AMH Series // His Word is Written Across My Heart
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to keep a busy schedule. I was the girl to sign up for student government and the school newspaper, work a part time job and take seventeen credit hours. I’ve never been one to shy away from responsibility or from fun.
Life is short so I like to make the most of it, and when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I play rewind on what I’ve accomplished for the day:
✔️ Support my husband in PA School? Check!
✔️ Speak at this upcoming event? Yes.
✔️ Plan the next community outreach activity? You’ve got it.
✔️ Sneak in a tea party with Grandma to make her feel special? Of course.
✔️ Start a side hustle for some extra cash? Done!
✔️ Decorate for the birthday party? Already got the theme picked out!
I guess you could say that my life is like one long, categorized checklist of activities. And I usually feel pretty good about it.
Until this spring.
When I started experiencing anxiety, I was caught by surprise. My perfectly penciled-in schedule began to turn into a bunch of scribbles. It started in small ways at first. My thoughts were racing. I wasn’t daydreaming as often as I used to. I was having a hard time breathing, and my emotions were out of whack.
My sister was the first to notice that I just didn’t seem as carefree and happy. With one look at my life she could see that I was trying to do too much. She offered to take some of the responsibilities off my plate for the summer while I finished my seminary class. In fact, she’s been the one formatting and posting all the blogs the last two months (Thanks, Amber!).
But when the slight adjustments to my schedule weren’t enough to silence my anxious thoughts, I questioned whether this was my “new normal”? Were my carefree days over? Was I going to live a life of anxiety from here on out?
I realized that I had reached the end of myself.
We are only human
Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. The prophet Elijah was a remarkable character in Israel’s history during the time of the Kings. Throughout his life, he was no stranger to witnessing the power of God yet even he experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression:
- nervousness, restlessness, or being tense.
- feelings of danger, panic, or dread.
- weakness and lethargy.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The symptoms can look drastically different for everyone, but Elijah identified with quite a few on this list.
After defeating the prophets of Baal and experiencing one of his greatest spiritual victories through decisive action and answered prayer (1 Kings 18), he found himself in the depths of depression (1 Kings 19). King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had sent out a death threat for Elijah’s life. He fled, scared and panicked. He felt helpless and worthless. He wanted to die.
In 1 Kings 19 he prayed, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
Elijah literally called out to God, asking Him to take His life. This wasn’t a noble moment of enlightenment, longing to be with the Lord like Paul writes about in Philippians. No. Elijah was beside himself and wanted to give up on the realities of life.
So how do you think God responded?
Maybe you imagine God being disappointed in Elijah for wanting to give up. After all, God had just performed incredible miracles on Mt. Carmel, and Elijah had quickly doubted God’s faithfulness.
Maybe you think God belittled him, telling him that he shouldn’t feel that way.
Or maybe you think God responded by giving Elijah a pep talk, much like we do with our friends…. “Elijah, I know you’ve got this because you’re awesome”!
If you’ve read the story, you know that God did something so radically different than we could ever imagine. It was such a natural gesture, so simple and humbling. God didn’t correct him or push him. God sent an angel of the Lord to meet Elijah right where he was, in the middle of his mess, in the center of his humanness.
God recognizes our humanity
1 Kings 19 tells us that the angel of the Lord touched Elijah and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
In his loving mercy, God didn’t push him beyond his limits. He recognized his humanity. He told him to eat. He gave him rest. He met his human needs.
And He does the same for us today. When we are stressed out or physically strained, we don’t have to try and take on the world. God recognizes our humanity. He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. He feeds our physical bodies as well as our souls.
We need to recognize God
During my battle with anxiety this spring, I had what could be called a mini “panic attack”. I was hyperventilating and having a hard time controlling my physiological responses to the pressure I was under.
When our team traveled to Pennsylvania to attend the Sexual Theology conference with Dannah Gresh, I received a powerful revelation from God. We had an intentional time of healing prayer with our team, and I invited God to speak into the brokenness of my heart.
God showed me that I had been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders when it shouldn’t be there. I had been expecting myself to solve my own problems when they weren’t mine to solve. And I actually felt freed from my burdens of anxiety by realizing I’m not as awesome I thought I was. I can’t do it all. I’m only human. I have limitations. I don’t hold the world in my hands. God does. God doesn’t need me. I need God.
Sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform, to be the treasure rather than jars of clay. The more we become aware of our personal limitations, the more we become aware of our deep need for a Savior. It’s in our humility that we realize our position before an almighty God.
2 Corinthians 4: 7- 12, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
We are not all that impressive. Like jars of clay, we are lumpy and imperfect. But the power of the Holy Spirit and eternal hope within us? That is impressive!!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The end of ourselves is where dependance on God truly begins
I wish I could say that I never struggle with feelings of anxiety, but that’s simply not the case. Life can be stressful. That won’t change. I’ve just taken the time to invite God into those feelings and ask Him where they are coming from.
When you start feeling overwhelmed, lean into that feeling a bit. Ask God, why am I feeling this way?
Are these emotions coming from a place of reliance on my own power? Am I taking on too many responsibilities that aren’t mine to shoulder? Am I truly trusting Him for the future? Am I making my life about me and my ability? Or about the power of God?
When we experience weakness, it is an opportunity to tap into our true source of strength.
Friends, don’t be discouraged when you reach the end of yourself. Realize this truth: the end of ourselves is where dependance on God truly begins.