Heart Verse: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).
I simply love the outdoors. Something inside of me yearns to be out in the beautiful, wooded area behind my house. It is there that I experience God the most. I love to observe His wondrous creation in all its splendor. As I hike through the many twisting trails and hidden pathways, I watch and listen. It is here where I see the Father. It is here where I hear the Father speak. It is here where I feel the most peace.
Although I have always loved being out in God’s creation, it wasn’t until a few years back that the Lord began to speak actively and clearly to me, while exploring the woods. I excitedly anticipated each day I had the opportunity to escape out into the forest to watch and listen for His voice. I took my phone and dictated words of inspiration. I listened to and recited scripture, took pictures of beautiful creatures and landscapes, and sometimes just sat on a lonely old tree stump and eagerly waited for the Lord to speak. I wanted to remember the special “God-moments” I had experienced that were so intimate and beautiful.
What I observed and experienced throughout my time outdoors was that just as the physical seasons, handcrafted by God, gradually transform and complement one another, so do our very own spiritual and emotional seasons of life. Our personal lives are meant to change as well, just as God intended them to. Both the good and the bad. You see, all seasons include both favorable and unfavorable elements. There are joyfully anticipated aspects and then negative qualities as well. But they are all there for a specific purpose and plan. They all work together. God uses everything and He wastes nothing. What we must understand is that JESUS – IS – PRESENT in and through it all. He is the creator of all. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
Friend, He is there with you in the fiercely raging storm, as in the gentle spring shower lightly drizzling the earth. He is present in the frigid blustery snowstorm, as in the warm sunshine beaming down on a lovely summer day. He is there in the rebirth of a flower garden with busy bees and butterflies zipping around, as in the stillness and loneliness of a long cold winter, where plants and insects slumber under the icy frigid earth. He is there when in autumn, bright green leaves transform into beautiful hues of color, then let go and dance to the earth as they dry out and die. HE – IS – THERE – WITH – YOU, too. In and through every season of life. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
If you were to meet me for the first time, you might notice a bubbly woman who likes to smile and speak words of encouragement to others. I enjoy being around people, as I am an extrovert. I can be serious and a very good listener. I work hard and try to do my best at each task I am called to do. I can also be silly and light-hearted, although I tend to take things personally and can be overly sensitive at times.
With all of this stated, I would like to share something real and personal. Along with all the joy and blessings in my life, I also struggle with periods of anxiety and sprigs of depression. This is something I have dealt with my entire life. Mostly worry and fear are the biggest giants I face. I could get into all the specific details, but what I struggle with the most is the concern of not doing enough or being good enough. I carry around fear of failure, but I also deal with having high expectations and control issues. Lastly, I also tend to very easily get lost in my work if I do not set proper boundaries. Can you relate? I know, it’s a lot. However, the Lord is my hope and has helped me tremendously overcome much of my anxiety and has taught me how to “let-go” and deal with these feelings. How to set my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. How to live in and appreciate each moment given. And how to simply take deep breaths and, “Do the next thing.” (Excellent advice from Elisabeth Elliott.)
I can honestly say I feel that I live life as a “free” Christian woman more often than feeling trapped in this bondage. I know that Jesus is my anchor and source of strength to fight the battle. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Some days are just harder than others.
I share this because I think as Christians and women in ministry positions who desire to walk steadfastly with Jesus, we assume that we should not struggle with personal or emotional issues. We try to maintain a facade that “everything is just perfect,” when it is not always. I am here to share that this is false and simply not true and it is okay to be honest. We do not have to live in bondage to the troubles of this life or sin we may deal with daily, but the struggle is real. Even Paul states in Romans, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).
I recently came through a very difficult season of anxiety and the possible onset of depression. It was a difficult time for me, just like a troubling season of inclement weather. I would describe mine as a wintery season of death and dormancy, when everything is dreary, cold, still, and lonely. I felt this through part of the fall season and what is interesting is that autumn is one of my most favorite times of the year. Nothing terrible was happening to me and I knew I had so much to be grateful for. But I still struggled with very real feelings of sadness and moments of panic. As I look back to my journal during this period, I wrote these words, “Jesus, here I am again battling with myself…my emotions, feelings, and thoughts. I’m up and down, I’m happy then sad, joyful then meh.” As I continued, I wrote about my changing family and how my children are not little anymore. How they are now teenagers and young adults who do not need me as much. I was navigating through unknown territory when the reality hit me that as my family grows older, so do I. Grieving the end of one season and processing my new purpose in my evolving family made me feel very sad. If you feel this way, friend, you are not alone. There are many Psalms that include struggles with worry and sadness. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:18).
I want to encourage you and share with you what I did personally to embrace and work through this season.
- I cried out, pressed into God and prayed earnestly every single day. I wrote specific feelings and prayers in my journal. Do not stop. Even if you do not feel the presence of God. He is there. Keep on pressing in. “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them, he delivers them from all their troubles” ( Psalm 34:17).
- I shared this with my husband and a few trusted friends, asking them to pray for me and my family. It is frightening when darkness looms over you and feels like at any moment you could suffocate and not escape. It is scary to just “not feel like – me.” “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
- I continued to read and soak in the Word of God. His Word is truth. It “…is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
- I kept on moving, breathing, and taking steps…embracing the good and pushing through the tough, using my gifts in my daily work to take the focus off me and to serve God through serving others. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).
- I got the true rest I needed. I rested in Jesus. I set boundaries. I learned to say – no. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
- I declared moments of gratitude and thankfulness to God. Even if I did not feel like it – I expressed what I was thankful for each new day. “…give thanks in all circumstances; so this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- I forced myself to be around people. During this time, I wanted to retreat and be isolated. The enemy wants this for us. It is not good to be alone all the time. This makes us vulnerable and in a position to be easily attacked. “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).
And if needed, please seek out a Christian counselor or doctor. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
What I do know from personal experience is that prayer works! Pressing into Jesus and asking others for help is huge. Acknowledging our need for help is very important. It does not make us weak. It takes courage and honesty to make our struggles known. It is also a part of repentance and healing. I use this analogy quite often: Where does mold fester and grow? In dark, damp places. Sin and problems fester in dark places, too. What kills mold? Warmth and sunlight. However, when we expose our problems or sin and bring them to the light of Jesus, He brings true healing. The process of health and restoration begins through the Holy Spirit.
Friend, my hope is that you are able to gain some insight and encouragement through my experiences. Whether you personally deal with some of these issues or women you minister to are experiencing anxiety and depression, I pray that Jesus reveals to you what words are needed for healing and growth. Remember that because of Jesus, you are loved, forgiven, and set free. You are a valued part of the Body of Christ and you have purpose. No matter what season you may find yourself in…alive and active, fruitful, alone, dormant, still, fearful, grieving, or overwhelmed…know that you are not alone. Jesus is with you right where you are. He is in all seasons.