Hope in the midst of hopelessness

For the past 5 years, I have been sharing bits and pieces of my life with you and some of you have come to know me a little through my posts if you did not know me before. So for those of you who have never met me, I am really smart… I am talking high IQ, straight As, top-of-my-class smart but underneath all of that smart is someone who has a lot of anxiety.

Since my childhood, I have harbored irrational fears and worries and I have carried these on into my adult years. Because I have a high IQ, I have found ways to cope which have made me very high functioning- so while others with the same disorder might be crippled with fear, for me anxiety shows up as thinking ahead through multiple scenarios and having backup plans for my back up plans. I am very strategic in my thinking, I am always prepared, I always bring my A-game, and I push the limits of excellence in every thing I do. This is what the world sees. What people do not see is the crippling fear that drives everything I do- fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of death, etc. and the associated anxiety that accompanies all those fears. Occasionally, I have the perfect storm in my life where it all gets too overwhelming for me and I would be in an internal state of despair and hopelessness even if I am functioning normally on the outside- a perfect example would be this very moment as I compose this blog albeit so eloquently and yet internally I am in a state of hopelessness.

Too many things beyond my control came at me so fast this week, my usual mechanism of being able to adapt with a backup plan failed and left me feeling helpless and hopeless. Today, I tried journaling to channel some of the thoughts running through my head at a mile a minute and when my writing could not keep up with my thoughts I just gave it up. In my despair, I picked up my bible and my readings took me to Isaiah 40 and verses 30 and 31 just leapt off the page at me:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV

Feeling hopeless and mentally drained, I saw the promise of strength in that scripture. But the promise comes with a caveat- to hope in the Lord. Huh? I am feeling hopeless and in order to get out of this state, I need to hope? If only it were that easy! So I asked God, I said “Well so what do I need to do to hope in you?” and as I waited impatiently for a response, the answer that came was definitely not what I was expecting. It was something like this:

A lot of times when we pray for or wish for something, we envision a certain outcome and we build our hopes and expectations around that outcome. For example when we pray to God for healing, our hope is built around the outcome that we would be healed and if we are healed then we are pleased that our “expectations have not been cut short”. But if the outcome is different from what we expect, we are disappointed and blame God, blame ourselves for not having faith enough or accept the outcome as something that should not be questioned or we blame others. The problem with this premise of hope is that hope is not predicated on outcomes. Hope is rooted in God, to be more specific in the unchangeable nature of God’s purpose. It is in God’s purpose for our lives that we find hope.

In the same way God, in His desire to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of His purpose, intervened and guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement  and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it]–a safe and steadfast hope that enters within the veil [of the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells], where Jesus has entered [in advance] as a forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20 AMP

Hope that is built on an expected outcome is not safe and steadfast hope because our desired outcomes may not always be God’s purpose for us which does not fail (Psalm 119:89). So for me to come back to a place of strong encouragement, indwelling strength and confident assurance on days like this, I need to simply trust that He is working everything out to fulfil His purpose for me regardless of my desired outcome. This is what it means to me to hope in the Lord (or wait on the Lord as some translations put it). And as I hope in God, He will restore my strength and transport me from the place of despair and hopelessness as He is doing now.

I leave you with this scripture as my prayer to God:

The LORD will work out his plans for my life [fulfill his purpose for me]— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138: 8 NLT/ESV

Yours Truly

Mental Health and the Church

Hi folks! This week church took an interesting turn. The pastor took the time to speak about mental health and how God helps us deal with mental health issues. The pastor even went ahead to share about his own experience and journey with depression and some of the congregants did the same. Now that was very different from what I am used to hearing about mental health issues in church. In fact, very little if any is said about it. There continues to be a stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially in Christians. However, this is a very important topic and especially now as many of us emerge from our COVID-cocoons.

This week I share with you what God has laid on the heart of  Chyina Powell, author of the blog Rise Holy, regarding the topic. And here is what she has to say:

Many believers in our society do not have a firm grasp on the truth of what mental health is. They mistakenly assume that it is all about depression or being crazy. But, in truth, mental health encompasses so much more than that. And that is why we as the body of Christ must break the cycle of stigmatizing mental health discussion.

What is mental health?

Mental health determines how we think and how we feel therefore it has an important impact on the way we view the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. Our mental health is made up of three common factors: life experiences, biology (chemical make-up), and family history. Mental health problems occur when one of these factors begins to alter your mood and mindset. Someone who has poor mental health doesn’t have to be what the church stereotypes as “crazy,” they can be someone who lies awake at night with worry, someone who feels apathetic to the world around them or someone experiencing aches and pains in their body for no physical reason. Yet many believers who are uneducated on the truth of what characterizes mental health argue that mental health problems only arise in those who don’t know God or those who have backslidden.

Can God relate with our struggles with mental health issues?

The truth is that our Heavenly Father knew that His children would have mental health issues which is why He gives us example after example in His Word. Elijah, a man who was so loved by God that he didn’t even die had terrible mood swings and even struggled with suicidal thoughts. Naomi, a woman who lost everything, was ready to give up. Moses, the man who delivered Israel out of Egypt was so anxious that if it was up to him, he never would have gone at all. And the list goes on.

Mental health is a very real battle that we as God’s children must acknowledge in order to overcome. You cannot win a battle if you refuse to fight it. Ask yourself this question, if mental health wasn’t important would the Lord have included it in the Scriptures? Thankfully, God always shows us a way out which is why we have to seek His face for ourselves.

Why is it important to discuss this issue?

From depression to anxiety to finding ways to cope with our issues to feelings of inadequacy or abandonment, the struggle is real. And as God’s chosen people, His representatives here on Earth, we have to talk about it. We have to stop saying, “Oh, that’s just a Spirit” or looking down on someone who is going through these issues. Why? Because we cannot minister to people if they don’t trust us. We cannot help save souls if we look down on the very real emotions and battles people go through each and every day. Our light cannot shine if we never step into the darkness. Ignoring an issue doesn’t make it disappear. And, if we were honest with ourselves, I believe every believer that has ever lived has gone through periods of time where they were in poor mental health. It is okay to discuss it.

The Lord tells us that He will heal us but He cannot heal a pain we do not acknowledge.

When was the last time you talked about mental health in a group of believers? When was the last time you were honest with the mental battles you face? That is why the Lord laid my upcoming Bible Study Nevertheless on my heart. I faced these same challenges and thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t saved enough. But that isn’t true. The war we wage is in the spirit and in the mind which is why it is time for the Church to address mental health openly and unashamedly.

Chyina Powell is an editor and writer at Powell Editorial. She is the financial chair of the Alumni Epsilon chapter of the International English Honors’ Society, Sigma Tau Delta and her writing interests lie mainly in speculative fiction and creative nonfiction. With years of editorial and publishing experience as well as a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania, Chyina is passionate about her work and shining a light on those voices previously unheard or misrepresented. Chyina is also the author of an upcoming Bible Study called Nevertheless: What the Bible Says About Mental Health, that broaches such topics as depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and more. In order to cover the expenses of publication, she has created a soon-to-launch Kickstarter project that can be found here. 

Thank you Chyina for this piece! My take away: You cannot win a battle if you refuse to fight it!

Yours Truly.