Who am I

‘Hi what is your story?’, is something that I’ve been asked on more than a few occasions. What was my answer?

“Hi, I’m Abbie, and I have suffered with depression for around 9 years, I have an anxiety disorder and I am autistic (I’ll get on to that in another blog post).” 

Who I am was directly linked to what I dealt with. But the problem is, is that I am not my depression. I am not my anxiety. I am a daughter of the most high king, the ruler of the universe. That is my identity. 

This is because it doesn’t ever go away. My identity in Christ will never be shaken. Because he is everlasting (Isaiah 40:28), he never changes (James 1: 17), he is completely perfect in every way (Mathew 5:48). His love is unconditional (Romans 8: 35-39), and he is completely holy (1 Samuel 2:2). 

My depression and anxiety while they may never leave, I have the hope that they will. If I put my identity in something that I don’t actually want to be part of me, my whole identity is shaken. My whole being is shaken.

Once I remembering feeling genuinely happy and instead of being a normal person and enjoy it, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do and I completely freaked out. Why did I panic? Because I didn’t know who I was without the depression, but here’s the thing:

Even though anxiety and depression is part of my story, it’s part of what I’ve been through, but it isn’t my whole story. It doesn’t explain my love for Jesus, my love for my family and my friends. It doesn’t explain when I get excited at my course, or when I cry with a friend. It doesn’t explain my love for sweet potatoes (shout out to my housemates who can vouch for this). It doesn’t explain why I love music and my guitar. 

It’s a label that can be useful in treatment but it isn’t me. My life is built on the foundation of my love for Jesus and his incredible all-consuming love for me. It is built on the fact that he has me secure in his arms, and will never let me go. 

It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have anxiety attacks at church or spend the service crying (which has literally happened, the whole service, again my church family can vouch for this). It doesn’t mean I still don’t sometimes struggle with church. It doesn’t mean I still don’t suffer with these things. But I can see it’s for a season. 

I don’t know how long the season will last for, if it will last for 6 weeks or 10 or 20 more years. Or even my lifetime. But the things about seasons, is they change eventually. No matter how long it is I know it’s going to change, and when that happens, I will still be secure in my identity as a child of the risen king. 

When depression doesn’t take a holiday

Christmas is a time of family, celebration, love. It’s a time where we come together. Where we share about our lives. But what about when you wake up on Christmas morning feeling like you don’t want to face the world, when you end up crying in a room by yourself, or when life still feels hard, overwhelming. When the anxiety that comes along with depression doesn’t let up and all you want to do is curl up in bed but you can’t. 

I don’t know how your Christmas was (mine was pretty good), maybe you pretended the whole day and now you have to deal with the fall out, maybe you cried the whole day. 

I want to tell you it’s okay. Because on any other day of the year you’d be struggling, why would Christmastime be any different. Even though we are supposed to be happy in the cultures eyes it just is not realistic. I struggle most days, and keeping up the pretence that I am okay, and pushing how I feel down and suppressing it, never works. Because at some point, it has to come out. At some point how you feel will bubble over. This may be when you snapped at a family member when it was uncalled for, or when you cried because someone didn’t react to the gift you got them in an enthusiastic way. It can be more serious too, the suicidal thoughts may get too much, or you feel desperately alone in a crowed room. 

No matter what your families culture is around feelings and emotions (mine is pretty private, which is hilarious considering I’m writing a blog my experiences), you need to look after yourself. Now more than ever, if you need a break from them see about staying with friends or Church family (I have previously done both). See friends and speak to people if you need to, have some alone time if you need too. 

Know that how you feel will pass (I am still trusting that mine will pass at some point), that although now feels like forever it isn’t. Don’t shut Jesus out, and don’t shut out your people (I say this after last semester where I shut a lot of people out, but even though it’s hard to be honest, it’s so worth it).

No matter what people’s reactions are to you looking after yourself, it’s worth it. We are called to serve God, and to glory him. This means being in a mental space so you can look after others, and seek to glorify him in everything you do. 

You glorifying him right now, may simply be perserving. I know from personal experience that, this can be one of the hardest things to do. Simply keeping going when everything in you screams to stop is really hard, but I promise you with God’s help you can do it. 

I wish I could wrap my arms around you and tell you it will be okay, that God will keep you safe until it’s time to come home. That I love you, God loves you so much more than I (or anyone else ever could). If you tell me, I defo will but if not, reach out to someone I promise you, it’s completely worth it. 

Our true home

I think most of us have or will experience the feeling of being homesick. The yearning and longing to be around your people, in a place your comfortable with, where you don’t have to explain anything because people have spent that much time around you they just get you. Where you sit down in a place you have spent so much time in, there are no growing pains, there is no wondering what it will be like to fit in because you just do.

When Iwas in Uganda I felt this. There I was in another country, experiencing incredible things, meeting incredible people, doing fulfilling work, yet I was longing, wondering, hoping for home (shout out to the people who stopped me from trying to literally walk home nearly every night).

But the place I get the most home sick for I’ve never been. I don’t know what the rooms look like, I can’t picture it in my head. I don’t even know the face of the person who owns the house, I have never experienced what I will when I’m there. But yet I’m longing for it, I think we all are. Because in this place everything is perfect, our relationship with the owner is perfect, but we arent just letting the place, we don’t have a mortage, the owner is not just our landlord, he is our father. This is place is were our family live. We’re we live. The room is being set up as we speak. Our longing will end finally. But this is about way more than a place to lay our heads.

My pastor did a sermon recently on a home being a person not a place and he’s so right. It is about a person. Although we will have a place, we will finally be with him,  this relationship with Jesus, with God will be perfect.

I think christmastime extenuates these feelings. As some travel home but feel out of place, others are far from the place they call home and others don’t have a home. Not in this world. But what if I said there is a place for you. A place where you feel wanted, loved, secure in your identity. Where you never long because everything you need is right in front of you. But one day we will have a place, one day we will have that place for eternity. Those who trust in Jesus can rest, knowing the best is yet to come and one day we will truly be home.

Emotions: for our reality or for God’s glory

Any of my friends reading this will know that I seriously hate emotions. I have a very bad relationship with them. Sometimes I have none at all (thanks to depression) and sometimes I have them very strongly, it can be hard to straddle the tension between these two polar opposites. 

I run away from pain (literally, I have hidden in coffee shops to try and outrun it, fyi it doesn’t work), when I feel genuinely happy its taken me years to actually enjoy it and not just spend the whole day confused as to why I feel happy. And when I get feelings for someone I again want to run off (sometimes literally, which my friends again will vouch for).  

But this aversion too emotions doesn’t mean they don’t happen. I can ignore them all I want, but they will find me, and they will not go away. Which leaves us two options. 

The first is that we try our best and continue on our journey avoiding them at all cost. However, 1.) as mentioned earlier this doesn’t work and 2.) it doesn’t lead us to a healthy and gospel-focused mind. 

The second is to realise that God has given us emotions for a reason, and for us to truly deal with any pain, discomfort or overwhelmingness (not a word?) we may feel by bringing them to God. By processing them in the way you best process (I am a verbal processor but I also journal and I have friends who just journal and don’t find talking helpful). And by actively finding ways to incorporate these practices into your life.

And by seeing them as a gift, seeing that they aren’t scary and nothing bad will happen if you actually deal with them, actually more good will come out of it than anything (honestly, I am writing this to myself, as it’s something I need to hear… constantly). 

But then I can go to complete other direction, instead of ignoring them, they take over completely. They become so big in my head that nothing else can get in. Something that when put in its place should help me to live my life for God’s glory, tries to steal the glory for its self. 

It does this by overwhelming and completely blindsiding me. And it becomes my reality (something I am told frequently is that how I feel doesn’t always and often doesn’t equate to reality). How I feel becomes dominant and the avenue for how I live. 

I feel like getting drunk so I will.

I don’t feel like talking to this friends so I’ll avoid them. 

I don’t feel like church so I’ll not go. 

These examples aren’t talking about specific situations where people genuinely struggle, it’s for the people will me who often let their feelings govern their lives and not Christ.

So why is it important for Christ to govern us and not our emotions? Well, for those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross, we accept that Jesus is God, the only son of God (we are adopted), and that he deserves all of our affections and emotions. He made us, knows us and even after our rebellion against him, chose us and loves us. 

He completely deserves our everything, including our emotions, or lack of emotions. 

So instead of letting them rule us either by reading too much into them or by ignoring them completely (because avoiding them is giving them power they shouldn’t have, no feeling or emotion will destroy us in of themselves), let’s acknowledge that Christ rules our hearts and minds. And this means we can rest in him alone and trust him with a gift he gave. 

The suffocating silence

What do you do when you feel alone. Even physically surrounded why I write this, inside I feel so alone. 

The silence, tears, and heartache is suffocating me. Like God is draining all of the oxygen out of my lungs. The things that used to be so life-giving is now breaking me, friends, writing, even Jesus. 

Every time I think of him, pray to him, listen to worship music, read the bible, I cry. Because my soul is hurting right now, the pain inside of me is so so great that only he can help. 

And I know, I’m describing what someone out there feels. Trust me, it sucks. But what scripture can start to heal our broken souls. 

He is near to the brokenhearted, he is listening, he loves us more than you will ever know, he has a purpose, you are not alone, you are not unredeemable. 

When you are on the floor, you have two options. You can face the floor and ignore truth or you can roll over and face the lord and allow him to heal you bit by bit. 

I don’t know why God is allowing my heartache just as much as I don’t know why he is allowing yours. 

But he is good. How can a good God allow this pain? 

We live in a sinful and broken world, we live in a world broken from the fall, I need a saviour now more than ever. I need Jesus, to meet me in the pain. And he does. 

He will give us rest for our souls. This doesn’t mean that he will give us what we want. But he always gives us what we need. And more importantly, he gives us him. He is our best deepest friend. He wants us to know him deeply. We do this primarily by reading his word, reading truth and by talking to him. About your pain, and heartache.  

The freedom of Christ

A while ago I talked about conditional love, about how I operate all of relationships out of this framework. 

But I wanted to be more clear on what conditional love towards yourself looks like (which even feels weird to type). 

But how many of us give up on ourselves? How many of us would give up on ourselves when things get really difficult. As much as I do this in relationships (and I am really praying and trying to get better at that), I do it to myself. 

I look at the pain I cause others, myself and God, and I give my self-conditions to get my act together before a certain deadline (these deadlines can be a few months to a year usually), to get rid of my depression or to become less annoying, less needy, less sinful. The problem is, is that I will never be able to do you this, I will never be able pay for my own sin by my works, by a deadline, it’s one deadline that i’m doomed to never complete the work before it passes. 

And because I know I will never be able to pay for it, when I don’t meet the conditions, I give up on myself and by extension I give up on God. I tell him that even though I know he paid for my sins and failure so that I can live in right relationship with him, so that I can live in freedom, I almost can’t except it, I try to put the shackles back on because it doesn’t make sense. It isn’t comfortable. You would think freedom is, but honestly? Its scary. Because freedom from sin, one means that by Gods grace you recognise it (and that part is never fun), and then you can rest in his ultimate amazing grace. 

And I think, is that it God? I didn’t make the cut, I didn’t meet the deadline (my deadline I might add), and all I need to do is rest in Christ, in you? 

It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t deserve it. Surely we should get what we deserve right? I know I don’t want to go to hell, but surely I can contribute something to my salvation? It would make this freedom slightly less uncomfortable, slightly less terrifying. 

But thats the beauty of the gospel, we don’t deserve it. In fact we deserve punishment. It would make sense for me to have to earn my salvation. To have to stick to the conditions and have God give up on me like I give up on myself. 

But that isn’t what God is saying. That isn’t what Jesus came to earth to do. I may give up on myself, give in to my depression, or give in the struggles of this life, but Jesus never will. And I can ask him, why, I can question what on earth he is doing. 

But at the end of the day, my wonderings, failings and self condemnation doesn’t change the fact and there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and Its for freedom Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1) 

The truth about questions

Having questions in the Christian faith are very very common. Asking questions to God about who he is and why certain things happen the way they do ultimately be used to grow us and for his glory. 

Lately, the types of questions I have been having have caused me to doubt many things about my faith. However, if anything actually asking them has brought me closer to God. These questions have mainly been about why certain things happened how they did. Including (and not limited too; if God created the universe surely he would have created sin but if he did, why would he do that in the first place? As God gave us emotions to relate to others and the world, does it mean that people with depression aren’t truly human? How a good God can allow certain suffering (like severe mental health issues e.g. schizophrenia, personality disorders, or bipolar)? 

These questions are very big, but the answers don’t change who God is.

I have been very anxious that if I get the answer to these questions, and they aren’t satisfactory, that I will decide that the Christian faith isn’t for me and end up rejecting God (which my nature does want to do, but because of what Jesus did on the ross, I have been restored to a relationship with him’) I love him and I want to follow him to the best of my ability.  

However, the fact that I’m worried about this in the first place is a good sign. Because a non-christian wouldn’t worry about falling away from Jesus and wouldn’t love him. We should be pro-active in reading our bible, praying and investing into the most important relationship we have but here is an encouragement and challenge if you are struggling with this.

1.) God can handle our questions, he can handle our disbelief, and this isn’t going to change what he thinks of us. He will have answers to these questions, we may not know it straight away, and somethings we may only understand when we are in glory, but as the creator of the universe nothing we ask will surprise him. 

2.) Ask them to him. Not asking them is more dangerous. Not asking will lead to more doubt and this makes you more anxious to ask (trust me, I’ve done it and it really doesn’t work) it takes faith, but do it. 

3.) It isn’t the strength of our faith that keeps us following Jesus. God is in control, and he will carry us to the day of completion in Christ Jesus (Philippians 1: 6). It isn’t about whether I am holding onto God its about the fact that he is always holding onto me. 

4.) Have faith that your salvation is secure. It is based solely on what Jesus did on the cross. The only reason we can hold on to God is due to the grace given to us in Christ Jesus. 

Salvation is important here because if you are saved God won’t undo this salvation. There may be people in your life who did follow Jesus but have now rejected him, but keep praying for them. 

Either they were never saved in the first place, or God will be teaching them something massive in this and God will bring them back eventually. 

I’m sure this is something most of us can relate to, but trust God with them, he will hold them carefully and he hears you.