What I've Learned in 28 Years

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published Feb 12, 2024
What I've Learned in 28 Years

If you’ve been through physical or mental trauma or any hardships, I want you to know the armor can and will get heavy. Don’t be afraid to lay it down. Your King’s got you, and His armor is bulletproof.

I recently celebrated my 28th birthday. Every candle is a reminder of progression without regression. Every year, an unspoken wish, a mnemonic to live without growing old. 

Once I passed childhood, I developed a strong distaste for the holiday. I've never liked things I can't control, and time seems to be one of them. And yet, another year is a gift robbed from many. I have many reasons to rejoice for my years.

At 28, I still haven't learned to rejoice on my birthday. The day usually ends in tears, my emotions, both good and bad, getting the best of me. But I have learned some things I'd like to share with you, and amid them, something we can continue to learn together:

1. In Friendships, Choose Quality Over Quantity

Growing up, I desperately struggled to make and keep friends. People would pretend to be my friend when what they wanted was to copy my homework. After failed hangouts and playdates, I started asking people if they "wanted to be my friend." Countless times I cried in my Memo's arms, and she'd tell me that real friends don't need to be asked. She's right. 

Today, I'm proud to say I have less than five best friends. While a smaller inner circle also supports me, there are only a handful that I trust with my life. Friendship isn't measured numerically. It's measured with the heart. 

2. Life Isn't a Sprint, But a Marathon

As someone who struggles with high-functioning anxiety and over-productivity, life can often feel like a sprint. I'm going all out on everything all of the time, and then wondering why I'm so exhausted. But life isn't meant to be run in sprints. There's a reason we have distance runners as opposed to sprinters. Sprints are for shorter distances. Distance running is for pacing yourself along the way. I believe life is the same way. We aren't meant to get everything done right now. We're meant to live. To do one thing at a time. And keep going—with the endurance we've built in Christ through the process. 

3. I'm Not Perfect and Never Will Be

One of the hardest lessons I've had to embrace over the years is that no matter how hard I work, I will never achieve perfection. That's why Jesus died to save me—I couldn't save myself. When we live for perfection, we're reaching toward an unachievable goal. But when we live for Christ, knowing He died to give us freedom and eternal salvation, that's something worth living for. I can't work, earn, or windle my way into making God love me more than He already does right now. He died for me when I was a sinner, clearly less than perfect, and He still loves me the same today. 

4. My Self-Worth Isn't Tied to What I Do

It's no surprise, but as someone who struggles with an addiction to productivity, I tend to tie my self-worth to what I do. I often believe the lie that if I'm not productive, I'm worthless. But the gospel sings another truth: Jesus died for me because I couldn't save myself. He didn't die for me so I could continue to work myself to death. In Christ, I'm whole, holy, sanctified, redeemed, chosen, and loved. Regardless of what I do, I'm His child. 

5. Being Productive Doesn't Make Me a Saint

As much as I like to stay busy and be on the go, go, go, being productive doesn't make me a saint. I'm still a sinner like everyone else. I mess up, fall, stumble, and make mistakes. While putting our time to good use is a nice skill to have, it certainly isn't everything. It doesn't make me better than anyone else, and it doesn't mean I don't still struggle. 

6. We Are Called to Rest (and It's Not of the Devil)

This is one lesson I'm learning daily but ignore hourly. I'm the worst example of a person who has a healthy and well-balanced work-and-play lifestyle. But Christ calls us to rest not just from our labors physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Regardless of what we've been told, rest isn't of the devil, and when it's done right, it isn't lazy or useless. God rested on the seventh day not because He needed it, but because He knew we would. Sometimes, the best and most holy thing we can do is rest—it helps us surrender to what we can't control and gently reminds us of our finite existence. 

7. Take Time to Read

As a child, I read over 200-300 books a year. I'm not exaggerating. Every free moment I had was spent indulging in a new book, learning, and writing my own stories. Is it any surprise I love writing today? But as much as I love writing, I've grown distant from reading. Not because I don't like it anymore, but life has grown hectic, and it's often fallen off the to-do list. I don't want my reading to be that way. The most successful writers are also readers, and that's something I want to be. 

8. Put the Phone Down

If I could replace all the phone interactions in my life with personal conversations, I would. Why? Because screens will never be able to replace face-to-face human interactions with those we love and care about. While technology is a blessing, learning to put the phone down and be present with those around me is something I want to improve. We don't need to fill every free second with a screen. Look around, up, and all around. The world is talking. Are we willing to listen and reply?

9. Mental Health Is Just as Important as Physical Health

If you've read any of my recent posts you would know I'm a firm believer in getting help for your mental and physical health. I've shared dozens of stories, listing the physical and mental health conditions I face daily. But what I've come to realize over the years is that mental health will always be just as important as physical health, even if the world and those around us never recognize, validate, or acknowledge that. Sometimes, you have to be your advocate, and that's okay. 

10. Stress Kills the Body

One thing I've learned over the years, but wish I could change, has been my stress reaction. I'm someone who not only holds it in my gut, my mind, and my soul but my body. It truly sucks the life out of living. Learning to reduce my stress hasn't been easy. Most days are a fight to relax and remember to breathe. But some things that have helped me are meditating on God's Word, talking to a counselor, taking long walks in nature, journaling, and taking a hot bath. It doesn't necessarily negate the stress, but it helps me to deal with stress better in the long run. 

11. We Will Struggle

Looking back over the last 28 years, it's clear that I've struggled. While the difficulties I faced each year may have changed, it's always been clear that we will struggle and will continue to. We're humans living in a fallen world after all. But with Christ, we know the victory has already been worn. We're fighting battles that have already been won. That can bring us hope. There's beauty in struggling. Not because struggling is in and of itself beautiful. But because it forces us to rely on Someone beyond ourselves. 

12. Loving Jesus Doesn't Cure Anxiety

I’ll say it a little louder for the people in the back to hear. Loving Jesus doesn’t cure anxiety not because Jesus can’t heal anxiety, but because loving Him doesn’t always or immediately take our struggles away. Yes, I believe in His healing power and deliverance, but I also know we’re humans and may continue to wrestle. Paul, someone who struggled with a thorn in the flesh, is a fantastic example of this. While we don't know what Paul’s struggle was, we know that he loved Jesus and still had something he called a painful thorn in the flesh. Being a Christian isn’t a free pass from suffering, anxiety included. But because we know Christ, we can be comforted amid the struggles.

13. I'm Not My Diagnoses

This is a heavy lesson I wrestle with daily. In the last decade, I’ve been diagnosed with over 10 physical and mental health conditions. It can be so difficult not to see myself for the things that are wrong with me. I texted my mom last week, saying that I felt like I was just a set of diagnoses walking around. "I’m not even me anymore. I’m all the things wrong with me," I muttered. 

But those thoughts are just thoughts and feelings. They can’t and won’t define me because Jesus is the only One who has the power to do that. Yes, I validate feelings and emotions, but I refuse to believe the lies Satan tries to pull me down with. 

14. The Armor Can Get Heavy

When I was 14, I became the second parent of my home. I wore armor to protect myself from the pain I was feeling by developing unhealthy coping skills. But carrying things we were never meant to carry can get heavy. Even if they once served a purpose in our lives. If you’ve been through physical or mental trauma or any hardships, I want you to know the armor can and will get heavy. Don’t be afraid to lay it down. Your King’s got you, and His armor is bulletproof.

These are 14 lessons I've learned in my 28 years of existence. I'm sure I understand very little compared to the spectrum of life, but maybe they will help you along your journey. 

What’s one lesson you’ve learned since you were born? What’s one lesson you’d share with others?

Agape, Amber 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Antonio_Diaz

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.