As I sit here writing this, my body is trying to call the shots. The anxiety I used to battle several years ago, has annoyingly and tormentingly crept back into my life. The very real feelings of hopelessness, chest pains, feeling boxed in, like there’s no way out and fighting just to breathe have become something I deal with from time to time.
Before we go any further, I want you to know I am writing about my own personal battle of “Feelings Vs. Truth”. Yours may look similar or completely different than mine. Either way, this is my journey and I hope and pray you are encouraged by it and know that you are not alone.
Anxiety and it’s cousin depression are stupid little parasites that creep into your life when you’re already down and at your worst. They come in like little thieves, rob you of your joy and purpose and make you doubt what you once believed in. They know when to rear their ugly little heads to torment you, and when to lay low so you think you’ve finally beat them. I hate them, wish I’d never met them, and admittedly get sucked into their downward spiral from time to time.
I’m a “feelings” kind of person. I have BIG feelings. My mother used to tell me I was sensitive as I was growing up. Something I learned to hate about myself. As a kid, big reactions became a direct response to my big feelings. I was over the top, explosive and emotional. All of which were frowned upon. Add emotional experiences and instability to my upbringing, and you’ve got a recipe for some less than healthy coping skills.
Eventually, I decided it would be better to take those big feelings and stuff them down somewhere where they wouldn’t come up and cause a scene. It hurt too much. I started to deny my feelings instead of acknowledge them. I started to ignore them instead of hold them to God’s truth. I built walls around them to keep people from hurting them and hurting me. But depression and anxiety kept feeding and getting bigger, as I kept their buffet fully stocked. I became miserable.
Depression and anxiety are greedy. They aren’t content with the free ride I was giving them and they wanted more. But, their cover was blown with a simple prayer. “Lord Awaken My Heart…”
Last year my family and I participated in a church wide time of prayer and fasting. The prayer for our church was for God to awaken our hearts, revive the places where we’ve gone numb. (“Awaken My Heart” message.) I was blown away as God began to reveal to me the exact moment in time when I chose to turn my feelings off. The problem is, feelings can’t be turned off. God didn’t design us that way. They can however be ignored, misplaced and/or elevated as idols in our lives. I have done all three.
But wait, there’s good news! God has a plan for our feelings! He wants them. He wants us to take them to Him where He can acknowledge them, tell us how to use them, and hold them up to His truth. When we submit our feelings to God, He brings truth and clarity.
Does this make the feelings go away? No, not always. I believed a lie that just because I prayed about my feelings, the good ones would be comforting and empowering and the bad or hurtful ones would disappear. God deals with things differently that I do, and differently than I’d like. Through these past few months of staying at home, I’ve learned that I can’t manipulate God with my feelings. I can’t say “I don’t FEEL you!” just to get Him to show up. While He cares about my feelings, they don’t always call the shots.
A few months ago, depression hit me hard. I laid in bed, begging God to pull me out of it. I begged Him to be able to FEEL His presence again like I have so many time before. Nothing…. I got nothing. The little depression demon began to whisper in my ear, “Where is He when you really need Him? This whole God, Jesus Christian thing is a joke…a big ole’ stretch to make yourself feel better when things seem out of control. Made up, nonsense. Where is He now?”.
I went to bed that night and cried myself to sleep. In the morning, I woke up with a song in my head. “Soon” by Hillsong serenaded me from the moment I opened my eyes until I realized this is what He had for me today. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a hug, an embrace, but it was enough. Despite the song in my heart, for a long moment, I got caught up in the lies. My mind went to the darkest place it could go. A life without God. It broke me. I cried out to Him and told Him, “If I don’t have You, I have nothing. My whole life is based on You and who You say You are. I don’t want to live if I don’t have You.”
Then, somehow I knew I’d be alright. I can’t explain it. It took being at that bottom to realize how much He means to me. No, the depression didn’t go away. I still felt lost and hopeless, but I had SOMETHING to hold onto. A song. I reached for my phone, pulled it up and let it wash over me. “Soon and very soon my King is coming” played over and over. Each time I let it sink in a little bit deeper. Eventually, I had enough to get out of bed. Even though He gave me this, I was still mad. It wasn’t enough. I felt like He was holding out on me. I told Him so. (If anything, I’ve learned that God doesn’t care if I’m angry. At Him or anything/one else. All He wants is for me to talk to Him about it.) He still didn’t give me what I wanted.
I had weeks with just a song and the support of my husband and Godly friends. They listened to me as I worked this thing out with God. I can tell you that now, I’m ok. I’m still waiting on that embrace I wanted so desperately, (even though I now know why He didn’t give it to me). I know depression and anxiety will eventually try their tricks on me again, but what God taught me in the process of the last battle, will get me through the next one. I’ll even go as far as to say that I am grateful for it. Grateful for the battle because it taught me more about Him, more about me and ultimately brought us closer together.
He showed me, feelings NEVER change the truth of any situation. His truth is solid fact, no matter what I may be feeling.
My feelings said “He’s not here”. His truth says “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. – Joshua 1:9
My feelings said “I’m going crazy. Depression is stealing my joy!” His truth says “I’ve given you a sound mind. The enemy wants to steal your joy. All he does is steal kill and destroy.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, – John 10:10
My feelings said “You left me, and abandoned me when I needed you most”. His truth says “Never will I leave you or forsake you. Just because you can’t feel me, doesn’t mean I’m not there.” – Hebrews 13:5
The truth is, no matter what I’m feeling, He remains. His truth trumps my feelings every time. I will probably write about this again because I’m constantly learning in this area. I’m trusting in Him to lead me in a life where I am not ruled by my feelings. I want to be led by Him, not riding on my roller coaster of emotions! He is the constant…I am not. He is always there whether I feel Him or not. I am grateful for a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.