BY Holly Miller
I have prayed for things that have miraculously, against all odds, have come to be. The moment of answered prayer is truly extraordinary. I have experienced overwhelming joy as an impossible prayer has been answered. It affirms your faith and gives you confidence that there is good in this dark world. But has God ever answered a constant prayer with a gentle but firm “no”? What then? I have prayed for many things that God has tenderly turned down. Miracle denied. These moments can rattle your faith to your core. Mourning with loved ones over a miscarriage, watching a dear family member deteriorate and die from a terrible illness, finding out a student lost his battle with depression and having to attend his funeral, saying goodbye to someone who left us far too young. These moments shatter hearts and turn even the most faithful to doubt. How can a supposed ‘loving God’ allow so much suffering, sadness, and, and pain?
One thing I have prayed for most of my life is for God to lift my anxiety and depression. Just completely wipe it from my life. Some days it is such a heavy burden and I would love to set it down for good and never have these disorders show their ugly faces in my life ever again. I have prayed numerous times for this cup to pass from me. And I have been met with an answer to that prayer. It is a definite and heart-breaking “no”. It has been made abundantly clear to me that God intends me to carry my anxiety and depression all of the days of my life. And at one point (and I am sure there will be many similar times to come) I was so sad and angry about it. I even walked completely away from my faith for a few years because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t granted relief from my torturous brain.
When I was younger, under my anxiety ran a river of rage. It was silent, pushed deep down inside my heart. Many people would probably be surprised to know how angry I sometimes got; that I felt the way I did. Even now, my anxiety and depression is sometimes too much to bear. There are days when all I can do is cry and yell “why have you made me this way?!” over and over to God. Sometimes I am too numb and calloused to even argue with Him. I just sit in stunned silence while my brain attacks me. But as I started feeling a gentle nudge to tell my story, my struggles, my triumphs, and my gritty life of living with General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, I have found encouragement as well. When someone pulls me aside to talk about mental health or sends me a message saying “me too”, the solidarity and love I feel for that person outweighs all of the pain. People who have thanked me for being so open and sharing my story have touched my life more than they know. Many who share their lives with me have given me the strength to carry on; to keep writing my story no matter how ugly or painful it can sometimes be. In sharing my struggle, I have found that I am spreading awareness and saving lives. That alone makes the battle worth it (most days). Being able to reach out and show others that they are not alone in the sometimes-scary thoughts that reside in our heads helps me carry on and fight my fight.
I have always loved the Lord of the Rings series with its themes of bearing burdens. If you are not familiar with the series, a young hobbit named Frodo is tasked with the burden of carrying an evil ring on a long journey to its destruction. The effect the ring has on Frodo often makes it too difficult for him to move forward. He finds encouragement from his friends along the way, one being a wise wizard named Gandalf.
Frodo: 'I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.'
Gandalf: 'So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
I always loved this conversation and it has helped me to carry on as well. While I would never ask for anxiety and depression disorders that often debilitate me, it is encouraging (as strange as that sounds) that I was chosen to bear this load. I was granted this journey, whether I want to take it or not, to show the world that one CAN stand up under these diagnoses. I don’t claim to know the inner-workings of God or understand why the world is sometimes in the sorry state it is. I don’t know your struggle, your pain, your life. I can’t explain away every instance of “why would You let this happen God?” But I do know for me, He will not let this cup pass from me no matter how earnestly and endlessly I ask him to take my mental health struggles away. And I truly believe that is because I am meant to bear this burden, to show others it can be done, and help light the way for those who struggle like I do.
In Matthew 11:28-30, it says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are not promised a burden-free life. In this scripture, we are granted rest in the Lord, but if you read it carefully, there is still a burden to bear. “My burden is light”, yes, but it is still a burden. Even light loads can get heavy when you don’t take time to put them down and rest. We all have burdens we carry. Mine is my anxiety and depression. Although I asked God to take them away, He said “no”. And sometimes a “no” to our prayers isn’t a slammed door or an abrupt end to hope. It is a re-direction into a new, albeit still challenging journey.
If we don’t have darkness, we can’t see the light. I was meant to carry this darkness inside of me so I can show my light to the world. And as Gandalf says to Frodo, “that is an encouraging thought.”