Goodbye Fear

{1 Year}

Has it really been a year?

As many of you know, I struggled with severe anxiety after the birth of my second child in 2015.

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This last month I completely stopped taking my medication (after reducing it over the last few months via recommendation from my psychiatrist).  And it left me with some mixed feelings.  On one hand, I’m overjoyed to see that chapter of my life come to a close.  This morning I was reading 1 Corinthians 15 and came across the following verse, “But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Seeing that bottle empty gave such a powerful image of the ability God has given me to overcome my biggest weakness.

But then came the guilt.  The enemy started reminding me of the devastation that anxiety caused in my life.

Lie #1: I lost years of my life.

Lie #2: I never enjoyed my babies.

Lie #3: I was a bad mom.

Lie #4: I was a horrible wife.

Each of those traps ensnared my heart, and I started dwelling on them.  Guilt is so good at whispering to you in a time that you should be celebrating your victory!

Now that I’ve come to realize and see those deceptions for what they were, I can start praising the Lord for what He has done.  There is something so powerful about the spoken/written word of praise and thanksgiving to God.  It brings us into a closer connection to our creator.  And we see that connection unfold in the book of Psalms with King David.  Most of the Psalms that David wrote brought glory to God.  He praised the Lord for struggles that refined him into gold.  That is how we should take action after a storm in our life passes over us.  It is easy to overlook the victory God brought us because it feels like we just got back to our “normal” life.  So, this for me is how I am taking action to humbly thank the Lord of my salvation for calming the storm in my life.  He is worthy of my attention.  He is worthy of admiration.  He is worthy of praise.

{What now?}

Anyone who knows me know that I love the church.  The reason I was able to overcome all of this is because Christians rallied around me and helped me through it.  There was so much support from my church specifically, unlike any other body of Christ I had ever seen.  While I was in the struggle, I was not judged by my family of believers.  I was uplifted in prayer, and my burdens were lightened by the love of my sisters in Christ.

But you guys, the Church as a whole hasn’t always been so supportive.  I’ve heard things come out of the mouths of pastors that are hurtful and thoughtless.  There were people who let me know that taking medication was a sign of my inability to trust God for healing.  I was told that because I was fearful, I was damaging, evil, toxic, and destructive.  I was also told that I was living in sin.  People whom had never spent an hour in the pit of anxiety were telling me that I just had to snap out of it.  As if mental disorders are simply a sign of a lack in motivation.  When I was anxious, and couldn’t get myself into a place where I was thinking clearly, there were those who made their annoyance known.  While I was struggling to fight the fear, going to therapy and taking the medication, I felt the pressure to “act cured” and just go on like a mentally healthy individual.

Many of those that I mentioned above were wonderful people.  They had the very best intentions, and I believe they truly thought they were being helpful.  But, their actions and words couldn’t be any further from valuable.  This discussion isn’t about dwelling on thoughtless mistakes, but these accusations need to be addressed.  My hope is that by speaking up for those who cannot express their thoughts/feelings, we can come to a better understanding of how to serve those in the middle of anxiety/depression in the church.  My aim in this short post is to encourage and foster helping those who struggle with mental illnesses. I truly believe that we as a church can do better.

Make no mistake, fear is debilitating.  It takes us further away from God’s truth.  But fear, isn’t always a choice.  There are situations where people are dealing with a trauma that has caused damage to their thought life, and their mind tries to protect them by firing the fear signals.  Sometimes we aren’t even aware of our own anxiety until the Holy Spirit points it out to us.  And if the church sits back and doesn’t assist people [who are struggling] find a path to healing, then the church is complicit in the manifestation of fear.  Prayer is powerful, but you don’t see pastors preaching that we should only pray away the cancer (a physical illness) and not seek medical attention (I realize there are people out there that believe this, but I hope we can agree that way of thinking is flawed and deceitful).  So why is mental illness any different?  The mind is part of our body, and when it is sick…we need to treat it.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the Lord has the power and wants to heal every sickness and every disease.  But it is foolish to tell the sick that they can’t take the necessary steps to get to their healing.  When we say that God can only heal us through prayer, we are putting Him in the smallest box possible.  He can do anything.  He uses doctors, psychologists, and other professionals to bring healing to those who are sick.  He instills medical professionals with wisdom, and that wisdom is not to be taken lightly.

I’m so tired of the stigma that someone who is sick is lacking in faith.  We see Job’s friends telling him the same sort of thing while he was struggling with loosing his family, possessions, and his health.  But was Job faithless?  No, the opposite actually.  Job never renounced God.  He never lost his faith despite his struggles.  So to say that those who are in the middle of the struggle have little faith is a falsehood.  Do you know why his faith remained so strong?  Because he sought the Lord first.  We seek first the King of Kings, and then we take action through His anointing.

{How You Can Help}

So, what is the answer then?  How do we help those struggling with anxiety in the church?  I believe that the first step is to bend your ear and listen.  Really listen.  If you are a leader in the church, stop what you are doing and make it a point to meet with those who are exhibiting signs of an anxious mind.  When they are telling you how they feel and what is going on, don’t rebuke them…rebuke the fear.  They are believing a lie, but that doesn’t make them unworthy of your attention.  If you ignore the problem (their anxiousness), it won’t go away on its own.  In fact, it will grow into a bigger issue.

Anxious people tend to feel that they don’t deserve help.  They feel guilty for giving into fear, and a lot of times don’t feel comfortable asking for prayer or help.  So if you are a believer (not necessarily a leader or pastor), please open your eyes to see those who are living in fear.  Ask the holy spirit to reveal those who need a reminder of the truth.  When you do see them, take a step of faith and reach out!  Don’t sit there thinking, “that’s the pastors job.  I am not trained to deal with that.”  Yes you are!  The holy spirit equips you!

The third step is to inform them of their options.  Acquaint yourself with a list of counselors, pastors, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals in your community.  Pray with them for wisdom in this next step.  And don’t bring your opinions into the mix.  Seek the Lord for guidance here, and trust that He is able to do the impossible through others.  If you have a friend who struggled with anxiety and they ended up being diagnosed as bipolar, don’t assume that everyone struggling with anxiety also struggles with bipolar disorder.  It’s not your job to diagnose, because you have no training.  Placing your assumptions onto an anxious person will only escalate the problem.

The fourth step is to keep them accountable to getting help.  There are so many excuses: I’m feeling better today, my husband doesn’t think I need help, I can’t go because there is no one to watch my kids…etc.  If you hear any of these things, help them solve the problem.  If they need someone to watch their kids while they see the doctor or go to therapy, be that person!  And don’t ask.  Tell them that you will be available during such and such a time so that they can get the help they need.  If they are feeling better one day, remind them that anxiety has its ups and downs and that it’s far better to get help now than to wait until it spirals out of control.  If they have no support system at home, pray with them that their loved one would be filled with grace and wisdom.  Then, be their support. In most cases mental disorders are not cured overnight.  It may take months/years to find the proper treatment.  Renewing the mind takes time.  So be with them in the waiting, and remind them of God’s truth.

The last step is my favorite by far.  Rejoice with them in their victory!  When God has helped them overcome fear, give praise to whom it is due.  And when guilt seeps into their minds and reminds them of their past, speak truth over them.  Refresh their memory that the past is gone.  They have been healed by the blood of Jesus, and He doesn’t look back.  Emphasize that guilt and shame are not a fruit of the holy spirit and rebuke the accusations of the enemy in Jesus name.  When they come to you after a situation has them rattled, affirm their victory over anxiety, and reiterate that fear has no place to stand in their mind.

 

I hope this post has been informative and also encouraging to you!

If you are in the middle of the struggle (anxiety/depression) please seek help immediately.  Your mind, body, and soul can’t wait for the heavy burden to be lifted.  I promise you that even if this struggle never ends in this life, there is healing and restoration in the next.  Hold fast to that hope as you walk through your valley.

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All the praise goes to God for the amazing work he has done in and through me.

 

-Janell

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Katie says:

    This is so very brave, Janell. I’ve walked through this with someone I love so I know much of this, but at the same time there is much I don’t understand. Your vulnerability and willingness to shine light here is inspiring. Celebrating every step of victory with you. ❤

    1. Janell says:

      Thank you so much for reading Katie! And I’m sure that whomever you’ve walked with is grateful to have such a loving and brave soul fighting for them!

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