I find myself worshipping Him!
Are you perhaps a bit like me, struggling to sleep some nights or maybe having anxious thoughts? Ask God to show you how to bring your dark corners to light, be it through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, or maybe going for a walk without any other distractions so you can think and lift up your thoughts as they come. I am praying for you, friend! Aren’t you glad we are on this journey together and that God’s not through with us yet?
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Photo Credit: Annie Spratt, Ben White, Maranatha Pizarras