When Darkness Prevails (Or at least tries to…)

“How could I have let this happen again?” Oh the irony of failure. In that moment, gazing at my cut up wrist while experiencing a tremendous load of excruciating personal pain I realized that even in this I had failed. Isn’t it amazing how Satan traps the thinking? The darkness is always easier to analyze once the light has returned.

I know it was spiritual oppression, the same haunts burdening me my whole life had returned. I thought I had been “free” forever of such troubles, but the reality hit—the depression, anxiety, and temptation to escape the hurt will probably always linger to a certain extent. The Enemy knows how to push my buttons–not to give him too much credit–but he’s pretty good at it.

Writing about this less than 24 hours later is risky, I recognize I’m opening myself up to a world of further rejection, but I know there is someone out there who understands my pain and this, my friend, is for you.

Sobbing on the couch the emotional torture continued. “What have I done wrong this time? Why am I not good enough for them? Why must I fail at everything? I’m not loved, I’m not accepted, and I never will be. I’m destined to be a lonely outcast.” The record played over and over and while most days hitting the “off” button is a no-brainer, this day was different.

I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. But I knew if I didn’t reach out I may do something worse. Maybe I would get it “right” next time. Sometimes being well studied in the Bible makes it even harder to push through such oppression. An extra measure of guilt rushes in, “I know better, I shouldn’t be feeling this way, this is wrong…etc.” Satan pounces on the opportunity to condemn the already condemned spirit.

I texted my mentor, who was at that moment the only person I felt I could trust. Though we had only known each other a short time I knew she would not judge me, condemn me, tell me I was crazy, or say she couldn’t relate to me.   She called me and said three words. Though it wasn’t an instant fix, it was exactly what I needed to hear from another human being.

“You are loved.”

I felt nothing close to being loved that morning–I felt rejected personally as a human being. I needed that jolt of reality from another Christian. “You are worth something. I don’t reject you. I love you. I appreciate you.”

So this post is not to tell you I have figured everything out, I’ve been cured forever, or that I know the secret answer for every suicidal or spiritually oppressive thought. I know the word of God is always the first answer, but beyond that, when the feelings overwhelm, having someone you can turn to– whom you can trust implicitly–is the next best option.

If you have such a friend, thank them for their presence and support in your life. If you don’t have someone in your life whom you can be 100% open with, pray that God would bring one to you. I prayed for such a person for several months, and God answered only weeks before my spiritual “relapse”. He knew what I needed, He saw what was coming, and He indeed made “a way to escape” that I could bear the pain (1 Cor. 10:13).

This post is also for the people who hide their pain from their Christian friends in fear of condemnation, judgment, rejection, or abandonment. We need community, we need relationship, and we need Christians who don’t shy away from the spiritual lepers like me.  I’m not perfect, I struggle too. I refuse to hide it. One of my biggest pet peeves within “church” is the lack of transparency. We need to be able to walk in to church and say “No, I’m not okay.” Or even, “I want to die.” And know that we will be supported, comforted, and helped. I’m not the only one out there. Or maybe I am? Either way, God has sparked a new desire within me—perhaps a new focus. I hope to help and encourage others as I’ve always tried to do, but even more so, inspire others to live transparently. Trust me; there is someone out there who could be helped by you if you’d only be real about your struggles.

Let’s join together and stop pretending we’re walking on clouds all of the time. This is life, it’s real. No one is on cloud nine 100% of the time—even if they are a Christian. Ask God if there is someone in your life who simply needs to be told they are loved, appreciated and wanted as a human being. You never know how God could use that to lift someone out of a pit of despair.

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Paper Thin

“Do you have Netflix? My husband and I like to watch Monk together after the kids are in bed. We find it’s a nice way to relax.” My jaw dropped. For the longest time I believed my friend didn’t even own a television, let alone a service like Netflix! I can’t express how much that one sentence of transpareny helped me.

One of the lies I have believed has revolved around not being a good enough Christian. There have been certain people in my life who, when I am at their house, I assume don’t do some of the things I do. (Like watch Netflix) I make the conclusion that they must be a better Christian because they don’t allow their kids to watch T.V. like I do, allowing the cycle of inner insuffiency to continue.

The moment my friend said what she did, God spoke loud and clear, “Things are not the way you perceive them.” I was thrilled to know my friend was more human than I had imagined! (I can hear her laughing about this right now.) Last week as our kids played together she suggested they play their Wii game system. I remember thinking, “She has a game system??!!” Once again I was surprised to know her kids occasionally played video games.

It was through this second revelation that I began to understand why it’s so important not to compare myself to other people. Truthfully, I don’t know what goes on in their lives behind closed doors. I make my own assumptions and crucify myself against them.

I was also motivated to continue being transparent. I usually don’t have a problem spilling the beans about my personal struggles, but these situations encouraged me even more. Maybe someone else out there could be helped if they knew a Christian like me has struggled with eating disorders and depression. I am a new creation in Christ and I have been set free, but I’d still like others who may not be there yet to know there is hope. I want them to know things aren’t always what they seem with the people they think are perfect. I want them to know their transparency could be useful for someone else who is struggling.

God used my friend to help me get through one of the most diffuclt (and wonderful) times of my life. I am thankful she opened up to me about  personal issues that brought her off the pedastal I had placed her on. She’s normal just like me. We may struggle with different specifics, but the end result is the same. We’re both redeemed children of God on the same journey through His school of transformation.

I am also thankful she doesn’t preach at me. Even when I was deeply distressed, on the verge of suicide, she never preached to me. The only thing she did was ask to spend time with me in fellowship. Over the past 6 weeks we have grown closer as friends, but I’ve also experienced life in the family of God as it was meant to be; transparency, openness, truth, and encouragement. Through us our kids have learned what authentic relationship looks like. They pray together before lunch, play together in the sun, and worship together in church. (Mother’s Day was interesting with 4 kids ages 5 and under and 3 adults trying to mainatin order during the sermon.) I love her kids as if they were my own, and I know she feels the same about mine.

(Here she is playing with my daughter at the park.)

(Our kids: Caleb, Samantha (mine), and Micah.)

I would  urge those of you who want to put your best foot forward: while there is nothing wrong with this, consider being a little paper thin in your approach. Reveal yourself as you really are, and don’t worry about “what they’ll think”. Maybe there is someone who needs to hear that you’re a real person who does real things and has real struggles. Don’t waste your journey by keeping it a secret; allow God to use it.