Too often we carry our burdens around by ourselves. I heard a preacher say that we live in a DIY society and it’s true with our Christian lives as well. We try to Do it Ourself. But God says we should bear one another’s burdens.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Many people who suffer from chronic pain and fibromyalgia, also suffer from depression and anxiety. So this week, I have asked my friend Jess Bongiorno to share about the topic. If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember that she had written encouraging words before about facing depression.
It has been a while since I have written. Suffice it to say that the number one thing robbed from a person with anxiety and/or depression is time. We lose it so easily. Mostly because time has no meaning; pretty much everything has lost meaning- or means so much that it becomes too much to face, day in and day out.
And of all the things in life that I have struggled with- struggling with both anxiety and depression has been a completely draining experience, to say the least. These struggles are so misunderstood by so many that finding the will to stand up against them can seem impossible.
Forget about the fact that depression robs you of any sense of life and that anxiety makes life oftentimes too difficult to face in even small moments broken down in a day. When you add to the fact that society as a whole has a stigma attached to these mental illnesses that is one of shame and weakness, a person is left to only feel as though they are being kicked when they are at their lowest, that somehow they are less of a human and they cannot function in society because of these issues.
For many years, I wanted those around me to understand my struggles with depression and anxiety. That the days spent in bed because of that deep pain that hurt too much to face the day were not days spent feeling sorry for myself. On the contrary, I was ill. And just like a physical sickness can keep a person bedridden, so can mental illness.
My struggle with depression and anxiety stole years of my life. Robbed me of knowing myself, loving myself, and finding inner peace.
So what led me to a healthier place today?
Well, actually it took many years and at the end of those years, were the last couple of months when every moment of the day was consumed with the longing of my life to end.
Yes. I thought about dying.
Not in the sense that I thought of ways to end my life but instead, for me, it was a thing which the moment I woke and not ending until I fell asleep- did I long for my life to end. I wanted to die.
WOAH! Jess, that’s too dark!
Yea well, get over yourself, because it is a reality for those of us who face these issues.
Anyways, after about a month and a half of dealing with these deep, dark longings, soon my work became affected.
I couldn’t get my average workloads done anymore.
It was impossible to focus on anything and now, more than ever, longing for the end left me with no ambition.
I knew I had a choice to make.
I chose to do something about what I was struggling with.
It was an internal choice. One I made for the first time without trying to explain myself to anyone. I knew the truth about myself more than anyone and I knew that I needed help.
Making that first decision on my own was the most subtle form of strength I found in me. And just like a workout out- my mental strength began to grow the more I began to face my issues- acknowledge that depression and anxiety were not healthy and even though I grew comfortable with these thought patterns that I knew so well- the moment I began to separate these issues from defining me was the moment I found strength.
I am not depressed- I am a person who struggles with depression.
It’s a subtle yet important difference.
It is the platform of strength for those of us who struggle with issues because for the first time ever- it is changing what we focus on.
Letting go of others- of the attachment to others- of the understanding of others.
Letting go of our performance and failures and instead, noticing that situation and people are so incredibly fickle but you can be so incredibly calm because you can let go of all of that.
Now, I’m not saying the moment you understand these issues and how they affect you as an individual you be instantly cured of these issues.
I struggle every day with anxiety and depression, however, making the choice to take the right steps for yourself will start you on the path you need to be on. The one for yourself- and no it’s not selfish, it’s healthy.
Every person’s path is different
Some may involve medication, therapy, learning healthy boundaries and coping mechanisms- but the first step- is to decide for yourself and let go of everything and the opinions of everyone else.
It is a step toward self-respect- something most of us don’t fully comprehend.The ideas of self-respect and self-love; these seem selfish to those of us who spend most of all of our time thinking of others. But it is the right step forward and one I encourage you on.
These days many of us would prefer to melt into the crowd than to stand out as different. We would rather not stand out or bring attention to ourselves. But in truth, as Christians, we really should be different. Our lives should attract others to us. No, rather it should attract others to Christ.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
I recently read these scriptures from 1 Peter. They always prick my heart and cause me to look deep to see if my life is indeed different. However, this time it seemed to have even more meaning. The reason is that it was brought to my attention to whom and when this was originally written.
Perspective Changes Things
It was written by Peter to the Christians in Rome around 60 AD. The emperor of Rome at that time was none other than Nero. You know, the guy who let Rome burn. The guy who persecuted Christians horribly by placing animals skins on them and throwing them in with wild dogs to watch the dogs attack and devour them alive. Other times he dipped the Christians in wax, tied them to trees and burned them alive as candles for his evening parties.
When I think about the fact that Peter gave these strong instructions to persecuted Christians, I am ashamed that we are so timid to stand up for Christ because it may cost us something. We give in to the tiniest of temptations because we don’t want to be different or called out.
10 Ways to be Different
Rid yourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. (1 Peter 2:1)
This is the first of Peter’s instructions to the Christian in Rome.
He goes on to address the way we treat our husbands and wives. Peter tells us how we should treat one another, being kind and compassionate and understanding. And then there is the idea that we shouldn’t repay evil for evil. He tells us that Christ gave us the perfect example and we should follow His example giving up all of our so-called rights just as He did for us. He took on suffering and we should do the same.
That is how we stand out. We stand up for what is right paying the price no matter the cost just as Christ did. Let’s make a pact to start be different from the world. Ask God to help you live more like Him in the coming year. If we all join together to live different lives think of the difference it will make!
It’s Five Minute Friday! I’m joining the gang to write on a specific prompt. Today’s Prompt: Discover!
Discover With the Wisest Man on Earth
Even though he was the wisest man of all time, King Solomon discovered much in his life. It’s kind of comforting to know that the wisest man of all time discovered that life is pretty much meaningless. If it was meaningless for him, no wonder we feel that way!
I’ve been studying along on the FIRST5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries. We just finished studying the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon. Solomon searched for meaning and documented his findings in this book of the Bible. He realized a lot of things about life. Continue reading →
Easter, for me, has always been a great day of celebration. A day of basking in the joy of the resurrection. But this year, it was different. We were in the dark.
You see, life has changed a lot for our family recently. Easter 2015, my husband was pastoring a church as he had been for nearly 40 years. Our children and I were deeply involved in his ministry, especially when it came to planning a celebration service such as Easter. The four of us spent much time studying the significance of Easter. We spent many hours reviewing videos and music finding just the right words to make Easter fresh, new, and alive. Something that would draw the people into the celebration, helping them realize what God had done for them. By the time Easter Sunday arrived, we were already filled beyond excitement. So ready to share the story and bring people to a closer relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
But this year, it was different.
This time, we found ourselves on the other side of the picture. No longer in ministry, we were now sitting in the pews taking in a completely different view of the celebration. We were not involved in the planning and therefore; though we had read our Lenten Devotions, the excitement was much different.
Saturday before Easter
This time, our hearts felt the sadness of Saturday. Saturday, when hope was lost and followers of Christ wondered, “What in the world would happen now?” Everything that we had spent many years working toward seemed to be for naught.
The blinding darkness of a rainy day enveloped our day. Tears clouded our view and the ache in our hearts kept us from seeing beyond Saturday.
This was our own personal Saturday.
But our church community was held stuck in “Saturday” as well.
That particular Saturday, was to be a joyous day of celebration. A wedding celebration, but instead we were saddened because the young bride-to-be was in a hospital having had a heart attack (at the young age of 35). She would indeed go home to heaven on Sunday. This was not the kind of resurrection Sunday we had been looking forward to.
It certainly did not feel like a time to celebrate.
Possibly, we could now relate to how the disciples may have felt on that Saturday.
Or maybe we felt much like the friends and family that stood around Lazarus’ grave only a week before wondering why did God allow this to happen?
Why did He not come to our aid?
Where was He?
Oh, how we dread being in the dark.
The Light is always preferred to darkness.
We want to be able to see what is going on; to have at least a little bit of control of our situation. But the only way that our faith can grow is in the dark. Like a seed that must be planted in the cold, dark ground and remain there for days in order to sprout and come to life.
On Easter, we like being the one outside the grave, anticipating the resurrection. Watching and waiting, in the light. In the light, we know what’s going to happen. We know the end of the story and we can wait with anticipation.
But oh, it’s another thing to allow God to place us in the darkness to wait there.
We can’t see what is happening, so we resist the dark. We get claustrophobic and resist the plan God has for us. Why can’t we understand that God places us in the dark for our own good? Sometimes, it is for our own protection because He loves us. He wants us to know we can trust Him in the darkness.
Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of Jesus. (John 11:3)They loved Jesus greatly and He loved them. They spent a lot of time together whenever possible. Just as we, as Christians, can have a wonderful relationship with our Lord. We have lived for and with Jesus maybe for years. We love Him and we serve him expecting his blessings. But there is much to learn and the place to learn it is quite possibly is in the darkness of a Saturday.
Jesus stayed away so that God could be glorified. (John 11:4)
On Saturday, in the darkness, it may feel that Jesus is not there. And we wonder why does He not come to rescue us? Sure Jesus could have gone to them immediately and healed Lazarus. But how long would that last? How quickly would Lazarus and his friends have fallen back into the daily routines of life? Would their faith have been stretched? Would they have really grown to a new spiritual level? I think not. They had seen many miracles of healing and for Jesus to perform another miracle of healing would have only been par for the course. To raise Lazarus from the grave after 4 days ….. Now that would and did bring great glory to God because the impossible had been accomplished.
Jesus stayed away so that the disciples could have greater faith. (John 11:15)
The disciples, Lazarus and his friends would soon need great faith. Jesus was just one week from going to the cross. They would need a strong faith to get through this trial. They would need great faith to hang on through Saturday. Maybe, if they had not just seen Lazarus raised up, they truly would have given up hope and lost all faith before Sunday came and God raised Jesus from the grave. Maybe, it is what got them through their next Saturday.
Imagine a surgeon, if you will.
If he were to take you to surgery and allow you to be awake for the procedure, most of us would not allow him to touch us. We would fear the pain of it, we would see the surgeon’s knife coming and run away. But when he “puts us in darkness” through anesthesia we remain quiet and still for the work to be done. We, too often, fight against entering the darkness. Why? Because we do not have enough faith in what God will do.
We really don’t have to fight Him, you know.
He really does have everything under control.
He knows what is best.
And when we look back at what he has done, we are amazed.
We celebrate in His Resurrection in a much greater way. And our faith grows to a new level just as promised in James 1
… you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
So, you see. It may be Saturday for you right now, but Sunday’s coming!
Ever since I began to share about my struggle with depression and anxiety – I have had so many people open up to me…. it is to these people I write these words…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders ….. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The open road and my worn shoes sometimes seem like the best inspiration and listeners a girl could ask for. Running allows me to physically release everything I hold in on a day to day basis… If you struggle with anxiety- you know what it is like- to have those moments in a day when you are at work or doing whatever it is you gotta do- and life is just too much. And although on the outside you appear okay- on the inside– it is a whole other story. Some days are so bad you don’t even recognize the person you are in that moment. To me- there are days when it feels like a raw nerve is exposed and all it takes is one poke and all these anxieties come out in anger or tears- that can be an embarrassing experience, but it is a human one.
Make a Choice Concerning Your Depression
I will never forget the day when I was running- and I let go of the thought that I couldn’t run any further. That year I ran two half marathons. Whenever someone asks me how I can run so far I always say that they can do it too you just have to know you can. Running- while intensely physical- is completely about your mindset.
Recently I made a choice.
My choice wasn’t to “not be depressed anymore” or to “not be anxious anymore”. Obviously, that is impossible. What is possible is to be successful in life- to be depressed and anxious but to NOT let those things take your life away from you. Just like running those uphills- living your life when you struggle with anxiety and depression can be extremely difficult- but just as I am able to make it to the tops of those hills- I also can live my life.
Well- here’s my inspiration for you.
Sometimes when I am running up a really hard hill (like on Snake Road) things get hard. It gets harder to breathe- sometimes I get cramps or pains. But a trick I use- is to distract myself by looking around at all of the beauty around me. It calms me- helps me to breathe and gives me the inspiration to keep going.
So in turn- in those moments… remember what is beautiful in your life. Think of your family and friends – of those you love and those that love you. Think of all you have accomplished.
You are worth something….and you can get past this moment, even if all you do is just get past it.
Thank you, Jessie, for these words of encouragement. I recently spoke about facing adversity. One of my points was to look around at the beauty instead of down at the muck and mire of our lives. Keep looking up! God will get you through this! I’m reminded of this wonderful verse from the scriptures.
But he 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Feeling Your Pain;
Dealing with Depression or Thoughts of Suicide?
Please talk to someone. Call the Suicide hotline. They are waiting for your call 24/7. And it’s confidential. Don’t wait any longer. Reach out for help. We love you.
And we all have had our dreams dashed, usually by those closest to us.
Joseph had BIG dreams.
And his family didn’t like his dreams. They thought they were ridiculous and that Joseph was trying to lord it over them. So they threw him and his dreams into a pit.
I wonder how long Joseph lay in that pit before his brothers drew him out and sold him.
Long enough to realize that he had been bruised physically and emotionally, for sure. Here he was …. deep down in a well. It was cold and dark. He was sore, maybe a broken bone. Certainly, his heart was broken. His own flesh and blood had literally thrown him away. I imagine that he figured this was the end of his dreams AND of him.
Have you ever found yourself thrown into the pits of life with seemingly no hope for rescue?
I have been thrown into the dark, wondering “what went wrong?”
“What did I do that caused this terrible turn of events?”
“And, what should I do now?”, as I lick my wounds.
“How would I get out of this dark place?”
For Joseph, if we jump to the end of the story, we find a happy ending …. reconciliation. Tears of Joy.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50
How did Joseph manage to remain kind and forgiving after such treatment?
David once wrote,
12 It is not an enemy who taunts me—
I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
I could have hidden from them.
13 Instead, it is you—my equal,
my companion and close friend.
14 What good fellowship we once enjoyed
as we walked together to the house of God.
He had his moment of despair, but then he turned to God before hate and vengeance could take control.
It had to be the same for Joseph. God had an amazing plan to work out for Joseph.
You see, Joseph was not ready, at seventeen, to become second in command in Egypt. There was training to be done. God needed to stretch and shape Joseph’s character. He did this through those trials. … being thrown into a pit, being sold as a slave, given leadership roles in a household, then thrown into prison and given leadership roles there. This was all training for the “BIG” job.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Joseph allowed God to mold and shape him THROUGH the trials and in the end, he was ready to take leadership being 2nd in command in all of Egypt. As a result, he was able to save his family AND all of Egypt.
Joseph let go of the pain and took hold of God.
We must let go of one thing to grab hold of the other. We can’t have both.
As with clay, if it is hard and dry, it cannot be shaped. It must be pliable to allow the master to shape and mold. Sometimes even, a beautiful pot is taking shape, but The Master sees a flaw and he crushes the clay back down and starts again.
Can you see it?
Back in that cold, dark pit, Joseph did not know how God was going to turn things around. He only knew that it hurt. But God already had a plan for dealing with the hurt and turning things around. Joseph’s part in all of this was to keep trusting God.
Help me, like Joseph, to remain pliable in Your hands that you may mold me and make me after Your will.
Have you been hurt by the church? Have you felt abandoned by God in the lonely fires of ministry?The Perils of A Pastor’s Wifewill speak to your deepest wounds and help you find God’s Presence through it all. Sweet Sister—somewhere, somehow, somebody knows. You are not alone. A Facebook group has been created for support in these days. Come join us.
This Group is expressly for men and women trying to find Joy in the Wilderness after losing their pastorate. Please share this with others you know who are struggling with the transition.
This is a place for support and encouragement. No judgment, just a friend to lean on. Someone who has been there, done that.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO JOIN.
Holding on to Hope!
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