“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.
“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”
There’s a difference, you know.
I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).
But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?
The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.
Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.
Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.
Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.
All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.
I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.
While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.
And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.
I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.
So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.
Yes, yes, I need Jesus.
Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.
The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.
And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.
I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.
Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.
Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?
I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.
All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure — I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.
This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.
They’re right, you know.
I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.
I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.
The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.
And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.
And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.
Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.
It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).
For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.
If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.
And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.
Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.
You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).
And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.
We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.
We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.
I decided to commit my life to following Christ five years ago.
To set the scene that led up to that decision, I was confused, depressed, and angry and couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out why. This is just the way I am, I would sometimes tell people when asked about my troubled state of mind. Most of the time, I shut everyone out so I could deal with my hurt on my own. Or NOT deal with it, I guess you could say.
I was fourteen years old and had been self-harming for several years. Maybe it was due to family problems, a result of perfectionism, or just experimentation… whatever it was, it was destructive. A good friend of mine reached a point where she couldn’t watch me do this to myself any longer. The night I resolved to quit self-harming and pursue a relationship with God was the night she communicated to me that it was getting too hard to be my friend (I really do thank her for that, and we are still friends to this day). The question she asked that I will forever carry with me was, Why can’t you just choose to be happy?
I didn’t have an answer. And at that point I knew that if I was ever going to be happy or escape this numb zombie-like state of being, there would have to be a higher power intervening in my life. I just couldn’t fix myself.
So I turned to God (and Jesus, because I am a Christian and believe that Jesus is the only way to be rescued). And I’ve been loving and following Him ever since.
But the depression that had led me to Him has been trying to tear me away ever since.
I wish I could tell you that I’m not at all like my fourteen-year-old self. I wish I could testify that God has healed me of all my depression and anxiety and desire to harm myself.
But He hasn’t. Not yet, at least.
It’s been five years and I still am an emotional mess. I still have frequent thoughts of self-harm. I still am hurting people by my withdrawal and unexplained sadness. I still am wondering how I’m going to make it through the day and if I should just curl up in a ball and pray for something to come along to kill me.
And I still don’t have answers. I can’t explain where all of this is coming from. I can’t pinpoint some horrid childhood experience that has made me this way. I’m still just as confused and lost.
Truthfully, I get angry at God for letting me be this way.
If you’re so powerful and can do anything, why won’t you heal me? Do you even WANT me healed? Or am I just a pawn in this world that’s supposed to deal with whatever comes to make sure you get the glory? Are you supposed to be glorified in this? Because if so, then I don’t want to glorify you. I don’t want to serve you. If you won’t free me from this, then why do I even bother?
I love God. I love Him so much.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes. It’s hard to follow Him. Cookie-cutter Christianity might tell you that it’s not hard to follow Jesus if you’re truly desiring to worship Him and surrender to Him. To that, I reply with, “Well, call me selfish, then… because this is the hardest thing in the world.” But don’t think it’s not also the most fulfilling. It is.
I just want you to know the truth. I’m not some phenomenal writer and amazing person who goes and selflessly spends her summer with refugees because she’s such a great follower of Jesus. I’m not the optimist I used to be labeled as in high school. I’m not even the realist/almost-cynic I get labeled as now in college.
I’m just a girl who’s fighting to know what it means to love God while not knowing how to love herself.
I’m not doing the best job at fighting, but I’m working on it and I think that’s worth something.
Of course there are days (many of them, actually) where I tear myself down for still struggling with this depression and these awful thoughts.
If I believe in God so much, why am I not praying more against this? If I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, why am I not standing in faith and rebuking these lies and attacks? If I am hurting so much, why am I not seeking counseling or medication? If I’m so depressed, then why do I still find ways to smile and have friends and do fun things?
But there’s a little part of me that also pats myself on the back. Good job, Jessie! You hate your life but you still carve out time each morning to talk to Jesus. You want to self-harm, but you haven’t in FIVE YEARS. You feel so much and sometimes it makes you numb, but at least you don’t make yourself not feel anything. You still let yourself love and be loved– not perfectly, but you’re making progress.
There’s much victory to be celebrated in my story. I don’t feel victorious all the time, but I know that God has done some really amazing things in my life. He’s gotten the glory, whether I wanted Him to or not. He’s doing the healing, and I’m letting Him.
I’ve been afraid of losing credibility or being rejected for having these thoughts and struggles, but in all actuality, they make me so RELEVANT. I’m not fixed, and that’s okay. No one is. I’m just one step closer to being free. Five years closer, to be more exact.
By not admitting to these things and not letting you see the real me, I’m just putting shackles around my wrists again. The shackles that God did away with when He put His Son on a cross.
Christianity didn’t fix me; Christ just frees me.
Frees me from having to pretend my life is together. Frees me from the shame that has kept me silent for far too long.
I want to be brave in this very moment and show people they can be brave, too.
So here I am, sticking out my trembling hand to whoever you are, hoping you’ll take it.
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
and BORE OUR SUFFERING,
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.