As I kneel down to say my evening prayers, a smile begins to form on my face. There is an excitement in my voice as I speak to God. I feel alive. I’ve won the battle of the day that has passed, and I am filled with gratitude for the progress that I’ve been able to make throughout. I thank the Lord for standing by me and carrying me through the adversity that I faced when I awoke earlier that morning. And I also thank Him for allowing me to create something positive out of the remainder of my day. Thanks to my faith, I have not quit. And judging by the way that I feel now, I recognize that there is a true purpose to this suffering that I’ve been asked to endure. I am meant to overcome all that holds me back. I am meant to grow stronger as time passes. Perhaps this is the moment when I will truly turn the corner? Tomorrow will be even better. I can feel it. No turning back now.
Shortly after I open my eyes the next morning, I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and start my day. Wow, I really don’t feel well…where has this come from? I feel a heavy weight pressing against the top half of my chest and as I swallow, I’m made aware of that horrible, pestering lump in my throat. My analytical and anxious mind stands at attention and questions begin to ring out in my head. Why is this happening again? I was so much better last night…all I did was fall asleep…how am I finding myself in this position again? If I was turning the corner last night, I must have just decided to make a full circle back around the block. Deflated, I wonder if progress is perhaps just a dream. Every time that I begin to feel that I am on my way, I’m quickly reminded of the tremendous battle that lies ahead. God is trying to tell me something, but what?
It just seems unfair to me that I am still going through such relentless turmoil. I’m quickly approaching my one year anniversary with this setback, and I can’t seem to understand what it is that I am doing wrong? I remind myself that the Lord is never far, and that everything has a purpose, even pain. And I quickly conclude that there must still be work that needs to be done. There’s more that I need to understand about myself, there are things that I need to address within me before I can be made complete. I take a deep breath and work to regain my faith. Stop being a victim, Matt. Look inside and ask God for the wisdom to uncover what haunts you. Journey to the core of your being…there you will find the answers.
Blamelessly reflecting on the past, I begin to dive deep into the memories of the most troubled times of my life. I remember how I felt as things fell apart in each experience as it unfolded. I recall the mental anguish that I put myself through when I arrived in California during the summer 2001, hoping to chase down my dream of someday playing college football at an elite level. I remember how I had allowed my own self destructive mind drive me to complete frustration with myself, and how it ultimately encouraged me to walk away from the game that I loved. I recall nights alone when anxiety first presented itself in my life and, replaying the horrors that I suffered through, I discover what truly terrified me the most about my plight. Looking back on failed relationships, of which I had many, I uncover what motivated me to seek out such volatile companionship, and I begin to recognize why I ultimately was unable to hold onto love, and why, perhaps I drove those partners away. Within the dark memories of my addiction, I find the vulnerabilities of my mind and am able to see what it was inside that was driving me to make such destructive choices with my finances and my future. Things are beginning to make a whole lot of sense to me. Each moment of personal struggle appears to have embodied the same set of commonalities. There’s a pattern in place. I should not be surprised by where it has led me.
This is a hard thing for most people who face hardship to understand. No one wants to believe that they are fully responsible for the misery of their existence. I admit that it’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s very easy to be motivated to seek answers outside of ourselves. Prescription drug ads remind us every day that we are ill and that there is no better label for us than “victim”. We are taught to feel helpless rather than empowered. And so we ask questions like “what did I do to deserve this?” Well, honestly most of us didn’t knowingly do anything. But as we become more self-aware we can understand that far beneath the surface of our skin, deep in the heart of our being and entrenched within our minds we embody the qualities which make us magnets for anxiety, depression, OCD, addiction, etc. Although it’s not our conscious choosing, we often invite those things in. And they work fast to team up with our most limiting, deep rooted fears, forming a partnership to slowly take over and destroy our lives.
It starts out slow however, as time passes, periods of extended hardship continue to set up residence and become more and more familiar to us, until each day begins to feel like a struggle to survive. But we have escaped and have rebounded before, why not now? Sure, it may have only lasted a couple years, or a few months…perhaps it only lasted a week…but it was something. At least we were able to embrace the opportunity to breathe again and temporarily regain a bit of normalcy in our lives, even if we’d lose it soon regardless. But what is happening now? This feels different. There might not be any coming back from this…
This is the place where I found myself repeatedly on mornings following a day of progress. Just eight hours earlier, I had drifted off to sleep feeling that perhaps I had turned a corner, only to face the harsh reality in the morning that I was right back where I had begun. It was an extremely humbling experience, but it developed tremendous perseverance. When you begin to understand that God has a purpose for everything taking place in your life, you are able to accept the fact that even extended periods of hardship have meaning. You learn to embrace those times as a gift, because to your life they are just a valuable as years of peace and tranquility…that is, if you choose to listen and accept them as such. But to find the meaning in suffering, it takes unwavering trust and more than anything, patience. And in times of desperation, those things can be hard to sustain.
Too often when we pray we expect God to present His answers to us immediately. We forget that He works in His time, not ours. Day after day, we continue to press on, struggling to get by and hoping that some night soon He will deliver to us the miracle that will set us free. And perhaps He will. But maybe God is asking us to play more of an active role in the creation of this miracle? Perhaps that is the purpose behind the extended period of suffering that we’ve been asked to endure. Did you ever think that maybe by not granting the quick fix, God is actually showing his faith in YOU? Perhaps He is attempting to reveal to you yourself, in an effort to help you uncover the strength within to allow you to overcome your present turmoil? After all, you are still here, and the Lord does not give us life to suffer, but rather to excel and live freely, glorifying his name…there is a purpose to your existence, and He wants to reveal it to you. There is still hope…He has not abandoned you, and He never will.
I quickly learned that God did not intend for me to find a quick fix solution to my problems…not this time. He wanted more for me than that. Remember the days when a Band-Aid and a kiss from Mom would fix everything? Not anymore. I’m no longer a child, and so I don’t heal as one. We are adults, and as we mature, so does our healing process. Our wounds cut deeper and take patience and care to repair. But with that patience and a committed relationship with God, we are able to uncover deep meaning in the pain that those wounds leave behind. Called to the stand, we are forced to look within ourselves for answers, and as we do we reveal countless opportunities for growth and change. Suddenly, the solution is crystal clear. The bottom is not the end…this won’t last forever. This is just our beginning.
By trusting in my faith and relying on the Lord to deliver me the answers in His time, I was able to reveal to myself the issues at the core of my being that have been responsible for leading me to further problems with anxiety, OCD, depression, and addiction. It was as if a light came on. There are three characteristics that I am able to now clearly identify: a lack of patience, a need for control, and an inability to trust in others and in myself. And now, understanding all that I do about myself, God’s plan for me makes perfect sense. Because this experience has been the ultimate test of patience and perseverance. And it’s invited me to place unwavering trust in a power that is greater than me and let go of my own need for control. I’ve even reclaimed trust in myself as I’ve taken the first steps forward in an effort to win back my life. I can honestly say that I would have never learned these things about myself without this incredible experience. And even if someone were to point them out to me as the underlying issues time and time again, I would have never understood what it took to overcome them. So I am forever thankful that He chose to intervene when He did. And now that I have identified the sparks that fuel the fire, I can effectively target and extinguish any adversity or complex mental health issues attempting to stand in my way. This journey has been a tremendous test, but it’s all been part of His plan to set me free, and I feel truly blessed to have been so fortunate to go through it.
Today as I began to jot down some notes for this blog, I found myself feeling a bit uncertain about how I would gather my thoughts and convey the message that I had envisioned to my readers. I wasn’t sure how I was going to present things, but something told me that I needed to find a way to put it all out there. It’s amazing, but lately I’ve just felt divinely inspired to bring certain things to light, and so when I’m hit with an idea for a topic I just listen to my gut and start typing, and within a couple of hours it presents itself as my latest blog. Writing is a very therapeutic experience for me, because as I do it I gain clarity and I continue to heal. With each new area that I address, I cleanse myself of the lingering troubles that remain in that area of my recovery. Today, the most challenging hurdle that exists is continued patience. So what better way to move forward than to write about it!
Write about what plagues you, Matt, and in doing so, you will continue to heal yourself and everything around you. Sounded fair enough to me. With that goal in mind, I finished a quick note in my journal and moved from the sofa towards the kitchen for some water…and as I passed the bedroom door, I noticed that a light had gone on inside! The touch lamp on my dresser next to the bed turned on, flickered, and has continued to stay on and shine bright since. This has occurred a couple of times before, but I had always thought that it was due to heat from the television, the vents, or from me…but today, that room was empty, the TV was off, and no heat was running in my place other than the gas fireplace in the living room.
Wow…I can’t help but think that someone upstairs was listening. God truly did turn on a light for me…he stood by me with patience and revealed me to myself, helping me to find the answers within through my relationship with Him. And today, He confirmed for me the purpose of my writing…this is indeed how I’m meant to heal. This is the purpose in the suffering. This is my new beginning.