Amber Rylan Rivers is the singer and co-songwriter of the husband and wife music duo, Rylan Rivers. She is also a published poet and painter, blogger, and fiction writer. At the heart of all her work is her love for Jesus and sharing His light with others.

Around 8 months into my pregnancy, I was struck with the reality of child birth – my lifelong worst fear. I began waking up in the middle of the night dreading what lied ahead – fighting to focus on what came after and not the pain involved to get there. I was so afraid I wouldn’t know when to go to the hospital, or I somehow wouldn’t notice or have contractions. I feared the physical exposure and vulnerability of the situation. I feared my anxiety would take hold and I’d labor for hours, fighting against the tension in my body. Then if that happened, my baby would get stuck or hurt and they might have to do a C-section (which I almost elected for just to spare myself the “what ifs”). I was terrified of the pain and how I would react – what if I said something hurtful? What if I broke down or became angry? I didn’t want to be like women on TV who scream in agony and hit their husbands!

All this fear began siphoning the joy of being pregnant. I wrote about this in detail in my last post, so in short: childbirth was my biggest fear since I was a little girl. Nothing sounded more horrifying than it and it was the number one reason I used to think I didn’t want children until God himself reshaped my heart on the matter in August of 2017. 

The fear was so extreme, but I knew God had started me on this path and I knew I had to trust Him. I began laying these fears at His feet and making my requests known. I asked Him to let my water break so I would see the sign that my baby was ready, whether or not I had contractions. I hoped He would do this in the morning, after I had slept so I could have as much energy as possible. Most importantly, I asked Him to surround me with His presence, lend me His strength, and empower me with His joy when it was time. I wanted so badly to be a witness to everyone around me. I wanted to go through my worst fear with such grace they wondered where it came from so I could point back to the One who brought me there.

At 7 AM on January 22nd, I was not surprised to wake up feeling like I had wet my pants. I had this constant feeling the day before that my water was going to break the next day – which I assume was the Holy Spirit’s whisper. A surge of joy hit me as I realized what this meant: I was about to meet my baby! The slightest hint of fear tickled me for a fraction of a second before a deep sense of peace washed it away. The Lord had heard my prayers and concerns. I knew He would take care of me.

I decided to shower then woke my husband up declaring that it was finally time! I double checked with the OB-GYN, then off to the hospital we were.

Oddly enough, I hadn’t felt a single contraction.

They took me into triage where we were met with little urgency. Without any contractions, they probably figured I had just wet my pants after all. Fortunately, after two different tests of the fluid, the nurse came in to tell me my water had definitely broken and we would get to stay and have our baby!

Tears swelled in my eyes – joyful tears. Still no fear. God’s arms were around me in spite of my lifelong fear being before me. They took us to the labor and delivery room which would be my home for the next several hours, hooked me up to an IV, and induced me with oxytocin. 

The nurse – who had jabbed me three times, broken two of my veins, and used immense sarcasm to “hide” her irritation about her day – informed me that now that the hormone was pumping into my veins, it was just a matter of time before contractions started and grew stronger. 

This is about when I should have been afraid. 

But God smiled on me instead and I felt excited. Whatever pain awaited me – God was with me, fulfilling His promise, and I would finally meet my baby girl.

I lost track of time, but eventually the contractions did start. They grew and grew, becoming increasingly more painful. I had elected for an epidural, but had to wait for them to finish pumping fluids into me before they could issue it. The contractions reached the point where it was hard to talk through them or think about much besides them. But as they truly began peaking, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I began repeating that silently to myself as I endured powerful contractions, doing my best to stay positive and smile (after all, smiling releases endorphins, a natural painkiller!) Then finally, before it got out of hand, they issued the epidural on a drip system, handed me a button, and told me I could up my epidural with it at any point I needed. WHAT? I was so relieved! 

A warm sensation started in my toes and crept up to my naval as my body numbed. The contractions increased in power, but I felt them less and less. Not long later, I began trembling uncontrollably. The labor nurse (a new nurse and my hero during delivery) told me that the trembling usually means that it’s nearly time for delivery, but at this point I had not even seen a midwife or OB-GYN, nor had anyone checked me for dilation. 

The Lord’s peace continued to cover me in spite.

Finally, my midwife came in to check on me. She found a little pocket of amniotic fluid which she popped and then told me things would start moving a lot quicker now. She also informed me that most likely a different OB-GYN would be taking over by the time I was ready to deliver, since it would still be a bit longer. 

Again, we waited. The labor nurse came and turned me on my side, propping some weird peanut shaped ball between my legs. She switched me to the other side 15 minutes later, then came back to switch me after another 15 minutes, but decided to check my dilation first.

She stood back up, paging someone on her device to tell them I was “complete.” Then she told me I could start pushing. 

Start pushing? After all that, it still seemed alarming to me. This was it! It was time to put forth all the effort I had, face this fear, and have my baby – and oh, the fear finally started to creep in.

The joy of the Lord is my strength, I repeated the verse to myself. I put my smile back on and focused on that. The Lord was delivering me of my fear. I was delivering my baby – a child of God, a daughter of the King of the Universe. This was no time to recoil.

I had no idea how to “push”. I had decided against watching or attending classes because I was concerned it would worsen my fear. But I knew the Lord had made me and chosen me to do this – which meant educated or not, He would be sure I could do it. I clung to that and imagined the best case scenario where it was not difficult and she came right out. I remember saying something silly to my husband and mom about how the baby was going to “slip out like a fish” which became my new vision and prayer request. It made me laugh to think about it that way, and that joy was precisely what I needed to stay calm.

The labor nurse set me up and instructed me on what to do. We did a trial, which to all of our surprise since this is my first baby, I managed to get it right and immediately started pushing my baby down. I praised God and continued to pray and meditate on the Word He’d given me.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

The nurse called for the OB-GYN, which began a whole mess. The OB-GYN decided that since I was “prime” (a first timer) that I had a long road ahead and she had no need to hurry. The nurse and at least two others outside the room fought to convince the OB to get in there since now, the midwife was gone. 

Luckily, my nurse stayed with me, reassuring me she could and would deliver the baby if she had to, but she wanted the OB to show up. She had me stop pushing, hoping to delay the delivery until someone else came in, but at that point, my baby had already begun to crown so she knew she didn’t have long. Word came in that the OB was “on her way” and the nurse had me start pushing again. At that point, I didn’t really care who delivered the baby, I just wanted to get it done! 

As the pushing went on, and my nurse prepared herself for the real deal, word finally came in that my amazing midwife was in the building and had come back to deliver my baby, even though her shift was done. 

The OB was still nowhere in sight. 

When my midwife arrived, she was equally surprised with rest of us to discover that, somehow, I was about to deliver this baby in a matter of minutes. 

I knew it was God’s strength in me. He was dealing graciously with me and had heard every request and wish in my heart. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was doing so well otherwise!

About when my baby fully crowned is when the OB-GYN walked in. She was probably there for no more than 5 minutes before the nurse and midwife were cheering for me to, “GO GO GO! She’s right there! Biggest push of your life!!” And then even through the epidural I felt this sharp sting and pressure and I prayed one last time, “GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH!” and just like that my baby slipped out.

Like a fish.

All the pain I had in that moment subsided. Just like everyone had always said, you don’t even notice your hurting once you see your baby. I watched another nurse take her and begin wiping her clean. She was beautiful! She looked just like a little baby doll – not misshapen or grey or wrinkly. Absolute, God-breathed beauty. Her eyes were already open and looking around the room. Her cry was soft and brief, just enough to say she was alright. 

My eyes flooded with tears. I looked up to my husband who was crying more than me already (love you). He faithfully stood beside me until I told him to go see her. Little Rhea looked right into his eyes and they gazed at each other – another absolute anomaly. The nurses gawked at her beauty and alertness.

Finally, they brought her over to me and I held my little girl. She even looked at me for a moment! It was the most beautiful scene. I thanked God, cradling my promised child, feeling absolutely awestruck that this baby and this story was mine. The Lord completely showered me with blessings that I know, in my human err, I don’t deserve. But His love overcomes my weakness and frailty. His love pours into me every time I look at Rhea. 

Looking back, I keep thinking about the verse the Holy Spirit brought to me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. It is such a simple concept and yet so easily overthought, but in my experience I realized that when you truly trust God and you delight in Him and delight in knowing He is in control, you are filled with victory. My lifelong fear is now a story of praise for me to reflect on and remember God’s presence and faithfulness. The Lord is so very close to us. He knows every single concern we have and He will take care of us!

“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b

~

Special Shout-out to my Husband, Rob, and my Mom:

One of the most amazing ways God blessed me in this experience was through the love, encouragement, and support I received from both of you. 

Mom, you have this incredible way of knowing just the right moment to step in and lift me up – with exactly the right words. I am so happy you were able to be there with me and that they let you do the honors of cutting the umbilical cord! I am so blessed to have you as my example as I begin my role of mother!

Rob, you are undoubtedly the most remarkable man I’ve ever known. Your heart is pure love and I am so overjoyed that we are on this journey together. Thank you for staying at my side as I delivered Rhea and taking care of me through pregnancy and recovery. I love you! 

If anyone were to ask me what my greatest flaw or weakness was, I would not hesitate to say it is fear. As much as I hate to admit it, because with every fiber of my being I want to be brave, fear has always had a funny way of controlling my life. The worst part is that when fear truly gets its way with me, I feel like I become someone else. Instead of walking in God’s grace and light, I begin to shut down and hide. 

Lately, fear has been heavily on my mind as I am about to face what I consider my greatest fear – childbirth. I can think back to when I first learned the truth about where babies come from and what my body was expected to do to prepare for that and all I’d have to endure while pregnant and then on top of that, the worst part, actually birth a human out of a very private area. I immediately decided that I would never have kids. Everything about it seemed invasive, embarrassing, uncomfortable, painful, and like something I just couldn’t do. 

That fear only grew as I got older. I actually would beg God to allow me to not go through having a menstrual cycle just so it would be impossible for me to have a baby. When it started anyway, I celebrated that it was irregular, only happing maybe twice a year. For many years, I felt blessed by that. I thought God had answered my prayer to protect me from the horrifying experience of childbirth.

This fear was also part of what kept me away from dating, because I figured if I dated someone and that turned into a relationship, one day I might get married – and oh no, what if that person expected me to have a baby? Of course, deep down I longed for God to bring me someone to marry, but as I prayed for Him to do so, the fear in me hoped that he would be someone who was not interested in having children.

In adulthood, especially once I got involved in children’s ministry, my heart began to soften like crazy toward kids. God worked very steadily on me until I wanted a baby more than anything in the world. He’d given me an amazing husband who I could tell would be a wonderful father, and I started longing to see him in that role. I wanted to see us have a family of our own and create life with him. 

However, not terribly long after becoming pregnant, my old fears started to rise. Every week that passes, every kick I feel, every time I can’t fit into another piece of clothing – I find myself fretting delivering this baby. There were several instances where the doctor’s mentioned situations that could lead to a C-section, and honestly, a part of me cries, “PLEASE!”. I want to be put to sleep. I don’t want to know what’s happening. I just want a scheduled day and time and to be unconscious and not know I’m in pain until the baby is in my arms to distract me.

But another part of me knows that is wrong. I know what lies on the other side of this fear – deliverance. Not just the baby’s! But mine. I know that once I do this, I will have conquered a near lifelong fear that has grossly affected my attitude and actions for as long as I can remember. I will have faced all the pain, humiliation, violation, and uncertainty that has kept me up at night for the last 8 months. 

And here’s the thing –

The Enemy knows this. The Enemy is the breeder of fear. Our minds do all the work, but all he has to do is drop the right thoughts around us and when we pick them up, we fall into his snare. Our lives are riddled with fears that are meant to pull us away from God’s plans and purposes. My last two posts were both about purpose and how to discern what God’s plans are for you. It isn’t until now that I’m seeing with stark clarity that one of the easiest ways to spot God’s plans, is how afraid we are of it.

God specifically promised this baby to me. She means the entire world to me already and has from the moment God declared this promise. I know that having her is God’s will for my life and that all His other plans for me are somehow entwined with this sweet girl. I know the dreams and hopes God has breathed into my soul are lying on the other side of this event – and maybe just because this event is what will teach me how to conquer fear. But one way or another, I know this is God’s plan.

So, when I look at the years of fear behind it, I see the Enemy. He has been trying to keep me away from bringing this little girl into the world for years – practically my whole life! That tells me she’s a big deal to him. And thattells me she’s a big deal to God. If the Enemy is trying that hard to keep me from having a child, then he must know something I don’t about what this child’s God-given purpose is and what will become of me and my husband as a result of this child. 

Why else would he torment me for years over it?

Now, I’m not writing this as a pep-talk for myself (though it is helping!). I’m writing this to demonstrate a way that Satan tries to take us from our purposes. The Bible declares, arguably over 300 times, not to be afraid. God tells us not to fear more times than He tells us anything else. I could restate a thousand sermons on this, but I’ll leave it at this: if God repeated it that many times, it probably means it’s the chief way the Enemy seeks to throw us off course and lead us away from God. 

Satan doesn’t want us to fulfill our purposes. He wants us to choose the safe route and to cower before man, circumstances, and our insecurities. He wants us to believe that the things in this world are bigger than us and the God we believe in. If we cower, we can’t be the light of the world. If we cower, our voices are muted. Our witness is cloaked. Our testimonies become dust. We don’t fulfill our callings, we don’t lead people to Christ, and honestly, fear can separate us from God. The way we draw closer to Him is through obedience and trust – we can’t do that if we are too afraid to do anything He tells us to do!

So, what’s the answer? How can we be brave and overcome fear and the Enemy? How do we discern and fulfill our purposes in Christ? 

The answer is ironic.

Fear God.

God tells us not to be afraid, do not fear, fear not, etc. all throughout the Bible, but then He says to fear Him.

I’ve written on this before, so I’ll keep the definition short: fearing God is to be reverent of Him. This means we are so in awe of God and who He is that we don’t have time to worry about earthly fears. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear, because we are human, but we don’t give in to it. We don’t allow it to control us. We know that our God is so high above our humanly fears that we don’t need to surrender to them. We know that if God said to do it, He will make a way for it to happen. 

Imagine if you were more afraid to disobey God (out of respect and love of Him, not fear of punishment) than you were afraid to face the things He’s led you to? Think about it. If you dwelled on His character and power, thought about His track record, thought about His love and sacrifice for you – doesn’t it belittle the obstacles you are afraid of? What if we started to question our fears and pray God would reveal to us the purposes in them? What if each time we had to make a big choice in life we considered which one we are hesitant about due to fear and actually took the time to question why the Enemy might try to keep us from it?

The Lord’s plans for us often seem too big for us. They might be appealing, you might even consider them your dreams, but often times we shut them down out of fear. Fear is nothing but a tool of the Enemy – a way to paralyze us or run us off. Fear is not of God nor is it from Him. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” God gives us tools to overcome fear! Power. Love. Self-discipline. And most importantly, Himself.

 So, what are you afraid of?

Maybe it’s the very thing you were created to do.

Compass Cover w:Title

“Compass” Lyrics:

Push against the wind

Running to the storm

Where you lead

I’ll go

Though my feet are worn

 

Dirt may fill my eyes

Fear might steal my breath

Let my faith arise

In the face of death

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

 

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

Thunder in the skies

Worry in my chest

Still my troubled heart

Help me feel your rest

 

As the flood surrounds

You will make a way

For me to walk ahead

Or stand in the rain

 

Spirit, I’ll follow

No fear will shake me

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

Compass of my soul

 

(Tell me where to go compass of my soul)

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

When the storm shall break

And reveal the night

In the dark, I’ll walk

And await your light

 

With my faith renewed

And my heart refined

I will seek the One

Who gave His life for mine

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 “Compass” by Rylan Rivers

 

In January, I attended what my church calls, The Dream Conference. It’s a beautiful 3-day experience where you fellowship, worship, and hear inspiring messages that are meant to help you find out God’s dream for your life – also known as, your purpose.

My husband and I had attended and by the end (to keep a long story short) we felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to devote our musical talents and desires to the Lord’s good purpose. Before we left, we ran into the Children’s pastors and were offered a chance to start and lead children’s worship! I was so excited, but deep inside, when we accepted the offer, I felt this odd lack of peace. I disregarded that sense, and we pursued after this goal, assuming that it was what God wanted us to do, considering we had literally moments ago surrendered our music to Him.

Well, several months prior, God plucked me out of my daily routine through an illness and I spent three days “fasting” from all forms of media, besides sermons. I prayed, read my Bible, and listened to sermons and nothing else. During that time, God had done two alarming things. For one, He granted my prayer to have a revelation of His holiness. He did this by inspiring me to take a very dark song I’d written, and turn it into a song about His holiness, then granted me the ability to sing it (I could barely talk before singing it and lost my voice immediately after recording it). Secondly, He told me He wanted my husband and I to have a child, and that this child was meant to come before the music went anywhere and would be part of our ministry.

Literally one week before I was going to begin as the Children’s Worship Leader, I became pregnant and the symptoms were severe enough that I had to ask them to postpone my start, possibly until after I had the baby. The whole time, I was thinking about what God had told me before: first the child, then the music. I was also considering that the “dark” sounding song that turned into something about His holiness and everything else He’d ever inspired me to write, was not exactly “churchy” let alone, appropriate for children’s worship. It was more appropriate for evangelism and out-of-church ministry.

Again, to cut a long story down, without warning, the church’s worship leader became involved and his daughters took our place in children’s worship and not a word was uttered to my husband and I. Honestly, I was angry and relieved at the same time. After much prayer, the Lord showed me that He had no intention of actually placing us on that stage. He was using us to help throttle the pastors into putting the right people in their place, while also teaching me a harsh, and well needed, lesson about where I belong in the body of Christ. It finally hit me that God didn’t design me to be a worship leader in a church, but to use my various arts to evangelize. He was saying, “stop trying to be something I didn’t make you to be, and embrace who you truly are.” I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t have to be like anyone else. I don’t have to change who I am to fit into some “Christian” mold, I am already molded into what God wants me to be – I just have to do it.

This experience is why I’m writing about purpose. I don’t want anyone reading to assume their story is just like this, either. All of us have a different role and God has deliberately designed us and our lives to prepare us in the way He wants us to go – the way which is most satisfying for us.

So, let’s look at seven different ways to find out what God’s specific purpose is for your life! 

  1. Your purpose is specific to your natural gifts and talents. (See Exodus 31:3-5)

As we know, God is the one who created us. He is a purposeful and deliberate God and is not likely to simply bless us with a natural ability that doesn’t have an important role in our lives. This means that the things that come natural to you are good indicators of what God might want you to do. For example, you might be a natural at cooking. Sure, you might take classes to further improve it, but you just get it in a way most people don’t. That could mean God wants to use you to bless others with food – something well known to bring others into community.

Our natural gifts come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. They generally are satisfying to us and unchanging throughout our lives. Even if you have seasons where you don’t do it as much as you’d like, you will always come back to those things. Make a list of your natural talents and ask God to help you see how these gifts are instruments of His purpose.

 

  1. Your purpose is specific to your spiritual gifts. (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

You are likely familiar with the spiritual gifts, but in case you aren’t, a quick overview: The spiritual gifts are abilities that are supernaturally deposited by the Holy Spirit into every Christian at the point that you accept Christ. These gifts are designed to build up the church (the community of believers, not simply the physical church). There are many types (mostly listed in the scripture above) and they are all equally significant to God.

If you are not sure what your spiritual gift(s) are, I strongly advise you to ask God to help you discover those gifts. There are tons of resources available to help you understand what they are, how they work, and what yours are. There’s a good chance I will be writing about them soon as well. But these gifts are one of the biggest indicators of what your purpose is. Your spiritual gifts show you what your greatest strengths are – things that supernaturally charged by the Holy Spirit beyond regular ability. These gifts will give you energy, joy, and endurance, even when you are being challenged by an area of service. One of the best ways to find out what yours are, is to get around people and get involved in different types of service. Try children’s ministry or small groups to test the gift of teaching, for example. Try volunteering at a hospice or retirement facility to test the gift of exhortation. Keep trying until you find something that is deeply satisfying, and pray, pray, pray about it!

 

  1. Your purpose relates to your passions.

My pastor did an amazing job with this subject. He worded it as, God’s dream for your life is related to what you can’t stand. What he meant is that there are some subjects that just ignite a fire in us like nothing else. We might have one particular subject or several, but they will help us see the direction God wants us to go. These types of passions are divinely rooted in us if they correlate to things God also hates.

A great example of this is Moses. In Exodus 3:11-15, we see the familiar part of his story where he notices the Hebrew slave being abused by the Egyptian. This burned against Moses – the injustice, the lack of humanity. It upset him so much that he actually kills the Egyptian. Of course, Moses is chosen by God to face Pharaoh and free the Hebrews from slavery. Moses could not stand seeing the Hebrews as tortured slaves, neither could God. Those passions ignited together and led Moses on one of the most incredible journeys of faith in the Bible.

Likewise, when David faced Goliath, it was because he could not stand to see Goliath mocking and threatening God’s people (1 Samuel 17:26-27). Again, God couldn’t stand to see that either, so when David’s passion entwined with God’s passion, it turned into not only an incredible, miraculous victory, but David’s calling into kingship.

We can take from this by closely evaluating ourselves. What are some injustices that drive you crazy? What is that one topic that even if you were about to fall asleep a second ago, the moment someone brings it up, you are wide awake and ready for battle? Make a list of these things, from what gets you the most fired up to the least, and ask God to show you what passions align with His. Also, don’t get caught up writing things down that you should care more about. If you really don’t get fired up about homelessness or kids that are going hungry, don’t put them on the list. Something can upset us without it being something we are deeply passionate about. Be as honest as you can and remember God put those passions there for a reason.

 

  1. Your purpose is not necessarily the most “Christian” or “churchy” sounding thing.

 This goes back to my story above. You might have the natural gift of charisma, the spiritual gift of pastoring/teaching, and have a vigorous passion for correcting false doctrines and God still might not have designed for you to be a pastor. Yes, being a pastor is one of the most “Christian”/”churchy” sounding titles out there, but maybe God gave you all those gifts and wants you to be a manager in a corporation that shows people the love of Jesus by walking in the faith and that is your ministry. Or maybe He gave you all those gifts so that you could lead a faith-filled family, or both.

I struggle with this in every way. God’s shown me countless times that my role is outside of the physical building of the church, using artistic means to shepherd lost/confused/hurting souls. But every time I see those worship leaders on stage or listen to a Bible Study series, I doubt what God’s told me. God constantly has had to remind me that His purpose is not limited by societal standards, physical buildings, or religious titles.

This is one that I believe you can only come to know through spending time alone with God. Once you’ve looked at the previous steps, look to this and ask God to help you discern between the possibilities of your gifts, passions, and talents. Remember 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, where Paul describes that church is the body of Christ, and a body is made of different parts. You wouldn’t expect the shoulders to walk – so why would God expect you to do something He didn’t design you most efficiently for? And, why should you? There is a role for each person. Do not compare yourself to anyone else!

 

  1. Your purpose will cause you to trust in God more.

 God is not about to give you some wimpy dream or purpose. One of the most important roles of our purpose is that it will cause us to trust in Him, in small daily ways and sometimes huge ways, in order to accomplish it. Again, look at Moses. He doubted instantaneously that he could accomplish what God called him to do. Moses’s purpose forced him to trust in God with every step of the way. Of course, Moses is a big example. Most of us are likely not called to speak plagues over Egypt and part seas, but that doesn’t mean God’s methods have changed.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that require us to trust God. Either way, you can always tell you are on the right path if that path is leading you closer to God and increasing your faith. A lot of times, this means God’s purpose might not make the most sense to our logical minds. We probably see lots of other, safer paths, than the one He designed us to take. But remember Proverbs 3:5-6. We are told to trust in His ways, not our understanding, and then He will make our paths straight. So, as you evaluate the possibilities, ask God to help you trust Him more. Focus on Him, His character, and His ways. We naturally walk in the direction our eyes are set on, so set your eyes on Him and you will gravitate in the direction He is leading.

 

  1. Your purpose may not be easy, but it will bring peace and joy.

One of the big mistakes people make, is they start going in the direction of God’s prompting and the second something goes wrong or it becomes difficult they think, “Oops, wrong way” and turn around. The thing about God is He deliberately makes your path difficult, not to hurt you, but to grow you. He doesn’t want your purpose in life to be something so easy that you wouldn’t need to rely on Him, nor does He want it to be so easy that you remain unfazed by it. Your purpose is part of the sanctification process. Sure, once you’re saved your salvation is in place and you are promised everlasting life in Heaven, but God still wants to do a work in you for the remainder of your life. What better way than through your purpose?

Here’s the catch. You can tell it’s your purpose because if you pursue it even when it gets difficult, you will encounter God’s peace and joy in spite of the trials. But you have to keep going and not give up yet. If you keep going and you never experience peace and joy, then that’s a good indicator that you’ve gone the wrong way, in which you should pause (be still) and wait for God’s direction. Don’t just assume it’s wrong. Ask God to confirm that it’s wrong (shut the door) and lead you back to your path.

After the worship leader’s daughters took my place, God helped me to do this. He told me to be still, and I was. I felt I had done something wrong and felt guilty, but I laid that at His feet. I asked Him to confirm if it was wrong, to shut the door completely, and to open the right door for me and encourage me to walk through. After praying that, my church randomly made a drastic change in which eliminated the need for Wednesday worship (the day we were supposed to lead) in the children’s ministry (they are doing kids small groups instead). Then as if that wasn’t enough, the children’s pastor resigned to be a stay-at-home mom and my whole connection to the children’s worship was eliminated, and I remained with my precious preschoolers. I have so much peace about what happened and am filled with divinely given joy, in spite of a lost opportunity, because I know I’m back on the path God designed me for. Look for those spiritual indicators as you pursue your purpose!

 

  1. Your purpose will help other people.

Lastly, your purpose is not meant to be a selfish thing. You might enjoy it (and should!) but it’s actually there to help other people. Everything God does is for our good and the good of the Kingdom. This means that as you begin living out your purpose there will be evidence of your good works around you. Of course, you can see fruits of your labor in anything really, but this will be something more. It will surprise you, satisfy you, and teach you. God will often, especially if you ask Him to, send people to encourage you on your path. This, to me, is one of the final steps to identifying your purpose: seeing how it sows into others in a way that is beyond your comprehension. It might not even be deliberate, but if it is God-given, He will ensure it helps other people.

The reason I say this is one of the final steps, is that there are plenty of opportunities to serve/volunteer out there, and obviously, those things are meant to help people. You can get so busy doing things that are good and helpful, but still miss the thing you would be most effective at if you don’t spend time with God evaluating your specifics. Of course, as I’d said above, you can try different things to discover what clicks, but just keep in mind that you trying to find what clicks, not just what works.

 

Purpose is such a big topic, and this is not an inclusive list or a fool-proof way to find yours. This is just what has helped me and what I feel God wanted me to share. Finding your purpose will not just happen overnight for most people. You have to take time, lots of time, with God in prayer. And remember as I said in the first post, it’s not actually about you. As counterintuitive and contradictory to much of what I’ve said above as that may sound. Your purpose as a human being is first and foremost to love and know God. Only once you’ve focused on Him, worshipping and glorifying Him, can you really start to see the specific, individual purpose He has for you.

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all,” (Ephesians 4:1b-3).

 

If you are a human being, you want – even need – to have a purpose in life. Everyone wants to know why they are alive and what they are supposed to do. Most people expect that knowing their purpose and pursuing it is the way of happiness.

Many Christian’s are obsessed with Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This verse is on everything! Shirts, purses, jewelry, notebooks, tattoos, grad caps – it’s probably literally been iced onto at least a hundred cakes. Yet, for some people, this verse is upsetting. They are totally lost and they don’t see why they even exist in the first place. Maybe they once felt purpose, and now they don’t. Some may have never discovered a sense of purpose. A lack of purpose is huge reason people suffer from depression, self-esteem issues, and has undoubtedly contributed to suicides since the dawn of humanity.

 

So, over the next couple weeks, I want to address the purpose-problem. It starts with understanding why God created people, and therefore, why He created you.

First of all, God doesn’t need you – He wants you.

God is not a human being. He does not have needs like we do. He is absolutely, completely self-sufficient in every way, lacking in nothing. He was not lonely before He created Adam and Eve and He certainly was not any less powerful without them. When He created Adam and Eve it was an act of love, born of sheer will and desire. Our Father never needed Adam and Eve to love Him back – otherwise, He would have made it an uncontrollable part of their being. God’s existence, power, and holiness is in no way effected by whether humans love Him back or not.

However, in spite of His total self-sufficiency, He chose to make us. Isaiah 43:7 says that we are created for God’s glory. We are created by God and for God. He desired to give us life, to love us, to die for us, to save us, and to live with us for all of eternity. Again, not because He needs us in any way, but because He wants us.

 

I have to drive this point home because a lot of people struggle with feeling unneeded or insignificant, and it probably doesn’t help for me to tell you that God doesn’t need you.

Think about it this way. I need to drink water to live. I don’t have a choice, it’s just the way it is. If I want to exist, I must drink water. I don’t exactly enjoy water that much. I struggle to drink a healthy amount every day, but I will force myself to do so because I know I need to hydrate myself (especially since I live in a desert!). When it comes to a need, it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. I don’t have to love it. I just have to have it.

Then there is tea. I love tea. I love every kind of tea! It will drink it even if I know it will burn my tongue. I’ll drink it after the ice has melted. I will drink it whether it’s sweetened or not. I love every kind of tea I have ever had in the whole history of my life. So, when I drink tea, I drink it because I enjoy it! It’s special to me. It’s something I look forward to and I will drink it whether I’m thirsty or not just because it tastes good.

So, which matters more to me really? The water I need or the tea I want? Obviously, the tea.

When it comes to people, I strongly believe many bad relationships and friendships are born from need. If we think we need someone for security, financial reasons, emotional stability, or anything else, we have actually demeaned that person. If we say we needthem, we are implying that they are a survival mechanism and not something that we cherish. No human being should ever, ever have to be someone’s survival mechanism. It is unhealthy and it creates codependency.

If we try to say God needs us, we are making God sound codependent on us. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to follow a God that was codependent on me. I want to follow a God that has everything He needs within Himself, but chooses to love me and humbly bend down from Heaven to be in a healthy relationship with me. Wouldn’t it be devastating if the only reason Jesus died was because if He didn’t save us, God would be less of who He is? It would make that a selfish motive, but we know Jesus died in pure selflessness. His motive was completely driven by love and desire. Jesus did not want to suffer, but He wanted to save you. He chose to suffer because His desire for your salvation surpassed his lack of desire for suffering and because He knew it was the only way we could be in relationship with Him like He truly wants.

Secondly, God made us to glorify Him.

Remember Isaiah 43:7 stated that we are created for God’s glory. Isaiah 43:21 also says we are to declare His praise. God made us to worship Him! We are not here for our own glory. We are not here to “make our own meaning” or even to “leave our mark”. Those things will likely happen if we follow God, but that should not be the intent of our hearts. God wants us to worship Him and glorify Him in all that we do and all that we are.

 

This Biblical fact is also a problem for many of us. I, admittedly, have struggled with it. Sometimes I have thought it selfish of God to create us just to glorify Him! I have wrestled with how we are told not to be prideful, yet our God wants us to boast about Him and bow down before Him. And we are supposed to forget about ourselves and serve Him – and all of that at one point had me downright angry with God. It made me feel unimportant and made me think I was serving a God that was arrogant.

But to think these things is to not see the full picture. We must remember that all of God’s commandments and ways are set in place for our good (Deut. 10:12-13, Jer. 29:11). So how is glorifying God for our benefit? And why would this be part of our purpose in being created?

I mentioned in another post that when we worship God, we are inviting Him into our presence. Now worshiping is not only singing. Worship is every pure act toward God that we do to seek Him. Reading the Bible, attending church, writing, praying, taking care of our bodies, loving other people, helping, serving – you name it. There are tons of ways to worship God, because it is the focus of our hearts that determines worship. So, when we do any true act of worship, we are inviting God to come into our hearts and effect ourselves and our lives.

By seeking God and inviting His presence, we then reap the benefit of His presence. His peace, joy, love, and Spirit surround us. We are suddenly at harmony within even in the middle of chaos. We are suddenly focused on hope and light, instead of problems and darkness. He created us because He wanted us here, He wants to love us, and He wants us to glorify Him in all that we do so that we can be in relationship with Him and receive His blessings! You aren’t going to get blessed, have peace, or feel joy until you learn to worship Him.

The other great benefit is that those who seek to glorify God are also exalted! Psalm 146:8 says, “The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.” When we are bowed down in worship of Him, He will lift us up. This means He will lift our souls internally and He will lift our lives externally. God wants us raise people up who seek His glory so that other people may also be blessed. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” When we are living out our purpose to glorify God, we are giving God the thumbs up to exalt us so that we can give other people a reason to praise God – and in many cases, come to God for the first time.

This is what my pastor calls the “blessing cycle.” You glorify God, He exalts you. The more you glorify Him, the more you are exalted and the more you want to glorify Him. So, you are living out your purpose, God is blessing you, and God is using you to encourage and bless others. You are in a cycle going from “glory to glory” and it is pleasing to God. God wants to bless you! And He wants you to bless others for His glory so that they might enter the blessing cycle.

Everything God does is for His glory and for our good. Our purpose begins here and expands into individual, specific, God-given routes. We will talk about those next week, but for now, I challenge you to spend time meditating on what it really means to be more than needed, but wanted by the Creator and King of the Universe, and how you can start focusing your heart on bringing Him glory.

I was roughly ten years old when I first met a witch. She wasn’t much of witch yet, could not do anything magical or fascinating, but she believed in magic very much. And not just the fun fairytale magic we get in Disney movies. No, this young friend was aspiring to be a witch, just like her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. I never witnessed anything special, but they had tarot cards that supposedly could tell the future and if they could just tap into their spirit, just worship the gods and goddesses enough, maybe they would obtain power.

They called themselves Wiccans.

At about ten, raised Christian, I was not very familiar with the idea that people existed that didn’t believe in Jesus. It felt evil to talk about their being other gods – and didn’t the bible say to avoid fortune tellers?

Yet, I was a very unpopular and shy child, extremely troubled by social anxiety. I knew what my friend was into was dangerous to my faith, but yet, I didn’t want to lose my bestfriend. Plus, I trusted her. Maybe Iwas wrong? So, I let my curiosity wander.

Luckily, this friend moved away and the decision was made for me that I would return to my faith and not chase after magic. I mostly let it go, though I continued to be amazed at the thought of – what if?

When I was 13, my family and I had just moved – in the middle of the school year – back to our hometown from Texas. I still was riddled with anxiety and let’s just say – people loved to pick on me. I was not popular. I had no idea how to handle my frizzed out curly hair. My wire glasses were always a bit crooked since I never stopped trying to adjust them myself. For some reason, in spite of my mother and sister’s keen sense of fashion and makeup expertise, I always found a way to wear the least flattering clothing I had and bright green eyeshadow (I thought it would make my brown eyes look hazel…).

So, in short, I was a nerd and the new kid.

I made a friend who helped me make a lot of friends. She was Christian – or said she was, at least. And while I wasn’t suddenly a popular kid, I at least had some really wonderful friends for once and felt like I belonged somewhere. I became very close to the one friend in particular. She became my new best friend for many years. I don’t want to go into tons of detail for her privacy, but I will say after that first year she had traded her Christian title for agnostic. She was very interested in paranormal things – ghosts, psychics, and supernatural abilities. I had never totally lost my interest in it, and so together we spawned a bit of an obsession. It got to the point where I was not just studying psychic powers and ghosts, but trying to obtainpsychic powers and talkto ghosts. I thought that, somehow, I was going to help the ghosts get to Heaven. I also thought that God had gifted me with an ability to “discern spirits” – which in my interpretation meant, see, hear, and talk to them.

It was here that my life began to flood with darkness. Again, I’ll spare most of the details, but I often wondered if I was losing my mind. I started seeing figures, reflections, and strange lights. I would hear voices and other peculiar noises, like melodies. I even felt like someone had laid their hand on my shoulder, head, or arms on several occasions. This was also the same time I began writing dark music about death, suicide, the end of the world, and other depressing subjects.

I was a mess!

I remember my dad calling me and talking to me when I would go visit him. He knew something was deeply wrong – the Holy Spirit had told him. He prayed for me many times, and almost every time the scary things would go away for awhile… then I’d start to miss them. Then it would come back, and usually worse.

Now eventually, I became scared enough and strong enough in my very contorted faith to choose to let all these things go. I decided I would avoid paranormal things and try my best to stay focused on God. I told my friend I couldn’t be around those things and that they were evil. I straight up called it all demonic and prayed God would protect me. My friend was good about it. She always was very good at respecting my desire to return to God, even if she didn’t believe in Him.

Well, I finally get a few years out of the deep depth, with only a few occasional slips back into my love of the paranormal. I mostly spend my time writing books that I’ll never publish and talking to that friend about her own writing projects as well as mine. Yet again, once I got to my senior year in high school, I ran into someone new.

While I had mostly upgraded out of complete nerd classification, I was now just one of those people that went mostly unnoticed. I had a couple of great friends and I finally knew a little bit more about how to dress nice and wear my makeup correctly. But something in me just longed to be noticed.

This new person I met was a gorgeous and brilliant aspiring film director. She somehow chose to befriend me of all people and with her at my side, I suddenly was bursting forth my creativity. I started to show people my music, art, writing, and was directing films in our Filmmaking course. Everything was going up! People recognized me. People actually would talk to me, and not just to get answers on the homework! And then this new friend began to slowly unravel her beliefs. Her abilities of “foresight” and a vast knowledge about the psychic and witchcraft subjects that had finally forsaken. For a short time, I fell under the spell of curiosity again. But by graduation, I had remembered how much evil it provoked and we both went separate ways.

But even after school, I became close to a girl at work. She was very invested in psychics and tarot cards. Unfortunately, I had just taken a nose-dive with my faith and didn’t even know what to believe anymore so I thought that maybe this was what I was supposed to be following the whole time. I let her do tarot readings. We went and paid a psychic over $100 a visit for her to tell me what my future held and what I was to do. The psychic told me her power came from God and I believed it. Then I watched as the tarot readings and psychic predictions began to prove themselvestrue.

That’s about when I got into using crystal pendants for guidance and trying to open up my chakras to balance my energies and unlock my psychic power. But the worst part of this mess, is that even though my Christian faith was rocky, I still believed in God Himself. So, I prayed to Him and asked Him to answer me using the crystals and tarot cards. I asked Him to help me balance my energies. But I distinctly remember one day when I started feeling some conviction and I asked Him if it was okay to use these methods to communicate with Him – after all, the things seemed to work until I asked Him to respond.

Lo and behold, the Lord said NO!

Praise God, I began to filter those practices out of my life. Meanwhile, my friends got deeper into it until they were proclaiming themselves witches, praying to Wiccan gods and goddesses, and mocking my faith in God (though stating they supported me).

I wish I could say I cut off from everything and fully turned back to God right then, but it still took me a few years to stop desiring their ways. God actually had me separate from those friends completely in order to protect me, because I struggled too much to keep my faith. I’m grateful and still sad for the loss of all these friends, especially the later ones. I think about them every day. I have dreams about them and pray for them. But I know that God has drawn boundary lines for me, and thanks to those, I now can see that all that I got into before was evil, offensive to God, and made me a child of the devil.

I’m sharing this story, though I feel much shame over these things, because it is through all of this mayhem, God revealed to me my purpose and calling. He shared with me recently that I experienced all of those odd (and sometimes frightening) situations so that He could use me as a voice in spiritual warfare. God took my greatest mistakes and sins, and is now using them to draw me closer to Him and to use me to help others see the truth in those areas of darkness. I am embarrassed to say I essentially practiced witchcraft (while calling myself a Christian) but I am so honored and humbled that God would use me in spite of it, and use those experiences.

There is no sin in our past that God can’t still turn around for good. Nothing goes to waste, nothing is an accident. Our perfect God knows what He is doing by letting us stumble and get lost. And I cannot express how beautiful it is or how much purpose is instilled when you ask God to show you why He let you do the things you are most ashamed of, and He answers.

I also shared this story to raise awareness of a growing belief system. The New Age and Wiccan cultures have been increasing over the years. The belief systems focus on self-empowerment and self-reliance which I know are not all bad. There is also a very heavy emphasis on looking into the future, which God warns us against. The issue is that the power they try to obtain is real in a way. The future they see is often relatively accurate. But the power comes from the Enemy and while it might make you feel better about yourself, more independent even, it also corrupts you the longer you chase after it. Though I was more confident than I had ever been, I became a very selfish and angry person. I did a lot of things that I regret now!  Seeing the future is also dangerous because it changes the way we act and can actually cause great damage when you try to obtain those things early or avoid them.

But there is good power. There is a good Spirit we can communicate with. There is a good God we can worship and rely on. When we follow Him, we are filled with Hispower and His wisdom. God can do far more incredible things within us and through us than we could ever do through the Enemy’s means (witchcraft, sorcery, etc). And His power in us makes us better. When God is our source of strength, energy, understanding, wisdom, and power He enables us to produce good fruits that will help us and other people. There is nothing more incredible than being used by God! So, if for any reason, you find yourself in the shoes I once was in, remember that you can tread into the darkness and use the power of evil, or you can walk in the light and be filled with the power of the Creator of the universe – who spoke the world into being, who breathed in you life, who conquered death, and sustains everything you see, hear, touch, feel, taste, and beyond. His power is greater than the Enemy’s. His power is cleansing, pure, and holy. His power is founded in love and breeds love. If you aren’t convinced, ask Him to open your spiritual eyes. Ask Him to let you see His supernatural side. You will be amazed and all the “power” that this world and below has to offer will look like a speck of dirt in the grandness of His magnificence!

I used to worship the devil.

Not on purpose.

I read my Bible most nights and prayed to God. I attended church sometimes and even assisted in churches at times. I gave God credit for saving me from sin, for making me, and for giving me the gifts and talents I had. I thought for sure I hated evil, including and especially Satan and all of his hosts. I loved stories in the Bible where Jesus would rescue people from legions of evil forces and cast them into the wilderness. I did my best to keep the Commandments and do good deeds. I at least tried to be like Jesus and would wear my W.W.J.D. bracelets and cross necklaces and was very proud of the cross on my wall.

And yet, I had no idea who God was.

The problem began when I read in 1 Corinthians about the spiritual gifts God would give His children. I was obsessed with this passage. After all, I’d grown up watching shows and movies about superheroes, witches, and other “gifted” people. I’d taken to shows about psychics and the paranormal – ghosts, hauntings, and the like. Somewhere in this, I thought I had received some special gifts from God that I was meant to use to help people. In the next several posts, I’m going to begin unveiling some of these “gifts,” where they came from, and what they did to me, but most importantly how God has redeemed me from the darkness I was in. But for now, I am going to focus on the thing that I believe triggered the darkness and drew it closest to me.

My voice.

If you know anything about me, you know I have always loved to write music and sing. I began singing before I can even remember it, but mostly kept it to myself until I was in middle school. I would practically run off the bus so I could come home and sing while I was alone. I prayed endlessly that God would give me a great voice so that I could use it to sing about Him. Then I would attempt to sing a couple songs off K-Love and proceed to singing random Broadway music. As I got older and practiced, my voice matured and I started to feel more confident in it. I felt like God had heard my prayers and now I was good enough to start doing something with this music.

However, it was also around then that I began to dive into the deep with very dark music that in no way reflected a faith message. I began thinking that to sing about God or to even write music or sing music that was uplifting or happy was cheesy. So, I stopped singing about God. I started practicing songs that had messages of vengeance, death, suicide, anger, and aggression. I thought the darker it is, the most powerful the message. I actually thought listening to such dark music made me happy – I loved it. That was talent.

Now, I’m not here to bash secular music or even music that has a darker sound. There are secular songs that are important and even some of the best Christian music out there has a darker sound – which to me, makes them more real and relatable. But the message of the song is what is most dangerous, and it was the love I had for it and the sudden desire to make music like it that began to hurt me.

The first handful of songs I wrote and sang were riddled with evil messages and destructive themes. I sang about watching the world end, wanting to die, what death would feel like, and was in no way ashamed to use graphic/gory language to make sure it was clear that I was real and wasn’t some cheesy attempt for a music artist.

Of course, in middle school and early high school, most of us have gone through some sort of weird phase. This was just a fraction of mine. The issue was I didn’t let it go right away and also, I had specifically told God I would only use my voice for Him. I fluctuated time to time, trying to get back on track but I was so in love with the darkness that it seeped into everything I wrote, drew, and sang. My imagination was a horror movie, yet I romanticized it. By doing so, I unknowingly romanticized evil and sin.

Even after I graduated high school, I felt the pull. I wanted to please God, but I always told myself I needed to reach people in dark places by being like them, and then I could tell them about Jesus. This was just a way to make myself feel better about what I was doing, and it was a lie.

My music proceeded in darkness. One of my “favorite” songs then began with me singing, “I’m dead” over and over again before I branched out and talked about how I needed to “find my spirit and make them fear it”. I went from just being sad, to wanting to terrify people with my music. The music I composed was eerie and gives me chills (in a bad way) just thinking about it. And yet the entire time, I still believed God gave me my voice and still remembered my promise.

In honesty, it took me until a couple years ago to start at least trying to write music that wasn’t dripping with death themes. And even then, it took me until about a year ago to realize that my voice belongs to God. He gave it to me to glorify Him, not to do whatever I pleased with it. My musical gifts were lying in ruin by the time I realized that I had used them against the One who gave them to me.

God showed me that the more I lay my voice and talents at His feet, the more He blesses them and uses them. When I am composing my vocal melodies and lyrics, I have to constantly say, “God inspire me with what is right. Show me how to bring you glory. Eliminate my own ideas.” I tell you, like a hurricane, God takes over my mind. I feel His Spirit as I sing words I hadn’t yet written and notes I didn’t know I could sing. I go back and listen and I know it is not me, but God using me as an instrument. There is life in the songs and in my voice that was absent in everything I ever tried to make on my own. He has surprised me by taking my love of music that gives you chills and using it to guide me as I compose music that gives you chills from the presence of God within them. He’s shown me how to take that darkness and use it to speak truth; how to be honest and vulnerable about evil without glorifying evil.

But God has shown me something else.

This story is not just about how I came to sing and make Christian music. It’s how the power of our voices impacts us. See, in church, when they sing worship music to God there are a couple things it does for them. It opens the hearts of the people and it calls upon the Spirit of God. That’s why most churches begin with music – they want to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to come into the building and into their hearts.

Here’s the thing: I used to sing to the darkness. I sang about death, destruction, self-edification, and glorified the things that God hates. If singing Godly worship music invokes the Spirit of God, what does singing about evil things invoke?

The Spirit of Death. Satan and all of his hosts. Demonic forces were attracted to the subjects I sang – I called them out of their depths and invited them into my heart. It is no wonder I became consumed in depression, anxiety, self-deprecation, and a desire to isolate myself. It is no wonder I slowly but surely forgot who God was and what receiving a gift from Him truly meant. It is no wonder I began to twist the truths of the Bible and believe lies. I invited evil to tell me about who I was, who God was, and what was important.

God revealed this to me one morning after I had prayed for Him to lend me His spiritual eyes so I could discern the truth from lies in my past. Again, not all “secular” music is evil and invokes the devil. But if you have a God-given gift, protect it by laying it at His feet. It is the gifts God gives us that show us our path in this world and will have the greatest impact. Satan does not want you to know that. He does not want you to use your gifts for God. He wants you to use them to worship yourself and your pain and lead you into his darkness.

Lastly, whether you sing or don’t sing, remember that your words have a deep effect on you. You might think no one is listening, but the enemy is hanging on to every word you say. We shouldn’t live in fear of this, but in frank understanding that Satan is waiting for you to give him permission to enter your mind. That being said, Christ is our salvation and protection. When we worship Christ with our words, our voices, our hearts, soul, spirit, and mind – that has the power to cast out darkness. The enemy and all of his forces will flee from the name of Jesus Christ. So say it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I had this wonderful idea of starting a new series to help people with the trials of faith – but then suddenly I found myself overcome with the very things I claimed to be healed from.

When I first returned to my blog, I proclaimed how God had lifted me from my anxiety and depression – wow, I don’t need a doctor or counselor or medications! It was a beautiful reprieve from my pain. I knew I was supposed to help people with anxiety and depression. I felt that was finally my chance to step up and be strong for others.  But then after a series of events, it all came back worse than before. There was a sudden onset of panic in my anxiety – hyperventilation and tingling – feelings so overwhelming I thought I would faint. My body broke out in rashes. I have tension in nearly every muscle. Nightmares. Fatigue. Memory-loss. I’ve blanked out and missed whole moments of my life. Then the depression got worse. I went from thinking “I just want to sleep all the time” to hearing the word “suicide” in my mind every single time I felt even the tiniest pang of sadness.

It’s been a rough few weeks! What troubled me most is that the more I struggled, the less I felt like I could help anyone. How could I teach about God’s love and grace when I felt so far from Him? I sought Him day in and out through prayer, fasting, bible studies, prayer meetings, sermons, and trying to still help other people. My sorrows and anxieties had overburdened me to a point where I just couldn’t hear Him anymore. I wanted to die and I won’t be surprised if that thought returns again someday.

But I’m not writing this to talk about poor me and how I’ve suffered. I’m writing this because as I’ve started to hear from God again and understand His purposes, I’ve realized that God has not made me to be miraculously healed. He made me to walk beside Him on the long, painful journey of recovery so that I may walk other people to recovery, maybe alongside me, maybe someday ahead. My heart burns for people who suffer with depression and anxiety – God knows that. He put that fire there for a reason.

I want those who read my blog to understand I am not coming from some sunshine filled mountain peak. I’m in the dark valley, too. I know how hard it is. Somedays I wake up and want to fight and be strong. Other days I want to give up and find my bed in the ground. But, I want to shed some biblical truth about these subjects.

First of all, let’s talk about the guilt of depression. You might think to yourself every time you get low that you are letting God or others down. You might think God will be mad that you aren’t being more grateful, more joyful, showing more love. Why aren’t you pouring out for others? How selfish of you to think about yourself and your pain so much that you would be overcome by it! You are a Christian – depression is a bad witness.

Literally writing that stings my eyes.

I’ve thought those things and so much more almost every day in the past few weeks. Remember though, that even God feels sorrow. There’s many examples in the Bible that suggest that Jesus might have even experienced seasons of depression. Read Isaiah 53.

Repeatedly Isaiah prophesies about the servant of the Lord (Jesus) and his heavy sorrows. He calls him a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (IS. 53:3b). He states that Jesus was “oppressed” in verse 53:7. The anguish is described as reaching his very soul in verse 53:11.

What’s even more, 53:10 says this is all God’s will! God willed Jesus to suffer extreme sorrows and be crushed. This doesn’t mean God liked it – obviously God is ultimately the one who felt this deep pain. But remember again the call of a Christian is to be like Jesus – that includes suffering like Jesus at times (see 1 Peter 3:20-25).

Everything has it’s due season. Sometimes God wills us to be in utter joy and bliss. Other times He wills us to experience deep sorrows. For those with depression, that will happen more intensely and frequently than it does for others. I know I would probably want to slap myself right now, if in this very moment I was feeling that deep pain. I would think “this is dumb. Why should I be a Christian? Where is God? I thought He draws near to the brokenhearted. Why did Jesus have to feel such sorrow? Does God love us at all?”

But be encouraged! If you have depression God has selected you for a deeper relationship with Him than your jovial friends can have. He has selected you to experience Him in a different way. To testify and witness in a different way. Surely, you will have opportunities of abundance where you share the joy of God – but right now, let’s focus on what you are doing that is actually good during depression.

I read a devotional today from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman that focused on a portion of Ecclesiastes 7, about sorrow. This really spoke to me about the significance of our sorrow.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” (Ecc. 7:2-3, ESV).

Here we are reading God’s word and He’s saying it’s better to feel sorrow than to laugh. Okay, wait. Seriously? God, You’d rather me mourn than feast? Frown than laugh? That doesn’t make sense. I thought God wanted His children to be happy because He loves us!

Well, here’s the deal. I love how Cowman puts this, “Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously. Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others… God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely… It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul.” (From Steams in the Desert)

I kept saying to myself and to God, “I’m too depressed. How can I help anyone?” and God told me, after much waiting, “I’m using your depression so that you can help others. How can you help them if you don’t know the depth of their pain? The greater your sorrow, the closer you come to me, the closer you come, the more I will expand your wisdom and the more you will experience me.”

In some strange way, this brings me joy. Who thought I’d feel joyful about being depressed. Ultimately, what this is teaching me is that sometimes God choses to miraculously heal someone of depression/anxiety. Maybe that’s their witness because He knows that is what is best, but I think most of the time, He wants to use those things to teach us more and make us stronger. Let’s put it this way: if God doesn’t miraculously heal you, it’s because He knows you are strong enough to go to the darkest depths and still come back up. He will make you wiser. He will grow your love. He will reveal things to you that other people around you may never know or experience. It might feel like a curse. It might feel like you’re being punished or that you are disappointing God, but do not become depressed about depression. Be encouraged. Recognize those seasons as growth periods. Times to slow down from the whir of life and reflect on God and His ways and His purposes. You have been chosen to experience these things for a reason and you will reap eternal benefits if you just keep trusting God and fighting with everything you have and everything He supplies you with.

Ultimately, God does want you to experience joy, peace, and abundance. Don’t ever doubt that. He loves you immensely, but His ways are not our ways. His love surpasses our understanding. God is with you whether you feel Him there or not. He is doing something within you that will ultimately bring you joy, peace, and abundance, but you have to walk through valleys of shadow. You still have to climb the mountain to reach the peak, but the Lord will sustain you and guide you. You will know Him better and feel His love more every time you take a journey like this with Him.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 128:5)

This is for you: “Broken Things” – Matthew West

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