Do you wear a mask? Pretend everything is okay when it’s not?
Do you smile and laugh with those around you but inside you’re hurting? Lonely. Afraid. Dying.
Do you spend a lot of energy building up and encouraging those around you while not addressing your own doubts and fears? Not facing your own brokenness?
Or, at least that was my norm in the not-so-distant-past—and every once in a while, it still it.
Then several months ago God called out my in-authenticity
and told me I needed to STOP IT!
“You need to be more open, vulnerable, and real. You need to be honest about when things are going well—and when they aren’t. You need to be as open about your brokenness, hurts, and struggles as you are about your joys, victories, and excitements.”
I knew He wasn’t kidding, and I was terrified! All my masks were—gone. Unavailable. No longer a barrier to hide behind. A place to pretend. I felt exposed. Unprotected. Even as I tip-toed toward obedience, I was unsure and afraid.
Part of that is due to the fact there’s a fine line between authenticity and over-sharing. Between being real and being a burden.
But my constant struggle isn’t in determining where that line is, it’s in not running as far and as fast as I can away from that line into the realm of being guarded. All my life I’ve kept up a barrier to “protect myself.” I’ve lived in a place where I didn’t share the full extent of anything and pretended all was well even when it wasn’t.
Another part is fear.
- Fear of not having it all together.
- Fear of not being a good leader, teacher, writer, wife, mother, friend…
- Fear of someone using my hurts, fears, and insecurities against me.
- Fear of rejection.
However, God patiently deflected all those fears with His truth:
- No one has it all together.
- Being a good leader, teacher, author, etc. doesn’t mean we don’t have fears, hurts, challenges, or insecurities;
- It means we’re honest about them, learn to push through, and conquer them.
- It means despite them, we determine to be diligent and faithful where He has us.
- People who want to hurt us will find a way to do it
- Whether it’s by using our present circumstances or creating new ones.
- We must be faithful where He has us.
- People are always going to reject us.
- That’s part of life as a Follower of Jesus.
- It’s our responsibly to be faithful where God has us regardless of what other say and do.
- Having fears, hurts, challenges, and insecurities makes us real. Approachable. Relatable. Genuine.
- Not to mention empathetic to the fears, hurts, challenges, and insecurities of others.
- We must be faithful where He has us.
(Notice a theme? Guess where I was failing.)
Friend, and these past few months have been anything but easy. But I wouldn’t trade them for anything!
My first step in obedience was in writing a 3 part series last April called Unmasked. (read those here Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) In these posts I revealed how SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) nearly took me out last winter and the things I could have/should have done differently to combat it. Unmasked was my most vulnerable post ever, and the response was overwhelming. I got several emails from people who openly shared their SAD stories. And it was this response that made me realize many of us suffer from this form of depression.
So…as we’ve just started to enter into that time of year when SAD starts to creep into our lives, I’ve decided to write this series to encourage you and equip you with a some weapons to combat SAD and stay on top of it.
Before I share the first tip, let’s review what SAD is so you can recognize it in yourself, someone you love, a friend, coworker, student, etc.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes depression as: a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
- Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year.
- And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life.
- Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
We could also add our upcoming generation is the most depressed generation in the history of our country. They are the most stressed and anxious. They are the most isolated and lonely. And they are the most prone to suicide—especially during our long winter months.
I’m not a physiologist, but I’ve done a lot of research to learn how to keep myself from teetering on the edge like I did last winter. Especially considering our infamous Minnesota Winter is predicted to be a carbon copy of last winter. (So NOT a blessing.)
Depending on who you are, the word ‘depression’ can conjure up so many different thoughts, emotions, assumptions, and misconceptions.
If you’ve overcome depression your viewpoint of this word has one connotation; if you’ve never experienced depression it has another; if you’re currently in a state of depression due to circumstances or biochemical imbalances (or both) it means something completely different for you. Regardless of where you fall, there is hope!
The first and biggest mistake I made was isolation.
- I kept to myself.
- I work from home and didn’t take advantage of opportunities to get out of the house.
- I could go days without leaving my home.
- As winter progressed, I didn’t engage with most people on anything more than a surfacey-social level.
- I didn’t let anyone into my inner darkness for fear they would judge me. Mock me. Think less of me.
- I pretended I was great—full of life and joy—while inside, I was falling apart.
Beloved, I chose to believe the lies Satan fed me. I gobbled them down and then opened my mouth like a baby bird looking for more.
Satan wanted me isolated. And he wants you isolated too. He knows when we’re alone and lonely we don’t have the support we need to combat his lies—we’re putty in his hands. We don’t have the encouragement we need to keep fighting—we forget the freedom found in God’s Truth. We don’t have the fortitude to choose joy—we don’t have the strength to fight back!
And in my case, The Enemy also knows when I’m isolated he can double his efforts to discourage me, to create uncertainty about my calling, to convince me to give up on this ministry God has given me. He pulls out every insecurity, every failure, every doubt and parades it before me— “evidence” that I’m not good enough to do what He has called me to do. Proof that I’m not worthy of being His vessel.
But then God stepped in.
He reminded me
- BECAUSE of His Spirit working in and through me, I am enough.
- He is able to override all my insecurities and fears with His grace.
- My weaknesses and shortcomings vanish in His strength.
- AND—get this—AND He is able to equip and enable me to fulfill my calling despite my inadequacies.
Beloved, I’d bet He’s whispering the same thing to you too. Can your hear Him? Are you listening?
Do you believe Him?
He didn’t choose me because I’m some profound and amazing writer. I’m not. And that’s okay. He chose me because I surrendered to Him and His leading. I made myself available. I chose to be obedient.
And I almost let Satan convince me to chuck it all… “Did God really say…” Oh, he has a slick tongue doesn’t he?!
Well, NOT TODAY SATAN! GO BACK TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG!
Dear One, don’t let Satan lie to you too. Don’t let him convince you isolation is “safer.” Reach out! Here are some great ways to do it:
- If you don’t have a solid Christian counselor, find one and make an appointment ASAP.
- If you are able to do this before you start to crumble, you will be one step ahead of SAD.
- Your church should have resources for you to start with
- Journal! (Don’t groan.)
- It really does help you sort your thoughts and emotions, expose Satan’s lies you may have gobbled down, and reveal where you need to work
- Connect with a trusted friend or mentor you can be real and pray with—someone to keep you accountable, to check in with
- Get out of the house/office/school—be creative.
- Engage in a small group or Bible Study group in your church or community (or start one in your home or favorite coffee shop)
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