The place I struggle to hide

One of the only places I openly feel what I feel is church. Why? Because they are my family and because no matter what I go through they will point me to Jesus. They will let me cry, they will let me stare at a wall, they will allow me to feel the pain. However, they won’t let me stay there. When I am ready (or when they believe I am, because trust me it’s often easier to stay there), they help me to bring me out of my depression and show me how great our God is. That he is a God that understands more than my church family can, more than any human currently on this earth can. That God more than makes up for their (and my) failures and weaknesses. I am able to be my true and authentic (and often ugly self) because they love me out of an overflowing of the love God showed them and I can do the same to them out of the same love that God showed me.

However, even though this is where I am at now, I had an interesting introduction to the church (although a very common one). When I first walked through the doors I wasn’t a Christian, and I hated being weak in front of others. However, due to the fact I had anxiety attacks every service (anxiety attacks that left me shaking and crying on the floor, that completely floored me every time, therefore meaning that I often had to leave during the service), people knew (and still do know) I struggle. And because of how public my struggles were, I didn’t have the chance to hide what was going on (which is a massive kindness from God). And therefore I experienced the love and caring nature of a church family showing the love of Christ in practical ways.

But it also meant that I had crazy high expectations of how people should and shouldn’t react (which is another blog post), and I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on people. Then because I started to listen to the lies of the devil I swung the other way and started to believe that no one cared (which was never true), and my expectations went crazy low.

Now God is teaching me what a middle ground is (shout out to all the people I have talked to about this). And what it is to have healthy expectations and get my ultimate security from God and not other people.

This may be very real to you if you feel like you have no one in your church. However, know that you have God. If you have been hurt by the church you are not alone. But know that God does listen to your prayers. So pray that he puts people in your life who will point you to Christ. But also know that God always provides for his children. I have found that in situations where I feel like I need immediate help, if I truly do people to intervene (if I’m genuinely in danger of hurting myself) God will put people in place to help (although this often looks like actually asking for help) and if he doesn’t put people there, that means that there is another way out and he is teaching me something about him that I would miss out on if I put my security and reliance primarily in anything other than God (because its good to lean on people to a certain degree, as we are called to carry each other’s burdens.

However, just because I often feel exposed in Church, it doesn’t mean that I don’t try to hide, that I don’t lie to people when they ask how I am. It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with people knowing how I am. It doesn’t mean I am not a sinful broken human being. It doesn’t mean that I don’t need the assurance that God has got me in the palm of his hands every day.   

Your experience of church will probably be very different and that’s ok. We are different people, even some of my friends who go to my church have different experiences than me. They have different friends and different people they go to. You may find it hard, to be honest with people (and trust me, I am getting better at hiding how I am doing and it’s not a good thing), you may find it hard to talk to people about what you are struggling with and that’s ok too. I am a very verbal processor, and you may not be. Be honest with people so they know how you are doing but what matters even more, is that you are being honest with God. He already knows what is going on but he wants you to tell him.

Actually believing Jesus’ death and resurrection is enough.

One of the most discouraging parts of the Christian faith is when God shows me massive sins in my life (lately, selfishness, pride, control). Why do I find it discouraging? Because I stop there. My sin is reviled to me but then I channel it to more self hatred, self pity and shame.

Instead of trusting in what Jesus has done on the cross I act as if it isn’t enough. I treat the cross as something that I want to believe is true but I don’t rest in it. Instead I strive. I try. I work hard to pay for my sins myself, even though I know I’m never going to be a big enough sacrifice.

But by doing this I’m missing the point. I’m putting me at the centre of my life instead of God. I am putting my worth and satisfaction in worldly things, in people, experiences, and honestly if I do this it will destroy me. I won’t find true love, joy and peace unless I look to him, unless I rest and trust in him and trust that what he has for my life is good (this doesn’t mean I won’t struggle but it does mean there is a purpose in the struggle).

Why am I telling you this? Because I know I’m not the only one. I know that someone reading this may feel like I do. May feel as though this world is destroying them.

But let’s not stay there. Let’s trust in what he has done in the cross and this means I don’t have to climb on the alter myself. It means that I can turn to him, repent, know I am truly forgiven and get up and try again. And I will do this time and time again. And every time he will forgive me, he already has. It’s finished. The war is won, but we are called to stay in the battle, even though it feels like it’s not worth it. Jesus is always worth it.

Joy and hope in all circumstances

Recently I have been praying for hope and joy in all circumstances. I began to notice a pattern that when I struggle hard with depression, I no longer have joy and I no longer have hope. And to allow depression to dictate this gives it way too much power and I no longer want to do that. 

Usually, when I pray things like this, God moves quickly and in ways I never expect. And it is almost always painful. Why is this the case? God cares about our joy and our hope, and he wants it to always be found in him. When my joy and hope seemingly disappears when my circumstances change it shows that my hope is in other things, worldly things.

And as the bible says this is fleeting, so why do I (and countless others) continue to do this? Well, for me, it is easier. When hard circumstances come about and I have my hope in the circumstances, I then feel able to get angry at God, blame him and then I can give up. I don’t have to continue to fight this battle if its Gods fault they have happened in the first place. 

But this is so wrong for several reasons. The first of these being, it completely throws the gospel in Gods face. It says, ‘yeah I know Jesus went through the most pain imaginable taking on my sin so I don’t have to so I can be in a relationship with you. However this is too hard, and you aren’t worth it.’ 

Secondly, God is perfect (literally) and it is never ever his fault for our sin and although he allows us to be tempted, he is never the one who actually does it (James 1: 13-15). And he also doesn’t delight in our suffering, he uses it for his glory and for our ultimate good, but he never intended it. Suffering is a result of living in a fallen world (that happened due to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden). 

Thirdly, our joy and hope shouldn’t be in things other than in him (even though it is), so when God removes these things that have stolen our joy and hope, it is a kindness. Because putting our joy and hope in these things will ultimately leave us completely hopeless and joyless.

And this is something that I completely understand, recently when God took away what had stolen my joy and hope (people, holidays, nearly stable mental health), it came to my (and others) attention, that I didn’t have any joy or hope anymore. I ended up completely joyless and hopeless. But once God showed these things to me, I realised what true joy and hope look like. 

  1. It is having the ability to say true things about God. When I was joyless and hopeless, I couldn’t say that God was good, that he loved me, that he is working things for my good. And I found it hard to take when others said these truths to me (and I have an incredible church family who does this regardless of whether I want to hear them or not). 
  2. It is being able to speak truth into others life. When I had no true understanding of his grace, love, mercy, and kindness, I was in no position to say these things to other people. You can’t extend forgiveness to someone when you aren’t living in knowledge of that forgiveness. You can’t extend grace to someone when you aren’t living in knowledge of that grace. You can’t tell someone God loves them and is present through all circumstances if you can’t believe it for yourself. 

If you are struggling with one or both of these steps ask God to show you what truly is taking your joy and hope. 

The use of control and manipulation in an ever accepting world

Control and manipulation. Two words often used together, but still very different, why? Because control is socially acceptable and manipulation isn’t. If you ask people whether control is ok most of the time they will say yes, if you ask them if manipulation is okay it’s pretty obvious they will say no. 

This is because it’s seen as okay to want to control your environment, saying that you’re a control freak isn’t seen as weird or wrong. But control can turn ugly, very quickly. We start off controlling our food, what we what we wear, how we interact with people and soon it turns into controlling our plans including other people, and if they don’t do what you want them to do, they don’t follow your carefully decided plan what is the answer? 

Manipulation. 

I see two forms of manipulation. The first type is when an individual wants something from someone. They go into relationships or friendships with a purpose, for a reason. To get good grades, to feel a certain way, because without that person they feel as if they are seriously missing out. 

You may be thinking that there is nothing wrong with that, that friendships do sometimes serve a purpose. 

But what of it wasn’t like that, what if two people went into a friendship with the same goal, with a mutual love and appreciation that goes deeper than what football team you like or what course you study at uni. What if there was a way to get from self focused relationships to enter serving relationships. 

Well, I have (and millions before) found a way. It involves a relationship with a perfect man, with a man who will never do you wrong, and all of your desires and needs will be met solely in him. This means you can enter into relationships with other people loving them for who God made them to be. Loving them and enjoying the friendship because you don’t need anything from them, because all of your needs are met in Christ.    

This brings me to the second form of manipulation. Needing to be needed. This on the surface may not seem like manipulation. After all liking to help people is good right? And yes it is, but if you are helping them because you want the glory for yourself you aren’t doing it with the goal of Christ in mind. This means that when it gets hard and messy you will leave the person to fend for themselves because they are no longer satisfying your own need for glory and recognition. 

This is why it is so important to be servant hearted but also we need to know our hearts. We need to know that we have nothing to prove, God loves you more than you will ever know (Ephesians 4), and being there for another will not make him love you any more than he already does. This truth brings freedom, because knowing who you are in Christ means that you don’t need to gain your worth from others, you are free to live as Christ wants you to live and you are free to love others authentically. 

A song that changed my world

Certain songs really impact me. One of these lately have been ‘Welcome to the black parade’ by my chemical romance. There is a cover of this song on Spotify and it honestly changed my life.

I bet I can guess two questions you may have right now; the first one being, how can a song change your life and secondly what exact line was it?

Well I think I will answer the first question first (because I clearly am wild). Songs make me think about things I never would have, if I had never listened to the song. They impact me more than any other form of art (such as painting or writing even).

Simple words with a melody and beat have the opportunity to change the world. A lot of people speak much more clearly through song rather than speaking.

And that brings me on to my second point, the line that hit me so hard was, ‘we’ll carry on, we’ll carry on and though your dead and gone believe me, your memory will carry on.’

I often believe that if anything were to happen to me, no one would care. That I would just become a phantom of my friends and families imagination. That slowly over time they would forget me. Every time my friends and family combat these lies with truth my mind is slowly starting to believe them, to trust them.

Obviously this song was never written specifically for me, however it made me think, if I were to go now, and if the song is right and my memory would carry on, what would I be remembered for?

Would I be remembered for my struggles, for my anxiety and depression? Would I be remembered for my relationships with others? Or my selfishness? That I put my own comforts above other peoples (which is another blog post), or would I be remembered for my devotion to live for God’s glory?

If something happened to you to tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be? What do you want everyone to remember you for?

We have the chance to be consistently changing as we are made more in God’s image. We have the chance to become the person God wants us to be, the full potential of who we are. But in order for that to happen we need to wait, endure and we need to continue to run the race (not a literal one, although you could if you wanted to, I don’t want to). We need to be patient, as painful and as challenging this world is, it is necessary to get us to be where we need to be, to get us where God wants us to be.

The Reasons Against Social Isolation

One of the worst parts of depression and anxiety for me is social isolation. The feeling that you have to be alone, and that you can’t possibly be around other people, is so overwhelming.

There are two reasons I do this. The first reason is that when I am around others I hurt them, and as words can be so powerful I often fear that if I say the wrong thing, or if I am too harsh that people will leave me. The second reason is that because I feel so oversensitive all the time, they will hurt me. 

Do you ever feel like this? Do you ever get the overwhelming feeling of an up and coming episode, and feel like you have 5 minutes to get out of there before you disintegrate into tears on the floor?

I want you to know that you are not alone. I write this in a coffee shop after trying to physically run away from my own feelings and thoughts, trying to somehow hurt less but not wanting to show to my friends what is going on (jokes on me, because they knew exactly what was going on).  For me, this is ultimately pride. I don’t want others to see me fall apart, I don’t want others to have that power over me, it is terrifying letting people into the darkest parts of your heart, especially when you feel your whole life is falling apart around you.

However it is so so important that you let people into that pain (although some alone time is good, it never good to completely cut people off). The pain you feel, the overwhelming confusion and ache, isn’t something you should ever have to go through alone. We are called to carry each other’s burdens. Called to do life together even when it is really really hard. And sometimes people will understand you and sometimes they won’t, but know that Jesus definitely does. He cried (John 13: 35), he felt sorrow (Mark 14: 34), he sweat blood (Luke 22: 44), he was killed for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; John 15:13; Hebrews 2: 9). He doesn’t just know exactly how you feel, he understands completely. Holding to this truth, and knowing that although others can’t fix you, God will use them to share these burdens provided that you let them in.

As mental health is still so stigmatized (especially is some church circles, although I go to a fab church that does talk about these issues, many churches don’t), I know hard this can be. But fight against your instinct. Pray that God will surround you with people who will love you by ultimately loving him. And pay attention. Quite often the people God will bring into your life will be the ones you least expect. I know this from first-hand experience as I didn’t even speak to one of my best friends now, this time last year.

I am so blessed that God has surrounded me with Godly men and women when I came to uni who supported me, some obviously come alongside me, others pray for me (which I will be eternally grateful for). You never know who will be praying for you (the first time anyone ever said they were praying for me was in high school, I was so shocked and amazed as to why they would go out of their way to do that, prayer is truly powerful).

But even saying that, be patient and be gracious with the people who will support you. Be aware of how you can help and support them, (sometimes you won’t have the mental capacity to give someone a one to one but you can always be there to listen). They will get it wrong, and so will you. There will be days when you will want them to fix you (I know I have them days), and others were they will want to do anything to take the pain away (which isn’t inherently a bad thing, however as Christians we called to endure patiently through suffering). 

And ultimately, regardless to whether you have no one around, (you definitely have me, I am not saying this for the fun of it, honestly message me), or if you have dozens of people around you (they will at times let you down, because as humans we all do), you always have God. You have the creator of the universe on your side. To be honest often that can make me feel worse because I know he can change my situation but often doesn’t. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, and he said that we need to pray that God will use us in these situations to ultimately glorify him. And that my friend he definitely will do. 

Put your walls down, and let God guard your heart.

We all to some extent have walls around our heart, and some walls are stronger than others. Those close to me will know that mine are very strong. And most people don’t even know they are up (and I know that I’m not the only one). I have a tendency to say enough to make people think I’m being vulnerable but really they don’t know anything that I’m not comfortable with being general knowledge. 

This often means that I hold people at arms length, without them even knowing it. I do this to try to protect myself from people who I think could hurt me, even those who only give me reasons to trust them. Because the small chance I could be hurt (and by that I mean abandoned), is too big for me. 

Over the past few months God has been taking me on a journey to stop doing this. He has shown me that by having these walls up I am ultimately not trusting him or those he has placed in my life. And I need to start, because otherwise I am disregarding his will. Not doing is terrifying, because it involves showing people the most vulnerable parts of me. However the most vulnerable parts of me or hurting, broken and bleeding. Do I really want to let people in to that? 

But thats where is good to remember that this isn’t about other people. It’s about God and about whether I am willing to let him heal me, even if he uses other people to do this. Although this process also means not avoiding my pain (which is something I am a pro at). 

But once I start to allow God in, these man-made walls assembled with wood, that leave splitters in whoever tries to get near them, fall down, he breaks them down. Once he does this, he doesn’t leave us how he found us (broken, bleeding and vulnerable), he heals the hurt behind. This often feels more painful than if we just dealt with them ourselves. But this makes sense. 

When you were a kid and you hurt you knee by falling off your bike (or when you a grown adult and have been cycling nearly everyday for 10 months…) getting it cleaned often makes the wound hurt more but then it allows it to heal properly. 

And while God does this he guards our hearts for us. He guards them with peace, love and grace (Philippians 4: 6) . And as a result we don’t need to worry about whether or not others will hurt us because we know ultimately they will. But God will always protect us, provide for us, and never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). This allows us to love even those who do hurt us, and allows us to continue to let people in even if it is painful. 

Why I have a problem with the phrase I love you

As a young kid my family said they loved me all the time, at the end of conversations, saying goodbye, even just leaving the room. Even now my mum and dad says it to me on the phone at the end of our conversation. So do my friends. But once I became a christian the phrase took on a different meaning. However before we even go there, lets look at what ‘I love you’ even mean? 

If I asked my friends each person would say different things. Some would say it is a feeling or an emotion, some would say its a decision someone makes regarding another person. But what is the actual dictionary definition? ‘To have strong feelings of affections or a great interest and pleasure in something’. 

But isn’t love more than just feelings? Because feelings change everyday. Isn’t it just more than a selfish state of a heart? Because there will be times where I don’t take pleasure in being with a friend because relationships are hard. Does that mean I no longer love them? 

Well you could say actions have to be involved as well. Because quite often people will say the words but don’t have the actions to back it up. Which does make sense. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations were I love you has been followed by betrayal or manipulation. That isn’t love is it? 

So what even is it? 

Well true love, biblical love is sacrificial. Now you can also argue that you don’t have to be a christian to show this type of love. And that is true to some extent, individuals in the army die to save another life, however this type of love is still based on condition. It’s still based on the condition that you would do the same for them too. But true sacrificial love involves giving to people when you get nothing out of it. For this to happen, it involves knowing the only true and perfect love that has ever existed. Not only do you need to know about it but you need to truly know it.

When Jesus died for us on the cross, he got nothing out of it. He did it purely so we could have a relationship with him, but he didn’t need us, he doesn’t need us. 

True love gives to others when you get nothing out of it. For me that means persevering even when I often don’t want to. For others it is continuing to show love to others when they feel no emotion, for others still it is clearing your calendar so you can be there for another going through suffering.

It isn’t that I have a problem with the words ‘I love you’, I have a problem with societies view on what it exactly is.