This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.
Have you ever felt a loss of identity? Or confused about who you are or who you are supposed to be? I have. At one point I believed that I was nothing; worthless. I had lost my health in such a way that left me trapped with no end and no escape from constant debilitating pain in my head and in my entire body. I’d been struggling to fight for survival five years already. The constant need for help made me feel a burden to those around me, and I so longed to be a blessing. I believed if I could be a blessing I would have value and identity. My hope for a future of happiness was gone, all that I thought I would and could become; as a professional, friend, wife, mom, daughter, sister and woman, just snatched away. There was nothing good left of the “me” I thought I was.
All alone and hopeless, I knelt in front of our couch. I cried, “God, I’m completely lost. I’ve done all I can to get well. Nothing helps. Any choice I make at this point will lead to more pain. I don’t want to live through the suffering that inevitably awaits me. I can’t handle the pain, the sadness, the confusion, the loss, the struggle to survive any more. I’m done. I don’t want my life anymore. I hate my life. All that I do and try feels worthless and destructive. If YOU can bring something useful and good out of what’s left of me and my pathetic shell of a body that’s broken and hurting, You can have me. I’m sorry for doubting You, Your love for me and that You are good. I’m sorry for holding You responsible for my pain. I’m sorry for the resentment I’ve had towards You and others who have hurt me. Forgive me. Please reveal Yourself to me.”
All of a sudden it was as if a giant weight was lifted off of me, off of my heart; like I could breath deeply and laugh genuinely for the first time in my whole life.
Depression had been a struggle since childhood. I remember lying in bed at five years old, paralyzed with wishing I had never been born, and not knowing why. There had always been this cloud in my mind and heart that was sad and heavy. My life may have looked easy on the outside, but it felt hard and lonely on the inside. Then my external health began to imitate the internal. Doctors had no answers for my symptoms, there were no explanations, no understanding of what was happening to me. I had a constant “WHY?” in my mind for every ache and pain, day after day, month after month, year after year. But in this transformative moment, the “WHY” no longer mattered. Joy overwhelmed me. A prayer of rejoicing, like a song, just poured out of my mouth. I didn’t want it to stop. My mind was saturated with the thought that God was indeed good and worthy of my trust. And MY understanding or not understanding the “why’s” in my life or in anyone else’s life, was suddenly no longer an obstacle in believing in a truth so much bigger than me.
I had been looking to God for a miracle. And until He would give me some sign that He was going to help me in my pain, I was not going to be content or trust that He was good. I wanted Him to meet me on MY terms. But He had already done the miracle; laying down His life willingly for mine, so I could experience knowing Him and being loved by Him with no strings attached. FREE LOVE! Was that not enough? Until this moment, it had not been enough for me. Until I laid down my expectation of Him, I was unable to fully receive, experience and appreciate His love. Once that happened, I discovered my value rested simply in the fact that I had breath and could use it to rejoice in a God that is good. My identity is simply BEING a child of God; a child that is known and loved, just because. Do you have a child? Have you longed for a child? God longed for you and He loves you just because you are His.
Fear is the obstacle to Joy; fear of the future, fear of pain, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, fear of what others think, fear of not being enough. Trust and gratitude are the antidote. Laying down the fear and choosing trust and gratitude is an intentional discipline. It takes work. There is always something to be grateful for and when I meditate on those things, and trust that God is bigger than my understanding, JOY comes.
Eventually answers regarding my health did come, treatments happened and my health improved. Once I completely surrendered myself to Him, God took my suffering and used it to reveal my worth and identity as His beloved child. My heart feels FREE; free to love, free to embrace, free to care, free to sing, free dance, free to BE. He healed my heart and in time my body followed.
A practice we use in our home daily is to verbalize and rejoice in truth. There are so many lies that continue to bombard our minds, seeking to kill, steal and destroy the JOY available to us. Words have power. So choose words of TRUTH. Make a list or collage, hang truth on your walls, wallpaper your mind with it.
Every night before going to sleep, I turn to my best friend; my partner; my husband and ask him to speak some truths over me, and he does. He reminds me who I am and of all the good. It never gets old to hear it.
“Always be joyful. Never stop conversing with God. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s desire for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rachel Powers enjoys being a Fitness Instructor, a Wellness Advocate for DoTERRA and an Actor/Singer/Dancer/Model. She works at Lareen Fender’s The Ballet School, Pure Barre WC, and Forma Gym, while residing in Walnut Creek, CA with her husband Adam, daughter Lucy and cat Carmel.