Thursday, December 26, 2013

What I Learned from Panic Attacks: A Letter to Christians


Note from the author: 

I'd like to introduce you to a little piece of my "secret life"--and prepare you for something I plan to lay out in the near future. This is not a subject I talk about on the internet, because up until this point, my blog has been my special place--my "sick free" zone. 

I came down with Lyme Disease in 2011 and continue to fight it daily. Over the past few years, I have developed severe panic attacks, psychological problems, brain issues, and at one point, because physically unable to define who I was, what I believed, or who I was serving. Having every piece, stronghold, and foundation of your faith torn to shreds is no party, let me tell you. But what man intended for evil, God intended for good. 

Below, I have written nine things about our faith that I have learned from Lyme Disease and panic attacks.

Please understand that many of the below points were initially meant as attacks. However, God has turned them into a gift. I often panicked over these, and my initial reaction was to hide behind closed doors and block out the world. But that was because I failed to recognize both sides of the story. Therefore, with each point below, I have given you two angles. It is vital, though this writing, that you acknowledge, focus on, and think very hard about point a. I am here because of point a. But point a. is not complete without point b. Point b. is here as a balance, but not as an excuse. There are two sides to every story, and sorting these sides out according to the Bible has taken me through months of thought. Please, put your focus on point a. But acknowledge and find joy in point b. 

I present...

What I Learned From Lyme Disease: A letter to Christians and People of the Faith


1. {I learned...} Being a victim isn't just for people in the newspaper. It can (and will) happen to you at any given moment. Through illness, heart-attack, cancer, heartbreak, killings, and all of the above. You cannot put a time on tragedy or death. Eternity is just around the corner.

The two angles:

a) We need to look at the Bible and see what God requires of us. Are we saved? Are we feeding the poor? Is our faith strong? Are we killing the flesh? Are we doing things for the true Kingdom of God? Is that our one purpose in life? Where does our faith stand? If we are living for ourselves, we need to turn from the flesh and begin working for the Kingdom of God, recognizing that every day could be our last. If you died tomorrow, would you be disappointed in eternity? 

b) That said, we should never live in fear of being victimized. Instead, we trust God completely, that even if something bad does happen, He is our strong tower and we belong to Him. 

2. {I learned...} Other people are victimized, too. People die ever day. Souls go to hell where they will spend forever and ever and ever and ever.

The two angles:

a) You have got to live to share the gospel. Period. You can't go through life with a "Youth group" mentality that you can have a peaceful life and hopefully be an example to non-Christians by playing Switchfoot. No, I mean you have got to talk to people. Strangers. In the store, on the sidewalk, in your neighborhood. Wherever. Just talk. Make your own opportunities.

b) It is easy, once recognizing this fact, to fall into a sort of depression where we want to hide away from life and ask God why? This is easily turned into an attack, sometimes causing you to curl up somewhere and not take action, because somehow you feel guilty. People go to hell. They are tortured forever. It's a reality. But we cannot let ourselves sink into guilt. In the end, it is the individual's decision. At the end of this world, they will choose the light or the darkness, and that choice is completely on their shoulders, not yours. Hell is their choice. But, we are not at the end of this world. It is our job, and our duty to share the gospel where we're at, so that when that day comes, more will choose the light. We can't rescue the world. Christ already did that. We just have to tell them about Him. 

3. {I learned...} Practically everything America does is worthless.

The two angles:

a) Nothing but the things done for God will last. Dances, parties, skills, talents, classes, school work, entertainment, if not for the Lord, all counts as nothing. Dust. It never counts. We must live aiming for eternity and our everlasting reward there, instead of being so focused on ourselves, and our perfect lives, which will one day become our "worthless lives" if we're not careful.

b) This doesn't mean you can't watch a movie. It's not wrong to live. Maybe, however, you choose to watch movies that are full of faith vitamins. It doesn't mean you can't put laundry away or do school work, either. You don't have to share the gospel and feed the poor every breathing hour of the day. God made us to work--even before the fall of time. It's our job and our duty. Christianity just means that we take the time to recognize things that are worthless and choose to use our time wisely.   

4. {I learned...} We have to make opportunity.

The two angles:

a) We should never sit around waiting for someone to say, "Hey! Can you tell me about Jesus?" Because 99% of people aren't going to do that. You have to take action. You can't wait for God to drop a "pray-without-ceasing" lifestyle into your lap. You have to move! You can't wait for God to fix you a loving heart from the clouds of heaven. Christianity is work, not fluff. 

b) While it is up to us to take action and not sit around eating potato chips, expecting others to do the work for us, The Bible says that God will give us the boldness. The words. The courage--and whatever we need to share His Bible, reach out, suffer persecution, and touch the hearts of the poor. It may be our job to choose action (which we only choose because of God's grace), but it is Christ who changes hearts.     

5. {I learned...} There is no possible way killing the flesh is going to be an easy road. Ever.

The two angles:

a) Again, it's all about taking action. We cannot be Christians unless we kill the flesh. We cannot kill the flesh without work. Christianity is work. Killing the flesh will never, ever, ever be easy. We pray for the Lord Jesus to help us kill the flesh, but we want an easy way out. There's no easy way. The cross was not easy. Christianity is not easy! Unless we're willing to work for our faith and our holiness, our belief is worthless. Unless we're willing to work to get there (and God will give us the opportunity to work), our prayers are not sincere.

b) It's up to us, but it's not up to us. Christ conquered sin on the cross. We may face hardship and struggle in our flesh-killing endeavors. We'll meet adversity, because we're fighting our very nature. But Christ has conquered. He will give us the struggle. But He will also give us the strength and the power to overcome, if we're willing to work.    

6. {I learned...} Feeding the poor and visiting the sick is a requirement. As in, it's not an option. 

The two angles:

a) Let's stop spending so much time arguing theology with one another and just start doing the work of Christ. Yes, Christ "argued" theology with the priests and pharisees. But He came for the poor. He came for the least of these. He came for the wiry-haired toothless woman who's begging on the street corners. Ignoring her is the equivalent to ignoring Christ. Get out of this world's fog and pay attention to what the Bible says. We have to feed the poor. Above everything else. No options. No easy way out. We do it without question. We do it fully and heartily and without ceasing.

b) As an individual, you can't reach the world. It's impossible. It's overwhelming, and sometimes, it overwhelmes us so much that we don't even try. That's an attack from the enemy, my dear. Start. Just start. Start with the people near you, not the people across the globe. With the people in your neighborhood, with the people in your community. Christ didn't just hand somebody money and say, "Okay, you're fed, get out of here." Yes, there's a place for checks. But Jesus gave something much more important. He laid down his life and His time, not his money. Lay down your life and your time to that neighbor who needs bread. Give time and soup to those dirty little kids. Teach them a skill so they can make their way. There are poor people everywhere, not just across the globe. You just have to look for them. Looking for them is work. Work, people, work.

7. {I learned...} Following God is a choice, not a feeling. 

The two angles:

a) When we follow God on a basis of fluffy feelings, we're not really following. We're creating a one-sided relationship. He gives, He gives, He gives, and He gives. We sit there and take. From Him, and from this "good life" we think we deserve.  That's not the way it works. He laid down His life. We lay down ours.

b) A relationship with God does involve feelings. He is a God who created us to feel, and to feel for Him. Our feelings of love for our King shouldn't lay stagnant. Instead, they should urge us and drive us to a love so much deeper -- with a love that provokes obedience. There is no greater love than laying down your life.

8. {I learned...} God's wrath is just as intense as His love.

The two angles:

a) News flash. God gets angry. Righteously angry. And God is real. Hell is real. Wrath is real. God holds all power over this world and the worlds to come. You don't want to get between God and His anger. Have you seen the stuff He did to the Israelites? Slavery, disease, torture, false gods--a whole group of Israelites who opposed God got swallowed up into the earth. The race of man was annihilated in leagues and leagues of water. That doesn't sound pretty to me. If you are not a Christian, you are at adversity with God. If you are following the world and your flesh, you are at adversity. God hates sin. God hates adversity. God hates our fleshly desires. It's a problem. We need to fix it. If we don't teach our generations about the wrath of God, our kids and grandkids are all going to end up like Joel Osteen.

b) But we don't end there. We don't panic there. Because the love of God is real, too. His patience, His kindness, His everlasting mercy is real and true. He forgives us time and time again. His patience is everlasting. He was crucified for our transgressions. Pierced for you and me. He love is insane. But in order to recognize that love, to recognize how taking action for Christ is not an option, we have to recognize his wrath like we recognize His love.

9. {I learned...} You think you're persecuted? Are you kidding? 

The two angles:

a) We cry and wail and talk about how we're persecuted. We post verses on Facebook about how persecution brings about patience, implying to the world, of course, that we're being "persecuted." Take a trip to the middle east. Persecution doesn't mean your grandma died. Persecution means you're in prison eating worms for twelve years because you refuse to renounce your faith.

b) But this is where acceptance comes in. God didn't land me in the middle east. He didn't land you in the middle east (unless I have middle-eastern readers). God put you and me here in America for a reason. At this point in time, He isn't asking prison and worm-eating out of us. Why? I don't know. But we need to accept where we are without question. Just like the men and women imprisoned in other countries, we accept our trials. We choose to lean on Christ alone, and we do it with joy, singing, and complete reliance. Facebook drama about persecution isn't acceptance.  

10. And lastly, {I learned...} we are pilgrims. 

The two angles:

a) We're supposed to live our lives as people who don't belong. We're supposed to make that obvious. We're supposed to follow God through paths of thorns and ashes, not by way of the yellow brick road. It's not easy. It's not supposed to be easy.

b) But the harder you make things for yourself--the more you stretch yourself--the more grace God will pour out on you to conquer and to accept. When we accept and when we allow Christ to be our all and to be our master (meaning, we obey without question or excuse) the more He will reward us in the Kingdom. That's where we're headed. That's where we're supposed to be headed. That's how Jesus told us to walk.

Where do you walk?
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4 comments

  1. Love this Stephanie, you're inspiring!
    I shall probably have to read this a couple more times.
    -Tilly

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    Replies
    1. Go right ahead, Tilly. You can share it around too, if you like. :)

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  2. Direct, concise, to the point. Intellectually stimulating. I love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so please you found it stimulating, Mr. Morgan! To God be the glory.

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