I have been repeating an unhealthy pattern in my life without even realizing it!
Are you doing the same thing?
I would go all out for Jesus and pour out everything I had in my heart and mind. I wanted to please Him and do what was right. That’s a good thing, right? But for some reason, I’d crash in a giant way afterwards.
There was the time in 2013 that I moved to Uganda and lived there for a year. I poured out my soul for others, thinking it would somehow fill me up at the same time. But in the end, I just felt depleted!
I accomplished a lot of good works. I helped start a church that I pastored weekly, and it quickly grew to 300 members. I helped lead a women’s movement that helped over 1,200 HIV+ women. Twice weekly, I visited local jails to share the Good News. I helped build a children’s home that housed five beautiful children. I preached at huge events with thousands of people attending.
And on top of all that, I wrote a book about what I was experiencing.
But when it was all done, there was hardly anything left of me. My health deteriorated so much that I didn’t even have the energy to walk, smile, or even believe anymore. I didn’t understand it! I was doing all the right things. I was passionate about God and I insisted on always staying positive. I even felt His Spirit working in my life. I witnessed miracles, healings, salvations, and unbelievable testimonies.
But then everything fell apart. For the next two years I repeatedly dealt with deep feelings of depression and anxiety attacks. I saw counselors and took medications just to get by. Just to survive. It felt like I had a mystery disease that no one could figure out. It was frustrating for me because people would tell me that it wasn’t surprising to them: after all, I had “seen things that no person should have to see.” But it didn’t feel like PTSD, and I felt nothing like a saint. I felt like a dirty rotten fake.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t anyone understand my struggle? At the core of my being I was asking myself: What’s wrong with me?
After a lot of soul-searching, and a long and arduous climb, I finally got most of the way out of the darkness I had been in. If full recovery was 100%, then I was at 80%. Not too bad. So I started reengaging in doing God’s work!
Ah, but then I did it again. I quickly ramped things up all the way and found myself all spent again. I made two trips to India and over the course of four weeks, I preached about 15 times. I met with people with leprosy who were thanking Jesus and raising up their nubs with no fingers. I was excited to have my joy and passion back!
As you’ve probably guessed, when I got home, I crashed again! I was gripped with anxiety, panic, depression, and more. It was almost as bad as the first time.
“Not this again!” I thought to myself. “I thought I got through this!”
I began to reach out to those who had helped me before, but I was in for a rude awakening. I found out that my psychiatrist had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had quit her practice. My other counselor had medical challenges too, so he was not available to me anymore.
One day, a friend of mine mentioned that he found someone who worked with burned out missionaries and people who had the same kind of experiences I was having. Could this be the hope I was looking for? Or was this going to fall apart, too? Would I just learn a whole new set of skills only to fall flat on my face one more time?
I found out that the doctor my friend recommended was very busy training other counselors and he had very little time to make phone calls. But my friend wouldn’t let this guy off the hook that quickly. He set me up with a 30-60-minute phone conversation with the doctor. We ended up talking for over two hours!
He told me to tell him my story. As he listened to all the things that were going on, he asked questions to get more clarity. They were good questions. They were the kind of questions that felt like the prodding of a doctor who was trying to discover where the pain was.
Towards the end of the conversation he asked me, “Do you want to know what I think is going on?”
I quickly replied, “YES!”
“You have to notice the patterns in your life!” he said. “You have a tendency to ramp things up really quickly. And as we all know, ‘what comes up…’ ”
I finished his sentence for him, “…must come down!”
He asked me questions about my childhood. He asked me if one or more of my parents struggled with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar people have a tendency to experience extremely high emotional highs and extremely low emotional lows. It means that your adrenaline pumps super quickly and it’s easy for you to become excited about something to the point of not wanting it to stop! Sound familiar? I happened to be adopted and I knew that my birth mom was severely bipolar. But as the Bible says, “If we won’t learn to rest and relax, God will ‘make me lie down in green pastures.’” So essentially what he was saying was, I needed to be aware that my regulator was broken.
Nothing to be ashamed of. Just something to be aware of.
Not only that, he told me some of that excitement that I felt could actually have come from the devil as a strategy to ramp me up so that I would crash later!
He said, “I’m noticing that the enemy’s plan for your life is to make you feel like you’re not worthy of His love so that you’ll have to strive to earn it. This creates restlessness in you to prove that you’re loved. This is when the enemy capitalizes on that fear, convincing you that you need to overwork for love. He uses this and then tanks you right after.”
He told me, “If you’re not aware of this pattern, it will keep happening in your life. If you keep getting ramped up, you’re going to keep having crashes. And if you keep crashing, your hope is going to dwindle down to nothing.”
Once I became aware of what was happening in me, part of my depression seemed to lift. All I wanted was clarity. I wanted to know what was wrong. For all this time, I didn’t know that the problem could’ve been a pattern in my life.
I had thought that God was mad at me. I thought that he had left me. I thought that I didn’t matter anymore. But just the opposite was true. God was allowing me to go through this process to develop my character and ultimately to lead me to trust in His love alone.
In our lives, being self-aware can save us a tremendous amount of pain, suffering and worry!
So here’s where your homework and healing begins. Today I would ask you:
What are some of the patterns like in your life?
What ways would the devil want to twist the truth in your life?
Where are your thoughts not aligned with God’s truth?
Where are you susceptible to attack?
If we become self-aware, we can begin to bridge a gap to healing. With God’s help, we can tear down the strongholds of the enemy and live an empowered healthy and whole life!
Where am I at today, you might ask?
I’m at a place of healing and understanding. It is the month of March, and I am beginning by marching on. But now, I’m not marching to try to earn God’s love. I’m marching into my true identity as His child. I’m marching into the acceptance that, no matter what I do or don’t do, I’m fully loved.
I’m recognizing that God created me to love me.