According to recent statistics, 18% of all Americans suffer with anxiety. That is approximately 40 million people. Of those people, only 36% seek treatment. A staggering number of people are resigned, to suffer.
I do not suffer from anxiety but I have struggled with depression in my past. There was definitely an aspect of anxiety entangled in my depression. I can remember being overwhelmed with feelings of fear, that would paralyze my ability to respond properly to my circumstances and my thoughts would hold back my ability to stay motivated to keep going. Whether it was to get up for work, or go to the grocery store or even make phone calls to my family. Something in my thoughts would create sort of a dam between themselves and executing normal tasks.
There are accounts throughout the Bible that describe God-fearing men being overcome by fear, which I find to be one of the most comforting aspects of the Bible as I read it. Adam, Jacob, David, Esther, Rahab, Hagar the list of moments when people were full of fear is long. But the Bible’s continued theme from these fearful people is that it assures us that we are not alone and that people have been though what we are going through. From the beginning to the very end of the story, the message that we are not in this life battle alone, is consistent and extremely clear. Yet still, sometimes having the knowledge that we are not alone is just not enough to stir up motivation.
Depression and fear make their sly descent on our outlook and perspective as we sink into the shadows and wait. We wait for thoughts to pass. We wait for feelings to come back. We sleep while we wait. We isolate while we wait. We think while we wait. Sometimes we even pray while we wait. We pray for motivation and for feeling like it. We pray God would take our depression and anxiety away.
While prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have against spiritual warfare, I think we overlook the power that it has to motivate us to be obedient when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes just doing the next right thing is all we can be expected to do. If God’s Word says “I will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9, then we can trust that the expectation for us or our part, is to go. And if we just don’t feel like going, we can trust that The Holy Spirit still wants us to go. So instead of focusing all of our attention on waiting to not feel fearful or depressed, we can pray that God would just show us the next right thing. We can tell God through prayer that we don’t feel like doing anything and that we just want this feeling to go away, and in the same breath we need to be praying that God would, out of His mercy and kindness, just show us the next right thing in spite of our feelings. We can obey when we are depressed and fearful. The reality is that sometimes our feelings are just reminders that we need God. That is not a bad thing. That is the key joy in all circumstances. Knowing just how sick we are and at the same time knowing that God is desperate for us to submit to Him because that brings us life.
When I get depressed, I still know and understand my obligations or the “tasks” that need to happen during the day. It’s just that I don’t feel motivated, I feel upset and unsettled and it sometimes paralyzes me. But it is in those moments that we can remind ourselves that we need refueling from God. We can be reminded to look to Him for the encouragement to just do the next right thing, and He in His perfect timing will alleviate us from our depressed thoughts and anxious feelings.
It’s ok to feel depressed and anxious. But trying to handle it or make it go away in our own will is where we start to shrink away from life.
Today’s prayer challenge:
If you are feeling depressed or unmotivated, take a full 5 minutes to write out how you are feeling. Don’t hold back, get it all out. Write specific things that are causing your depression or anxiety. If there is nothing specific, just write out your thoughts. Then pray what you have written, to God and ask Him to show you the next right thing. It could be going to the store or changing the laundry. Then once that is completed, ask Him for what is next. Go back to Him in prayer no matter how many times it takes, to get to the end of your day. Once you reach the end, keep praying. Pray for what you are grateful for and remember times when God has done miracles in your life. He is the same God He has always been, loving and kind. Hang in their friend, His time is perfect. Reach out to a friend and let them know you are struggling so they can pray with you and help you to keep going.
God I have feelings of depression and anxiety and they are overtaking my thoughts. I don’t see the joy in anything I will do today. I have no interest in conversations or in what other people are doing. I am empty inside. I am waiting to feel again. I know that you looked down at me seeing this season of life and you declared I am worthy of your love. Although I do not feel worthy today, I will be obedient to you because I can trust you and your plans for my life. Please show me the next right thing to do even if it is small, that I would glorify you in my depression and fears knowing that you hear my hearts requests and want me to live abundantly in you. In Christ’s name, Amen