For When You Find Yourself Facing Lies, When You Feel Worthless and When You Feel Like No One Cares
This article is for when you find yourself facing lies, when you feel worthless and when you feel like no one cares. It's for those who have or are battling depression and anxiety.
I can't say this enough: You're not alone. In fact, as a pastor it's almost unheard of to openly say that you wrestle with depression or anxiety or are battling the lies the enemy tells that you easily believe or if you're feeling unworthy and feeling like you have no friends (or feeling alone). Here's the truth: It's okay to admit you're not okay. It's NOT okay to NOT say anything or to NOT tell someone.
I have believed lies.
I have felt worthless.
I have felt alone.
Again, you're not alone.
In light of the recent news of Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein (age 30) of Inlands Hill Church in Chino, California who committed suicide after battling depression and anxiety, I think it's important to be reminded that you don't have to believe the lies or entertain the thought of feeling unworthy or battle loneliness, depression or anxiety alone.
I have never faced depression but I have had moments of loneliness and feeling unworthy creep in. I have also faced the giant of anxiety when I first entered into ministry that resulted in a trip to the hospital and me carrying an epipen everywhere I went. These are real issues if you have never faced them. Those who have or are today...you are not alone!
I want to share some my story of facing anxiety with the hope that it will help someone somewhere. This is probably one of the more personal blog posts I have written.
My Story of facing the claws of anxiety.
Sarah and I got married in April of 2012. By July 2012 we had begun serving in youth ministry. For a month I wrestled with God on my call to be a youth pastor. I fought it. Eventually, once I gave up fighting and trusted God, everything fell into place. We began serving. I remember the first time I ever preached. It was on Romans 12:1-2. We had 7 students. And it was awful! I grew up as a very shy kid. I hated any form of public speaking. And because of that it didn't take long for me to begin to question my calling or start to compare my preaching with other youth pastors in town. Quite honestly, it ate me up.
As those doors of doubt and questioning were opened, I began to go down a dark path. I began to have a fear of death for no reason after going to a funeral. It wasn't long before the panic attacks started. I would wake up in the middle of the night, from a deep sleep, with the sudden fear I was going to die. My heart pounded against my throat. I felt as though my airways were closing. Fear and anxiety began to torment me.
I never faced any of this until I stepped into the ministry God called me to.
Anxiety can make you feel alone. It lies to you. It makes you think no one understands the fear or anxiousness that so easily overtakes you.
I prayed. A lot.
I sought counsel from my pastor at the time.
I went to the hospital while having a panic attack.
I went to the doctor and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication along with an epipen to carry around.
I can relate to someone who is facing the torment of anxiety. It's horrible. It's unkind. It's relentless.
Despite all of that, it is still there.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9: "7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
God may not completely heal us of our anxiety or depression or from ever being tempted to fall for a lie again but as He told Paul He's telling us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Scholars differ on what that "thorn" was that Paul wrestled with. I can't say why God sometimes chooses to not completely heal someone. But I do know He never leaves us. He walks through our storms, trials and struggles with us. God is with you. But in the middle of the pain it's hard to see or believe that sometimes. That's why it's so important to be vocal about your struggle. Talk to someone. Sometimes we need a brother or sister in Christ to remind us of the truth when we are blinded by life's circumstances and lies.
GotQuestions.org says cncerning the thorn in Paul's side:
Paul also says that the affliction came from or by a “messenger of Satan.” Just as God allowed Satan to torment Job (Job 1:1-12), God allowed Satan to torment Paul for God’s own good purpose.
No one likes to live in pain. Paul sought the Lord three times to remove this source of pain from him (2 Corinthians 12:8). He probably had many good reasons why he should be pain-free: he could have a more effective ministry; he could reach more people with the gospel; he could glorify God even more! But the Lord was more concerned with building Paul’s character and preventing pride. Instead of removing the problem, whatever it was, God gave Paul more overwhelming grace and more compensating strength. Paul learned that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9).
The exact nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh is uncertain. There is probably a good reason that we don’t know. God likely wanted Paul’s difficulty to be described in general enough terms to apply to any difficulty we may face now. Whether the “thorn” we struggle with today is physical, emotional, or spiritual, we can know that God has a purpose and that His grace is all-sufficient.
I pleaded with the Lord about my anxiety. He did deliver me from the fear of my throat closing up. He did set me free from the fears of death and public speaking. But I am not immune to anxiety. It can a be thorn in my flesh at times. It creeps back occasionally.
But there is hope.
After going to a Men's Encounter (or also called a God Encounter) God set me free from my fear of public speaking. I found freedom and that stronghold over my life was broken once and for all. Strongholds can be a catalyst for anxiety, depression, and other problems in our lives if they are not dealt with. When that stronghold was broken it was, in a way, the beginning of finding freedom from my panic attacks and irrational fear. My wife circled me in prayer and covered our house with random index cards of Scripture for several weeks that she was praying over me and what I could pray as well. She was going to battle with me.
Today, I am not on any medication for anxiety.
I'm no longer carrying an epipen around.
I no longer fear death or public speaking.
And I've given up on the comparison game that was, honestly, a gateway to torment.
Do I still have moments of anxiousness? I do.
I'll probably battle anxiety until the day I go to be with Jesus. That's okay, because my perspective has shifted. Anxiety does not have the final say.
And neither does the lies you have believed.
Neither does depression.
What in my perspective has shifted? I realized the freedom of NOT being silent about it.
I am not fighting this battle alone. I have my wife. I have some close family members. The worst thing anyone can do that wrestles with anxiety, panic attacks, feeling unworthy, feeling alone and struggling with depression is try and fight it alone. Community is a must. You are not alone.
I hope and pray this encourages someone somewhere. Get help. Tell someone if you are battling anxiety or depression or have thoughts of harming or killing yourself. Tell someone if you battle thoughts of feeling unworthy or feeling alone. Tell someone if you are battling the lies being spoken over you that are making you feel like you don't matter.
You do matter. You are worthy. You are not damaged goods because you face these types of struggles.
There is hope.
Have you battled anxiety or depression or thoughts of feeling worthless and alone?
Share your story in the comments below. It could very well help someone.