Originally published Monday, 12 May 2014.
For the first time in my life I am celebrating Mental Health Month.
Bonus: I even know what month it is, May, and what color ribbon -- green!
If it weren't for Pastors like Rick and Kay Warren, I probably wouldn't have been properly education. Thanks to their efforts at the Mental Health and the Church Conference -- I have the confidence to continue living my life as God called me to live! Not one based in fear and ignorance, but in wisdom.
James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
That's what I did at the Dream Culture Conference.
But I haven't told my story publicly yet, because I was waiting for the right time. Friends, that time is now!
My whole life, I have been praying and asking God why He allowed me to suffer from anxiety from such a young age.
I even know the exact day it started -- my anxiety, that is. I was 10. My parents had just left for a two week missions trip to Israel. They left an adopted grandma in charge of my brother and I. For some reason I broke. I literally cried the entire two weeks they were gone.
Doctors, after therapists, after psychologists, after psychiatrists have told me it's because I felt abandoned.
I had great parents. I knew they didn't just up and leave me. So why was I hurting? And why have I felt broken ever since that day as a 10-year old girl? For years I have prayed. Earnestly prayed for wisdom. My parents have prayed. Multiple people, loved ones, whole churches, and hospitals have prayed.
I'll never forget the day my doctor -- wearing a gold cross around her neck -- asked me, "Renee, what happens when God says no?"
I couldn't believe her.
I didn't believe her.
God would answer me.
21 years later, He answered me. But, the answer was not what I expected.
In my new book, Dream Devotional: 40 Days of Hope, I wrote on Day #5:
"God calls us long before He changes our landscape, position of leadership, or status. It's during the waiting that we have time to get to know God. It's in this time we are equipped. We are poured into. We are tested and tried and (hopefully) found ready."
I have my friend Kathy of Delivered2Thrive.com to thank for this picture quote that she made from reading Day #5. And it's true.
I was 10 years old when God called me to the nations, and I didn't even know it yet.
It was so amazing when I woke up to hear God say He was now ready to tell me the answer I spent most of my life searching for. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote the last night after the conference had wrapped, and I couldn't sleep.
The reason I felt abandoned as a child when my parents left to Israel for two weeks without me is because I am called to go to the nations. My heart broke and I didn't know why, but God provided. Love. He never left me nor forsaken me! I was given the gift of hope for the nations as a small child that I didn't even know why I was crying when they left for Israel. Jesus says in His Word that He does not abandon those who search for Him. He is a Father to the Fatherless. Wow! I can't believe that God is showing me in a whole new light why I struggle so much with anxiety. Even the day I broke. I will never forget it. I couldn't stop crying. It scared me so deeply that I couldn't eat for two weeks but I was so hungry. I missed my mom. It almost felt like a psychotic break. I didn't know what was happening. My whole life, I have been trying to make sense of that day. The day that changed my life. And then at Bethel Church a woman in her 20s prayed over me just briefly that God wanted to reveal to me the root of my anxiety. Because He wanted to set me free from it. As she prayed, I remembered that fateful day, but then the session started and I never did get a chance to pray with her. Then at 3 AM, God woke me up in His Holy Fire. I felt that same fire wash over me as it did the first time when I was praying over another woman earlier that day. Then as I was praying and processing, God once again led me to that moment, but instead of feeling hopeless or fearful or abandoned -- I saw a little girl breaking who wanted to be about the Father's business like my parents, but because it was not my time yet -- I broke. I broke and I didn't know why. My whole life I have been believing the lie that God does not love me otherwise, He wouldn't have let me suffer. And yet, it was His love and kindness that called me at an early age. So to my mom, I say thank you for following God's call. To my dad, I say thank you. To my husband Marc, I say thank you for your love of the nations. I'm sorry I was afraid to go overseas. I'm sorry I was scared to go. Now with God's help, I am set free. Thank God for equipping those He calls. For sanctifying and sending. I am ready Lord, send me.
There's so much more I want to say about when and how and why God calls, but I'll close with this... Rick Warren mentioned Overwhelmed by Perry Noble at the Mental Health and the Church Conference, and said if anyone struggled with mental health to read it. I did, and here are my favorite quotes to encourage you during Mental Health Month.
Change begins with a decision: overwhelmed or overcome?
Correct thinking leads to correct actions.
We embrace our true identity when we stop identifying ourselves by our slavery and start identifying ourselves with our Savior.
There are many people--good people, Christian people--who have zero intimacy in their relationship with God because they don't take the time to see His beauty.
Depressed people often become angry with those who point out the obvious places they need to make adjustments. Honestly, I didn't want to make adjustments. I didn't want to change. I thought everyone else around me needed to change. I needed a pill. I needed a prayer. I needed someone to understand.
Finally my counselor told me, "The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient."
The problem was that my depression wasn't something I needed to get over but something I needed to walk through … and that walk is a tough one. If there had been a quick fix or a simple formula that could have pulled me out of my problems, I never would have realized what had gotten me to a place of hopelessness in the first place.
If you want to overcome your circumstances, you can't run away from them. You have to address them. And addressing them means admitting you have a problem.
I can honestly say that my walk today is closer with Jesus than it has ever been--not because He delivered me out of my circumstances, but because He delivered me through them. Jesus not only saved me from hell, but He saved me from ME.
If you are going through overwhelming circumstances--if you feel like life is about to crush you--then maybe, just maybe, God isn't punishing you but is actually preparing to prosper you, just like He did for Daniel. Only God can use our pain for progress.
Question: Is there a specific prayer request you have been praying about for years, but have stopped believing that God wants to answer you and give you wisdom? Maybe it's time to start believing in faith, to dream again, and pray for renewed wisdom.