but God.

Often my soul is leaden- gray and dense. Like my being is too much of a burden to lift. My body feels heavy, my mind feels slow, and my heart is aching with spells of numbness. The world seems too fast, too loud, too bright- but also too quiet, too dim and too slow. Sometimes, I am just existing- connecting the dots. Getting through the day in hopes that if I can simply make it to and through sleep, then a new morning will bring me a new joy.

Over the past year and a half I have been fiercely fighting a battle of depression and anxiety intermingled with panic attacks.

Despite being officially diagnosed sometime last year, I’ve been well aware for a while that depression, at least, was something that I struggled with since adolescence. Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older it has presented itself more severely and more frequently.

During my senior year of college I started experiencing panic attacks for the first time. Panic attacks differ from anxiety attacks as panic attacks present themselves for no real reason. Your body and mind switch into this mode of terror, heightened adrenaline, and fight or flight mode despite there being no real threat. It’s like your brain is attacking itself and you can’t get out.

When I finally went to the doctor, it was out of sheer desperation. The idea of living the rest of of my life being held hostage by this rotating cloud of darkness and fear was something that I could not fathom. Looking back, I can’t tell you what I thought I might gain by going because I knew I didn’t want medication that wasn’t in its most natural state, and I already knew my diagnosis.

Nonetheless, the doctor confirmed that I was suffering from cyclical depression and anxiety- and that although it currently only presents itself about two out of four weeks of the month, it could very likely seep into my every day life as time goes on.

That last part shook me, and it shook me hard. As I was already beginning to experience anxiety, during my two “good weeks,” in fear of the panic attacks that I might I have during the two following weeks.

I have experienced a plethora of seasons in my faith over the course of this year. The least familiar- being doubt. I’ve never really experienced doubt in God like this before before and it was a very strange feeling, because the core of who I am rests in who I believe He is. And all of that was shaking.

I didn’t doubt that God was real, but I began to doubt His character. Did He really have my best interest in mind, was He really hearing my cry, and if He was- did He really care? I went through a few months of what I’d describe as spiritual numbness.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want anything to do with God, because I did. He has proven Himself too real in my life for me to ever completely separate myself from Him. But at the same time, I wasn’t seeking His presence because I felt as if He had failed me. It wasn’t a wild streak, or a throw all of my Christian morals out of the window kind of doubt. It was a very somber place- of me wrestling with what I could see in the natural versus what I believed to be true in the spiritual. I believe that my faith was rooted in this season. In the the moments that I thought I was crumbling- I was actually being planted. It was a season of new birthing.

My tattoo represents the many turning points in the Bible where hopelessness and despair seemingly abound, and you begin to believe that this is where the story ends. You keep reading and come across the words, “but God” and realize that by His grace- redemption follows and the story has actually just begun.

Worship has always served as a direct line of communication between me and God. While I tell God who He is, He reminds me of who I am- and affirms to me that He is who He says He is. Nonetheless, this tattoo idea came to me in worship.

No, I’m not saying God told me to go get a tattoo. I don’t know if He did or didn’t. But what I am saying is that worship created a space for God to remind me that even when I’m hurting, and I don’t see a way out I am to be reminded that Jesus reigns, and that He is the author and finisher of my story. Neither depression or fear can overpower the sovereignty of God.

I once heard a pastor say that “someone living in transparency with God decides that every wilderness experience will become a worship experience.” This is what I have decided. I will worship through it and this will be my testimony.

I am not depression and it is not mine. I am not anxiety and it is not mine. Fear has no place in me, and no power over me. I am not broken. I am not a burden. I am my Father’s and He is mine.

I have felt the presence and love of God in such an overwhelming and undeniable way in the last few months. In my joy I see Him in everything, and on the worst days, in my sorrow- I feel His love with such incredible power. I don’t have the words to describe the immense amount of peace and relentless love that He has poured over me- moment after moment. However, what I can tell you is that I was hopeless and in despair, but God breathed His life into me.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20