On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God.png

i.

 

Oh wow He’s faithful.

 

There’s something so ethereal about knowing when God is speaking.

 

Oftentimes, before I leave my house to go be with other Christians, I pray a few things. One, that I’d have some sort of meaningful conversation, two, that God would speak, and if I remember, then three, that I’d be filled with the Spirit and used by Him.

 

And the funny thing is, once I arrive, when I kick off my shoes and put down my phone and start hugging people, I completely forget that I ever even prayed it. And every single time that I come home so filled, I’m overcome with awe at how He worked.

 

I’m stunned by the conversations that left me glowing with joy, how I heard God in worship songs and in listening to my friends preach, tangibly experiencing God’s love and presence in everyday interactions.

 

I heard His voice again this weekend, and it left me breathless.

 

For three days, I’d been praying hard that God would lead me to trust Him. And He has. Oh, how He has.

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Grasping Onto Hope

grasping-onto-hope

 

i.

 

Ah, hope.

 

Lately, I’ve been mulling over the puzzling question of what real hope looks like, in a world as messed up as ours is.

 

I’ve been thinking, praying, talking, and tweeting about it, and I’ve been doing my best to grasp the essence of what it truly is…and what it can look like individually in our lives.

 

Hope is beautiful, because it is the promise of faith. Not blind faith, but real, grounded, and radical faith in a world of chaos; confusion; hopelessness.

 

Hope is a form of anticipation, of something guaranteed, not just wished for, and I’ve been grappling with this too, recently.

 

Where is hope when we can’t see straight? Where is hope in depression, in heartache, in desperation?

 

Where is hope when the money is tight, when pain is ever-present, when the future seems miserably bleak?

 

Where is hope in hospitals, in nursing homes, at gravesides?

 

Where is hope in any of it? Where is hope at all?

 

What are we even hoping for?

 

I wish I could lie and say that it all gets better. It may, or it may not. But God is not any less good when He chooses not to give us everything we think we need on this earth. Our ultimate need is a spiritual one, one He took care of on the cross.

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Where to Find Hope in Pain

Where to Find Hope in Pain.png

I probably don’t have to tell you that life’s really tough, sometimes.

 

I’ve done so many posts about pain – about depression and anxiety, about feelings of hopelessness, about when life throws things at us that we’re not ready for, about what we’re supposed to do when we literally have no idea what to do.

 

Life’s messy.

 

Painful.

 

Confusing.

 

And my first reaction, honestly, is to go hide away in my room and look for a distraction.

 

It’s awkward to admit that, but it’s true. I want distraction over comfort, desperate feelings over peace, extremes over hope.

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How to Help a Hurting Friend

How to Help a Hurting Friend

Maybe I talk about hurt too much. Maybe I’ve mentioned depression and stress and anxiety and failure so often that I sound like I need serious help.

 

If I do, I’m sorry.

 

But we can’t ignore pain.

 

As I sit here at my computer, I’m gazing out the window at the wet earth around me.

It’s been raining for days. A bone-chilling draft penetrates my skin, enough so that nothing warms me, not even my cup of coffee, and my beef stew is long-since hot.

 

Sometimes, that’s what hurt feels like, whether it’s mental, emotional, or physical.

 

It’s uncomfortable, and not something easily shaken away. Pain lingers, with no button to press or Band-Aid to put on to make it all better.

 

I’ve been on both sides of hurt. I’ve had friends in need, and I myself have had times like those as well.

 

Perhaps you’re mainly on the other side of things; watching friends suffer, and not knowing how to help them. Or maybe you’re the hurting one. Maybe people see you in need of help and ask, “What can I do for you?” and you simply respond, “Nothing, I’m good,” with a fake smile plastered on, reminiscent of Barbie.

 

But no matter how strong we are, or at least how strong we pretend to be, we’re all weak on the inside. We all need people around us to support us and help us to heal.

 

Are you wondering how to help a hurting friend? Here are three ways.

 

Pray For Them.

 

There’s nothing more beautiful and powerful than prayer. When a friend tells you, “I’ve been praying for you,” it’s touching. To think that someone would take the time to implore the Creator of the universe on our behalf is one of the kindest things we can hear.

Yes, because it’s a thoughtful gesture, but more so because we know that prayer works. Perhaps not always in the fix-it-quick way we might think, but in the way that God knows is best.

 

Sometimes, I can feel that someone’s been praying for me, when a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I just feel free.

It’s a blessing to get a text a little while later, saying, “Hey Amanda, I prayed for you today. How are you doing?”

 

Wow.

 

James 5:16

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 

Stay With Them.

 

It’s almost hypocrisy to flee upon finding out someone’s aching, after promising to be there for them.

 

It’s easy to walk out of a friendship when the person’s fallen into difficult days, for it requires no energy on our part.

But please, I beg of you, if you want to help your hurting friend, stick by them. Stay alongside them when they tell you they’re “fine.” Don’t judge them when they refuse help – sometimes, they’re just testing you to see if you’ll remain by their side, because it’s what they really need.

 

Don’t give up on your friend. Forgive them if they’ve damaged your friendship. Keep loving them, even when they act like they don’t want to be loved. Trust me, they do.

 

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

 

Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

Encourage Them.

 

Encouragement is incredible. It has an innate power to keep us running when we want to give up. It inspires us to push on toward our goals. It motivates us to get out of bed in the morning because we know we are cared for.

 

Whether sharing Bible verses, sweet, comforting words, sending a care package or letter, or just letting someone know that they’re not alone, encouragement of all kinds is a blessing.

 

To your hurting friend (or perhaps even you), it may mean the world.

 

And don’t give up. Keep encouraging them and lavishing the love of Christ on your friend.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

 

*aj

More Of My Book: Mending (+ free wallpaper!)

More of My Book_ Mending

Happy Tuesday, lovely readers. I hope you’ve had a wonderful week.

Tuesday always creeps up on me and I almost forgot to post. But I suppose I didn’t, since I’m here now.

 

I was inspired this week by one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts. It made me cry (in a good way), and I highly recommend reading it. Her writing is exquisite.

 

Anyway, I wanted to share the final segment of chapter one of my book. I’m at 13k right now, and because April so far has just been chaotic and impossible, I’ve brought my goal down to 20k. That doesn’t mean anything significant – it just means I’ll be writing at a more manageable pace.

 

My book is turning out to be different than I imagined, but I’m really happy with it. And my cabin mates – Hannah, Jonathan, Hann, Jessi, Anna, Rachel, another Anna, and a few others still – are some of the most encouraging people I’ve met. I’ve accomplished more than I ever would’ve without the encouragement.

 

Today’s segment is on depression. Sound depressing? Maybe. It’s a tough topic. But instead of giving us the excuse to wade neck-high in self pity over our feelings, I want us to find hope in the truth that we have to hold onto.

 

Enjoy!

 

The word depression used to frighten me. I thought of teenagers sitting alone in their rooms, wearing all black, blasting rock music, and choosing not to be happy. It was always a touchy subject in my mind, and a bit intimidating.

But then I experienced depression of my own and my entire perspective changed.

Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a bad word, nor is it entirely a bad thing. We shouldn’t act as though topics such as depression should be avoided; rather, we should confront the problems we have without shame.

The problems arise when we allow our depression to control us. Bad things happen when we let our minds wander much too far, when we allow ourselves to think such negative, distorted thoughts, and when we trade God’s truths for our feelings.

And as much as depression has become such a cultural norm, and it should not be brushed under the rug as “a ploy for attention,” we need to face it and learn how not to be consumed by it.

 

What is Depression? Can Christians Be Depressed?

 

As I’ve said before, I have nowhere near all the answers. I’m not a professional. I’m just a girl wanting to share what I’ve experienced and what I’m learning in my crazy life, and the things that have immensely helped me.

I know that depression can have multiple forms, none of which should be taken lightly.

Whether your depression is medical, clinical, or emotional, it hurts. I know it does. It hurts to feel empty. It hurts to feel like nothing matters. It hurts to feel constantly weighted by a seemingly unshakable dark cloud. It hurts, because depression is a fog, and you can’t see anything in front of you except the inky blackness. All that’s visible is the here and now, which can seem to be so overwhelming when everything feels utterly hopeless.

People often attempt to say that Christians can’t suffer from depression for the simple reason that our lives should be in total order once we’re saved. Or, that being depressed is a sin or a petty feeling and we should just get over it.

I highly disagree.

Instead, I’d say this. Christians often suffer from depression, and torture themselves over it because they believe they shouldn’t feel the pain or numbness. This only leads to feeling worse, because you can’t just whip yourself out of a mindset or condition – especially one that’s not even a spiritual problem in the first place. Healing is a process. If it’s medical or clinical depression, a person will need medical attention, and not just lectures from someone ordering them to “snap out of it.” Similarly, those with emotional depression will need time to heal. Time to rebuild the joy in their hearts. No amount of sermons, books, blog posts, lectures, or conversations can heal a tormented soul – only God can.

 

Is There Anything I Can Do About My Depression?

 

What sets us apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we have a hope to hold onto. We know that God will hold us up when our weakness is the greatest. We know that God cares for us and loves us unconditionally. We know that in our Lord, we can find true rest. We know that God’s presence is with us always. We know that in our lowest times, God still reaches us. We know that even when life is full of torment, God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for strength.

Hearing those things doesn’t make everything instantly feel better; of course it doesn’t. It may take years to grasp those concepts, even the ones found in the verses we memorized as kids. In the middle of our depression, those truths, while comforting, may seem distant or not applicable to us. This is normal. We’ve trained our minds to think things contrary to truth, and it’s only natural for it to take time for us to come back to what’s right and good.

Nevertheless, we must keep feeding our minds with what the Bible says. Thinking the thoughts that God says about us. Reading the Scriptures over and over. Praying for God to bring us through. Meditating on verses that remind us that God has a plan through it all. Believing God for the strength and peace He promises.

And while none of these things are magic, they help. And slowly, with the proper approach and by filling our minds with truth, we can begin to mend.

 

*aj

 

Still reading? Enjoy a free wallpaper!

mend wallpaper

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

 

On Saturday, I announced to you all that I am writing a book. Aaahh! I’m really excited, and I am having a ridiculous amount of fun with it.  And what better way to kick off the excitement than to share a sneak peek of the first chapter that I’m writing?

 

My first chapter is about stress, anxiety, and depression, and effectively dealing with it. While this may seem dismal, fear not! I decided to write this book, specifically dealing with issues pertaining to the Christian life, in order to confront the tough things we all face.

 

So while some topics may seem more serious or somber, I want to share this message: there is always hope, and God will never abandon us.

 

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. The writing style is slightly more formal than what I use here, on Scattered Journal Pages, because I’m not quite sure who my audience will wind up being for my book. Who knows where I’ll be by the end!

 

Stress: Parts 1 and 2 of Chapter 1

 

If you’d mentioned the word “stress” to me when I was a preteen, I would’ve laughed and said that it probably wasn’t that bad, whatever it was like. If you’d slipped the words “anxiety” or “depression” into a conversation, I might have solemnly said, “Oh, Christians don’t deal with those things.” But I would have been undeniably wrong.

Whether you deal with any of these things or you don’t, or whether your depression or anxiety is medical or emotional, all these things are real. They’re painful, and there is no questioning the fact that they exist. However, they don’t have to undo us. They don’t have to ruin our lives.

 

Stressing Over Work, School, and Life in General

 

When I started high school, I had no idea what I was in for. I was sure I wouldn’t survive. So many days, I did school from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M., with only a few breaks, and I was utterly overwhelmed. I was terrified of failure, terrified of a B, terrified that I wouldn’t learn or something ridiculous like that. I was so scared that I would not get everything done, and of course I did, but I barely made it.

It was awful.

School became where I got my identity, and not who I knew God saw me as; that was poisonous. I placed so much of my worth on how much work I got accomplished, and for that year and the next, stress became my way of life.

I was absolutely miserable.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe your job’s got you tied up and it consumes every thought. You’re a workaholic. Or like in my case, a schoolaholic. Maybe your living situation isn’t the greatest and it weighs on you emotionally. I get it, because I’ve been there.

But that’s not what God wants for any of us.

Anything that takes up most or all of our thought life becomes greater than God in our finite minds. I don’t mean to condemn at all, because I understand what it’s like entirely.

Stress is like an ache, something that gnaws at the depth of your soul. It’s that pit in your stomach that manifests itself when you’re lying in bed and you remember all the things you need to accomplish. It consumes every thought, and every decision is made with whatever is wrong in the back of your mind.

It is so painful, so often unbearable, but many times, it seems inescapable.

And that’s what’s the worst of it.

 

But we are not without hope.

 

Stress Over Things out of Your Control

           

I think a lot. Many times, I worry about other people’s problems and forget that they can be handled by the people whose problems they are. Or maybe they can’t be handled. But it’s alright.

Sometimes I think that I must be responsible for everyone else, and every problem in the world, and that so often causes me uncalled-for stress and pressure.

I’m not talking about “bearing each others burdens,” as Galatians 6:2 says. I think it’s absolutely wonderful to help others, to have compassion, to pray for them, and to support them in their times of need. That is a beautiful thing, and something none of us can live without.

What I am speaking about is when we’re constantly letting ourselves be consumed by things that we have absolutely no power over, be it another’s poor life choices, the happenings in politics, or things that go on in the world.

But it’s not our responsibility to “fix it.” Oftentimes, that’s such a difficult stress to overcome, and simply because we can do absolutely nothing about it.

For us Christians, we don’t have to let that stress overtake us.

Because we know that the world is in the hands of God.

And while it’s definitely not easy, it’s possible to leave the weight of the world on God’s shoulders and not our own. We know that He sees all. We know that He wants the best for us. Yet, we spend days worrying and nights sleepless over what we cannot change.

The evil in the world is not of God’s orchestration; it is because of sin. We live in a fallen world, and we can’t expect it to always be good.

We have pain, we suffer. But this world is not our home, and the way the world works is out of our control.

By prayer and trust in God, let us let go of the misconception that says that we need to handle it all; we don’t.

We have to let God be God, and let Him be in control.

 

So, what do you think? Would you want any more excerpts of chapter 1 this month? Let me know in the comments!

 

*aj

 

BONUS:

I made a wallpaper for my iPod yesterday, and wanted to share it because I thought it really fit. This is one of my favorite Bible verses ever. And oh my word, graphic design is so. much. fun.

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

 

“Is That a Sin?” How to Live in Freedom

 

Is That a Sin

Being a Christian, I’ve stumbled across oh-so-many blog posts, websites, questions, etc. asking, “Is such-and-such a sin?” or “Is it okay for Christians to __?” and “Should I do xyz?”

 

And honestly, I’ve wondered quite a few of these questions myself.

 

But I’m not here to tell you what’s right and wrong. I want to address what we’re really asking.

 

When we ask, “Is consuming secular media wrong for a Christian?” we are focusing on the bondage of legalism, not freedom.

 

When we try to contemplate, “Is depression a sin?” we focus on our own struggles as opposed to what’s already been done for us.

 

When we tell people, “You’re a Christian, you shouldn’t get tattoos,” we bind people to a law that they do not have to follow anymore.

 

And that’s not right.

 

I’ve heard arguments for all sides of controversial topics. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

 

We have freedom in Christ.

 

There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not listen to pop music.” There is no verse that says, “You are unforgivable if you are ever depressed.” There is no passage that warns us, “Marking up your body with permanent ink-art will make you forfeit your salvation.”

 

Because you know what? We’re free from the bondage of the law. We’re free from condemnation. We have a new nature inside of us. Asking questions about the specifics of what sin is or is not really do not profit us.

 

Our sins have been totally, 100% forgiven. There is no way that we can will ourselves out of sinning enough to attain perfection. Heck no. Salvation is forgiveness by believing, and then an internal transformation – our desires change, our attitudes change, and our actions will change.

 

No longer will we want to know how much we can get away with (though I know that does creep up on us at times), but we will ask the question, “how much can we live for God?” And I don’t mean out of compulsion, I mean out of joy.

 

We shouldn’t spend hours puzzling over what is a sin and what’s okay to do. If it’s not a sin, cool. But if it is, well, it’s forgiven. That might seem like a terrible way to put it, but read these verses.

 

Galatians 5:1 says this:

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

 

So the point isn’t for us to say, “Hey! We’re free! We can do whatever we want!” but to live according to our new nature.

 

Romans 8:1-4

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

 

Our sin nature doesn’t have to control us anymore. This is what it’s saying. We were slaves to sin, but now we are free from falling into those traps of condemnation. Now we can live life fully – not go back to that slavery of sinful patterns that we were rescued from, but living lives pleasing to God.

 

Galatians 5:13 says later,

 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

 

We have been called to freedom. This means that God does not punish us for our deeds that we do now. We’re all going to struggle with something here on earth, because we’re undeniably human. But we can’t let our struggles take advantage of us, because God is greater than those struggles.

 

Going back to the string of questions we all ask, every Christian wants to know what’s okay to do and what’s not okay. I totally understand that, because the Bible’s not totally clear on those gray areas. But that’s why they are called gray areas.

 

We can’t focus on the what’s-a-sin-am-I-doing-this-wrong aspect of the Christian life. Like my Dad says, “If you’re looking for dirt in the ground, just dig deep and you will definitely find it.” If you’re trying to convict yourself of sin and you look hard enough, you will find it. And dirt ain’t pretty.

 

So you know what we do? We don’t abide by a list of “Christian Rules” in order to try to be perfect. Jesus is our holiness. And so we pursue the understanding of His incredible grace, and out of that flows grateful love and a life pleasing to God.

 

I’m not saying we can’t use common sense to try to figure out what we should and should not do for our own benefit. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look to the Bible for wisdom. But what I am saying is that we shouldn’t stress so much over trying not to sin, because we are free in Christ. And if we seek God in our freedom, wanting to live out His will for us, He will reveal it to us and empower us to carry it out.

 

*aj