I’ve never been suicidal, but there were moments in this past year when I no longer wanted to live.
From the moment I woke up until I went to bed, I was a slave to my own rules–thinking productivity and perfection would somehow soothe the piercing wound in my heart. It had been that way for years, but the darkness swept in rapidly once COVID did. And in its wake, I collapsed.
Naturally, you might wonder why I’m sharing this–anxiety is taboo and eating disorders are embarrassing. Plus, the story arc is still very much in progress.
If we shamefully hide where God is resurrecting us from, we belittle the magnitude of His saving grace.
That, quite frankly, is exactly why I’m sharing. I’ve prayed about this for months, and I have discerned what to share (and what not to share). Still, the fact of the matter is that the world must know the stories of God at work within Christian’s lives. If we shamefully hide where God is resurrecting us from, we belittle the magnitude of His saving grace. And we communicate a shallow understanding of that very grace. If, however, we lay down our pride, God uses our stories (as incomplete and messy as they are) to reveal His love. That’s why I am sharing.
Despite years of therapy and counseling, dealing with traumatic experiences is no easy task. So, we find ways to dance around the issues–behavior modification, unhealthy coping mechanisms, flatout denial. Trust me: I’m familiar with all of them.
They promise an Eden-like bliss that they can’t deliver.
Still, for an achievement-driven individual, it’s easy to hide chains–to hide from your own life–for quite a while. It turns out that if you create enough structure and erect enough goals, they function as idols and do a stellar job of shielding you from reality. That’s the blindness I’d grown accustomed to. And if it weren’t for God’s grace and COVID-19, I might still be there.
Why I Thank God for This Season
It’s not like I wasn’t trying to break free, but I was in one pit of mental quicksand after another… stuck. In the end, it took a global pandemic to level my self-dependence and elicit a true desire to surrender. While I don’t perfectly surrender each day, I have found that God’s changed my heart over time. I don’t want to “protect” myself by isolating anymore. I don’t want to use control to feel “okay.”
Here’s the thing, though: there was no “aha!” moment. Through God’s work in me, my hard work, and a lot of support from others, my desires started changing. But I have realized that the change didn’t occur until I hit a dead-end thanks to a global pandemic and a cold, spring walk.
Hitting a Dead End
Early last year, there were days when I was so overcome with self-hatred that I would try to outrun the emotions, usually through exercise. That’s exactly what I was doing when I finally turned. The brisk wind had bound others to their homes, so I was walking along the street, weeping quietly as I went. I remember telling God that I did not see any possible way to truly live. Too much damage had been done; too many chains were laced around my neck. I knew He was my hope, but I couldn’t see Him.
As I ugly-cried into the wind, God’s truth about His love for me became crystal clear in a new way. The comfort of the Spirit washed over me and I realized that I didn’t want to walk in the cold anymore. I wanted to go home.
My flesh wanted to suffer in the cold, but there was a part of me–one I didn’t know existed–that recognized an okayness with stopping the motion and just resting indoors. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I contemplated this, God spoke again (quite literally this time). He brought me to a a dead end.
Upon seeing the sign, I forgot my tears and began to chuckle. Leave it to God to break through my stubbornness in such an effective way. As I took a deep breath, His words echoed tenderly in my head, “I am with you.” Psalm 46:10 washed over me as I stared at the “DEAD END” sign.
I stood there for what felt like forever, praying and listening. The world didn’t shift in that one moment, but something did. God used that moment to re-ignite a fire in my heart. . . a desire to live, to fight, and to trust rose up in my heart.
I didn’t have the answers or the ability to suddenly break the shackles, but wasn’t hopeless anymore. As I prayed to myself, I pulled out my phone to snap a quick photo, because I knew I would want to remember this moment.
Pocketing my phone again and slipping on my gloves, I took one more long look at the sign. Then, I did what any reasonable human being would do: I turned around.
“I want to know that you don’t make mistakes, that I’m not a mistake.” I wrote that in my journal this past spring, but I think I’d been writing it in my actions for months and years beforehand. Each accomplishment and award was the echo of a heart that longed to know: “Do you love me?”
The answer is clearer to me now…a soft “yes” that rings out with each sunrise, smile, and yes: every failure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2020, it’s that divinely-ordained Dead Ends are for my good–as are the pains of being far from family, the battles with anxiety, and the unknown world ahead of me. This year has taught me the true meaning of Psalm 46, for I have met the God who is my refuge when the tears won’t stop; I have felt my foundation stand though the earth has given way; I have beheld the works of the Lord; I have seen the glory of the Lord when I’ve chosen to be still.
Through each twist and turn, God’s revealed that I’m not a mistake. I’m learning that creation has no ground upon which to scold the maker, “why did you make me this way? You did it wrong.” No, He didn’t. God doesn’t regret giving me the mind, body, personality, and dreams that He has. He didn’t make a mistake when He created me, and He didn’t make a mistake when He took equal care in creating you.
The intricacies of your personality, your body, your wounds… the are all known by Him. He sees you and He will finish the work He’s started in you if you’ll only uncurl your fingers.
It took a pandemic to loosen my grip. But now that my heart is breathing again, I refuse to turn back. The uphill climb that is still ahead is not daunting, because I know that the darkness cannot maintain its grip on children of the Light (1 Thess. 5:5). Whatever 2021 may bring, we can–together with the hymn writer–sing:
I wandered so aimless life“I Saw the Light”
Filled with sin I wouldn’t let my dear Saviour in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light
I saw the light I saw the light no more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight praise the Lord I saw the light
There is incredible darkness in our hearts and in our world. Two-thousand-twenty has made that glaringly obvious. And yet, there is light. There is life. There is freedom. Perhaps you’ve tasted that freedom this year. If so, join me in charging forward–yearning to live fully in the light of freedom. My prayer during 2020 and beyond has been that God would do whatever it takes to bring me to my knees before Him. As He has faithfully answered that for me, He will for you if you’ll only dare to ask.
I walked into 2020 begging the Lord for a change, but not knowing the pain that it would elicit within my sinful heart. Still, I consider this trial to be the blessing of a lifetime. Through it, I see freedom; through it, I am learning to breathe; through it, I am coming alive.
Just as the joys of 2019 failed to deliver, the pain of 2020 failed to bring solace. So press on, yes, but not into oblivion. Press on in faith because those who trust in Christ have a greater hope than this world has to offer. His name is Jesus, and He came to set you and I free.
3 thoughts on “2020: The Best & Hardest Year of My Life”
God uses ALL we experience for His Glory. Thank you for allowing us to share in your pain and in your victory; you write from your heart, and I appreciate your courage in being vulnerable. We love you and are extremely humbled by the young woman you are and continue to become. Keep shining your Light for Christ!
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Wow, thank you so much! This is really ministering to me.