Tagged: alone

Bipolar Christianity

Image by Erin Nicole Photography on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dNVy75)

Image by Erin Nicole Photography on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dNVy75)

I am a victim and observer of what I have decided to call “bipolar Christianity.”

What on earth am I talking about, you may ask. Well, here’s my definition of bipolar Christianity:

Bi-pol-ar Chris-ti-an-it-y [bīˈpōlərˌkrisCHēˈanitē] = having two poles or extremities relating to one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

To break it down even further, bipolar Christianity is when you are a Christian who experiences periodic “highs” of praise and joy in Jesus and yet also experience all-consuming “lows”.

I’m talking about the people who go to church and are ecstatic and overwhelmed by the grace and love of Jesus and then go home only to sob for hours.

I’m talking about the people who are absolutely in love with Jesus and yet have an inexplicable sadness that creeps in uninvited.

I’m talking about the people who are on fire for God and have all these dreams and plans and motivation only to later be found curled up on the floor wondering why they’re even alive.

And these people don’t necessarily have clinical depression or bipolar disorder. And they aren’t experiencing some silly side-effects of PMS.

They just have this problem with keeping their emotions on one side of the spectrum. They love Jesus and they have great faith, but they experience intense ups and downs. That’s just their life.

If you’re reading this and you’re starting to feel like I may be referring to you because you can wholeheartedly relate, then I just want to say now that nowhere in this post will I offer a solution.

I don’t have a solution. Trust me.

I’m a bipolar Christian and I can rack my brains for as long as I’d like and still never come up with an answer to this dilemma.

When you’re a bipolar Christian, you just feel kind of… stuck.

This post isn’t intended to encourage you to do step A, B, and C to get a hold of your emotions and your life. I have no authority to tell you how to do so.

This post is intended to just say, “hey, you’re not alone.”

And I also want to remind you of some nuggets of truth that maybe you can hold on to for now. You might not remember these things when you find yourself in the low moments of your day, but when you’re composed again, I hope they are an encouragement.

Truth #1: Jesus loves you.

You know it, but do you feel it? Stop for a second and just meditate on the idea– the REALITY– of His love for YOU.

You know the way you feel sometimes when you’re worshiping? Like how full of joy you feel to be praising your glorious Father? And in that moment, you don’t feel like a failure or a disappointment. You just feel loved.

When you’re NOT worshiping, you are loved just the same. When you’re just going through the mundane routine of your life, you are loved just the same. When you are unable to speak, move, or pray, you are loved just the same.

He loves you today just the same as He ever has or ever will. He loves you infinitely more than you’ll ever understand or comprehend. And that love doesn’t change.

Truth #2: You are blameless.

I know you wish from the bottom of your heart that you could feel whole and just be fine and not have to deal with the things you do. I know sometimes you feel so guilty and ashamed of your inability to remain joyful in God. Everyone else seems to have it all together and you have no idea of what’s wrong with you. All you know is that it’s wrong.

But it’s not wrong.

Repeat this to yourself: It’s not wrong to feel the way I do. I’m not wrong for feeling.

You are a new creation in Christ and that means the kingdom of heaven is now yours. And if you’re having a hard time understanding what that means for your life, that’s okay. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to be filled with joy, that’s also okay.

Your Spirit knows. Your Spirit knows God’s joy and how to bring you there. Your Spirit knows your innermost longings and it cries out when you cry out, too.

Do you know what’s IN the kingdom of heaven? PERFECTION.

And even though you’re stuck here on this earth for now and you can’t fully enjoy that perfection awaiting you in the next life, you are already considered blameless and pure and whole in His eyes.

You might think that’s an audacious statement, but it’s only audacious to you if you don’t know Scripture.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be HOLY and BLAMELESS in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4; emphasis mine)

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of  your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you HOLY in his sight, WITHOUT BLEMISH and FREE from accusation. (Colossians 1:21-22; emphasis mine)

These aren’t traits that are to come. This is our reality here and now. Once we were saved by faith in Jesus Christ, we were ensured an inheritance and that inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, is sealed in us by the Holy Spirit.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Because of the Spirit living in you, you are regarded as WORTHY of receiving God’s promises and that worthiness translates to you as being holy and blameless. Only a holy and blameless person could receive these gifts of grace and salvation from God. And only Jesus could bring us to that state of holiness and blameless.

You, my friend, have been brought into that state.

You are holy and blameless, and no depression or anxiety or pain can destroy that.

Truth #3: You don’t have to be alone.

Do you know that there are bipolar Christians (and I’m sorry if you don’t like being called that) everywhere?

There are bipolar Christians around every corner and some of them could be your closest friends.

The reason why we don’t know where to find them is because they’re often in hiding.

We bipolar Christians are fond of hiding because we think it’s abnormal and wrong to feel the things we do and be the way we are.

We’re afraid that if people find out, we will be beat over the head with talk of spiritual welfare and demons. Our faith will be questioned and we’ll suddenly be the odd ones out.

And even though all of these things are a possibility (depending on who you surround yourself with), your true brothers and sisters in Christ would not want you to suffer alone. And God doesn’t want you to suffer alone. No one should have to suffer alone.

As scary as it is, admitting your bipolarity can be the most freeing thing. You suddenly feel like you have allies, people to pray on your behalf when you don’t have the strength or willpower to pray for yourself. You have friends, people who truly know you.

It’s okay to confide in trustworthy people about your feelings.

It’s also okay if you don’t. We aren’t designed to be isolated but if you feel as though you just can’t confide in anyone right now, know that Jesus is your ally. And I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

We serve a God who “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and whose “throne of grace” we may approach confidently (Heb. 4:15-16).

 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and FAMILIAR WITH PAIN.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds WE ARE HEALED.

(Isaiah 53:3-5; emphasis mine)

Jesus understands. It’s perhaps unfathomable, but it’s true. He understands you better than you understand yourself, and he beckons you closer to Him because  you are never meant to be alone.

I know these things aren’t the answers you might have been looking for, but like I said, I have no solution to offer. I only have the truth.

And this truth I have to declare over myself all the time because I know how hard it is to hold on to it.

As I’m bombarded by attacks of satan and my flesh, it’s so difficult to remember to put on this armor of God that Paul speaks so fondly of. But there’s something powerful about the armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of TRUTH, and having put on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish ALL the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD, praying at ALL times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18; emphasis mine)

This whole armor of God thing might be kind of confusing, but it makes sense if you consider what it’s really saying. We must be equipped with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer if we are to have any chance of withstanding attacks of the enemy.

And it may sound strenuous to try to equip ourselves with all the things, but just about all the work has been done by God already.

He’s given us truth through His Word and His Spirit, He’s already made us righteous, He’s given us the full story of the Gospel and how through that we have received salvation, and we are worthy to approach Him with our prayers and supplications.

The biggest part of the faith is sometimes just remembering we have these things. It’s especially hard to remember when darkness is so convincing.

But darkness doesn’t win in our lives. Not anymore. The “gospel of peace” that gives us “readiness” (v.15) is the story of Jesus’ victory on the cross and the subsequent victory in our lives. We are ready to fight when we accept that we are already victorious.

Regardless of how overwhelming things are for  you, the truth remains that Jesus loves you, you are blameless, and you don’t have to be alone.

How I wish we could all just dump our sadness once and for all! But that’s not the world we live in.

That beautiful, perfect, pain-free world is coming. And until then, I pray that we learn to fight.

Jessie’s Step-By-Step Guide to Being Alone

This is a how-to on being alone.

I’m a second-year college student and have been discovering the beauty behind being alone for the past six months after struggling for several years with immensely painful loneliness. There is a difference between being lonely and being alone, and this is my attempt to describe my ongoing quest from point A to point B. After starting school in August 2012 with few friends shortly after a rough break-up, having to live at home with full-time working parents to save money, being thrust into independence without mental preparation, saying goodbye to some good people, and then experiencing another heart-breaking break-up a year later, it’s safe to say that I have been in the process of being taught a grandiose lesson on the art of being alone.

Have I mastered this so-called “art”? By no means. I still experience fits of “woe is me”, have periodic breakdowns, and feel enough loneliness to write a 70-page book of lamentations.

But things have changed for me, slowly but surely. And I know I’m not the only one who’s been feeling this way for so long.

Thus, I am glad to introduce my first how-to, which I have mulled over for quite some time. Enjoy, and be freed.

Jessie’s Guide to Being Alone

Step One: Make sure that you are indeed alone before you wallow. I cannot explain why it is so easy for me to feel lonely despite the knowledge that there are people, friends even, in my life, but it happens. Despite knowing that some great people are just a phone-call away, the lack of physical presence (or should I say the lack of constant physical presence) gets to me. I can experience a great night out and then come home to just feel… empty. Like someone should be there but no one is. It’s easy to believe that no one cares or understands because of course everyone should just be mind-readers and see my absolute need for companionship.

The problem with people is that they’re often pitiful creatures, myself included. Many people sincerely enjoy wallowing in self-pity. It’s something that can’t be fully comprehended, at least by me. I’m sure some fancy psychologists could use fancy words to analyze this sad, sad thing. To me, it’s just a stupid part of human nature that we can at least chuckle at (when we’re not crying). In all seriousness, this happens way too often: we believe that we are completely alone and no one in the world is there, when really a part of it is our own fault. We are blocking people out, not the other way around. There’s an all-too-easy-to-believe lie implanted in our heads that convinces us that being alone is how we ought to be. And that’s when the loneliness hits- because no one really deserves to be alone.

We were created for companionship, designed to experience friendships and family and relationships. When we shut these connections down and choose to isolate ourselves, whether it’s because of fear or shame or pride or some other heart issue, it’s no wonder we find ourselves racked with sorrow. Loneliness can sometimes actually be of our own doing. So step one is this: before you decide to wallow in loneliness, be sure you are really alone and not just forcing yourself to be.

Step Two: Do one thing by yourself and force yourself to enjoy it. I mean it. This is literally one of the most important things you can do when combatting loneliness. Confession: I used to hate, even loathe, the idea of eating by myself. I have cried numerous times over having to eat in the dining hall on my campus by myself. The idea of being surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t know me and most likely don’t care to know me scared me to my core. I have begged friends to eat with me, friends who actually have class and important things to do, just so I wouldn’t have to face a plate a food by myself. I have forced my previous boyfriend to stay on the phone with me as I eat dinner in my room just so I don’t fall apart and get tears in my spaghetti. It’s pitiful. I would do anything to avoid eating alone. So when I began this journey of learning how to be alone and conquer my loneliness, I had to do the one thing I dreaded doing. I began eating alone.

For the past couple months, I have been eating lunch by myself on campus and periodically spending long hours at Starbucks to get used to the idea of being by myself as I eat. And it’s strangely become easier and easier each time. I’m now at the point where I actually turn down offers to eat lunch with groups of people. You know why? I forced myself to do this thing, this awfully terrifying thing, and then I forced myself to enjoy it. That sounds harsh, but I really did. I made myself watch funny videos and laugh. I forced myself to journal and think about things other than how lonely I am. I watched sermons when I was feeling down. I worked on homework I would otherwise do at the last minute. That might sound simple to some, but it was actually extremely difficult for me at first.

For the first couple weeks or so, I sat down in Starbucks by myself only to find myself frantically texting everyone I know just to find someone to join me. I would isolate myself on campus to do my homework only to end up on Facebook five minutes later, hunting through my chat list for someone to talk to, searching for things to do with people I know. Thankfully, I don’t do this anymore, and the only way I got to the point I am at now was by practice. I practiced doing this one thing by myself and I had to keep telling myself it was a good thing until I actually believed it. And I genuinely do still believe it. As I’m typing this, I’ve been at Starbucks for a little over three hours, having fun by myself. Fathom that. I turned one thing I hated doing alone into an enjoyable and productive activity that I prefer to do alone.

I honestly believe step two is vital for anyone wanting to overcome the fear or sadness that comes from being alone. Try step two and find that one thing for yourself. It doesn’t have to pertain to eating. Maybe you don’t like watching movies by yourself or going shopping alone or spending hours in your room reading. Just pick one thing, do it ALONE, and force yourself to like it. It won’t come naturally at first but that doesn’t mean it can’t become natural. After a couple months of practice, you will find that it’s okay to be in your hermit shell.

Step Three: Get out of your hermit shell. This step must be completed after step two because if you just immediately leave your hermit shell, you might not actually know how to like your hermit shell when you find yourself back in it, which would pretty much negate any progress you’ve made. It is imperative that you complete step two first. With that being said, it is now time to discuss step three, which is scary but also a great tool for growing self-confidence.

Get yourself out there, you crazy party animal.

I don’t mean flock “to da club”, but at least plan to do something exciting and new with acquaintances. Yes, there is a reason I’m specifying that this must be done with acquaintances rather than friends. The thing about friends is that we get way too comfortable way too fast, and in a way, our friends become our hermit shell. We think that we’re being pro-active and social when really we aren’t doing anything new because we’re watching the same TV shows and eating the same pizza with the same friends. There’s nothing wrong with being close to people and having that awesome rat-pack (I most certainly have mine), but it’s vital that you allow yourself to branch out. When those friends leave town or get busy with projects and tests, you’re going to wish you knew how to talk to other people.

The next time you get invited to a movie night or out to eat with people you sorta-kinda know, accept the invite and go. You’ll wish you had your wingman by your side, but it’s not the end of the world to eat a meal with new people while striking up new conversation. Do this as many times as possible until you realize that some of these people you sorta-kinda know are now sorta-kinda your friends. Making new friends might not sound all that exciting, but if you think about it, pretty much every best friend you have now started out as an acquaintance. Think of what might have happened if you never branched out and met them.

Don’t ever stop putting yourself out there. Let yourself be vulnerable. It sounds scary, but it can actually be a freeing experience. And just to make you feel better, I’ll let you in on a secret: I suck at this. So if you struggle with step three, you’re not the only one.

Once you get to the point where you are comfortable doing this, you won’t be so panicky when none of your friends are around. You’ll know how to make new friends and how to be as cool as a cucumber in uncomfortable situations, and that’s a great confidence booster. If you stay in your shell forever, you’ll never really learn how to be alone, so please don’t hold yourself back from trying this. It’s something that is always hard at first, but it’s not the end of the world.

Step Four, Five, Six, etc: Lean on God, the friend who is always there. This sounds so cheesy, but really it’s the best thing you can do when you find yourself in utter loneliness. Even though I listed three steps before this, this step should actually be performed before, after, and during all other steps. Why? Because God supersedes any feelings that our mind convinces as us truth- feelings like fear and loneliness and shame.

I will be transparent here. I do not always believe that God is enough for me. When I’m feeling my worst and dealing with sadness, it is very rare that I actually reach out to Him right away. I do know He’s there, but because I cannot physically see, hear, or touch Him, I sometimes wish He wasn’t there at all. I sometimes feel like God fails at being a good friend to me.

But you know what I’ve learned? There will NEVER be another friend in my life as good as He. I have amazing best friends who encourage me, pray with me, push me to pursue my dreams, make me laugh and have fun, but none of them know every facet of my being. None of them are truly treasuring every word I speak and every tear I shed. None of them are actively opening up doors in my life, gently pushing me to their carefully planned wonders of my future. They don’t always answer phone calls or completely understand what I’m going through. God is the one who unlocks mysteries and pursues my heart every second of every day. Not them.

So when I’m lonely, why would I think that God should be my last resort? Why would I ever doubt His love or the freedom I have in Christ when it’s been so evident in years past?

Sometimes sadness feels so powerful, leaving us weak and defenseless. But are we really? Or have we just chosen to believe that because we don’t have the eyes right now to see otherwise? For years, I had my eyes closed to the goodness of being alone and even being in a community because I felt like anything other than constant companionship was a sign that I was unwanted or unloved. Loneliness was crippling my life, and it was all just because of lies- dumb lies that the enemy has been feeding me since I was a child. And these lies I can only reveal and conquer by faith. This is why the most important step is to lean on God. He’s the only way anyone can truly escape this maze of searching and yearning and unbearable loneliness.

Hi, I’m Jessie, and I’m a recovering lonely girl.

And you have now finished reading Jessie’s step-by-step guide to being alone.