Make Your Needs Known

I don’t know about you all, but I’m not a fan of admitting my needs. It makes me feel embarrassed to confess that I am struggling. However, I have seen repeatedly how valuable it is when I allow myself to be vulnerable with others. The past 6 months have been very difficult for me, thanks to depression, but I know these months would have been even harder if I had not shared my struggle. I wanted to share what I have learned about being vulnerable in the hopes that if you find opening up to be hard, you will feel more comfortable making your needs known in the future.

One huge benefit of sharing my needs has been seeing God work in ways that I might have missed had I not opened up. When I first began to feel depressed, I battled a lot of shame and guilt about it and therefore was afraid to tell others. But even though I often feel too ashamed to share, I would rather be loved in community than be ashamed and alone. I have learned that a shared burden becomes a lighter burden. Living in community has changed my perspective on God as I have seen Him actively at work in my life and in the lives of the people I love. When I feel too hopeless to pray for myself, what a gift and joy it is to know that others are praying for me!

One of the things that one of my pastors told me once is that I didn’t need to feel like I was burdening my family and friends with my problems or feel guilty for reaching out; he said that the people of God are a provision from God to support us when we are suffering. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ, but we cannot bear what we do not know. Sharing our needs invites others in and lets them see God at work. If we do not share our needs, we are also robbing others of the chance to use their gifts to help in whatever ways they can.

The church is my family, and with my family I can celebrate the joys and mourn the sorrows. God gives us everything we need, and I have realized that sometimes what we need is other people to remind us of the truths we have forgotten. I can’t ask God why He isn’t helping me if I’m not willing to use what He has already given me–His Word, the Church, and loved ones with whom I can share my burdens. God uses His people to accomplish His work, and that work includes the ministry of comfort and prayer just as much as it includes things like therapy and medication for me.   

There have been many days where it has been hard for me to see any hope, when the despair has crept in and taken over everything. Because I know that depression lies and tells me I am alone and no one cares and things will never get better, I have to work to prove myself wrong, so I reach outside of myself. I have texted friends on more than one occasion pleading for prayer because I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day. My friends can’t remove my depression–though I certainly wish they could–but they can help me carry it. I know they have uttered numerous prayers for me. They have brought me meals, written me cards, given me God-honoring music, and spent time with me when I felt alone or sad.

Being vulnerable has shown me that when I am open, people draw near instead of running away. People who truly love God don’t run away when things get hard because they have faith in the God who works all things for good. There is no problem too big for God, and therefore there is no problem we should be afraid to share because He can fix them all in His way and in His time. We are not taking full advantage of the gift God has given us in the Church if we keep everything locked inside. In the 8 years I have been a member of my church, I have seen God answer so many prayers–prayers that I wouldn’t have known to pray had people around me not made their requests known. I see it as a privilege to pray for those I love, and I know the same is true for those who pray for me. Seeing God answer prayers gives witness to His goodness and faithfulness in our lives.

I am needy, but while I used to think being needy made me weak, now I know that being needy simply means being human. We all need Jesus to take our very next breath, and He wants us to come to Him in our need. Think how much lighter your burdens would be if you gave them to Jesus and allowed the church to help you bear them. Let’s come together and make our needs known and be blown away by how God meets them. Don’t be afraid to go first. You don’t go alone.

 

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The Hard Fight

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I am not sure of the origin of this quote, but it describes my life right now. If I’m being honest, everything feels hard right now. This time last week I was  in an inpatient mental health facility because things had gotten so bad that I thought almost daily about ending my life. I even had a plan that I didn’t realize was so specific and actionable until I voiced it to my therapist during an appointment that was a true provision from the Lord, since I originally wasn’t even supposed to meet with him that day, but was able to because he had an unexpected opening in his schedule. Thanks to the Lord and my therapist’s intervention, I did not act on my plan but instead checked myself into Lakeside in Memphis last Tuesday. Admitting to the people in my life that I was there was incredibly hard, and I have battled a lot of shame and guilt about this. But it truly was what needed to happen, and I left Lakeside feeling better than when I entered. I had a lot of time there to focus on myself, and I learned some valuable lessons and processed some hard things. 

However, none of that fixed me. I still came home with depression. The only difference is that now I want to live, whereas before I was ready to give up. I was tired of fighting all the negative, intrusive thoughts swirling around in my head. I was tired of trying to fake it through the day. I was tired of feeling alone in my pain. I was tired, full stop. But when people are tired, they rest; they don’t give up on life. I am so thankful that I didn’t give up. 

One thing I realized while I was gone is that despite all my thoughts to the contrary, a lot of people love me. When I let my family and close friends and some people at church know about the situation, not once did anyone act with anything other than love, support, and care for me. I don’t know why this surprised me since I surround myself with awesome people, but I had believed the lie that I was alone and unloved for far too long. I found myself overcome and humbled by all the love being poured out on me, all the prayers being prayed for me. I realized that, as my pastor told me, people are with me and for me. What a blessing that has been to me!

This week my husband gave me a small gift. It’s a squishy boxing glove, and he got it so I will remember to keep fighting and never give up. It’s also a reminder that I am not alone and that I am loved.IMG_3783

The boxing glove is also a reminder that I need to choose my hard. Living with depression is hard. I don’t know when this cloud will lift. Everything requires tons of mental energy, and I am exhausted by the end of the day. Then I learned at Lakeside that I need to change a lot of things in order to help improve my mental health: my thought patterns, my coping mechanisms, my sleeping and eating habits. Add to that adjusting to new medications and just living life, and all of it feels completely overwhelming and hard, and I know it will be. But as hard as all the change will be, it will not be harder than how I have been living. I resisted going to Lakeside initially because I didn’t want to put my family through that and I didn’t know what it would be like, but I also realized that my family would rather me be gone for a week instead of being gone for the rest of their lives. Then going to Lakeside didn’t seem quite as hard (although it in fact was one of the most difficult things I have ever done). Learning to change will require work and diligence, but I know that by choosing this hard thing I will hopefully one day lay aside the other hard thing—depression. It may be hard, but hard is not impossible. I will keep telling myself this, day after day, moment by moment, choice by choice, until I believe it.

I told my therapist that he saved my life, and I truly believe that. I also believe that it was no coincidence that I got that therapy appointment when I did. No, that was an act of the God who loves me and sees me and cares for me, even when I think He is far away. He marks all of my tears and keeps them in a bottle (Psalm 556:8). He will not restrain his mercy from me but will preserve me with His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 40:11). 

I don’t know why I have to walk this road, but I hope that the Lord will redeem this struggle and use it for His good and His glory. The story is still being written, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. If you are reading this and relate to it but don’t know what to do, please reach out. Don’t be silent. Don’t give up. Fight the hard fight. 

Lament for the Downcast Soul

The clouds loom gray above my head.
Will the sun ever pierce this gloom?
How long until the pain is gone?
How long until I feel more than a sense of doom?

Lord, You say You know my inmost thoughts;
You say You will not leave me.
So why is it that when I pray
My prayers never seem to get past the ceiling?

My feelings rage and seek to rule me,
Filling my heart with anger and pain.
I look around for help to find me
And pray for a break from this endless rain.

I yearn for the day when I can stop fighting
And rest in Your steadfast love alone.
Lord, make your face to shine upon me;
May I find mercy at your throne.

Help me hope in what I cannot see.
Help me trust in what I know is true.
Help me surrender the lies I believe
And gently guide me back to You.

When faith seems far and evils near,
Dear Lord, be kind to remind me
That though I think I’m all but lost,
Your grace will always find me.

–Erin Mount

Waiting for the Cloud to Lift

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A few months ago, depression settled over me like a cloud, coloring my world gray and dreary. The first few days, I chalked it up to hormones and waited for it to pass. The days stretched into a week, then two. Still I smiled and laughed and went about my day, hoping no one would notice, that no one would see I was shattering into a million pieces. Before long, I had mostly forgotten what it felt like to be happy, but I kept the mask plastered on my face, baring my soul to no one but God, in silent cries during the nights that began to stretch on and on interminably. But soon the pain threatened to come out of hiding and destroy me altogether, and so out of fear and with fear, I reached out. And in reaching out, I found light and love and compassion–things that of course had been there all along but to which I had been blinded.

With the help of professionals and loved ones, I’m working on finding a way out of the gray and back into a life lived in color, and for the first time in a long time, I have hope that one day I will smile and really mean it once again. Last night I read the words above from Lamentations and wept with how aptly the pain I feel is captured in this ancient text, and with how badly I want to also feel its certain hope. God knows my pain and heartache and despair, for He sent His Son here to feel it all and to one day put it all to death. God speed the day, but until He comes, I cling to the promise of His steadfast love holding me close, lighting up the darkness and putting an end to the night.