the joy is this way!

Sometimes it seems that all of the “journeys” people share on social media are only told once noticeable progress has been made. Not often do people share their “before photos” immediately after they are taken. No, instead they wait until 6 months into a diet. Or a year after they were at their lowest point in parenting, since which they’ve learned to love more patiently and offer grace to the little monsters they live with. “Looking back,” people often tell us their starting point was nothing to be ashamed of. The thing is, though, our own starting place seems a lot further from progress when we compare it to someone 2 laps ahead of us. 

I’m not saying that progress stories cannot be encouraging. They are something to be proud of. Honestly, your story is something to be celebrated. Please don’t stop- I’ll even bring the balloons. 

Hear me when I say, though, maybe we don’t have to wait until the celebration to tell our people we’re in the race.   

Many young people often claim to live transparent lives. I believe it’s trendy, actually. Honest, open, “struggle bus,” messy lives. How honest is our so-called transparency, though, when we only share the lows once we’ve come out of them? 

A quick google search will prove this to be true…

“For the person who hates working out” written by a fitness trainer 

“To the person struggling with addiction” ..written by an author who no longer is 

“To the single woman looking for a man who loves God more than her” ..written by a married woman 

All of these articles probably contain beautiful advice. I’m sure they each share some insight into a personal reason the writer can relate to the reader. How much, though, can the reader really relate to the writer?

I’ve noticed that especially in the Christian community, we are willing to open up and share that we are “struggling” a bit, but we shy away from admitting when we are truly broken. You know, the brokenness that sits down the road from those small struggles. Deep in the “I don’t even know where to go from here” thoughts. Actually, for a long time I proudly wore a shirt that said, “your brokenness is welcome here.” It was true. But the back should have said “but mine probably isn’t, so let’s focus on yours.”

Well. Today, I’m flipping the shirt around. Welcoming in my own brokenness. Stepping away from fear and shame. Sharing my story of depression and anxiety instead of hiding from the stigma. 

I don’t mean the depression and anxiety skeleton of my past, although that would be fun to lay out on the table for all to see. (Maybe another time.) But the one that sneaks up on me daily after my quiet, morning routine. The one that lingers throughout a beautiful season of wedding planning. The one that hasn’t run away fearful even though the sun came out. The one that my husband spends his every day trying to understand, as he reminds me to take my medicine. The one that I am super good at compressing for a bit, while I overwork, throw myself 100% at a new project, or put on a big smile and bubbly voice for game night.

That one. 

And there is a shame that can creep up in the shadows of mental health problems. For years I’ve lived believing that if I know Jesus, and He is transforming my heart, depression should not be part of my story any longer. After all, in His presence there is fullness of joy. 

There is a truth that squashes this belief, though. One that the Lord has laid on my heart during this quarantine. It has become clear to me that one’s battle with mental health is not equivalent to a lack of faith. 

Depression and Jesus can coexist. Anxiety and Jesus can coexist. Luckily, we know Who gets the last word. 

This isn’t where I tell you that this truth has opened my eyes, kicked out my depression, and now I can sit in a pile of smiles and strawberries every day, shouting, “see ya later, before picture!” 

Nope. I’m still here. Still struggling. Still remembering to take my Zoloft. Still turning to the Lord in pain, praying He will take it away, and questioning His purposes when He doesn’t. Still crying a lot. And cuddling Tuck and J as often as I can. Or truthfully, pushing them away when the cuddles don’t help. And honestly, today there are some big smiles, but there is no pile of strawberries. Just a weighted blanket and left-over, frozen, wedding cake. But you know what? I’m not hiding.

And it has been so wonderful to let my people in. God gives us people to love and be loved by. Those of whom we can speak and receive encouragement. 

No idea how far the finish line is, but I’m in the race, folks. 

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” 

And boy oh boy, this race is not over. And I wouldn’t want it to be. A friend reminded me the other day that the things that make us more like Jesus are a blessing not a curse. I know this is one of those things.

I hope you will imagine with me now this cartoon I have paying in my head. It’s me running on a long track (you know it’s in my head, because I don’t run). And I’m sweating and barely getting my feet off the ground at some points. And I look over to see depression running on my right, while anxiety closes in on the other side. BUT THEN I see Jesus, who scoops me up and says, “Cmon, kiddo, the joy is this way!” 

4 thoughts on “the joy is this way!

  1. Ashleigh, this is so precious. I too, struggled with depression and anxiety most of my married life, beginning just 6 months after our marriage. Let me encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. He WILL heal you of this, I am certain. I am living proof of that. What a different life from the one I once had. God is so faithful and loving. Keep that at the forefront of your mind. I know it can be hard, but try to do it every day. What Satan means for evil, God can and will use it for good. Max Lucado says about Joseph in this verse, “Joseph tied himself to the pillar of this promise and held on for dear life”. So tie yourself to the pillar and hang on for dear life! I will commit to pray for you as you do. I love you and I am here any time you need to talk, cry, scream, laugh, etc. Love, Aunt Annie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is beautiful. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, Ashleigh. It’s refreshing and inspiring…God is writing a beautiful story in you.💜


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