"For He has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7
When I was younger, my Mother would speak this verse over me during a time where I was fighting many battles within my mind. She would declare over me that my mind would be sound, uninterrupted by thoughts that were telling me to hurt my own flesh. Everyone else branded me with illnesses like depression and anxiety but God took me on a journey that revealed one of the most important lessons that I've learnt yet- mental illness does not define you.
I'm a big words person. Speaking and declaring scripture over me is one of the most powerful things I did. It is God breathed, therefore it helps us grow closer to God. Through it, we come to understand what He desires for us. Mental illness is not something God ever intended for His people. Seeing us hurt makes Him hurt because He loves us and craves to see us live after His design.
"No weapon formed against me shall prosper."
Unfortunately, after sin entered the world, trials and battles became inevitable. Although God intended for us to live in perfect harmony, we were separated from that. While I would love to sit here and tell you that being a Christian means that we don't have to face challenges anymore, that's simply not true. Challenges are a part of this life. But, even though being a Christian doesn't mean these challenges are eliminated, it does mean that Jesus will walk every step with us. Every. Single. Step. He will never leave you or forsake you because His love is never-ending.
I don't know what you're facing right now. I don't know what battle you're in, or what season you're in, but I do know that God's got you. The truth is, He's always had us, and I think it's safe to say that He always will.
"She is clothed in strength and dignity. She laughs without fear of the future."
It is easy to feel abandoned and isolated when you're battling something as debilitating as mental illness. We become so overwhelmed and focused on evil that what God is already doing would seem to be eclipsed by the evil. But I'm here to tell you, the victory has already been won! With the blood of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, renewed, and triumphant. He doesn't want you to sit in agony. He wants to heal your heart and renew your mind.
It may seem that you are all alone, that no one understands what you're going through, and maybe they don't. Maybe the people around you don't get it, they might not understand what you're going through, but that does not mean that you are alone. I find shelter in Jesus Christ. I find hope in the fact that He loves me. I find redemption in that fact that He has a plan and a purpose for me - one that does not include mental illness, but one that includes victory.
Declaring scripture over my life opened my eyes and my heart to God’s never ending love that constantly surrounds me. I have realised that offending myself and my body hurts God, because He made me; we are made in His image. Learning to love yourselves as women of God can be a really difficult thing to come to terms with. We spend so much time listening to what society expects from us that we forget about God’s desires. Instead of living up to worldly expectations, I’ve learnt that loving yourself, and your body, is so important. Because if we can’t see the beauty in ourselves, we become blind to the beauty of God, because His beauty lives within us.
Mental illness sucks. It really does. But I've been through enough trials and triumphs to tell you that it does not have to last. While in the depths of depression, I understand that there seems to be no way out. It seems permanent, indestructible. That light at the end of the tunnel? Where is it? I get it. I’ve been there. I understand that sometimes it's hard to get out of bed in the morning. I understand that hopeless feeling, and so does God.
God wants you to know that your purpose is not to be hopeless, but triumphant and strong; a woman of God, a force to be reckoned with! You might be struggling with mental illness, you might have done so for a long time now. But hear these words, speak them over your life, and declare them in Jesus' name - mental illness does not define you.
"In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! For I've conquered the world."
John 16:33 MSG
Olivia is a Criminal Justice student at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She attends ARISE Church, there's really no place she'd rather be. She loves to read and you can catch her in a little independent bookshop in Christchurch where she works part-time. You can follow her on Instagram @livvyy.jane