For as long as I can remember, starting in childhood, I’ve struggled with anxiety in a number of different capacities. As I got a little older throughout middle and high school, depression started to creep in alongside of the anxiety. I spent years going to therapy and taking numerous medications to try and combat what I had been dealing with. Both definitely helped. By the time I got to college I had stopped going to therapy and eventually got off of all the antidepressants I had been on. And while I’m confident that I am in a world of a better place now than I was then, I’ve accepted that those things will never really go away entirely.
Anxiety is something that I face on a near daily basis. I’ve found many helpful ways to cope, but the panic attacks still present themselves on occasion. Depression on the other hand, has almost been a non-issue for a while now. While life events can cause seasons of sadness, I have grown to easily distinguish the difference between normal feelings of being down and the depression I used to feel every day. While I had hoped that living in Colorado would help keep my happiness up throughout fall and winter, this past week has reminded me of a bitter friend of mine: seasonal depression. It’s almost like I woke up one morning and felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks that felt all too familiar. I suddenly began to feel every non-desirable emotion, every day, for no explainable reason.
Once I accepted that these feelings of depression were not okay for me to continue dealing with, I was determined to make a change from what I usually do when this happens. In the past, I’ve just let the feelings fester until something just changed on its own. But this year, I’m making the conscious decision each day to dwell in God’s presence instead. To be honest, it’s not always easy and it’s not always fun. I sometimes have to force myself to listen to uplifting music instead of sad music that will only make me feel worse. I have to choose to keep spending time in the Word instead of wasting my time away with TV, social media, or whatever else can be a distraction from what God is trying to say to me or do in my life.
My grandpa recently sent me a care package that included a book I’d been wanting to read for quite some time: The Circle Maker. I am absolutely certain that God got my hands on that book exactly when I needed it. I read fairly regularly, but with this book I spent almost all of my free minutes working my way through it. Because of it, I’ve been praying more than I have in a long time. While other spiritual disciplines are not typically a problem for me, like reading my Bible and going to church, I find myself often forgetting to pray when I truly need it. I just allow myself to wallow in my negative feelings and hope that God will pull me out of the pit. But after finishing this book, I got one key principle for me to focus on: pray like it depends on God, and work like it depends on you.
This was exactly what I needed to hear throughout this time of year for me, and author Mark Batterson made it easy by repeating that line many times throughout the book! I so often succumb to my feelings of despair because it’s easier than trying to do something about them to feel better. But that is not what the Lord has called me to do. I have to make the daily decision to trust His sovereignty and put in the effort on my side of things to help Him, help me get to where I want to be.
I remember during my worst times of depression in school, I was unhappy with where I lived. I felt like I didn’t belong, like I was meant for more than my small town, and that frustrated me. I probably prayed 100 prayers asking God to get me out of that place–both physically and mentally. Now here I am, living in one of the most gorgeous places out there, feeling like this is where I was meant to be all along. And it’s all because God brought me here, honoring the work I put in along the way to get my education and advance myself through my career. He numbered my every step until they led me right to Colorado, right when I was supposed to be here. He has proved faithful to get me through 100% of the hard times I’ve faced so far, and He will continue to do that for the rest of my life when I’m willing to put Him first in my life above all the noise.
So while the cold weather seasons may be a tougher time for me (and I’m sure many of you), I trust that God will bring me back to a place of joy when I’m constantly seeking Him in prayer even when I don’t feel like it. I guarantee He will do the same for you.
P.S. Read the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson!! It was truly life-changing for me and I’m believing the same for anyone else struggling with feeling distant from God.
P.P.S. I drafted this post a couple of days ago, then this morning I watched my home church’s latest message online. It was about our value of “Pray First,” in which our pastor mentioned the same exact saying that was repeated throughout the book! Only God.