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4 Truths That Kept Me Going in 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to look back on the past 12 months and examine the valuable lessons I’ve learned. Not just to give myself a pat on the back for making it this far but also to reflect on the things that God has taught me in the last year.

So here we go.

 

1. Learn to live beyond how you feel

Don’t give your feelings the power to affect you. You can turn that dial down (for me it’s called the crazy dial) and tune in to a different voice. Your feelings don’t have to determine the path you take. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, reveals this earth-shattering truth when he describes the heart as “deceitful above all else and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Sometimes how we feel doesn’t always match up to reality; so it’s important to learn how to differentiate between the two.

At my core, I am a feeler—so I’m still working on this. A while back, I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice. Part of the battle is learning to dial down the negative voices and turn up the ones that bring you life.

Instead of focusing on our fears, worries, and problems, we need to remind them of where they stand in relation to God. Believe me, I know how easy it is to get hung up on all of the negatives but it’s imperative in these moments that we hang onto the promises of God instead. Read His Word and pray through His promises over yourself and your situation. It may not transform your circumstances but it most surely will transform the way you think and feel about them.

Some verses that have helped me are:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

2. We need community

Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s essential that you find your tribe.

The ones you turn to when it feels like the walls are closing in. The ones who stand by you when you feel like you’re completely alone. The ones who hold you up when you can’t hold on any longer. The ones who remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life when you’ve lost all perspective. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to see the bigger picture?!)

We all need the help of community to keep us going during those times. The deepest part of me truly believes this is where the church comes in; but not everyone may have had the best experience with the religious community when it comes to divulging your inner demons.

It’s important to remember that the church is made up of imperfect people who are trying to emulate the perfection of Christ; so at some point, you will most likely be disappointed. After all, not everyone is called to walk through this life with you.

The trick is not letting this dishearten you but to let it fuel your fiery desire to seek out real community—the people who listen when you ask the tough questions, the people who don’t always have to fill the silence when they don’t know what to say, the people who laugh with deep belly-laughs at life’s many joys and cry with you when it’s just too much to handle anymore. Find these people and you will be the richest person on earth.

 

3. Healing is a journey

Throughout my time at university and early 20s, I lived with a debilitating anxiety disorder. And yet during that painful season, God did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety disorder even though I frequently begged Him to.

I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks despite committing to daily quiet times with Him every morning before 8 a.m. lectures. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a client meeting to avoid a potential breakdown. I still had to excuse myself from Political Theory lectures to prevent an impending panic attack. I still went to bed most nights with a racing heart and restless mind. It really is a miracle I got through those years at college. Praise Jesus.

In short, my healing journey wasn’t an instantaneous jolt of supernatural peace. It wasn’t a straightforward quick fix.

Managing my anxiety was a long, drawn-out, and emotionally painful process. It was the result of many months of intense counseling sessions, countless moments of trial and error practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, heaps of emotional energy I often didn’t have to give, and endless support from “my people.” It required the Church to get alongside me and cheer me on as I waded through the muddy waters of poor mental health. Thank God for those precious people.

 

4. God uses imperfect people for His perfect plans

I’m also grateful for all the people who genuinely wanted to help me loosen the chains of anxiety and live my life in all its fullness. People who offered an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on when the anxiety was just too much. People who encouraged me to keep going despite me wanting to give up. People who identified my giftings and called them out in me, even when I could not see them myself.

This was perhaps the most redeeming truth—realizing that God still had a place for me in His Kingdom even though I didn’t have my stuff all sorted. I was not perfect, and He wasn’t expecting me to be. He just wanted me to come, exactly as I was, and work in me so He could work through me to help others.

I have discovered that is often the way with God. It’s in the darkest places where we learn the most important lessons. And in order for God to use our lives for His glory, we must experience a little bit of what others have gone through to truly understand their journey and to be effective carriers of His peace and healing.

 

So as I’m sitting here reflecting on the past 12 months, I want to openly admit to you the truth that I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I have not fully “arrived”. (Do we ever really?)

Perhaps the most important truth I have discovered throughout my experience as a Christian with anxiety is simply this—God uses broken people to heal other broken people.

God uses weak people to demonstrate His strength.

God uses broken people to mend the wounds of brokenhearted people.

God uses anxious people to free up anxious people.

So in 2019, I just encourage you to go for it. Join the prayer team at church. Write that book. Start that Bible study group. Climb that mountain. Run that race. There is a part for you to play in God’s big plan of calling His lost kids back to Him. You have a significant part to play in saving the world. Every one of us gets to play.

Every one of us gets a seat at the table.

A place to lead, to serve, to encourage, to inspire, to challenge, to heal.

Not in spite of our weakness, but because of them.

Why Am I This Way?

“Why am I this way?” The question had played through Thompson’s mind many times. He had seen others healed from their depression and anxiety. He had been prayed for numerous times. When healing didn’t come, he wondered if it was his fault. He felt like it was out of his control.

Hear Thompson’s story as he shares about his journey with depression and anxiety along with the insights he discovered on the way about himself, about God, and about the church.

 

 

For more stories on depression:

I Have Depression And This Is What I Want You to Know
Letter to A Depressed Christian
Why Am I Depressed?

My Fears Held Me Back From Serving God

Written By Yunus Kurniawan, Indonesia

“I will dedicate my life to serve Jesus.”

I made this promise to God and myself after overcoming my addiction to pornography. I had been struggling with pornography addiction for some time. But by God’s grace, He opened my eyes and delivered me from it. So I decided to serve Him with my life.

I started with serving in a ministry in my church. Everything went well for me—I was serving joyfully and growing in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

One day, my leader approached me to ask if I would like to serve in more areas and even lead a ministry.

I had not seen it coming. What a huge privilege it would be to serve as a leader! But the excitement was short-lived. I was soon overwhelmed with self-doubt and fear, knowing that the responsibilities of a leader are not to be taken lightly. What crippled me the most was the thought that I would have to make major decisions for the ministry as a leader. What if I make the wrong decisions? What would the repercussions be?

Moreover, I’ve also been struggling with anxiety, and I worried that my struggle disqualified me to lead because I did not have the essential traits that a leader ought to have—stability and confidence.

Soon after the invitation was extended to me, I got into an argument with a friend in church. He had played a trick on me and mocked me for falling for it.

I knew that it was just harmless fun, but the humiliation was unbearable and my anger consumed me. I gave him the silent treatment and it strained our friendship.

While I was stewing in my anger, I thought about how a leader would have responded if he were in my shoes. Would he have responded with anger and hostility like I did, or would he have brushed the joke off lightly and responded with mercy? There was no doubt in my mind that the latter was the right way to respond, but why was it difficult for me to do so?

My self-esteem plummeted as I spiraled into more doubts about myself. I couldn’t forgive myself for ruining our friendship. This made me even more convinced that I was not worthy to take on the leadership role that was offered to me.

As I served in church over the next few weeks, I constantly felt jittery. It seemed to me that everyone in church was casting disapproving looks at me and judging me for how I had responded to my friend’s joke.

I felt so guilty and ashamed that I began to lose my fervor and joy in serving. In fact, I wanted to give up serving altogether because every moment spent in church was painful and lonely.

As my anxiety over this matter grew, I could only turn to God in prayer. As I did so, He taught me three things:

 

1. God can use my fears to grow my dependence on Him

As I reflected on all that has happened, I began to realize how much I yearned for validation and comfort from the people around me. When I fell out with my friend, I bashed myself up mercilessly over my response. When the people around me in church seemed to look at me disapprovingly, I felt out of place and miserable.

My loneliness and despair pushed me to cry out to God, knowing that He listens to my prayers (Psalm 120:1).

As I brought my fears to God, He helped me see that I should be relying on Him in my evaluation of myself, instead of the opinions of my friends. As Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” This shifted my perspective and focus.

 

2. God desires for me to grow in Christ-likeness

When my leader asked if I was keen to lead a ministry next year, I felt extremely anxious. I was worried about the heavy responsibilities it entailed. Furthermore, I became more anxious after the conflict with my friend as I realized that I didn’t have the character to “qualify” for the role.

However, God opened my eyes to see that I have been called to serve not because I am perfect. Rather, He desires to mold me through my service so that I may grow to become more and more like Him. Serving as a leader may be challenging but I believe that God is sovereign above my anxieties and challenges. He will be the One to sustain me as I serve Him.

 

3. God loves me and is always with me

As I was doing my devotion one day, I came across the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. Her story comforted me greatly as I could identify with her loneliness and distress in her predicament. Even though she was an Egyptian slave, God reached out to her and comforted her in her misery.

The same God who sees Hagar (Genesis 16:13) sees me too. In the midst of my anxiety attacks, He is with me. And because He cares for me, I know that I can always bring my anxieties and struggles to Him (1 Peter 5:7).

 

I felt strengthened after submitting my fears to God. Instead of running away from the issue at hand, I decided to reach out to my friend and honestly share with him about how his joke affected me. After hearing me out, we reconciled and are now friends again.

Through this episode, I realized that some of my fears are unfounded, and going to God with them instead of giving in to my emotions or fears helps me understand how He wants me to deal with every situation or decision I have to make. Even though I still struggle with anxiety, and have not decided if I will take up the leadership role, I’m encouraged to know that I can always run to God and look to Him for strength and help.

God Met Me In the Midst Of My Anxieties

Written By Calvin Woo, Malaysia

What should I do after graduating? What job should I look for? Should I start something of my own? Should I pursue a higher level of education? Is this the right time for a relationship?

These are normal questions that all of us have asked at some point in our lives. But for reasons unknown to me, these questions troubled me so badly that they affected my mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

I was at the crossroads and trying to make a life decision. I was so worried and anxious about my future that my heart was overcome with a wave of unrest. I felt helpless that I could not control all aspects of my life, and began to question myself and my abilities.

I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t eat well or sleep well at night, since I was constantly trying to find answers to my questions. I consulted my friends and family members for answers and validation, hoping to give my heart some rest and assurance. But my questions continued to come and go like the tide, crippling my productivity and my life as I lost focus of myself, my loved ones, and God. I tried really hard to resist and fight the questions—by distracting myself with other things, binge-watching movies and drama series, and going on a beach holiday. I tried to escape my thoughts, but somehow they always crept back in.

One night, I was alone in my room battling my thoughts, and I decided to cry out to the Lord.

“Lord, I’m worn out! Please take me out from this storm. Speak to me and show me Your way.”

Tears rolled down my face as I cried out. I was lost and did not know what to do, but yearned for direction.

 

Be still

A few weeks later I was traveling in California. My heart still burdened, I suddenly felt a prompting to go hiking in a forest of redwood and giant sequoia. My mind quickly drew up the perfect plan to get to the woods early in the morning.

When I walked through the entrance of the forest trail, it was as if I had entered another dimension. The towering redwoods and giant sequoias left me in awe, and I was at a loss for words. The beautiful sunlight cutting through the canopy hit my face. I closed my eyes, listening to the creek flow. And for the first time in months, I took a truly deep breath.

I continued to walk deeper into the belly of the forest and came across a quiet grove with a creek, and the giant sequoia and redwood as a backdrop.

I sat alone by the creek and closed my eyes as I took in the beauty of God’s creation. As I moved away from the noises of my usual surroundings. . .

I heard a whisper, rebuking my heart.

“Quiet! Be Still!” (Mark 4:39)

At that moment, tears from my still-closed eyes started to roll down my cheeks. I felt great peace and deliverance from the bondage of anxiety and worry. The liberation and freedom I felt were beyond words, and could only be expressed with tears of gratefulness and joy.

In the quiet grove, I prayed and thanked God for His great love for me. His purpose in bringing me to this redwood forest was to remind me through His creation of His greatness and power. It felt like I was being embraced by the surrounding trees, and I could feel God’s love flowing in my heart.

I had spent the past few months looking everywhere for answers to my questions, and my efforts only stirred the storm of unrest in my heart. But in that solitude in the forest, I could finally hear God in the midst of the storm.

As I continued walking along the forest trail, I reflected on my wonderful experience, and immediately penned down the moment to serve as a reminder of God’s great love and goodness. As I looked up to the redwood trees, with sunlight cutting between the leaves, I was reminded of God’s almighty hands at work in His creation—and in my life.

 

God is in control of all things

As followers of Christ, we are not guaranteed a problem-free life, but we know that our trials are a process that strengthens our faith in Him (James 1:2-4). Challenges and difficulties in our walk with God will only strengthen our faith and help us learn to lean on Him in times of trouble. Simply put, challenges are sometimes necessary to keep us grounded in Him. And when challenges do come, we know that we have a refuge in God.

When troubles, anxiety, worries, and trials loom over our heads, it is easy to let our emotions and feelings dictate our reaction, but we need to know that we can be still and know that He is our God (Psalms 46:10). For He is the Lord that waves and oceans obey, and whatever may come, He has already overcome it. But we can’t hear His words of comfort if we are rushing or trying to solve our problems on our own—just like I hadn’t been able to for the past few months. It is only when we are still and quiet that we can truly listen to God and hear what He has to say.

I am in no way implying that you should drop everything and go to a redwood forest. But we can all take time and find a quiet place to reverence God and reconnect with Him. Instead of trying to take control of everything in our lives, we need to slow down.

Try dedicating the first 15-20 minutes of the day to reading the Word of God and praying (and yes, put your phones away!). This is a good starting point for reconnecting with God. Slowly, as you try this or other methods, you will find what works for you in making time to be alone with God.

Often, we worry and are anxious when we lack the ability to control our own circumstances. When this storm of anxiety hits, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and pray. We need to humble ourselves and seek God by recommitting our lives to Him and putting Him first in all areas of our lives. God is in control of all things, and He is right there with us every step of the way. When we let God be the captain who steers our lives, we know that whatever direction He takes us in, we will be safe.

When God rebuked my heart in the redwood forest, I learned to let go of the wheel and let God be the captain. This process is not an easy one. But even though I am still waiting for answers on the next steps of my life, I know that God is ever faithful and will lead me on the right path for my life. This knowledge keeps my heart at rest.