Tag Archives: anxiety

Refining Fire and Mental Health

Is God refining you in this season? I believe in this season God is doing a new work in each one of us to make us more like Him and to prepare us for what is to come.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

God is making all things new, and it starts with us. He is making a way for us through the valley and wilderness. Do you not perceive it? I know it may be hard to see if you are in the depths of depression or anxiety, but God is up to something new and different. It may not be super clear, but He is doing it. Part of what He is doing is refining and purifying us from things that are not of Him, including idols, sin, and the like. He is calling us back to Him as our First Love, and is making a way for the new things to come into our life by asking us to let go of the old. Has God been nudging you to let go of some things in this season? Is He calling you to let go of lesser things for the better thing? Is He calling you to a radical step of obedience that will put you outside of your comfort zone?  Is He rearranging your priorities right now?

If the answer is yes, perhaps He is refining you. Perhaps He is even calling you out of some false comforts that we can fall into when we have mental illness. For example, God is calling me out of the false comfort on leaning on people too much for encouragement and care. Let me be clear — it is extremely wise to have a support system; however, it is not wise to make them an idol and become emotionally dependent on them to feel okay. Mental illness often lies to us and tells us we aren’t capable of doing things that we actually are capable of. Perhaps in certain seasons, this may be true, but as we continue in our recovery, we need to learn to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto loving the Lord and others. We slowly have to step out of our comfort zone and grow up in the Lord. This process is not easy, but stepping out of false comforts causes us to be strengthened and empowered. We can step up and out and begin to serve. Let me give you some words of encouragement as you go through this process:

“The furnace may be hot, but not only can I trust the hand that lights the fire, I can also have the assurance the fire will not consume but only refine.” (Streams in the Desert, p. 166.)

The refining fire of the Lord may be upon you right now, but take heart that it will not consume you. Rather, you will be purified in God’s love to be more equipped to serve Him and build His kingdom. As you step outside of yourself, you will see the many needs around you and the opportunities the Lord is placing before you.

What opportunities is God placing before you right now? What is He asking of you? If you don’t know, I’d encourage you to ask. If nothing else, just do what is before you, until He shows you the next thing. Take heart, friend, He is doing something new in and through you. Trust His purpose and timing!

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

Having Compassion for Yourself During COVID-19

Having a hard time coping with the quarantine right now? If so, I get it. Yesterday, I ended up being hard on myself for struggling, and that spilled over into today a bit. I was beating myself up for areas of struggle I still have, in spite of the fact that I have made a lot of progress recently. Our tendency seems to always go to the negative, doesn’t it?

In fact, research shows that we are hard wired to go toward the negative. Kristen Neff, in her book “Self Compassion” discusses this tendency and for our need to be kind to ourselves when we are suffering. She explains the importance of supporting and loving yourself in difficult times as you would support and love a friend. Sound selfish? Actually, Scripture discusses that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And how can we love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves? It first starts in receiving God’s love for ourselves, then we can love Him and others.

Are you feeling less productive during this time? Are you dealing with depression or anxiety right now? Be encouraged that’s it’s okay to feel this way. We are facing many new challenges in different ways right now. Personally, I am used to getting out of the house regularly to help ward off depression and anxiety. So, I have had to adapt and find new ways to cope. But, not every day is perfect – and that is okay. I am making myself a note to put in my office, “I give myself permission to be where I am.” I usually get myself into trouble when I start ruminating on thoughts about how I should be further along than I am. If you’re struggling right now with those feelings of “not enough” or “failure,” try to show yourself some grace and kindness. God is patient with you; so you can be patient with yourself too. I know, easier said then done. Here’s another way to look at it: how would you treat a friend that was struggling with something? Would you say sternly to try harder and suck it up, or would you show compassion and listen with kindness? I’m sure you would listen and love with compassion. We are all on a journey of learning to show this same kindness to ourselves.

We all have a relationship with one person we can’t get away from, and that is ourselves! So work on your self-talk today. Try to think of a bigger perspective of what’s going on right now. Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can and that you accept yourself just the way you are. After all, God accepts you just the way you are. But take heart, that He is not done with you and is going to complete the work He began in you! Good things are coming, friend. Reach out to God and ask Him for His help right now. He is with you, and He will help you! Receive His love and compassion for you, because you are DEEPLY LOVED.

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

Praise or Plummet

Are you praising or complaining through this time of crisis? Now, I totally understand if you’re struggling – this is an unprecedented time, and God is oh so gracious and gentle with us. Might I then gently encourage you though to press into praise right now?

In a previous difficult season, the Lord told me that I needed to “praise or plummet.” It wasn’t meant to be a discouraging thing, but rather an invitation of obedience to Him. He always gives us a choice. And in this case, He was showing me the cost of not praising Him. If I didn’t take time to worship and praise Him, I knew He was telling me that my mental health would deteriorate over time. I have held on to this word and have felt it extremely purposeful in this current crisis. Praise is the antidote to worry, fear, depression, stress, etc. Worship changes your focus and mindset. It has had to be, at times, a radical choice I make in spite of my feelings. What would it take to make that radical choice today?

Philippians 4:4 says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul reminds us to always rejoice in the Lord. Not when we feel like it, but always. I’m not saying every day you’ll feel goosebumps as you worship, but this obedient act glorifies God and helps you shift perspective, even if for a little bit. So give it a try today, and see if it doesn’t change things!

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

How to Take Care of Yourself During COVID-19

Here we are in the Philadelphia suburbs, ordered to stay in our homes for an unnamed amount of time. Well, this change has inspired me to write more. Today I want to encourage you in different ways you may want to care for yourself during this time, especially if you are stuck at home. Let me cover 5 areas:

Physically: We can still go outside during this time. I strongly encourage you to go outside at least once a day for a walk or at least for a little fresh air. If you can’t go outside, try some YouTube workouts to get you moving – or you could always have a dance/worship party!

Mentally: Try to do things that keep your mind busy and sharp. I recently bought a word search puzzle to do to pass the time. You can also find Sudoko, dot to dot puzzles, and crossword puzzles as well, whether in paper or on your phone apps (try your local dollar store or Amazon). You may be able to find free courses or Bible studies online during this time as well.

For example, check out this link for a free online Bible study with Max Lucado about anxiety: https://www.faithgateway.com/anxious-for-nothing-obs-registration/.

Also, a more involved course related to happiness and mental health through Yale University is also offered for free right now:https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being?action=enroll&utm_campaign=opencourse.welcome.the-science-of-well-being.~opencourse.welcome.rUHfSakHEeeQ3gpuC4Fs_g.&utm_medium=email&utm_source=other

Emotionally: Try a meditation app. There are so many, including Calm, Headspace, Simple Habit, and Soultime. I specifically like Soultime because it is Christian-based and includes scripture readings as well. It might be helpful if you’re having a bout of anxiety or if you need help falling asleep. Also, creativity is proven to help your mental health. Try coloring (I just got an adult coloring book at the Dollar Tree – and as far as I know, they are still open!), painting, drawing, or simply doodling.

Socially: Keep in touch with friends and family over the Internet or phone. Make sure to check in with the most isolated family members. Perhaps give them a word of encouragement you found recently in a book, or offer to pray for them. Also, be sure to reach out for help and connection if you need support. Try to be proactive and plan to make at least one contact a day. You can use free programs like Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, and also Free Conference Calls for groups.

Spiritually: Probably most importantly, use this time to draw closer to the Lord. It’s a good time to listen to podcasts and sermons on YouTube to stay encouraged and focused on God. Personally, I enjoy journaling a lot. I write my prayers to God, and I listen for and record His response. I recently heard a great way to spend quiet time with God – pick a short passage from Scripture and read it. Ask God what He wants you to know about it, and then write a response back to Him. The next day, you can go back to that Scripture and ask God if He has anything else to tell you. Then, go on to the next part of that Scripture or pick a new one.

Things to Avoid:

Numbing out on social media and TV: I know it’s so easy to distract yourself and pass time these ways, but in longer amounts of times, they wear on your mental health and you end up numbing yourself instead of being in the present. Instead, use social media and TV in moderation and stay present with other people and things around you (physically or virtually).

Staying in bed all day: This is a sure fire way to get depressed. If you’re still tired when you wake up, try at least to move yourself to your couch to read or listen to music.

Catastrophizing about the future: This one is hard, I know, with all the uncertainty about how long you may be staying home or perhaps your finances. Remember, each day has enough worry of it’s own (Matthew 6:34), and it’s best to take it one day at time.

How To Grow and Heal From Sufferring

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When we have negative experiences, they are opportunities to grow and heal, if we will allow ourselves to step back and find new perspective. Personally, my mental illness and accompanying difficult experiences have really helped me grow – but it was choice. Was I going to accept where I’m at and learn from it? Or would I let myself get bitter and shut down? I had (and still do have) moments where I’m all in to grow from the pain of it all, and other days where I’d rather do nothing but hide and escape from my problems. I’ve learned to let myself have both days, while slowly moving toward growing and learning instead of avoiding and hiding.

Walking through my own mental illness has made me strong in the midst of chaotic and painful emotions. Also, my struggles have given me compassion for people who go through similar difficult things. I have learned the art of being aware of my emotions, paying attention to what they might be telling me, and responding appropriately. This awareness has allowed me to notice the individuals who hurt the most, sit with them in their pain, and encourage them that, they too, will grow from their pain. We can allow mental illness (or other struggles) to define us in a negative, victimizing way (like “I will always be this way” or “nothing will ever change”), or we can allow it to grow us and change us to become stronger, more compassionate people.

I also have found my faith in Jesus through my battle with mental illness. So, in reality, mental illness is a gift that has kept giving – giving me opportunities to wrestle with God and my beliefs, to find answers (or to accept I won’t have answers!), to feel deeply, and to accept myself more fully. I have discovered my gifts and who I am – my struggles do not define me as weak, but they have allowed me to find God and my purpose in the midst of it. I would not be the kind, caring, compassionate person I am without all that I have gone through.

I share these beautiful things, but they have come from the depths of my pain, anger, shame, disillusionment, severe instability, and fears. They have come from the breaking of me – of life falling to pieces and God and I somehow slowly putting those pieces back together. I have found meaning and purpose through my breakdowns, which has created a deep well of hope and wisdom that I pray shines to others.

Mental illness has been a shaping factor in my life that has brought chaos, disaster, and healing. This cycle of pain and healing will, in some ways, always continue on this side of heaven. Jesus promises us both hope and pain on Earth. We must carry our crosses, learning to fellowship with Him in the power of His resurrection AND in His suffering (Philippians 3:10).

He cares. He understands. He’s been there. Let your pain move in you in a way that heals you instead of holds you back. Take courage that this struggle you are going through is not wasted.

Lean Into Your Fears

What would happen if you leaned into your fear instead of cringing back into it your fear? Fear tells us to run away and avoid, yet God calls us many times in the Bible to not be afraid.

Instead of running from our fears, we are called to face our fears, lean into them, and overcome them. We may feel fear, but we press through that to be able to do what we need to do. As Joyce Meyer says often: “Do it afraid!”

While leaning into your fear feels counter intuitive to your emotions, it’s a great way to overcome those emotions. It’s also a huge way to learn to depend on the Lord. You’re saying, “God I’m really afraid right now to take this step, but I know You are calling me to do that. So, I am trusting You to help me through this.”

Personally, God has been calling me to lean into my fears right now – fear of man, fear of the future, and fear of failure. He has called me to step out in certain areas such as relationships and ministry opportunities. I could just decide to stay home and be paralyzed by my fear, or I can take a step in the direction of that which is uncomfortable. Taking that step is hard, but as you choose to move forward in the face of your fear instead of backwards, spiritual ground is taken back from the Enemy. You will have breakthrough and freedom. It is SO worth it to fight through your human resistance and face your fear.

Recently, the Lord showed me a picture of me on a water ride – it was a scary, but I felt God inviting me to embrace the adventure of that ride and HAVE FUN! I believe God is always inviting us to embrace and enjoy our journey with Him, in spite of our fears and reservations.

So what fear is eating at you right now? Is it confronting a boss or someone you love? Is it stepping into a new job or role? Is it letting go of something you have your fingers grasped to so tightly to that you’re afraid to let go of it?

In John 16:22, Jesus says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So, don’t run away from your troubles and fears, for He is with you in them, willing to comfort you and bring you to the other side.

Father God, thank You for your deep love for me. Please help me when I feel afraid to come to You and to press through to walk into the new opportunities You have for me. When it feels uncomfortable, help me to remember that You will strengthen me to do what I am afraid of. In Jesus name. Amen. 

Copyright 2018 Marie Lorah