After anxiety and depression moved into my life following a recent surgery, I was alarmed and disappointed. Within days of noticing my disagreeableness and unpredictable tears, I explained to my husband what I thought was going on.
“This isn’t me. I don’t like how I feel, what I think, and what I say. I expect it is some form of depression.” I told him, hoping to ease the guilt for my less-than-normal behavior.
A trip to my doctor confirmed my fears. I had thought it was caused by a hormone imbalance, but the doctor said no. It was a normal occurrence that happens as we grow older and our brains produce less serotonin than our bodies need. I didn’t do anything to cause the irritableness—it was just naturally happening to me.
Some days I was depressed and cried all day. I would take a comment out of context and then brood for hours over things I imagined were true. A television commercial about depression suddenly rang true to me: for a depressed person—everything hurts. I was hurt by those around me, and in turn, I was hurting those around me.
On other days I was downright disagreeable—about everything. Nothing suited me. Nothing made me happy to be where I was at the moment. I was certain that if things were just done differently, I would be content. Not so. I grew increasingly discontent with each passing day.
I became so unhappy with these strange feelings and emotions that I began to cry out to God for help—to lead me, guide me, and walk beside me.1 I knew that within me I didn’t have the strength to combat these monsters. I didn’t like myself, and I had become a person I didn’t want to be.
As God began to answer my prayer, He led me to passages of scripture I had memorized years before. Those scriptures, from the Book of Psalm2, became my mainstay. I printed them on sheets of paper so they’d be close at hand until I could quote them easily. Soon they were a balm to my restless soul.
When I laid my head down at night, I quoted scriptures. When I woke up in the morning, I quoted scriptures. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach each morning made me dread the day ahead. One morning when the anxiety was painfully present, I again begged the Lord for help. His gentle words guided my heart toward hope that I could do something about it.
“Do what you can. You can fight back—with the armor I’ve given you and by depending deeply on Me. Fix what you can fix.”
Another woman did that—what she could. Mary poured her precious oil on Jesus’ head.3 When greedy men protested her carelessly act of love, Jesus defended her: “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” Mary couldn’t keep Jesus from suffering at the hands of evil men. She couldn’t keep Him from being crucified for the sins of many. She couldn’t change one thing about the Father’s will for her Savior. But she could do one thing—what she could. Was it important that she do what she could? The sweet fragrance of her ointment would be with Jesus in the dreadful hours on that cross, and would remind Him of those He was dying for—those He came to rescue. It was indeed important.
Do what you can. I’d heard it before and knew what it meant. After losing a husband to cancer fifteen years ago, I had battled similar monsters—aloneness, abandonment, anger (and that’s just the ones that start with the letter “A”). The only way I had survived the months following his death was to fight back with the armor of God4 and to depend deeply on Him.
What I was facing today was simply another battle in the same war.
It was time for me to take action and fight back. When the enemy of my soul filled my mind with thoughts that were not true—what I now know were lies, lies, and more lies—I quoted scriptures that I knew were true. When I became discontent with the way my husband drove the car or cooked our food, I carefully guarded my mouth. I thought if Plan A doesn’t work, I’ll move to Plan B and duck-tape my mouth shut. Praise and worship became a part of my daily routine.
Over the next days and weeks the Lord walked beside me, taking me to numerous scriptures, thoughts, ideas, helps and quotes that combat anxiety and depression. These things are certainly not intended to replace prescribed medications for serious and chronic mental health problems, nor are they a cure-all for the many issues of our complicated lives.
As in Mary’s case, none of them may change anything about the bigger picture. But they are positive things we can do to remedy some of what troubles us—to help us do what we can. I look forward to sharing them with you in the coming weeks. ~ Janie Kellogg
1 Hillsong, The Potter’s Hand Lyrics
2 Chapters: Psalm 1; Psalm 15; Psalm 23
3 Mark 14:8
4 Ephesians 6:10-18