How Do You Hold on to Hope When You’re Fighting Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, and they often occur together. Just because its relatively common, though, doesn’t make dealing with both feel any less weird. Exhibit A, this image I ran across on Pinterest:

It’s overly simplified, of course, to say “depression is when you don’t really care about anything” and “anxiety is when you care too much about everything.” Still, these comments capture part of how strange it feels to simultaneously (or alternately) deal with depression and anxiety. “Having both is staying in bed because you don’t want to go to school and then panicking because you don’t want to fail. Having both is wanting to go see your friends so you don’t lose them all, then staying home in bed because you don’t want to make the effort.”

Anxiety and depression are going to show up a bit different for everyone who struggles with them, but for me it’s like one day I’m on-edge, jittery, and so distracted by my inner anxiety monologue that I struggle to remember how things actually happened. Then the next day I feel like a weight’s pressing down on me snuffing out all motivation and hope. And some days, the smothering feeling is there but I’m also anxious about stuff I should care about and there’s this weird fight going on in my head. It’s exhausting.

Holding on to hope isn’t easy when you’re fighting a struggle inside your mind that tells you the worst could happen and there’s no point in trying to do anything about it. But we’re also not helpless victims of our own minds. We can change the patterns of our thoughts. We can choose to hold on to hope even when there seems no reason for it, and the easiest/best way to do this is with the Lord’s help.

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We Rejoice In Hope

Last week, we talked about learning to rejoice always because we know our God holds us (and everything else) in His hands. Shifting our focus to Him gives us the perspective we need to have true, lasting joy. It also gives us something else.

I quoted a definition of joy in last week’s post (titled “The Joy of the Lord”) that stated it is “acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.” We could further simplify this definition by saying joy is a result of hope.

Hope in the Bible isn’t just a vague sense of wanting something with no guarantee it will happen, the way we often use it today when we say things like “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope this new superhero movie is good.” Rather, it’s about an expectation that you can count on being fulfilled. It’s intimately connected to salvation (Rom. 8:24; 1 Thes. 5:8), provides comfort in sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13), and is used as a title for God (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). And it’s essential to joy.

Hope, Suffering, and Joy

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1-2, WEB)

“We rejoice in hope,” partly because, as Paul says later in this letter “we were saved in hope” (Rom. 8:24). Our hope and rejoicing are connected with faith and grace, as well as the glory of God. Though we don’t yet see the end result of our salvation, we hope for it and we have joy in that expectation. But that’s not all we rejoice in. Read more

Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions, but people talk about them enough that the idea is something I think about. And so January has become a time for thinking about what happened last year, what I’d like to change in this next year, and how I plan to “show up” for my life.

Part of this focus in the new year comes along with participating in 30 days of yoga. I’ve been doing this Yoga With Adrienne program every January since 2015 and it’s a wonderful way to check in with yourself, get healthy, and focus on becoming a person who can serve others wholeheartedly. In addition to this, I happened upon an interesting blog post titled “Intentions Not Resolutions.” 

“I no longer make New Year’s resolutions – they’re too easy to give up on after week one and only become a source of guilt. … Instead, a few years ago, I began starting my New Years by choosing a word to inspire the kind of intentional living I wanted to focus on for the year.” — Jen of E.C.B.C

I’d sort of tried this last year when I discovered a site called My Intent that makes bracelets with a custom word on them. I couldn’t pick one word, though, and ended up with a bracelet that says “Balance” and “Connect.” I rarely wear it any more, though those two concepts still resonate deeply.

Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: MarrCreative via Lightstock

I’ve been thinking for a while now that if I made a new bracelet it would say “fearless.” What with working through my breakup and (finally) getting counseling for the anxiety I’ve been living with for 15+ years, 2018 was a year that I realized that 1) I have a lot of fears, and 2) I don’t have to let them control me.

There’s another bracelet that I picked up last year at an art festival that says, “Encourage your hopes, not your fears.” I’ve been wearing that one a lot. It’s the perfect message to combat my anxiety, which generally pushes hopes aside behind all the things that could go wrong because of all the things that I’m sure are wrong with me. But if I spend all my time turned inward thinking about my fears, then I’m just encouraging my anxiety to take over.

If, on the other hand, I encourage my hopes it changes things. And if I can learn to do that more consistently it might drastically change things. I hope I can keep growing this blog to reach and encourage more people. I hope that I’ll stop sabotaging myself because I’m scared of dealing with everything that might come with being a successful blogger and author. I hope I can climb out of my own head more often and connect with others (including God) in a deeper way.

My intention for 2019 isn’t just one word, but I do have one. I’m going to encourage my hopes, not my fears.

What about you? Did you set any intentions or resolutions for the New Year?

Even If You Don’t: Holding On To Hope In Dark Times

We know God can do anything. So how do you react when He doesn’t do something that you beg him to? When your loved one isn’t healed? When your heartbreak feels unbearable and then something else piles on top of that? When you just don’t know how to go on, yet you have to anyway?

I’ve been going through a rough patch emotionally, especially over the past few weeks but really for a few months now. And I feel like God has thrown me some songs as “lifelines” in this time. First it was “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe and more recently it was “Even If” by MercyMe.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I didn’t much want to sing this when it popped into my head. Actually, I couldn’t at first since all I remembered was the “But even if you don’t” line. But I looked the song up, grasping for some hope to anchor my soul, and after playing through it a few times I could breath and pray again. I’ll admit, though, that there was still a part of me crying out, “Why?” when I thought about Him choosing not to take away the sorrow and hurt. And it’s okay to do that. As my counselor said, God is big enough to handle it when His kids are frustrated with Him.

Hope is one of the key things that gets us through the times when we’re frustrated with God and don’t understand what He’s doing. And it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough. Paul tells us “faith, hope and love remain”  (1 Cor. 13:13, WEB). They’re all three virtues that aren’t going away, but we talk about faith and love a whole lot more than hope. Which is a shame, because hope is something that’s very much needed in this world. Read more

Helmet of Salvation

No set of armor would be complete without something to protect your head. In our study of Ephesians 6, we’ve already taken up the Girdle of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Footwear of the Gospel, and the Shield of Faith. Now Paul adds,

and receive the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17, LEB)

Just a short phrase in this list, but it’s an incredibly powerful piece of armor. As every Christian knows, salvation is one of the core tenants of our faith. We wouldn’t be here without Jesus dying to save us and continuing to work on bringing His followers into the family of God. But usually we think of salvation as something we’re given, like grace, rather than something that we keep carrying around as part of our armor. So let’s take a look at the idea of salvation in that context.

Helmet of Salvation | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Thomas Quine via Flickr

A Helmet On God’s Head

One of the most interesting things about the Helmet of Salvation is that it’s one of the armor pieces that God Himself wears. We referenced the verse about God’s helmet a few weeks ago when talking about the Breastplate of Righteousness. It reads,

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head. He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle. (Is. 59:17, WEB)

When we’re told, “receive the helmet of salvation,” we’re being given a piece of armor identical to one that God has worn on His own head. “Salvation belongs to Yahweh,” which gives Him the absolute right to wear it as a helmet and to share it with whomever He wills (Ps. 5:8, WEB). Read more

Expecting Persecution: Responding To The World’s Hate

Last year, the persecution of Christians during the past quarter century hit a record high for the third year in a row. The World Watch List, released by Open Doors every year for the past 25 years, examines the pressures Christians face and levels of religiously motivated violence to rank the top 50 countries where “Christians face the most persecution.”click to read article, "Expecting Persecution: Responding To The World's Hate" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Here in the United States, I’ve heard the Christians around me talk about being persecuted. “It’s getting bad,” they say. You might lose your business for not baking a cake or go to jail for not issuing a gay “marriage” license. You might be scared to say “I’m a Christian” because people will laugh at or ridicule you. Your kid might be told they can’t bring a Bible to school.

While that does qualify as persecution, the U.S. isn’t anywhere on this list, nor on the expanded list of countries to watch. India, on the other hand, comes in at #15. There are 64 million Christians in India and “approximately 39 million experience direct persecution.” That means about “40 incidents were reported per month, including pastors beaten, churches burned and Christians harassed.” A little closer to home, last year “23 Christian leaders in Mexico and four in Colombia were killed specifically for their faith.”

In 35 out of the 50 countries, including most of the top-ranked countries, Christians are being persecuted by Islamic extremists. In a rising number of Asian countries, the driving force is religious and ethnic nationalism. In summary, “Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.”

Why The World Hates Us

Many U.S. Christians don’t even know about the level of persecution our brethren face overseas. And if we do, I think all too often our response is an American knee-jerk reaction that the solution is to export more of our ideas like religious freedom, tolerance, and equal justice. Those same ideals drive the indignation we feel seeing any sort of persecutions happen here in the United States.

click to read article, "Expecting Persecution: Responding To The World's Hate" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Sign: Religious Persecution in Progress” by John Nakamura Remy, CC BY-SA via Flickr

As Americans, we think we deserve religious freedom. Under U.S. law, we’re right and I do believe we should continue to fight for that on a political level. But we should also realize the level of freedom we’ve enjoyed to practice our faith in the U.S. is an anomaly in world history. And while U.S. citizens should be able to count on freedom from persecution because of the Constitution, as Christians we’re never promised exemption from persecution. In fact, we’re told the opposite. Read more