How often are we told that we can’t be Christian or at least Christian enough because we suffer from anxiety and depression? How often do people judge our relationship with Jesus because we have panic attacks?
I have been a Christian since I was ten years old. I didn’t start suffering from anxiety until a few years later. My relationship with Jesus has continually grown from the day I accepted Him into my heart. I’m not saying I haven’t been stagnate at times or even really distant from God, but growth has always been happening.
Anxiety, Depression, and any other mental illnesses are the way the brain functions. Accepting Jesus into your heart isn’t likely to immediately take away all anxieties and worries. It’s not going to end all the triggers and the trauma. The world around you isn’t going to change.
But now, you have Jesus. You have someone you know that loves and strives to be in relationship with you. You have someone who is walking along this path called life with you. There is hope in the Gospel message. There is hope in Jesus.
Eventually this relationship with Jesus may cause you to start to see yourself as worthy. This relationship may cause you to see the love and light in the people around you. This relationship may end a life long struggle with anxiety.
But… it may not. You may know these truths: that your loved, that your worthy, that you are a child of God, that God chose you. But it may not calm the self-critic in you. In fact, you may even experience a time where your anxiety gets worse.
If God loves me so much why can’t (enter name here) love me? If I’m so worthy, why can’t I do anything right?
And it’s OKAY. It’s okay to fall into the trap of anxiety and depression from time to time. It is okay to have panic attacks and still get triggered. Just don’t stay their. Begin to slowly hand over things to Jesus.
A relationship with God can still be a trust issue for some people and God knows that. He doesn’t leave us nor forsake us. Soon we will be able to trust God with the burdens we carry. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
Don’t feel like you aren’t doing something right because you still have panic attacks or are still suffering from anxiety and Depression. Because you are taking the next right step, you are trusting in a God that loves you for who you are not who He wants you to be!
My brother Rees Harris II was born in December of 1982. He was soon diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome, the infantile form of spinal muscular atrophy. It was very rare. Only a handful of kids were diagnosed with it. The nerves don’t send impulses to the muscles so they don’t work. He could not move. He had a tracheostomy tube and a ventilator to breathe for him. He had a feeding tube so he’d get nutrition. He had around the clock nurses to care for him because his condition required suctioning of his trach & use of an ambu bag while not attached to the breathing machine. He passed away exactly 22 1/2 years after his birth, outliving his life expectancy by 22 years. He also outlived several of his doctors and our mom. So where was God in this struggle? Rees had a smile that kept you from seeing his problems. God was there. Rees had a fabulous mind trapped in a terrible body. God was there as he not only went to school, but excelled and was inducted into The National Honor Society. To have Rees live 22 years longer than expected was truly of God. He was sent home to die on July 1, 1983. Our parents were told early on to just let him go, to enjoy their three healthy children and live their lives. They did not. God was in their decision to keep him alive. God was there when they didn’t sleep, worried his condition would kill him sooner or later. God was there when our Mom died unexpectedly and we had to carry on without her. God was there when Rees finally could not fight anymore, when it was his time to go to heaven and join our mom and Jesus. As Rees was dying, my husband joined two of his nurses and me around his hospital bed. We prayed him up to heaven and Ken remarked, “Can you imagine your mom’s face when Rees WALKS to her in heaven?” How could we be sad? God won! Rees won! Every day was a miracle from God and we got well over 8000 of those days. God was always there and He is always there. He’s there in our struggles and our celebrations. Thank you God for always being there.
I believe that God heals. Isaiah 53:5 writes prophetically about Jesus, the Messiah who would redeem all of humanity, and notes that “He was beaten so we could be whole; He was whipped so we could be healed.” This passage coupled with the numerous healings Jesus and the apostles did, as well as a few healings I’ve seen personally, solidifies this belief.
But what happens when God doesn’t answer prayer? What happens when we don’t see the healing that we desperately seek? Is God still a God of healing?
On May 23, 2016, my family began to explore these questions when my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I was working on campus at Messiah College for the summer, with few friends to confide in, and I was mad. I was mad at God. I was having some difficulties with my faith at the time, and I didn’t know what to do. After an hour of talking with God, yelling at Him and crying to Him, God reminded me of a verse from the book of John: “In this world you will face many troubles. But take heart, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I had a choice: to either give up hope and turn from God, or to turn to Him and cling to the hope of this promise. Choosing to trust God, as I had in years prior, our family clung to His promises and prayed for Mom’s healing.
Mom started chemotherapy and was discouraged for the first month and a half. However, she found that living in fear was not only a hopeless position to have, but physically damaging for her health. When we are afraid, our body has natural responses: our heart rate increases causing our blood pressure to go up, our breathing becomes heavier, and adrenaline starts flowing through the body. While these symptoms of fear are typically used for a fight-or-flight scenario, when battling cancer it actually weakens the body and gives the cancer more strength. Mom put her hope in Jesus instead, and we saw her rapidly improve thanks to a lack of fear and the many prayers that were sent her way. By the end of August, three months after the initial diagnosis, her health was where most patients would hope to be six to nine months into chemotherapy. Mom was able to go back to work at our church in September.
We were grateful for God’s providence, and even during this time of better health, Mom continued to seek God for complete healing in her body. She declared Scriptures over herself, read various books about healing, and spent a lot of time in prayer. Our church was also very supportive during this time, in ways we had never seen our church work before – providing meals for our family, sending people to our home every night to pray, and even doing things that we hadn’t thought about, like yard work.
However, our time of rejoicing was short. Near Christmas, Mom had another scan that showed the cancer had grown. We were disappointed, but Mom chose to be thankful for the healing work that God had done, knowing that the growth was small compared to where her journey had begun. We recognized that cancer was not just a physical battle, but a spiritual one as well, as any sickness or disease is. However, we also knew Who held victory over sin, death, and disease, and we continued to trust Jesus.
The Spring of 2017 was a fairly consistent season with little change in Mom’s condition. For the most part, she was feeling well with the occasional bout of symptoms with each chemo treatment. In this strange season of seeking health for Mom, my parents went on a retreat together as they did every year. During that retreat, they felt God was saying something kind of odd: to make plans for the summer and to not change them. So Mom and Dad took that to heart and made their plans for the summer: they planned to help with a summer camp in June, attend a conference in DC in July, and visit missionaries in Thailand in August.
In May, a full year since Mom was diagnosed, she received bad news. The cancer was growing again – and we saw similar symptoms to what happened the year prior: the cancer in her liver was sending funny signals to the kidneys, and the kidneys were essentially telling her body that she was not retaining enough water. Thus, her body started to balloon with excess water weight, so much that she looked pregnant and had swollen feet and legs.
Despite these symptoms and the difficulties they presented, she did not fear and fully trusted God. Even though she was sick, she held onto what God told her to do and did not change anything. She helped out with camp in June and delighted in ministering to the campers and other counselors. She attended the conference in DC in July and enjoyed her stay, holding firmly to faith. Several of the other conference guests would approach Mom and, seeing her ballooned belly, ask “Are you expecting?” Mom would smile and say, “Yes, but I’m not expecting a baby. I’m expecting a miracle”, and would proceed to tell them her story. At the same time, she quietly made preparations in the scenario that healing would not occur – organizing her files, making sure people knew where things were, and having people at the church take on responsibilities she could not do as easily in her weakened state.
The closer the day to leave for Thailand came, the worse Mom’s condition became. Family, friends, and doctors asked her if she really wanted to go, but Mom was adamant: “God said not to change anything. I’m going on that plane.”
Mom passed away in a hospital in Japan after the plane stopped for a layover there. She passed in perfect peace, as if God’s Spirit had enveloped her in His love. Her story ended with her repeating a single phrase while on her deathbed:
“Just trust Jesus.”
There are many cliché things that can be said – “she was healed in heaven”, or “she received her healing differently than we thought”, which is true. However, it doesn’t help the heart ache of losing someone you loved. It doesn’t help to overcome the pain, the longing to see her and hear her say “I love you”, things that over a year later I am still wrestling with.
What it does do is beg a question: does God really want to heal?
Even now, I say yes.
Mom’s testimony of faith was to trust Jesus with everything. Jesus healed everywhere He went, and He delighted in restoring identity and wholeness into those around Him. Jesus also says that God hears our prayers, and desires to answer them, for a good Father will always have compassion on His child, and gives good gifts to His children.
However, I recognize that God is not the only unseen power. I think a better way to understand the world is to recognize the battle behind this reality. Life, both physical and spiritual, is often a battle, and sometimes, people die in battle. In mom’s case, she died valiantly and will full confidence in Christ. I am glad to know that I can take her words to heart and hold the same bold confidence in Christ and His power.
Besides, if she was able to fully trust Jesus in the midst of sickness and death, why should I not trust Him while I still have health and life?
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
Christian perseverance. Trusting God through the trials life throws at you. Easier said than done, am I right? Hopefully it seems a little easier after reading this devotion.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we read that our test is not unique to ourselves, in fact it is common to everyone. Wait, what? Other people don’t have to deal with fill in the blank. The truth is everyone deals with testing. Everyone have the difficult trials and the easier trials. What goes on during the test may not be the same, but everyone is tested. The part that comes as a relief to each of us is that not only will God keep the tests within your ability, but He will provide the answers as well.
God isn’t just throwing a test at you that you were never told to study for beforehand, and He isn’t expecting you to do it alone. God is that 4X6 notecard where you cram all the answers onto before an exam. God is also filling out the answers. So what does that mean for the time during the trial? That’s where James 1:2-3 comes in.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. -James 1:2-3
My life is falling apart, but I’m just supposed to be happy? No, but you shouldn’t sink into discouragement either. Know that God is strengthening you for the future, so that the next time you encounter this it isn’t a test but a review. It is okay to have anxiety in the time of trial as long as you are looking towards the growth and not the mess. Looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel and not focusing on the chaos that’s currently happening. As long as you know and believe that God is working in you, through you, and for you.
God, everything around me seems to be falling apart right now. I know that You have my needs in Your hands, but God I can’t see it. Help on growing and not falling apart. Help me trust you in the unknown. Thank You for the growth, the strength, and the answers for all the trials I face. Thank You for never leaving my side.
Micah Tyler’s “Even Then” has really been helping me through the past few weeks! If you’ve heard it before, take a moment and really listen to those lyrics. If this is your first time listening, let the words wash over you.