Jesus and My Mental Health| By Emily Lawson

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139: 14-16 (KJV)

I am finally to the point of pregnancy where I feel like a normal person. I am also to the point where I can begin to feel the kicks of the tiny human growing inside me. 

Yet, with the excitement and thankfulness I have, worry at times still consumes me. 

“I haven’t felt him today. Is that normal?”

“That was a really quick movement, not his normal stretches. Is that normal?” 

“My oldest just kicked me so hard in the stomach. Is that going to cause an issue later?”

“Ugh, healthy food is so blah, I just want some salty chips. Am I ruining my baby?”

When I was pregnant with my first, I had such high anxiety levels, that I had to go to a counselor for five weeks. I was too anxious to take medicine. I was too anxious to call the doctor. I could not function at work, literally having to walk away from my desk several times to hide away and cry. I would cry over everything. I spent forty dollars on three pairs of pajamas and a robe for the hospital (really, a decent deal!). The next day I had a panic attack at work thinking I had spent too much and wouldn’t be able to afford diapers for my new baby. 

The counselor helped how she could, releasing me with some breathing exercises and telling me to use my husband when I felt overwhelmed. 

And though those breathing exercises helped me through a few moments, God saw me through that entire time period. Though I felt like I was drowning at times, and I felt that there was no way I could make it through, He was able to guide me through those last (very long) seven weeks of pregnancy, and hold my head above water. I knew during that time, that although these feelings would consume me for periods of time, that’s all they were. Feelings. They weren’t the truth. They weren’t real. They were the conclusion of my brain believing the lies that the enemy laid before me.

God’s eye knew the outcome of those feelings. He knows the outcome of my current pregnancy. He knows what I’ll be going through each and every second of the rest of this pregnancy. He knows the outcome of my children’s lives. 

He knew when my son would take his first steps, as I fretted and compared to other children His age.  

He knows when my son will finally get over this picky stage and will eat normal food, all the while I fret if he is getting enough nutrients to make it through the day. He knows the exact moment that my second will be born. 

In His book, each and every one of our thoughts and actions are written. He knows what we cannot see and He knows what is to come. 

It is all in His plan and no matter the degree to which I worry and panic over it, He knows the outcome. 

And here is the exciting part. 

As scary as my mental health was to me, it was not enough to scare Him away. The scariest thing that my brain could think up, was put in its place when God stepped in. When I thought that I had gone too far, He never let go of my hand.

I am not saying that it went away. My brain still got overworked. I still had moments where I sat in the fetal position on the floor of a room with no windows and cried. I still had bad moments. 

However, when I allowed God into those moments. When I reached out and just let Him take over, I had peace in the midst of the storm. My heart was still racing. The tears were still flowing. But I had the knowledge that this was temporary. That though I felt detached from everything, I could still take small steps to ensure that I was moving in the right direction. 

Life is hard. The enemy will do everything in his power to throw loops and hills and potholes in your path. But clinging to the one who holds tomorrow in the palm of His hand is the one thing that can keep us grounded. 

God knew those seven weeks would be grueling. He also knew that I would make it through those seven weeks from the moment I was formed in my own mother’s womb. 

He wrote my story, just as He has written yours.

Life is hard. But nothing is too hard for God. 

Ah Lord God! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. Jeremiah 32:17 (KJV)

If you are struggling with your mental health, I encourage you to reach out. Don’t let the enemy keep you in a pocket of fear and wondering. Talk to the doctor. Take the medicine. Try the exercises. Write out those feelings. Don’t lay down in the darkness. Cling to the Lord as He guides you where you need to go. My experience is not unique. I didn’t take the medicine then, but coming out the other side, I know that it would have saved me so much anxiety. Pregnancy Anxiety and Post-Partum Anxiety and Depression are real things. Don’t let anyone tell you that “It’s just hormones, it’ll pass.” Address the issues and remember that you need to take care of yourself so you can enjoy every little thing this new adventure has to offer. Pregnant or not. Feelings are real. They exist in you, and dealing with them is the best way to get past them. Don’t settle for mediocre. You were worth sending an only son to die on the cross for you. You are worth the effort to feel better! Feel free to reach out to me directly also at @the_modest_wife on Instagram if you ever need to talk. You’re worth it. Never forget that!

Jesus and Therapy| By Jessica Carpenter

In 2016, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was relieving to receive an official diagnosis because it put a name to all of the chaos in my brain. However, it was also terrifying because affirmed the lies I already believed about myself.

One of the most disheartening things that I struggle with is the balance of trying to cling to Jesus while the church either tells me to “try harder” or  completely dismisses the topic of mental health altogether.

I have made it my mission to tear down every stigma that says I do not love Jesus just because I cannot fix my brain.

I could sum up my journey of living with a mental illness as a big “EVEN IF”

Even if depression tells me I am worthless, His redemption is irreversible 

Even if I feel damaged and disposable, He still calls me friend 

Even if I choose to isolate, His hand still reaches

Even if it gets hard to breathe, He is always near

Dear friend, 

When it seems hard to cling to Jesus (even when you know it is the very thing you need), it is okay. When scripture memory is out of the question because the simplest task of getting out of bed feels impossible, you are not alone. When your days go from the absolute best to feeling like it cannot get any worse, keep fighting to see more of those good days. They will come.

My scores on the GAD scale fluctuated for two years between severe and moderate-severe. In December, I finally scored mild. I cried the entire way home. I cannot tell you that it was not hard, but I will tell you that it was all worth it. Again, fight for those good days. This is nor to say that I will never be above the mild range again, but I am confident in the tools I have to keep me grounded. Open those blinds and windows. Meal prep for those rough weeks. Have a friend ask those hard, but necessary questions. 

Dear church,

Learn to know more than just the faces you see on Sunday mornings. From the pulpit to the back row, there are people suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, panic disorders, and so much more.

“Just seek help!” 

I agree; however, it is not as easy as it sounds. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help, but to also remain committed to the work of seeing healing take place. From personal experience, **trauma counseling gave me nightmares and made me sensitive to certain topics and situations. There were times where my depression and anxiety both spiked at the same time. So yes, I did seek help, but it did not excuse me from the realities of the healing journey.

**Please note this is not the case for all people!**

Know that there are people who may not show up consistently each week to Sunday Service or small group for these exact reasons. Rather than assuming Sunday mornings and small groups are the answer for all of life’s difficulties, learn to lean in and ask questions. 

Reach out with a simple, “hey, we missed seeing you last week. If you’re willing, I’d love to catch up with you and talk or listen!”

 Follow through. Then, do it again and again and again.

I have no doubt that Jesus would go through hell and high water for those who cannot do it for themselves. My hope is to see the church begin to rise up and do the same for all who suffer in silence. 

Psalm 42 (ESV)

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.”

A Different Kind of Confidence| By Sarah Koay

From a young age, I have been quite an introvert. I am quite shy with strangers, but the one thing that I always had with me was my self-confidence.

There are many things that I knew and experienced earlier than my friends that I wish I never knew so early in my life, and I ended up having severe depression and anxiety because of this. However, my confidence was never lost. Somehow, it was still with me even through those years of being mentally unstable.

Now I am free from depression and anxiety (Praise God for his gracious love!), and I am no longer all that shy or as introverted as I used to be. In fact, I am starting to feel more like an extrovert. However, I soon realized that I am losing my confidence.

What is confidence?

Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

The world tells us to place our confidence in ourselves and our ability to accomplish our goals and realize our dreams. Rich people are often confident in their wealth. The powerful are often confident in their strength and position, the talented often in their talents. But what if we do not have all these?

Confidence is also the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

However, we are not called to place our confidence in any of those whether we have someone or something that we can rely on or not. We are called to place our confidence in God. It does not mean that we should not have self-confidence.

However, know where your confidence comes from. For the definition that best fits the word, confidence is the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

If our confidence comes from us or our abilities alone, we will lose it when we face challenges or when someone better comes along. So be confident in God and the identity that He (not you or anyone else) has given you.

“You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise You because of the wonderful way You created me. Everything You do is marvelous! Of this, I have no doubt.” Psalms 139:13-14 (CEV)

“For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26 (NKJV)

We know that this is the truth, and we can rely on it because our God does not lie (Num 23:19), and He definitely won’t fail (Jos 21:45; Isa 55:11).

I have yet to find full confidence, but one thing I do know is that the confidence that I have right now is totally different from the one I had in the past. The amount of confidence I used to have cannot even be compared to the quality of confidence I have right now in Christ. 

It Gets Better: A Letter to the Old Me| By Emily Lawson

Dear Old Me,

I see you. I feel your anxiousness. I feel your worry; how deep it goes in your chest. I know that your head tries to tell you that you need to lose that weight. I know it tells you that you are not as pretty as her. I know it tells you that you do not have the skills. 

I know it tells you that they do not care. 

And I also know it keeps those words on a repeat soundtrack at all hours. Day and night. 

I also know what you have been through. You have overcome so many things already. You’ve been to the darkest of days and back in your life.

Yet, that lonely feeling stands. It reminds you every day of the times you have failed and been failed by others. Your mind tells you that God has no idea where you are. You are one in millions. There is no way that He can feel the need to help you. 

But, honey, God sees you as ‘one in a million’. You are unique and perfect. He created the you that you are and cares enough to send His only son to die on a cross for YOU. God is so much greater than the thoughts that the devil puts in your head. 

My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)

That means YOUR weakness.

His strength is the PERFECT thing that comes from admitting the weakness you feel. 

Your significant other is not always available. Your best friend needs sleep, too. Your social media friends will not quite get it on the level you need.

Your mind is a dangerous prison, love.

Mentally: It holds you in a controlled environment and in some ways that provides comfort. You are in a place that is familiar, and you have grown used to the numbness. It is mostly in your control. But on bad days, you just need to reach a little further than it is letting you, and the chains around your neck dig a little deeper. That restraint makes you feel like you are never going to make it out alive. 

Physically: You are tired. And not an “Oh I couldn’t sleep last night” tired, but an “I can feel it in my bones, and it isn’t going to change” tired. You are tired of faking the smile for others. You are tired of trying so hard to be “normal”, and it is weighing down your shoulders and making it harder to get out of bed. 

You need help.

And asking for help does not mean that you have failed. It means that you have WON. It means that you have finally stepped back, let go of control, and held to the hand of Jesus to drag you out of the pit that your head has held you captive in all this time.

Now, listen to Him. 

Rebuke the devil from off your back. Tell him he has no place. Take hold of your Savior’s hand and let him break those chains. 

Get out there. Seek the help. Talk to the doctor. Take the medication. Get on the path that helps you be the best you. 

For your family. 

For yourself.

For Jesus.

Recovery is a road, but you have got a friend to walk down it with you. Through each step, He will place your foot. Each bump, He catches your arm. Trust in Him.  

It can and WILL get better. I am telling you from the other side.

Your mental health is so important, and you are worth every bit of effort. 

Never forget that. 

Love, New Me

Follow Emily’s Instagram @the_modest_wife and/or email her at modest.wife@gmail.com.

Refusing to Drown in Worry| By Zuzana Niedelová

You know that feeling when everything just works out, God is providing and you don’t have to worry too much about anything? That genuine happiness and thankfulness for all that you have?

That is what I felt, or at least, what I thought I felt. When people asked how I was doing, I would talk about the great job I have, or my ministry that is going so well. I would say I had an assurance of knowing I am in the right place even though not everything is perfect, and of God’s guidance and peace.

I truly meant all that I said, but I had not yet realized there was more to everything that I had not yet seen.

It was only when my mentor mentioned something small that he noticed and valued about me that I could not hold back the tears. It was in that moment that I realized there was something more, something deeper that I was holding back not only from others but from myself as well.

I realized I felt unappreciated, overlooked, undervalued, not known or wanted by anyone and most of all lonely. As if it that is not enough, God revealed even more; He showed me I was also hiding this from Him too. I did not want to disappoint Him after He gave me so much! I felt like I had to be thankful for all I have and hopeful for what is coming.

It was unacceptable in my mind to not enjoy my life after being brought to a stream while wandering in the desert. I knew what I needed to do – God had been teaching me this for a long time. I had to be honest with Him and to know He loves to hear how I am and what my desires are. So there I was, kneeling in front of God, crying my eyes out, and telling Him all about how I felt. I did not know what was to come, but once again, I trusted that He has me in His hands.

To be honest, not much has changed. I am still insecure about my future in my job. I still long for seeing more growth in my ministry. I still miss having close friends who live at least in the same country, and I am desperate for the freedom to be myself without being misunderstood or judged by everyone.

However, one thing has changed. I am no longer alone for all this. I have my good Father by my side who is ready to fight for me, to take care of me and to give me everything I need even if it is not exactly what I asked for.

With God, we have the freedom to feel our feelings whatever they might be. Freedom to come to Him with everything that we are and pour our hearts out to Him because only He knows how to turn our worries into blessings and our battles into praise.

A while ago, God gave me a picture of me drowning in deep waters, gasping for air between the currents pulling me down and letting me go again and hopelessly reaching out for someone – anyone to take me out. Right after, there was a different picture. I was enjoying a gentle rain coming down on me during a hot summer day. Every one of us desires that rain that comes in just the right moment, so refreshing and joy bringing. Drowning, however, is not so pleasant at all.

God does not want us to drown in the worries this life brings. He wants to refresh us with the water but by His own terms not ours. He wants it to be life-bringing and easy. Although the outcome of drowning and the rain is the same (you’re soaking wet), the process makes a difference between death and life.

Maybe your desires are good and Godly, but if we try to force the blessings to come into our lives, if we try to do it all alone, if we pretend we are alright and if we deny our need for God, we are willingly jumping into the deep waters, willingly drowning just for the sake of getting to that water.

God invites us into a deep relationship with Him. In this relationship we can be real and open without any fear of judgement or disappointment. He invites us to look up to Him first and to trust Him that He will let the water come down in just the right time and in the right form, that will not be harmful but will bring us life in all its fullness.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)

Being Still in the Midst of Anxiety| By Jasmine Beard

Heart pounding, thoughts going a mile a minute, scared, terrified for no apparent reason.

I was 18 when I had my last major panic attack. I was leaving college and was headed on my way home when I was hit with sheer panic and confusion. It may have been 8 years ago, but I still remember my thoughts directly after the incident. I thought:

“what’s wrong with me?”

“What is this?”

“Will it happen again?”

“What if something really bad happens when/if it happens again?”

If you cannot tell, I was a bit of a worrier at that age, and if I am not careful, I can still go into a cycle of worrying, fear and eventual panic attacks. I like order, plans, and control, but life is simply not predictable.

Honestly, anxiety makes sense in our world because of the sheer pressure we put on ourselves and on other people. My days are filled with ever ending lists, juggling jobs, ministry, bills, starting a non-profit organization, trying to maintain a normal social life for a 20-something  year-old woman, and much much more, but I will spare you.

On top of all of our ever growing to-do lists, throw in unplanned life happenings, and it can turn some of us into the biggest worrywarts and anxiety-ridden folks. I cannot tell you the amount of acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and relatives I know who battle anxiety on a regular if not on a daily basis.

One day recently in the midst of my ever growing lists and unforeseen situations, I heard the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart for a slower pace and for a season of rest.

If you are anything like me, you cringe when you hear that word. I cringe not because I do not want to rest (because trust me, I really do, like really.) But my question was, how?!

How was I supposed to rest when my world was spinning? That’s when Psalms 46:10 began to ring in my ear, it says:

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

I have always loved this passage of scripture, but up until recently, I have never dug deep into the meaning of this.

Most of us have heard this scripture before. Maybe when you read it you picture yourself waiting quietly and expectantly waiting for a whisper from Heaven. Although that is not a bad thing, when we dig deeper into this scripture we learn that the Hebrew root of be still is not “to be quiet”, but rather “to let go”.

This may sound crazy if you are a planner, a doer, and maybe even a worrier like me. Even with knowing scriptures like “who has ever added a day to their life by worrying? (Matthew 6:27)”, I still find that worry can be my initial reaction instead of faith.

Maybe you feel like that today. You worry about the big stuff and even the little things that maybe do not matter as much. I want to encourage you to let go of your anxieties and worries and place them into the hands of your Heavenly Father.

It is all little stuff to Him and fails in comparison to how BIG our God is.

So let’s position in our hearts to be still and to know…..

To know that God is making a way for that light bill to be payed.

To know God is making a way for your baby to be healed.

To know God is making a way for you to get that raise at work.

To know that God is making a way for YOU.

He is making a way that allows you to let go of every anxiety, worry, and pain, and for you to trust Him at His word that “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Remember that God is walking through every step of life with you holding your hand, longing to carry your burdens and guide your every step. Let go of the pressure you place on yourself. You are not called to carry the weight of your burdens one little bit. Just let go and know that God is trustworthy and faithful to work all of our anxieties out all on His own if we just trust Him.

“Many put their hope in chariots, others in horses, but we place our trust in the name of the Eternal One, our True God.” Psalms 20:7 (Voice)