If God truly loved me, why would He allow this to happen?
Have you ever asked that question? I know I have – especially over the last several months. The truth is, He does love me. He loves me so much that He has intentionally allowed this to happen. I know that might sound strange, so let me share my story.
I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I grew up in a Christian home and accepted the Lord at the age of 6. However, I lived the majority of my Christian life with one foot in and one foot out. Eager to emulate the devout Christian women I admired, yet desperately clinging to the control I feared releasing.
God attempted to gain my attention on several occasions. For portions of time He succeeded, until life’s heartaches leveled out and I’d take back the control once again. This time was different. This time He stripped the control completely out of my hands leaving me nowhere else to turn but to Him.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for much of my life. My mind latches onto fearful thoughts and ruminates over them endlessly. Eight years ago I began counseling and was prescribed Lexapro* to reduce the symptoms. Eventually my body adapted to the medication and I managed to live a very normal life.
After my first year of marriage, I felt capable of handling life without medication. I spent the entire next year decreasing the Lexapro dosage until I weaned myself off completely. During the first three months free from the medication, I felt slightly ‘off’, yet bearable. And then it hit, hard.
My mind latched onto a thought that forced me into a cycle of fear. I tried reasoning it through with my family, began meeting with my counselor – who felt unqualified to continue treatment – and eventually went back on my medication – which proved less effective than before. My head literally throbbed from trying to chase down just one ounce of logic. Completely lost and left with little hope, a treasured friend searched for a new counseling center. She felt determined that I was dealing with a brain issue, and like someone with a heart issue would search for a heart specialist, I should seek a brain specialist. She discovered a Christian counseling center that she encouraged me to try out. After much thought, I reluctantly scheduled an appointment.
Not even 30 minutes into my first session, the therapist diagnosed me with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. According to the International OCD Foundation, “OCD is a disorder of the brain and behavior. [It] causes severe anxiety in those affected, [and] involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of [normal life].” Much to my surprise my feared thoughts had a name, obsessions. And all the ways I attempted to relieve the anxieties were compulsions that just perpetuated the disorder. The suggested solution, Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.
Though ERP is the number one treatment for OCD, it is also extremely terrifying for the patient as it, understandably, goes against all OCD logic. The idea is “to [purposely expose] yourself to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make you anxious and/or start your obsessions . . . [while] making a choice not to do a compulsive behavior once the anxiety or obsessions have been “triggered”.’ (International OCD Foundation). The goal is to eventually minimize the anxiety while simultaneously retraining the brain to accept the uncertainty of the feared thought, image etc.
As awful as this experience has been for me, I would never change it. It has deepened my faith in a way that nothing in my life ever has. I have to make the choice every day to trust the process. Sometimes I feel exhausted, frustrated, even crazy – but ultimately I feel thankful. Throughout this experience, it has been crucial for me to rely on the Lord in order to make it day-to-day – sometimes minute by minute. When all control and hope was gone, He was there. He is allowing me to go through this storm so I can finally make Him the Lord of my life – a place He deserved long ago. Sometimes His ways are unlike we would desire. Sometimes struggles come to us for unknown reasons – but He has reasons. He wants to use our MESS as a MESSage for His Kingdom’s glory. As the talented Francesca Battistelli says, “Lord I want you to “Write Your Story”’. I intend to follow His will and allow Him to do just that – through Broken But Adored.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV