community, credos, death, eternal matters, genuineness, goals, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, positivity, purpose

My Journey From Dark to Light

April 1999 was one of the darkest months of my life. Not only did my future faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott, die during this month, but I was ready to throw in the towel on my own life as well. In fact, in one of my journal entries, dated April 9 of that year, I had written: I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?

To the outside world, I had it easy, but inside I was crumbling at the seams. Not only was my academic load at school getting heavier and more pressured, but I also had to deal with an abusive teacher that nearly killed my soul. Moreover, I felt alienated from my family and felt that they couldn’t relate to my problems, and I had few friends, and theydidn’t know me well enough to really delve into the pain I held deep inside. Feelings of insecurity, hopelessness and overwhelm. I never imagined that I would ever make anything out of my life, as my verbally abusive teacher had claimed in so many words to me. I had little hope that my circumstances would ever improve or that anything would be or could be any different.

But when Jesus rescued me from the pit of despair and disillusionment the next year, He would change my life forever. I would find that zest life was supposed to hold, but it wasn’t in me. It was in Him!

How did Jesus change my life? How did He help me? Well, as the Anne Wilson song goes, “Let me tell you about my Jesus” and how He changed me.

Nearly twenty one years later, I sit in my room, and despite back pain, I am content with my life. Jesus has brought many supportive people into my life who have been there for me through the ups and downs of my life recently. I do want my physical pain to end and to be the end of all pain and suffering in this world, not only for me, but for all those around me. However, I know and trust that Jesus is with me through it and that He will give me the strength I need to persevere and to live for His glory.

Recently, my former pastor wrote me something that I thought was very wise and gives me hope in trials: Remember as believers our suicide is dying for self and living for Christ. Why not consider yourself dead and obey God?

So here I am, twenty one years later, still dealing with physical pain and in the grips of pandemic protocol, while Jesus is stripping away the selfish, insecure, overwhelmed, feeling-hopeless me, into a bright light that shines to the world for Him.

Jesus can change anyone’s life. Even if you feel that your circumstances will never change, remember how God entered into my life twenty years ago and transformed my life forever. He can do the same for you!

If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 800-273-8255. There IS hope when you are alive,. and there is help out there!

anthem, caring, eternal matters, goals, God, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, stories, truth, work

How Passion and Purpose Bring Joy

I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before.  This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.

However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable.  The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be.  Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.

When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework.  Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.

When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.”  That is, find joy in the work you are doing now.  Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work.  Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do.  This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me! 

Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?”  First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever.  Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted.  Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic.  This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard.  Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually  lead to my work quality getting better.

Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department.  If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work.  For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area.  After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store!  This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.  My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me.  Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me.  Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up.  Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy.  When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
caring, emodiversity, eternal matters, heroes, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth

How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety (including what NOT to say)

I have had struggles with depression and anxiety for many years, but during the past five years things have really started to improve dramatically, despite some challenging circumstances, such as having to move out of state for the first time in my entire life!  I would like to thank those people who have stuck by me through my life’s journey and encouraged me to never give up.  These same people have also taught me how to encourage, validate, and strengthen others who also, like me, struggle with depression and/or anxiety. 

I am a born perfectionist, not so much for others, but definitely for myself.  I broke down in tears the other day at work because the pressure of performing at a certain rate and the anxiety of not meeting the goals I (and, I thought, the managers) set for me at the time.  I dreaded disappointing them. I was afraid that they would think less of me as a person, or think that I wasn’t trying hard enough. The truth was that I had become so fixated on performing that my drive was starting to suck out the joy and motivation to even work!  Anxiety was starting to take over even before I clocked in to work.  However, one of my managers, Jim,* validated my presence and my character.  He made it clear that he did not expect me to perform at that rate every day, and it was OK to have bad days sometimes.  When someone is anxious, especially about not doing or being enough, a good way to calm their anxieties is to reassure them that you value them no matter what they do.  Also, validate something in their character that has nothing to do with what they are anxious about. For instance, Jim complimented me on how I make people joyful inside. 

However, I know from experience that there are things that you should never say to someone struggling with depression and anxiety. I had someone tell another person trying to calm my anxieties and depression not to “baby” me.  Never disparage someone struggling as “weak,” “babyish,” or “silly.” They already have low self-esteem, and may even have suicidal thoughts.  If you feel emotionally overloaded trying to help someone with depression and/or anxiety, don’t. Instead, enlist the help of another person who is better able to help them. 

Another way to help someone struggling with depression and anxiety is to invest in them and believe in their abilities. When someone is clinically depressed, they feel like they are in a deep, dark tunnel with no way out.  They don’t typically see their God-given abilities and talents. If someone is anxious about themselves, they may think that trying anything new or that they haven’t done in a while will result in catastrophic failure, so why try? My mentor J saw that I was depressed and didn’t want to get out of the house much.  I did not believe that I would ever get a job or do anything worthy in my life.  Thankfully, she saw a way out of my deep, dark tunnel of doubt and despair, and walked me through the long, but worthy process of helping me gain independence and be employed. She invested in me and believed in my God-given abilities.  When we take the time and effort to invest in someone struggling with depression and anxiety, we will most likely see a slow, but steady growth in that person.  They will be able to have hope and joy again. I can’t speak for J, but her investment has made a huge impact on how I view life and my challenges.  So far, even though I still get anxious and depressed sometimes, my episodes don’t last as long and are not as severe as before I met her.

Sometimes, the best way to help a depressed or anxious person is just to be there for and listen to them.  One of my online friends did not think she was doing much because she felt that she wasn’t able to completely get me out of my depressive episode.  She did more than many people offline I know. She didn’t have to say anything. She did not make things worse by offering unsolicited and unhelpful advice.  She just listened. Sometimes that is all that the person struggling needs at the time—someone that will care enough to listen and to be there for them, when no one else seems to be there.

Finally, we can pray for those struggling with depression and anxiety. We can pray for God’s presence to flood them. We can ask God to help them see His sovereignty and caring hand in the situation that they are in so their anxieties would be quelled.  We can ask God to help them see the hope and joy that awaits them if they put their trust in Him and do not give up on their lives.

If you are struggling now, there is a way out even if it doesn’t seem that way right now.  Don’t give up. If you are recovering, make it a point to help others out of the tunnel of darkness and help them see the Light of Joy and Love.  There is always hope when you are alive.

*=not his real name

caring, community, eternal matters, family, friends, God, heroes, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Things That Lifted Me Out of Depressive Episodes

I have struggled on and off with depression for more than 25 years.  However, God always brings people and certain things in my life that help me through these tough times and give me much hope.  The three main things that God brings into my life to help me through a depressive episode are the strength to persevere, support, and hope.

Growing up, I found it extremely difficult to make and maintain friendships because of the problems I had understanding how to socialize with others.  I felt like the odd ball out. I felt lonely and that if people really knew the true me inside, they would completely avoid even talking to me, let alone be my friend!   This made me feel extremely lonely and even suicidal at times. However, about ten years ago, about the time my mentor J came into my life, I found a good, bible believing church to attend. I started to have the hope that maybe people would like me for who I was.  I started opening up about the pain and the struggles I had in my life, and I discovered something that I had never really known before—acceptance and love—from my peers. Not only that, I discovered that when I shared who I really was, warts and all, in this blog and with those who were close to me, that I freed them to share their struggles and forged a deeper connection with those around me.

One of the darkest periods of my life thus far was when I was in my early teens. My parents were struggling with paying for two houses.—One they still owned and wanted to sell, the other was the one they just bought. I really struggled with making lasting friendships because of my problems with socializing and the fact that my peer groups were starting to form cliques, and I didn’t belong to any of them. I also struggled with severe OCD and an eating disorder. They were like clouds hovering over every part of my life.

However, God did not let me give up. He sustained me and loved me, even though I did not yet know Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.  During that time, God gave me strength to get through each day. Though I wasn’t happy or in good spirits, I was still alive. 

Yet another difficult period in my life was when struggled to find a job that suited my skill set.  Towards the end of that period, God brought my mentor J into my life.  She did not see a person void of hope and skill, as some others did. She saw a person that had potential.  J believed in me so much, she persisted in pushing me to find work and did not let me delve into despair.  Finally, in June 2013, I found, what was going to be, my first steady job outside my home, for a long time.  I learned so much there.  My depression really began to lift, and I began to see my potential to positively impact the world around me for the first time.

Not only has J helped me in my job searching, but she has also helped me learn new things and conquer my fears.  For instance, I had a fear of driving because I believed the lie that I would never learn to drive and that I would not amount to much in this life. This lie was first told to me by someone in authority that I was taught should be respected and trusted. What I didn’t know at the time was that authority figures were sinful humans like me and sometimes made mistakes too.

J had great influence on me too, but she believed that if I just had enough practice, I would be able to drive myself.  About a year later, J’s prediction came true and I got my first car! The reason why I had not been able to find a good job earlier and was depressed and down on myself was because I really feared driving. Thus, I never drove, and this fear kept me for applying for jobs that required driving for more than 5 to 10 minutes, which really narrowed the jobs that I could get that matched my skill set. God brought J into my life not only as a support, but also to give me hope in my life.

God has always given me the strength to persevere though my trials, has given me support in the midst of it, or has given me hope that things would be better in the future if I continued persevering through it.  God has used these trials to make me a stronger, more compassionate person, conformed to the image of His Son.  If you or someone you know is going through a trial right now, let me encourage you to trust that God will also give you the strength to persevere, supportive people in your life, and/or the hope that things will get better soon.

bullying, caring, community, eternal matters, friends, God, heroes, life, love, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Reason to Live

-written September 6, 2020

I almost killed myself. Several times in my life. Recently, my friend related his interactions with a bullied classmate that was daily experiencing torment from his (the classmate’s) peers, before the classmate took his own life. Suddenly, I realized that had God not intervened when He did, that bullied classmate’s fate could have well been mine as well. 

As a female on the spectrum, I am no stranger to the experience of having been bullied, and eventually losing the will to live.  My peers teased me from everything from my appearance to my socially awkward mannerisms.  The ones that did not bully me either ignored me or hung out with me out of pity for my lack of friends and social skills.  They dared not become too close to me and genuinely get to really know me as a person with hopes and dreams.  These people may have meant well, but I could see through their veneers. 

In high school, after being emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher (Yes, you read that right. An. Adult. Teacher), I came to the brink of suicide.  With little intimate support, other than my parents who didn’t know what went on until later, I thought things would never get better. I had strong suicidal ideations. I was also jealous of my younger brother who I thought had everything I lacked.

Unlike my friend’s classmate, I did not end up taking my own life. God, in His goodness and mercy, slowly revealed Himself and His love for me. God slowly brought people into my life that helped me through the challenges of my season of life—People that believed in me,  that did not just pity me, but encouraged my God-given abilities and really wanted to relate to me as a person and know my life story. 

I have heard and seen some people say that if it weren’t for their pet (or insert “X” thing/person here), they would have no reason to live. I say, if I did not have God and He never intervened in my life, I would have no reason to live.

Thankfully, God is my reason to live, and He did intervene in my life numerous times when I needed Him the most! God has also motivated me to strive for excellence in everything I do, regardless of the temporal rewards that may await because eternal ones are much more valuable to me. God has also made me realize that there are people that need to hear my story of how He rescued me and gave me hope, because many people desperately need that right now.

They need to hear your story as well. So, whatever situation you are facing, don’t give up. Don’t. Give. Up.  You can save someone’s life in the future simply by not giving up on yours and triumphing through life’s challenges. Someone will need to hear your story. Let yours be one of hope and perseverance for others.

If you are feeling like giving up, there is help for you. You don’t have to go through this life alone. Please call 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline) if you or someone you know is feeling like giving up on life.  Remember, you are NOT alone, and there is hope for you as long as you are still alive.

bullying, caring, friends, God, heroes, hiding, love, pain, poem, purpose, rejection, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Balm for the Pain

for T.K.

7/9/2020

Memories of darkness–

The cruel words that were said

The lies that I was fed

Invade my helpless soul

 

They flood back in an instant,

When my soul tries to heal

From untold scars and pain,

That again I must feel

 

These demons haunt my soul

As they trap me with fear

That my foes will be ones dear

And I would be left alone

 

But God sent you to me

He wanted me to see

That there was still much hope,

As dark would melt into light

community, emodiversity, eternal matters, God, illness, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, truth

Faith’s Role In Beating Depression

Recently, I had an epiphany! I was complaining to my mom about something so minor that I can’t recall what it was right now, and she said these words that had a profound effect on how I saw God and my situation: We accept what God gives us.

Not only did those words convict me of my complaining, but they also gave me a new perspective on how I could choose to view the trials and cares of my life.

I have been struggling on and off with depression for more than twenty five years now and have just recently begun to realize that most of the triggers that fueled my depression stemmed from some type of discontentment that I was feeling , whether it was dissatisfaction with some aspect of how God made me (Why am I so short? Why did He make me have this type of personality, rather than someone more agreeable? ), my situation (Why am I experiencing this? Why don’t people like me? Why am I so burdened by “X” problem or problems? ), and so on.

One good example of me being depressed (or, in this case, more upset and anxious) because of discontentment was in my work relationship with one of my bosses I had.  I had prayed for one and half years for the relationship to be repaired and/or improved. I was so faithless that I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of my problems with this boss! One day I was so upset that when I went to church on my day off, I was visibly distraught about this situation and felt like if I didn’t have help soon, I would blow up and totally lose my cool in front of my boss. Thankfully, my pastor made me look in the mirror and see how I contributed to the problems I had with my boss.  The Holy Spirit ended up prodding me to write a note to my boss apologizing for the anger and bitterness I had held against him.  From that day on, our work relationship dramatically improved. Now, I am happy to say that he was one of the best bosses I have ever had! Had I accepted that God gave me my boss for a reason and how God was working, I would have probably enjoyed a better work relationship with him much earlier!

God also helped me see why I should accept what He gives us in life. He gives us the answer in Romans 8:28(KJV) – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do we know that all things work together for good to them who love God? Because God is always good!  

This is where the devil tempts us to doubt, and thus sprout seeds of discontent in our lives.  He has been doing this ever since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, with the forbidden fruit.  The devil tempted Eve by saying to her, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5—KJV).  In other words, Satan was saying to her that God did not have her best in mind when He forbade her and Adam to eat of the fruit—that God was withholding good (“ye shall be as gods”) from her and Adam for His own benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Satan does the same thing with us!  

For instance, when I complain about how God created me, Satan has successfully convinced me of the lie that God made a mistake, that He did something wrong and bad in the way He created me!  When we complain about a situation or a person that God has put in our lives that we don’t particularly like and it seems that either the difficult situation will never end or the difficult person hangs around in our lives forever, we believe the lie that God is trying to make us “suffer” or maybe that God does not have our best interests in mind when He allows the situation or person to linger more than we’d like.  We fail to realize that maybe God wants to teach us something through that person or situation, or that He wants to use them to refine our character and make us more like Himself! We also demonstrate lack of faith that God can make something good come out of that situation and person.

However, I find that when I trust God completely and when I accept what God has given me, I feel much more content in my life.  God then opens my eyes to see all the ways He has blessed me, and I begin to realize just how blessed I truly am! I begin to see how God is working in my life, and how I can reflect His light.  In contrast to the hopelessness that depression often brings, having faith in God’s goodness and plans for us gives me great hope. Faith has helped me to learn to trust that everything God does is for my good, even the trials in my life. No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV) I find that when I start to get burdened by all that is going on in my life, but then come to Jesus for rest, I find that I am significantly less depressed and anxious.  In that I find great hope for my life!

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, truth

My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

anthem, community, emodiversity, eternal matters, genuineness, God, hiding, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, rejection, stories, suffering, truth

On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability. 

What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world.  Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears.  Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”.  I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure. 

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later. 

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long. 

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well.  In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between.  Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly. 

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told.  God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me.  God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay
caring, community, eternal matters, forgiveness, friends, genuineness, God, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, purpose

On Combating Loneliness


image by : Lukas Rychvalsky

written 4/1/2019

A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.

We were all created for community. Even when Adam was surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be surrounded by people, at least some of the time.  Believers in Christ or not, we are all created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.

When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood.  Many people, especially the younger generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up. 

Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also be more isolated.  While we may have more virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have suffered.  Because many people may see that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality.  For instance, in my personal life, I found that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more. 

One of the things that God has taught me through all that, is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!  However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.  Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place!  Also, when we are part of a community, there is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25, Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t neglect your local church community).

Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge idols.  I know several people who have turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or loneliness, in their lives.  One of my pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.

So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.  One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character.  In my class that I attend Thursday nights at church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap again.

God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may crave it.  This may be due to a number of reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again.  They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it will ruin them as well.  I used to be one of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others, and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely, but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in life.  So, how was I able to be more “real” and “vulnerable” with others?  First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest times.  I also strived to forgive those who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people respected them, I sometimes felt alone.  However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships with these managers also started to improve dramatically!  Also, in order to not feel lonely for a prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on relationships completely.  Also, God may want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.

We were not created to be alone. That is why children and adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.

Source:

  1. Jenkins, Aric. (1 May 2018). Study Finds That Half of Americans — Especially Young People — Feel Lonely Fortune. Retrieved from: http://fortune.com/2018/05/01/americans-lonely-cigna-study/.
  2. Hedegaard, Holly, etal. , Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. (June 2018). NCHS Data Brief, 309. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db309.htm.