I have set the Lord before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken ~ Psalm 16:8
I couldn’t see well, perhaps it was from the fog in my brain. My palms, holding the steering wheel, were sweating. My heart was racing. My mind kept playing that broken record, “What is wrong with me?” (You know the song?) I kept wondering how I was going to get my family home safe and sound. Should I stick it out? Should I let my husband, who now couldn’t drive, take the wheel to get us home?
Three years ago I was in the middle of a darkness that I would rather not go back to. My husband’s health decided to take a turn and we decided, as a family, for him not to drive anymore. Now, this may not sound like a big deal, but hear me out. In the beginning it was good. I would do all of the driving no matter where we went. Often times, it was like we were dating again. Before dropping him off at work, we’d stop to get a coffee or bagel (sometimes both). We talked. We laughed. We talked about more than just our kids (which is such a gift and huge for the “married with children”). We read a devotional together. It brought such joy in our marriage.
A few months later, something was changing in me. Life began to wear on me. The grocery store was the last place I ever wanted to go to (Still kinda is. A little. Okay, it is.). The errands were exhausting. Anytime my husband needed to get somewhere or we needed to get something for our home, I had to drive us. For some reason it felt heavy on me. I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. Yes, life was crazy with work, ministry, and the fact that I was a full-time student at the time as well, but I couldn’t shake this.
The tired. The aching. The crying for no reason. The isolation, that I brought on myself. The “I can’t even muster up enough energy to choose joy” thoughts in my head. These all became my closest friends and comfort until I realized that what I was enduring was depression. I just became unhappy with life. The funk. The blah. Do you know it, friend? No one would know though, because I was what is labeled as a person with “functional depression” (or is it “functioning depression”, something like that). I could carry out my work duties. I somehow was able to get through my school work and barely kept up the home stuff like cooking and cleaning. I had my “game face” on.
How could I tell my husband how I was feeling? How could I dump all of this on him since he was already feeling like he had to turn in his “Man Card” because he couldn’t contribute to the family and life responsibilities like he used to? Who would I vent to? I certainly couldn’t bother my friends. They had full plates already with their families and happenings in life. I didn’t want to be a burden. So, I kept it to myself for awhile. I’m sure my hubby didn’t know whether to “scratch his watch” or “wind his butt” (yes, I totally stole that from Steel Magnolias, one of my faves).
Meanwhile, back on the farm, a new buddy showed up. His name was anxiety. I was seeing a therapist to get help with my depression when she noticed something a little off in me. Do you think it could have been the fact that I was pacing the floor in her little office? The fast talking and the fact that I was barely breathing? The flinching and jitters? Me telling her my heart was beating so fast, I thought it was going to jump out of my chest and land in her lap? Yup, anxiety showed up and he came to play.
Now, things were getting interesting. Some of you may be living with depression. Some of you may be living with anxiety. And there are some, like me, who live with both. Let me give you a picture of what this looks like: It’s like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure yet you have no urge to be productive. It’s longing for friends but you really don’t like socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling so numb, it paralyzes you.
After learning what depression and anxiety were, I was relieved. Relieved only because I could now put a word or term to what I was feeling. There was now a “why” to my feeling so agitated and irritable, especially in the times my kids, each one right after the other, would ask “What’s for dinner?” If one more had asked me that question, one of my kids may or may not be alive today.Just sayin’.
After months of therapy, medication, and learning what self-care was and how to implement that in my life, I became free. After telling my husband, the burdens were lifted. After a family meeting, my shoulders were feeling a little lighter, explaining to the kids what was happening, and having them share some of load. It turns out I had let worry and control be my stronghold all those months. I was feeling like I was the one in charge of the family now. I was feeling like I had to “do it all.”
I realized I wasn’t fully trusting God to do his thing, to be, you know, God. I thought I could handle everything and just do it on my own. And we know how that went down. It wasn’t until I fully learned to surrender my husband’s health, my school work, my job, my kids, and all the extras that went with doing life, to God, that I learned how to be free. It was that “handing over the baton” process and the trusting that God had this all along. The little I gave him, the little faith, he still heard. He still saw. He was still with me.
During this time I came across a song by one of my favorite musical artists, Meredith Andrews, entitled “Not For A Moment.” I invite you, if you find yourself in this place of darkness or in anything that I described, to listen to this song. Close your eyes. Play it on repeat. Make it your prayer. Make it your “I’m making it through” song or your “I am free” song. I think I wore out my iTunes button on my phone with that song. My car was probably saying, “Again?” And I’d say, “You bet. Get over it.”
It wasn’t until last week that I was reminded of how wonderful our Father is. You see, I had to have an MRI for my shoulder. Well, I am a big girl and that little tunnel seemed really small. I felt like I was being pushed through a toilet paper roll. It was tight quarters. I thought, “Oh my gosh, here we go,” thinking it would lead to an anxiety or panic attack. I closed my eyes, took slow breaths, and could only say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, probably a gazillion times. And, I didn’t die. I know, that’s a little dramatic, but that is how it feels to be in that anxious trap. God reminded me that he had me and he was present. I didn’t have to feel alone or rely on my own strength and power to get through a simple MRI. God doesn’t leave us or forsake us. He doesn’t leave us to rely on our own strength, no matter where we are on the scale of strength.
I pray this encourages you today, my friends. If you have found yourself in this pit, this darkness, thinking something’s wrong with you, no one will understand, feeling like you have to carry so many things on your own, you don’t. We have a mighty God that knows everything about us. He is there with us through all of it, we just need to look up and see him. Trust him. Run into his arms that have been open for us. Don’t let his arms tire waiting for you. He longs for you to bring everything you’re thinking and feeling to him. Yes, he knows already but something magical happens when we say it out loud, when we give him all we’ve got, rather than just that pinky toe in the water. There is freedom, girlfriend. Even in the dark. Even when it’s hard (like my homegirl, Meredith sang). Even in the tears.
God is so good y’all! He is faithful to every promise he has for you. He is the ultimate comforter and healer. He lavishes his love and grace upon you when you think you’re “not enough” or feeling weak. Take it one day at a time. There is hope, my friend. God’s mercies are new every morning. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t miss the little victories in the process. Don’t discount the idea that God isn’t listening.
May you please know, you don’t have to go through this alone. Share what you’re feeling with your closest friends, even if you don’t have specific words for what’s going through your pretty little head. Have your tribe come over, hang out, and pray for you. And if you’re that tribe, listen. Be present. Hold her hand. Even if she feels like no company, show up anyway.
So, after these three years reflecting on how God has been working in my life, strengthening my faith, this is where Psalm 16:8 came to mind, this spoke loudly to me. This explains the photo above, the cross on my right hand.
So, gal pals, set your life before him (surrender); because he is at your right hand (present always), you will not be shaken (trust him).
Hugging you so tight,