By Becky Keife
God's Brave Women - Becky's Story
One of the hardest things about anxiety and depression (at least for me) is not being able to always name it or explain it.
Sometimes I can identify the triggers. I can feel a fresh swell and call it out for what it is—mental illness. But other times, it’s just tears below the surface at the dinner table. It’s heightened irritability at my children. It’s an unsettled spirit and coffee jitters I can’t shake and wishing all the people and responsibilities would just go away (even when I love my people and my work). It’s feeling defeated by a task I know I’m capable of doing. Exhausted after a full night’s sleep. An undercurrent of sadness that doesn’t match my circumstances. Not too long ago, I admitted a new wave of not-okay to my husband. “I’m struggling but I’m fine,” I said as huge tears dropped into my sparkling water.
“You don’t look fine,” he said. And this is the tension of anxiety and depression: being simultaneously fine and undone, wanting to be seen and wanting to hide.
"And this is the tension of anxiety and depression: being simultaneously fine and undone, wanting to be seen and wanting to hide."
I've sunk into the pit of anxiety, and I've walked the peaks of recovery. I've wallowed in the unspoken valley of depression and cried enough closed-door tears to buoy up to a cliff where I could climb out. My faith is strong yet there have been so many days where I just feel weak.
In the thick of mental illness, it takes courage to get up, make the coffee, and cook the eggs. No one else would know that it feels brave to play card games with my family, plug away at the work project, answer a text message from a friend. These small, ordinary acts don’t scream courageous. But in the darkness of anxiety and depression, the ordinary becomes extraordinary because I’m faced with the reality of how much I need Jesus.
"In the thick of mental illness, it takes courage to get up, make the coffee, and cook the eggs... These small, ordinary acts don’t scream courageous. But in the darkness of anxiety and depression, the ordinary becomes extraordinary because I’m faced with the reality of how much I need Jesus."
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul begged God three times to take his thorn away. It doesn’t say what Paul’s exact plight was, but we know he was desperate to be free of it. I know that kind of desperation. Paul had faith to believe God could heal him—and God could have. But instead, the Lord replied each time, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (vs. 9 NLT)
I’m guessing that’s not the answer Paul wanted. But take note of how he responded: “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Boast seems like a strange word here, right? How could Paul choose to relish in, celebrate, embrace that which made him feel humbled, crippled, disqualified?
“So that the power of Christ can work through me,” he said. Talk about brave.
On the days when fine and unfine are like a teeter-totter I can’t get off of, I make God’s promise my breath prayer on repeat:
Your grace is all I need. Your power works best in my weakness.
In the thick of anxiety and depression, this doesn’t feel true. When I can’t stop the tears or the mental hamster wheel, it’s hard to believe God’s power could actually work best. But guess what, friend? I’ve seen His goodness, His power, His grace reach into my darkness again and again and again.
Last fall I was struggling bad and I was asked to speak at a conference about anxiety. Oh, the irony. I knew the Scriptures. I could coach a friend, implement the coping strategies I learned in therapy. But in that season, doing all the “right things” still didn’t change the tears that flowed and the mind that raced and the sleep that eluded me and the sleep that beckoned me.
I stood behind that mic feeling like a mess—but I didn’t stand alone. God was with me. He never once left me. And on a Saturday morning in a beautiful outdoor courtyard, the Holy Spirit used my struggle to minister to the hearts of women in ways I never could have asked for, strived for, or expected.
Power in weakness, that’s the only way to explain it.
"... the Holy Spirit used my struggle to minister to the hearts of women in ways I never could have asked for, strived for, or expected. Power in weakness, that’s the only way to explain it."
But let me be honest: when mental illness rears its ugly head, my default is to crave a quick fix. A five-step fail-proof plan. I want my knowledge and experience to seamlessly move me into healing. I don't like staying in the tension.
But I'm learning. I'm learning that healing can look like showing up with my messy story and asking Jesus to multiply my tear-soaked loaves and fish. Healing can look like allowing myself to feel the feelings and asking Jesus to just sit with me in it. Maybe that's the one thing you can do today, right where you are. In your okay and not okay-ness, just be. And invite Jesus to be with you.
"I'm learning that healing can look like showing up with my messy story and asking Jesus to multiply my tear-soaked loaves and fish. Healing can look like allowing myself to feel the feelings and asking Jesus to just sit with me in it."
If you are fighting an undercurrent of sadness, if it feels like your mind is betraying you, like weaknesses will overcome you, I want you to know you’re not alone in the darkness. Your feelings and experiences are valid even if you can’t fully name them or explain them.
And I want you to hear this: If you’re thinking about letting a friend into your darkness, do it. If you’re thinking about going back to counseling or going for the first time, do it. If you just need to sit at the table and cry, do it. The struggle of anxiety and depression does not define you—and it certainly does not disqualify you from being used by God. But giving voice to the struggle is the first step that will let the light begin to shine in.
"The struggle of anxiety and depression does not define you—and it certainly does not disqualify you from being used by God. But giving voice to the struggle is the first step that will let the light begin to shine in."
And when the light shines in, you might just start to see your weakness as a gift wrapped in God’s sufficient grace.
It’s here again, friends!! Don’t miss the BRAVE WOMEN SERIES GIVEAWAY this week!
We want to celebrate the upcoming THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the BRAVE WOMEN SERIES by blessing TWO LUCKY WINNERS with incredible gifts!
Every month until the end of the year, we will be featuring key women who have written for the series and shared their courageous God stories with us. We just love what He is up to with His Girls, and that includes you, our BRAVE READERS!
Enter this month's giveaway by clicking HERE for a chance to win one of TWO incredible prizes: https://kingsumo.com/g/fmvbap/june-brave-women-series-giveaway
Winner 1: $225 Gift Card of Your Choice!
Winner 2: Brave Women Bundle (valued at over $200!) including: * All God's Girls are Brave Shirt from the Brave Women Boutique * Same Here, Sisterfriend by Holly Mackle * Courageous Days by Melissa Dyer * Rest & Reflect: 12-Week Guided Sabbath Journal by Rachel Fahrenbach * Hey Mama! Pray by Patsy Palmer Burnette * Strength and Dignity Journal by Christian Art Gifts * The Orphan Beach by Laura Thomas * Dear Tomorrow Legacy Journal by Nina Hundley * 21 Days of Fasting & Praying by LaVonda McCullough * Be Brave necklace by Lcherry * Live with Purpose Mug by Abbey Press * $20 Target Card
**Additional things you can do: 1) Forward the link onto a friend (or 10!) so they don't miss out! 2) Share the giveaway on your socials.
This month's Brave Women Series Giveaway runs 6/21-6/25. Random winners will be selected via KingSumo on 6/26/21 and notified within 48 hours. US residents shipping only. This is not endorsed by anyone except the bunch of us. By entering you agree to receive encouragement from some of the featured Brave Women. Feel free to unsubscribe at any time. Thank you for entering, friend! You are valued, brave and loved! ♡
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means you are full of His strength and power. I would love to connect with you more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my lovely email tribe.
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Becky Keife is the Community Manager for (in)courage, a popular speaker, and the author of No Better Mom for the Job: Parenting with Confidence Even When You Don’t Feel Cut Out for It. Becky is passionate about helping others see more of the people in front of them, more of God’s kindness toward them, and more of His power in them. Becky is a big fan of Voxer, Sunday naps, and anything with cinnamon. She and her husband live near Los Angeles where they enjoy hiking shady trails with their three spirited sons. Connect with Becky on Instagram, Facebook or at beckykeife.com.