“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).
I’ve been pretty open about my struggle with anxiety and depression, because anxiety and depression have played such a significant, painful, oftentimes pressing, other times nearly debilitating, role, in my walk with Jesus. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Today, I write again of my witness and of my experience. And I pray that my testimony is received, by all who read it, with the grace and love of our Lord Jesus.
Anxiety and depression are oppressive and oftentimes debilitating conditions, which have worked hand-in-hand to wreak havoc in my life. Spiritually speaking, anxiety and depression operate as a selfish and jealous spirit leaving little room for anything else. Not that I am saying that the enemy has assigned anxiety and depression to any specific spirit; from my experience, all demons come fully equipped to instigate whatever trouble is needed. I recall times in which I felt as though I was trapped in a perpetual nightmare, and reaching out to God, amidst all that darkness, was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. Although I couldn’t always tell then, Jesus never left my side, and the darkness didn’t last forever, although it put up quite a fight for roughly two decades. Different infirmities call for different treatments, manifest in different ways, and reach different outcomes—good and bad, but no matter the manifestation, no matter the treatment prescribed, or even the outcome reached, true victory begins and ends with God, through Jesus Christ.
The secret antidote was never a secret at all. My inability to recognize the cure was always more a matter of my willingness to submit to God, and that submission is easier said than done. Anytime I found myself lamenting the past, control was at the core. Anytime I found myself lamenting the present, there, again, was control. Anytime I found myself worrying about an uncertain future, you guessed it, control was right there front and center. Now, wait just a minute!! …all of those years of pain and misery and some days not being able to get out of bed, sometimes even wanting to die… boiled down to “control issues”… I’ll never claim it was an easy pill to swallow. An even tougher pill was drilling deeper to find pride. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). In “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” God showed me that I have to surrender my life to him; that my survival depended on letting go and still does. Satan wishes that I forget that I am a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), even embrace the very infirmity that tormented me, and all five senses conspire, with him, against me each and everyday. No way did I feel like a new creature then; that took time, and trust me, I have the bruises and scars to show for it.
I haven’t smoked a cigarette, in over ten years, and although nicotine addiction no longer controls me, that terrible addiction remains ever-ready to spring forth into action, and anxiety and depression are no different. What’s more, my flesh ferociously resists the Spirit’s good work within me to this very moment. But Hebrews 4:15 reminds me that Jesus not only empathizes with my struggles, Jesus literally walked in my shoes. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Recovery has been a long and painful process of victories and setbacks, and in my despair, there was even a time when I accused God of being an absentee parent. Sure, an instantaneous healing would have been glorious, but I think the greater miracle has been revealed through what has been endured. Despite the brokenness, despite the bruises and scars collected along the way, the life I lead today bears witness to what God has done and is still doing. There was light at the end of the tunnel!
Life’s a journey and so is recovery. Seek help. The answer is the same for everyone, Jesus, but your own testimony may differ from mine. Don’t give up, and don’t be ashamed. The devil is a liar.
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