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Dear God, Do You Care?

Title: Dear God, Do You Care?
Artwork by:YMI X Jane Yeoh
Description: It can sometimes feel like we are battling our troubles alone. Trapped in our own endless thoughts, silently screaming, “Does anyone care?”. Our strength to face the world wanes, and we are desperate for a breakthrough. But in the midst of our pain and loneliness, there is One person who truly cares, and He is patiently waiting to reach out to us.

 

Verse references from, Psalm 56:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 4:4, John 16:33, John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4, John 3:16, Romans 8:38-39, Psalm 121, Matthew 11:28-30

 

That girl is me. That’s my story. I was sexually assaulted and still suffer from bouts of depression. I’ve tried ways to end my life. 

I had doubts about God’s providence and His grace. But along the way, I was slowly reminded that God is faithful, trustworthy, and is a caring friend I can completely rely on. 

He assures me that I can have honest conversations with him as He knows my every thought before I utter them (Psalm 139:4). He hasn’t forgotten about me. He has always been there, patiently waiting for me to bring my laments to him, inviting me to turn to Him, ready to transform my cries of pain into songs of praise. 

 

If you are hurting today, will you invite Him into your pain right now?

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help (Psalm 22:24).

Editor’s Picks: Best of Mental Health and the Gospel

Mental Health. Mostly, the threats come in ways you can’t see. But the claws of mental health struggles become very, very tangible as they seep into our lives and affect how we’re able to cope, live, and work. Sometimes it’s a challenge for Christians to talk about this. Afterall, doesn’t Jesus make us whole?

Help! I Can’t Stop Overthinking!

Hands shaking, I clung to my iPhone as I searched the Internet.

WebMD. Got it.

A few seconds later, I found myself reading through symptoms of a brain tumor.

Headaches? Check.

Vision problems? Check.

See, you’ve got two of the main symptoms.

But there are others I don’t have.

But you’ve got these two. You’ve got to see a doctor. What if you have a brain tumor?

After weeks of vision problems, I booked myself a trip to the doctor, convinced that my death sentence awaited me in that examination chair. It would only be a matter of time. It was a constant downward spiral I couldn’t seem to crawl out of.

What if you find out you’ve got a brain tumour?  Stop.

It would explain all of your vision problems.  Stop right now. 

It might have been there all this time.  Stop this, Rachel.

And you’ll find out what you’ve always feared.  Stop.

One look at your optic nerve and . . . STOP!

With tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with my doctor to conduct whatever test he deemed appropriate in order to rule out my fear.

After an hour’s worth of tests and scans, I was embarrassed to find out that after all the time and energy I had spent worrying, my headaches and vision problems came down to stress and what he called “ocular migraines.”

“Stress?” I blew my nose into a tissue.

“Yes, you need more rest,” he confirmed as he proceeded to hand me more tissues. Then he offered me some advice I’d struggle to forget.

“If you go looking for something to be wrong, you will eventually find it.”

Now, he wasn’t for one second suggesting that it was a waste of time for me to come in. But he was inferring that our fears have the power to concoct something into being, and that if we let our imaginations run away with us, it might lead to trouble.

 

How We Know When It’s All Gone Wrong

Perhaps you have never had the joy of experiencing a panic attack at your optician’s office like I have, but there is likely something in your life that keeps you on a mental hamster wheel. Your relationship. Your work. Your health. Your finances. Your living situation.

And the more weight we place on this one thing, the more potential there is for the enemy to keep us sick with worry about it, similar to how my active imagination left me in fear-locked shambles for weeks leading up to my doctor’s appointment.

This issue of destructive thought patterns has been on my heart for some time, and I have learned that we can claim back our imaginations—we have to! The reality is, our feelings are extremely misleading and can’t always be trusted. Once I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice, I knew that something had to change, and I needed to learn to tune into the right voices.

 

Reclaiming Our Imaginations

Our imaginations are a fascinating part of who we are. They are a beautiful, magnificent, inspiring part of us. Our imagination is the birthing place for every incredible, ground-breaking, creative idea that we will have. It’s an extraordinary incubator of inspiration and catalyst for endless opportunities.

But, it can also imprison us if we allow it to go astray.

Friend, listen to me. There is a war going on right now. And it is a battle for our minds (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is after your imagination (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but thankfully, we don’t have to live shackled to fear. God has a purpose for each of us (Ephesians 2:10). A rich destiny. He has already spoken His promises to us (Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 5:6-7). Now we just need to speak them to ourselves.

I don’t know anything more powerful in overcoming negative thought patterns than meditating on Scripture—which is why one of the most important steps to overcoming negative self-talk is learning how to take back control of the conversation.

Take it from the hypochondriac herself. We need to stop listening to our mind’s wandering thoughts, and start listening to what God says about us and His plans for us.

If there is anything I have learned from repeated episodes of panic, it is that our lives tend to follow the direction of our conversations. Courage and fear both come from those conversations with ourselves.

Instead of anxiety being my go-to response, I want prayer and recalling scriptural promises to become my knee-jerk reaction whenever life turns pear-shaped.

I’m not by any means suggesting that we ignore our problems. If anything, I think we need to be realistic and face them head on with practical solutions and supernatural wisdom from the Bible. However, we also need to remind our concerns of where they stand in relation to God—His voice, not my negative self-talk, is the authority of my life.

Right now, I am wrestling with this truth. I want so badly to get to a place where I can see my problems and not get hung up on them but to hang on tightly to the promises of God instead. Throughout the Bible, God has promised many times to watch over His children, and I know He will watch over me and carry me through any difficulty I might face. So I will keep on striving to remember that truth.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. (from Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 31:3, Jeremiah 29:11)

Will you join me in tuning into God’s voice?

Memorizing Scripture Changed My Life

Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK

I’ve decided to memorize the whole of the book of Luke. I know—it sounds a bit insane. But let me tell you how I got to this point.

It started during the long, hot, sticky summers of my childhood, at an annual Bible club where I discovered I could quickly learn a verse just before it was my turn to recite it at the end of the week, and then claim a prize before forgetting all about the verse.

One time, I set about learning and then actually retaining the verse. And I had success. I was so pleased with my recall that months later, I asked my Dad if I could still recite the verse and get a prize. He affirmed my efforts, reached into his pocket, and gave me some change to buy sweets. Every so often I would ask again, and the result would always be the same.

For a few years, I was happy with my one verse (John 3:16, by the way). But when I was about 15, my Dad (probably fed up with being asked for prizes), set me a challenge. If I could memorize Matthew 5, 6 & 7, I would get £5 for each chapter that I learned. It turned out to be much harder than I thought. I earned £5 for chapter 5, but gave up after that. However, I did learn that I could effectively memorize scripture.

My secret is to repeat it 10 times—no really, it is! I use an app now to help me memorize, but when I had to do this screen-free, the answer was 10. I took a verse and broke it down down into parts. Then I took one part and repeated it until I could say it without looking. Next? I moved to the second part, and then each line individually, until I had the complete verse—repeating it to myself 10 times until it was memorized.

However, the real work is retaining the Scripture. I love this part the most. Each day, to keep the verse alive in my mind, I review it. Eventually I don’t need to do it 10 times anymore. Each day, it becomes easier to remember. And that’s when it grows in me as I mull it over and come to grips with what I’m reading.

 

Putting An Old Skill to New Use

For a while, all I memorized was the occasional Bible passage, or notes for my exams. But all of that changed a couple of years ago when I started to experience considerable worry and anxiety.

When I felt the worry sink in, I couldn’t pinpoint why I was worried. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that—where your mind just goes off on its own and there’s no reining it in, leaving you consumed with worry and you can’t quite tell why? It makes it difficult to concentrate, even on the stuff right in front of you.

This crippling worry led me to consider memorizing the Bible again. Soon I found myself memorizing two chapters that I already enjoyed reading: John 15 and Hebrews 12.

In my journey fighting consuming anxiety, memorizing scripture has been an immense source of comfort, and things have slowly started to change. But mostly? It’s teaching me to approach the Bible differently.

 

When Scripture Becomes More Real Than My Anxiety

This summer will be two years since I restarted actively learning parts of the Bible and although I’ve come a long way in my battle with anxiety, I’m still not completely free. However, I’ve found solace in the important difference between memorizing my lecture notes for exams and learning God’s Word—it’s that God’s Word is alive! Before I started this process, I had no idea what this meant. Filling my head with knowledge for an exam was helpful for studying, but it didn’t change how I thought or how I lived. God’s Word is different.

As I’ve listened to what Jesus is saying in Luke, I’ve been challenged about what I do and think—particularly when He teaches about trusting our Heavenly Father and not being anxious or troubled. I’ve found myself praying, “Lord what you’re saying is really hard, I don’t think I can achieve this on my own. Please help me to realign my thinking with Your truth.” It’s not even a conscious request. It’s like breathing—simply the result of soaking in His Word.

This method of learning the Bible is a slow process. It’s not a sprint or even a marathon. It’s a long, steady walk. But as I’ve been chewing on God’s Word, I’ve felt like I’ve actually been among the crowds, hanging off His words as He breaks the bread and feeds the five thousand. Or that I’ve been sitting at His feet with Mary as He tells Martha that Mary has made the better choice to sit and listen to Him.

 

Something Better Than Healing

No, memorizing scripture hasn’t magically rid me of my struggles, but it has given me so much to ponder and turn over, that sometimes, I can get lost in Jesus’ company as I read the stories about Him. God’s Word is full of treasures, and I’ve been able to replace some of my thoughts and worries with these rich words that come from God Himself. This process has helped me fall in love with God’s Word again. I started out hoping to fix a problem and have peace of mind, but I’ve found so much more.

I recently convinced a friend of mine to give scripture memorization a try, and I hope I can convince you to try it, too. I find it helpful to start somewhere small, like a psalm. Remember this isn’t about memorizing a whole book, or even a whole chapter—it’s a conversation between you and God as you read His Word and let it live in your heart and mind. If you’re open, God will change you through it.

No longer are the stories that I grew up reading dull and boring because I’ve heard them a thousand times already . . . Nor do I need a prize to get me motivated—my prize is the immeasurable riches that I am finding as I walk with God through His Word.