How did you find God?
These words still leave my head spinning and cower me into silence. It feels like a challenge to prove myself: that whatever I say next must strengthen my case for faith yet be some definition of “enough” for people to see faith in their own lives. Have you ever felt pressured to prove to others that God exists? This is quite a big challenge for me, someone who spent the first 18 years of her life angry at God or dismissing His existence altogether.
It was always difficult for me to have an open heart and mind about God when I was younger because I suffered from, and still battle against, major depression. How could I begin to let light in when I felt my heart and lungs polluted daily by the poison of this deep sadness? I could not understand why a loving God, if He truly existed, could let me suffer so terribly.
Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. –Isaiah 60:20
Even after the exhaustion of loneliness led me to finally seek His teachings, I could not find a way to root myself in Him. I had no anchor in my faith, only temporary comfort, until I finally found myself sinking to rock-bottom in a lock-down facility for psychiatric treatment. After two days in a dream-like psychosis, an inability to dismiss suicide as my only option, and 72 hours in a hospital nightmare, I emerged with hope even though I was full of brokenness. Despite the agony of my experiences in the decade to which I often refer as “before the hospital,” I was able to have another shot at living, this time with the challenge to live honestly and openly about my depression.
We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. –2 Corinthians 4:8-9
I’ve grown exponentially closer to God in the past few years. This is primarily due to me physically opening, reading, and studying the Bible, as well as remaining open with others about my faith. For a long time, I felt extremely uncomfortable even admitting my beliefs in God due to the pressures I received from non-believers I love dearly. This fear of open rejection could silence me altogether. However, I find it of the utmost importance in my recovery and treatment of depression, as well as my identity as a Christian, to find courage and share my testimony. Even now, by writing to you, I am learning to be stronger in my vulnerability.
To question suffering, particularly the kind that cannot be easily cured, is one of the most human things we can do. The disciple Paul often wrote of his own pain, the “thorn in his flesh,” which he asked God to heal throughout his lifetime. He writes that God revealed to him a larger plan intended for Paul: “and He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I [Paul] will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me…for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
For how would we know true good unless we know true suffering? It takes great courage to tell a stranger, or friend, or even admit to yourself that you have suffered without letting your pride step in the way of honest vulnerability. It is through suffering we find compassion, through compassion we find love, and through love we find hope and Truth.
On the other hand, how do you bear witness to your faith if you’ve never hit such dark moments? Dear reader, each testimony is precious to hear, whether that be a story of blessings or strife. We can reflect on our lives and see how each event, large or small, has shaped our faith. Even the chosen people of Israel in the Old Testament often felt as if they were too ordinary to be of use to their God. Moses himself asked God repeatedly to choose someone else. Throughout the trying times, we must remember to seek the Light as a guide and not succumb to darkness. As Paul wrote, “therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). Equal in importance is reflecting on our blessings with sincere thanks.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. –2 Corinthians 4:7
We must not lose heart when we are challenged to bear witness in our faith. The faith and Spirit we have been gifted with through Jesus is our solid ground to build hope and life upon. It is not just a temporary fix, but the source of all eternal healing. When we need the courage to be honest with ourselves, we can take comfort knowing our pain is our witness because Jesus too felt great suffering so that we may not be alone.
I encourage you to rise up to the challenge of sharing your own story. Use your life experiences as a stepping stool to reach out to others hurting. We can share our story of rising out of the darkness or we can share how blessed we were to grow up knowing Jesus. His spirit is our treasure amongst our broken selves. Paul reminds us that by earnestly repenting of our sinful ways and seeking Christ’s forgiveness, and by spreading love and compassion amongst each other, we can live as an example to others in word and deed. Indeed, “we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by mainfestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Heavenly Father, whether we are helping those in need or have hurting within ourselves, please grant us the strength to trust in Your plan. Help us use our stories and daily actions to encourage people toward your Light for healing. In Your word, may we always find refuge and courage. Amen.
// image by Joanna Kosinska