So, you know I've been going through a pretty rough patch, but I'm so happy to report that I feel like I'm through the worst of it, and I have begun to actually feel in my heart like I know it will all be better, and I think soon. So praise God! Every day is better than the one before. And after feeling so hopeless and battling the ugly depression and anxiety that plagued me, I have finally found, grabbed onto - and I'm holding on tightly ;-) - to that peace, God's peace, that seemed to be eluding me for so long. So many people have been praying for me and encouraging me, and I just want you to know I appreciate all that you've said and done. Those prayers are being answered; thank you!
Today in church, we were blessed by the message given by Siran Stacy (a former Alabama football player) who was affected by an unspeakable tragedy. His message was all about having faith when it feels hopeless. He spoke of his anger and shaky faith after he lost his wife and several children when a drunk driver hit his family. He and his oldest daughter were the only survivors. At his breaking point, he reached out to God, unwilling to give victory to the Enemy, and he spoke of how the only way he was standing there before us today, was because of the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
My situation in no way compares to the hopelessness he must have felt, but I certainly could identify with the basic feeling. Weeks ago, I was so uncertain for what lied ahead - I feared I might never feel better, or different - but now I have confidence that everything is going to be all right. And probably even better than just all right, for as God promises in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." A well-known verse, but also one that a friend shared with me that helped her through her mother's passing.
It's ironic how I have been saying for months and months, way before I began to struggle, that "I'm really seeking God in my faith right now." Jason and I shared with our Cgroup and friends that we were just "really seeking" God; seeking a closer relationship, seeking that "thing" that so many people we knew seemed to have with God. That close relationship that seemed so comforting and powerful.
And wouldn't you know, not long after, I was battling, going through the toughest time I ever have in my life. And I never questioned God; I just knew that I wanted to reach out for Him, and I knew that the one thing I really needed was His Peace. I started doing many things that I was told would help, and lots of those strategies have proven very helpful, but nothing has been more comforting than immersing myself into scripture and spending more time in prayer.
A friend recommended the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, and it has been wonderful. I never would have though I'd have time in the morning to take a few minutes to read and pray, but this book is so perfect for that. The author, Sarah Young, writes just a paragraph or two for each day, words written in a manner as Jesus speaking to her. I've only been reading it for about two weeks, but the daily messages have just been so "spot on." She writes often about slowing down our pace of life, being still and expectant for God, and several times the day's reading has focused on God's Peace - just what I've been seeking so desperately.
Here are just a few scriptures that I've written down in my own notes that I read and reflect on daily. Perhaps they'll comfort you as well:
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid." -John 14:27
"The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6
Here are some passages from Young's daily devotionals I've particularly loved:
"Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of my Presence. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in Heaven."
"Trust me and refuse to worry, for I am your Strength and Song."
"Among all my creatures, only humans can anticipate future events. This ability is a blessing but it becomes a curse if it is misused. If you use your magnificent mind to worry about tomorrow, you cloak yourself in disbelief. However, when the hope of Heaven fills your thoughts, the Light of my Presence envelops you."
Aren't those wonderful messages? I love the repetition of the strong sentence, "Refuse to worry." And how worrying causes you to be "cloaked in disbelief." Pretty much sums up how I was feeling. I was terrified of just about everything. Normal, every-day life had me falling to pieces, having panic attacks, crying uncontrollably several times a day. All because I was scared and worrying...We're all smart enough to understand that all of our worrying doesn't change a single thing that's already happened, nor will it change what's to come, but regardless, we spend so much energy WORRYING, fretting, playing "what if," all the while wasting the precious time that's being given to us right at that very time we're worrying. At least I'm guilty of that... ;-) But that's exhausting, and I really want to guard against wasting any more time being that way.
The last thing I'll write is this: there have been two times I've truly felt "at peace" since this whole ordeal began; when I was warmed and strengthened by God's Peace: one time late at night - in the middle of my struggle with insomnia - when I was praying, just shouting in my mind, begging God for some sort of relief, to please bless me with His peace, and I felt my hands warm; it literally felt like Jesus had wrapped his hands around mine - it was incredible. And the second time was today during Siran Stacy's message - not at the closing of his speech, or even during a prayer. Instead, it was like I had walked into church with that "ever looming anxiety" that I constantly feel and battle against throughout each day (much less anxiety that afflicted me several weeks ago, but a lingering anxiety nonetheless), and when the sermon was over and we stood up to leave, my heart felt so much lighter. And for the first time, I thought to myself -and more importantly, knew in my heart - that everything was going to be okay.
I joined the long line of people in the lobby, after the service who wanted to talk to him, and I was literally the next person in line when they ushered him away to begin the next service (Oh man! :-)), but I wrote him a note, and slipped it in the basket where offerings were being given to his Ministries (He does not charge a fee for appearing). I hope it will get to him; I think it will ;-)
What lavish gifts have been given to us, and all we have to do is ask and have faith. It really is, "Amazing Grace...that saved a wretch like me..."