The Your Stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…
“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like / but I’ve heard the tender whispers / of love in the dead of night / and you tell me that you’re pleased / and that I’m never alone…” – Good Good Father, Chris Tomlin
The opening of this song takes me back to so many moments in my life where God’s provision appeared so evidently. Specifically during an important period of my life where I was traveling the world on an eleven-month mission trip called The World Race. We traveled to eleven countries in eleven months and spent time in Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America. When I close my eyes while listening to this song, a movie reel of sweet memories plays – dancing in the rain we had prayed for after the longest drought Swaziland has ever seen, handing fruit and water to hundreds of refugees as they came off the freezing water into Greece in search of their own freedom, the sweet relief of an IV in an African village hospital after nine of us experienced a brutal episode of food poisoning, running down the streets of a Roma (gypsy) village with children singing the songs we taught them in church at the top of our lungs, and so many more indescribable moments.
But my absolute favorite memory of God’s total provision came in Swaziland. A dear friend had expressed something God was telling her to tell me. For so long, I had put God in a box, only giving him so much control in my life. I could speak until my face was blue, that I was giving God all of the control. But in fact there were certain parts of my life I was not willing to give Him. One of these areas was control itself. I needed to have control over my own life; I needed to be in control of everything. Over the course of a week or two, I really worked through this need. And on a cracked cement floor, under the brightest Milky Way I have ever seen in my life in the middle-of-nowhere Swaziland, I handed God the control. I found freedom – freedom in no longer needing to have control over my own life because the One who created everything ultimately always had control over my life.
Here’s the thing… when I did give God control, I experienced sweet, sweet freedom. The friends I traveled with could tell I was a different person, and I could tell I was a different person. I was more carefree, more relaxed, and more go-with-the-flow than my typical Type A personality. It all just felt so easy. Before we left Africa, I even tattooed the word “freedom” on the inside of my forearm as a constant reminder of letting go of control.
Almost two years later now, every time I look at my arm, I am reminded of the never-ending journey I walk with God when it comes to handing over my control. I often think we have to experience something multiple times, and in a variety of ways, before we really learn it. It is not a “one and done” thing; it is a daily act, sometimes even an hourly act. It is not easy and some days it is downright difficult. In Swaziland, I gave God the control over my life, but since then it has been tested over and over again in so many different ways.
Today giving God that control looks a lot different. I am currently living with depression and anxiety, and it is not easy. In fact, it is near impossible to do alone. General anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and depression: separated they are manageable; together they are deadly. Over this past year, they seeped into every aspect of my life, ultimately leading my mental health into a deep, downward spiral. Towards the end of the summer, I realized just how alone I felt in my journey. I had hit rock bottom and it took three days of total body exhaustion and being unable to function to realize this.
But still, I did not turn to God because I thought I had given him all of the control back in Swaziland. Instead, I turned to a few friends and social media. I began to share more of my journey with mental illness. I discovered others lived an eerily similar life – one tainted with years of anxiety and depression. I began to really open up about how social anxiety affects my life, and how it feels to do the simplest things in life – like go to the grocery store and go to the park with the kids I nanny. I began to learn more about anxiety and depression, how anxiety functions in the brain, and how really I am living with an unfixable chemical imbalance.
While opening up to others helped, I knew I was still missing something. And then it hit me. While I was sitting in a room with about thirty other women in a bible study, God spoke these words to me: Give it to me; all I’ve wanted is to carry your burdens. I realized I no longer have to walk this journey of mental illness alone. I no longer have to let the anxiety control my thoughts, my reactions, or my life. I realized that just like I gave God my desire to have control over everything, I could give Him my anxiety and depression.
Just as I gave Him my desire for control in Swaziland, giving Him my anxiety and depression is not a one-and-done kind of thing either. My desire for control, and living with a mental illness will always be a part of my life, a part of who I am. But by choosing every day to give these things to God, I breathe easier, I live easier, and I am not weighed down by unnecessary burdens. By choosing to hand these difficult things to God each day, I am reminded over and over that provision can come in so many different ways. He provides in church sermons, and in worship that speaks deeply to the heart, in community and friendships that uplift my weary soul, and in so many other little moments each day if I only look for them.
For years, I tried to walk the journey of living with anxiety and depression alone, never letting anyone in. For years, I tried to be in control over every aspect of my life. I thought I could handle it all myself, thought I could deal with everything on my own, and thought I could control it all. How wrong I was! We have a God, an absolutely loving Father, who tells us we are never alone, who wants to carry all of our burdens for us, and who wants to provide us with everything we need.
What burdens are you holding tightly to your chest? What are you choosing to keep to yourself that you could let go of and give to God?