“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
I have been on a wellness journey since 2008, when I encountered a potentially deadly infection called MRSA. I chose at that time to pursue a lifelong journey toward optimal wellness in all areas of life: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. Little did I know that in 2014 my journey would take a huge detour into the mental realm.
For the past six months I have encountered an illness that I thought I could easily skim by and heal. As a worrier, I know firsthand what it is like to have thoughts that are irrational, but I always managed to bring myself back to reality without any fear. I knew that worry was wasted energy, and that irrational thoughts were just…. irrational. I knew I had to stay rational and reasonable in order to be mentally healthy. Well, that’s easier said than done.
Like a lightning bolt from the sky came upon me the most irrational thought of all. That irrational thought led me down a very dark and scary path to full blown panic. What was it? The irrational thought that I was obsessing over was dying. Physically dying. Leaving behind my children, my husband, and my life… and my faith was shaken to its core.
I had thoughts about dying before, but it was never accompanied with absolute FEAR. For the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly frozen in a world of fear. My own mind had created a world where the imagination ran beyond wild. It ran straight off a cliff, and I was clinging to the edge.
F = False E=Evidence A=Appearing R=Real.
Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is the realm of the imaginary that something could happen. Fear is the twisted view of reality. Fear is not based on truth, love, or the “here and now.” Fear encompasses all that is scary, uncontrollable, and unREAListic. But, I found myself in a place where fear consumed my every thought, invaded every cell of my body, and left me feeling like I was on the edge of a cliff.
Faith. Is it real? Is it made up or a fantasy?
I have had to ask myself these questions a lot lately. For those of you who know me, I am a person of faith. I believe in the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, and all of the things that make the Christian faith MY faith. I grew up in a non-denominational church, so I don’t have any memories where faith was not a part of my life. My mom and dad were believers in God, too, and they made it a priority to show their faith in their lives.
Then… my world was like an hourglass that had been turned upside down. All of the sand that had settled into the past 41 years had been shaken and stirred. I no longer had any solid ground on which to stand (or so I thought). I lost my faith.
It was not by default, however, that my faith was shaken and stirred almost to the point of obliteration. I had chosen to take hold of a lie, an imaginary belief, that was not grounded in any truth.
As I grappled for a place to climb back on to the edge, I first noticed that I had to believe in myself that I was strong enough to overcome this slippery slope. I didn’t feel strong at all. No way. This was the weakest point I have ever been. So, I started grabbing onto anything, anyone, and everything that was tangible. I was desperate for a safety net.
When I came to the realization that my faith had been shaken and stirred, I also knew it was not shattered. I still knew that I believed in God. I knew that He loved me so much that He sent his son to die on a cross for me. I knew all of the stories and verses, and so I began to quote them to myself. But, something was still missing. I was believing up to the point where I thought I was in sync with God. I thought I was doing all of the “right” things to make sure I could check off my “to do” list to be in the right line with faith. Yet, I was praying for transformation and surrender of the will. Did God answer my prayer through this new bout of mental instability?
I can’t answer that question as of yet. I know that God does miraculous things on a moment by moment basis, and I cannot question him as to “why” He is doing or allowing things to happen. Yet, what I DO KNOW is that He does allow suffering to bring people closer to Him. Look at the man called Job in the Bible. He was doing all the right things, and he was a righteous man. Still, God chose to “test” him to see if he would give up his faith. He lost everything. He lost his children, his livelihood, and he almost lost his wife. Even his wife told him to curse God and die. But, Job did not listen to her. Good man! He chose to listen and obey God in spite of all of his suffering. In the end, God blessed him with double the children, double the livestock, double everything (except the wife)! Job was the ultimate example of a refiner’s fire, and he came though it like shining gold.
No matter the cost…
I am learning through this wilderness period of pruning and regrowth that the cost to surrender to the will of God is great. There is no amount on earth (in terms of pain, loss, trial, suffering, conflict) that is WORTHY to be compared to the glory of God and His will. It also says, “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul?” When I prayed the prayer that God would bring me closer to Him, that my marriage would be secured, and that my life would be transformed for God’s glory, I had no idea that the cost would be this great. Yet, Jesus says to take up the cross daily and follow Him. If I am truly his child, which I claim to be, then I will do whatever it takes. The cost could be in tears, loss of sleep, countless hours of prayer on my knees, singing songs, losing material possessions… God can choose whatever He wants (and he knows my limits) to bring me closer to Him.
At the end of my life on earth it will not matter what house I lived in, what car I drove, or what clothes I wore or food that I ate. What will matter is this: did I fully surrender to the Lord in EVERY matter, and did I love Him with my WHOLE heart, and did I tell others about HIS LOVE and what HE can do for them? I hope so. I want to stand at those pearly gates one day, and hear those words, “Well done.”
So, if my story of anxiety and panic that is leading me back to Christ has helped encouraged you to do the same, will you share? Will you reply?