Letters of Hope #1
Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
- 2014 Apr 23
With permission, I've decided to anonymously share some of the correspondence I've had with readers about their struggles with anxiety and/or depression over the coming weeks. I think some of you may be able to relate with these individuals who are currently battling fear and darkness, and it is my hope that you find comfort in knowing that you're not alone in this. And I also thought my responses may be of some use to you as well.
To those readers who aren't struggling in this area, I'd like to encourage you to hang in there with me for a few more weeks! I'll be back writing as I had before long. Thank you for patiently waiting this topic out!
I am 40 and I have struggled my whole life with anxiety, phobias, etc. I have been "coasting" using meds etc for 15+years. I haven't driven on the highway in 5 years! I am a Christian, but have a lot to learn!! I obviously have not been growing in my faith! A couple months back I had one of my worst panic attacks ever in the salon...it's been a downward spiral ever since. I think I am depressed too and also take meds so I can sleep.
The elder at my church that I have been praying with gave me your info. Thank you soooo much for addressing this issue. I have 2 little girls and a wonderful husband who are suffering with me. So hard to put on a happy face in front of my kids and co-workers.
I am learning that the enemy has quite the stronghold in my mind!! For years I begged God to take this thorn in my flesh away, but I am realizing He is not going to take it away. Would you take that as a sign that there is something else He has planned? I just can NOT imagine God would want me to live like this forever!!
I have one question.....I know this is a process but how on Earth did you make it day to day? I am trying to take it one day at a time, but there has been no joy in over 2mos!
This sure robs you of your confidence!!
Any practical advice would be appreciated.
Again, thank you for addressing this!!
Oh my goodness, I am so sorry you're in this place!
I believe it is God’s intention to heal you, but you must open your heart to him so he can. He never forces himself upon us, so press in. Open your heart and CHOOSE to trust him even if your feelings don’t line up yet. But they will! Jesus came to give us life and life to the FULL!
But I don’t believe God wants us to have any false notion that we have any control when we’re in this place. At least not until we’ve come fully to Him and given up our rights to control. But that’s not to say that we lay lifelessly waiting for God to do something. We can do something, but the best thing we can do is press in to God. I plan on writing more about some practical things we can do, but I want to establish that none of these things will ultimately help if we have not FIRST pressed in to God. If we’re anxiously trying to attain our own healing, it will never work! God is our healer! But we can do things like start noticing our thought patterns. Checking our thoughts to see if they line up with GOD’S truth (not ours). Filling our mind with scripture. One thing I plan on writing about is the importance of keeping certain scriptures handy so we have something to turn to to “talk us down” so to speak. If you’re not familiar with Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind book/message, it’s a great one! Also we need to stop asking why? Stop trying to figure it all out, and simply TRUST God, asking for grace to do so.
I remember walking into one of my bible studies early on when the anxiety and depression was at it’s worst. I was filled with anxiety and all I wanted to do was run away. I literally turned around to leave and a woman caught me by the arm, and asked me to sit with her. I would have left that day, but God didn’t let me, and I thank God because had I left––had I listened to my anxiety over God––I would not be where I am now, so press in!!!!
If you’re having a hard time pressing into God, just bring God what you can and that is enough. At the very least, find a few scriptures that point you to where you would like God to bring you and simply pray those scriptures! I’ll be doing a couple posts on scriptures that helped me, but Philippians 4:4-13 is a great place to start. So is 2 Timothy 1:7! Just pray God’s words when you have none of your own and God will take care of the rest. Open your Bible and read, even when you don’t want to! Start with Ephesians and then read Philippians. Read the Psalms!! Psalm 139 is a great one!! Read Isaiah 43! God is talking about YOU there!!
And please let me know how you’re doing from time to time!
Oh my gosh Laurie...thanks for the quick reply! You know as an anxious person, you just want answers yesterday! I have a Rubbermaid tub full of self help books...ahhhh!
What does it mean to press in? Are you just talking about praying, reading the Word, etc? I feel like I have been doing that for the last couple of months but things actually seem to be getting worse?! Is that possible?
What did you do on a daily basis as the fear seemed like it would swallow you whole?
Thanks...I promise those are my last questions!!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
Isn’t that the truth! Anxiety and depression has a way of making us desperate!!
Day to day is very hard. Sometimes I needed to take it minute by minute. What I do when anxiety threatens to rear its ugly head is I have a little mini, 3x5 card binder that I bought at office depot. They also sell 3x5 cards with holes in them to go with them and I literally sit down with my bible and write one scripture on each card. I find all of them that speak to me in that moment (if you’re having a hard time finding them try a keyword search on Biblegateway.com and pray for God to show you what you need to hear). I write them down. Keep them with me, and every time I’m feeling anxious I read them and pray the words over me out loud! It helps! Find some that point you to who God sees you as. You need to begin to understand who you are in Christ and how he sees you. You may know some of these things, but speaking these scriptures over yourself will help you to BELIEVE it! You need to know that God is FOR you. That he loves you. That he’s with you. That he will never leave you, nor forsake you. Read the end of Job. Read the Psalms. This is real faith in the midst of terrible darkness.
It’s absolutely possible for it to get worse before it gets better. Oftentimes it does! Ask for God’s healing!! But to heal, we often need to face some ugly painful things before we can truly heal, so it can get worse first and that’s okay. God is with you and he will see you through. AND what joy you’ll experience in the end! I’d rather go through the muck and come out on the other side with joy that live a mundane joyless life, wouldn’t you!? So, press in simply means to try to incline your heart toward God! He is good. Believe Romans 8:28 about yourself. It’s true! He intends to work all of this junk for your absolute GOOD!
Does that help?
Yes...that makes sense and I have been speaking scriptures out loud when I am able (it's hard to do at work). Do you still have to pull your cards out from time to time or is your anxiety completely behind you? I so desire that joy! Have no clue what it feels like to be fearless!!
I always use the cards but not usually for anxiety anymore. On occasion I can feel the anxiety wanting to poke its ugly head but it's never gotten back to the point I was at back then. The only thing I have every once in a while is more of a temptation to get anxious but I've learned how to not allow myself to got there. Honestly I think it will always be Satan's temptation for me. But every time I sense it coming I just press in as I've told you and it goes away. I've learned not to pay it much attention. I think when I focus on it that's when it can get worse, so I don't. I recognize it and just lean in more toward God and choose to trust him.
I was reading the end of Job and in the commentary it says that Job was restored spiritually and materially. It goes on to say that we may not be fully restored in this life but in the life to come. I am discouraged by that. Does that mean I may just have to live with this anxiety and panic in this life? As a wise godly woman, how do you interpret that?
My thoughts: I think it's important to look at what the Bible says about this as a whole. When we look at the stories of Joseph and Job and David and Saul (Paul), etc. we see God's truth that He works ALL things for good for those who know and love Him (Romans 8:28). All things! Not just some things. So as we go through life, when we find ourselves in a bad place, we can understand that God intends to use it for good. NOTHING is wasted by God. He uses it all to bring us to a good place. We need to trust that He knows what's going to make our story the best in the end. His ultimate goal for all of us is for us to grow closer to Him. Sometimes achieving that end (which would be for our ultimate good and satisfaction) takes some pain. But God doesn't allow pain for the sake of pain. Just as we discipline our children from a good heart to teach them what's best for them, so too does God.
So there will be pain in this life, but that doesn't mean God leaves us there. When looking at the stories above, God allowed things to happen and some of them feel into deep darkness and depression, but God pulled them out. I don't believe God ever intends for us to say in the darkness forever. Jesus IS LIGHT! Why would he allow us to remain in the darkness forever? For a period, yes, I get that. That has purpose, but not forever. We may still struggle from time to time, but I don't think he intends us to stay in the pit for our lives. Scripture tells us that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full. It says that Satan is a thief and intends to steal our joy, but God is our victor!! The closer we are to him, the more we open our hearts to him, the greater his light can shine upon our darkness and completely irradiate it altogether.
Paul talks of a thorn that he begged God to take away from him, and I do believe that God doesn't always take away all our struggles in this life. This is not heaven, but He also says that he has not given us a spirit of fear but a sound mind. He speaks of light and darkness and how the light has overtaken the darkness. I believe all this points to God's desire to allow us to experience true life this side of heaven. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. I'm pretty sure these fruits negate a lifelong sentence of depression and anxiety. You can't have joy and peace especially when you're in that dark pit!
Now, that's not to say that you won't struggle from time to time! But I don't think God intends to keep you there. God tells us he will give us double for our pain. He tells us there may be weeping in the night but that joy comes in the morning. He gives us example after example of his people who were brought low, experiencing the darkness of depression, only to abound and experience abundant blessings!
So again, PRESS IN!!!!!! You've got this!