Growing up, I had no real concept of what depression or any kind of mental disorder was. I began having some understanding when I started to have panic attacks when I was 18 and in my final year of high school. These episodes were periodic, mainly around exam time.
I would have episodes now and again but funnily enough they intensified in my honours year. By appearances I had ‘less stress’ – barely had any exams to write – was getting the best grades in my varsity career – going to church every week – getting along with my siblings. I struggled to understand my inability to get it together, to control my mind and reactions.
At 22 I realised something had to be done. My panic attacks were happening more and more often. It was debilitating. I’d lose time trying to recover. So I went to campus health and sought counselling. I think my friends wondered why because I seemed to be doing alright. Force of habit that – I wasn’t one to really express my emotions. I had however reached a point where I wanted to move on.
I had counselling for 3 months – 7 years later I haven’t experienced a panic attack at all. Funny thing is life has definitely gotten more stressful – #adulting and all.
Let me be clear – I am by no means comparing my panic attacks to depression. What I am hoping rather is to demonstrate that any sort of challenge such as anxiety isn’t a reflection of how mentally weak or strong you are.
I am not sure what that says about our society but it may partly have to do with the fact that beyond getting good grades, not getting pregnant or being on drugs, there is no further indication of how well you’re doing which is needed or required. Who’s to blame for this? Oh I’m not sure. In my humble view at all sectors of society, a lot of challenges are being confronted. So perhaps we all need to join hands.
Let’s do away with viewing depression as a testament to one’s lack of faith as is sometimes seen in our faith-based communities. It is at times viewed as a clear black and white issue, cause and effect. And even when your depression is acknowledged there is an assumed timeline as to how long YOU should take to ‘get over it’.
My prayer is that we be kind with another and ourselves, more especially that we care more that our loved ones get healing. That life be less about outward achievements but more about one’s wellbeing. Lastly – for anyone experiencing depression to know that there’s NOTHING wrong with you and most importantly, you can get help. Whatever form your mental health challenges comes in doesn’t matter as long as you heal.
God doesn’t make mistakes; David beautifully encapsulated it in Psalms 139:13-14 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Larissa is a regular contributor to the blog and a young woman who is passionate about the betterment of women in today’s society. She holds a Masters in Development Studies and is also a daughter of the Most High God seeking to live a purposeful life for Him.
Before you go sis:
Thank you so much for reading today’s post! If you are facing some challenges in terms of your mental health, please don’t remain silent as hard as it is to speak up. There are people willing to listen and help. Feel free to drop me a message or if you would like a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group, please do call the South African And Depression Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26 and a trained counselor will assist you. Alternatively, you can email Zane at email@example.com. We’re in this together.
We have a phenomenal Ladies Gala Dinner coming up in November if you’re in the Johannesburg area!! Please do book your tickets here by 27 October to avoid disappointment. Me and the team have been working tirelessly to ensure that this is an evening to remember! Can’t wait to spend time with you all 🙂
Wishing you a fantastic week ahead and do know I’m praying for you.
You know, on most days I am hesitant to be known as a Christian. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not because of my Saviour. God Himself is phenomenal. He is the one and only Person on this Earth you desperately need to have in your life. If it wasn’t for the fact that He desires for us to fellowship with others at Church and form part of that body so we grow and learn together and pass through tests together, I would have been fine chilling at home with just me and Him. The main reason I struggle with Christians (myself included), is how we treat others. More specifically, how we treat each other as fellow Christians.
It was Mahatma Ghandi who famously quoted,
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
He hit the nail on the head with that statement. We Christians truly misrepresent our God and His character. We chase people away. And I’m learning that it’s not necessarily in terms of how we treat people outside of the Christian faith, but more so how we treat each other within the body of Christ. At church. I am beginning to understand why Christ emphasised that we ought to love one another because “by this all will know that you are My disciples” (John 13:34-35). I think it’s mostly because you can tell how someone is going to treat you based on how they treat those dearest and nearest to them – their family members. And so, if a non-Christian sees a Christian being downright “unchristian” to a fellow Christian they conclude that how they will be treated will be even worse.
The thing is, as Christians we like to talk the talk but barely do we walk the walk. I remember there was a time (not too long ago) when the main reason I loved being at Church was so that I could show off my latest outfit and get compliments. It was also so that I could see my friends and all those people I really wanted to chat with. It wasn’t because I wanted to evangelize and find out how people were really doing most of the time. I mean, I was already serving in the church. What more did they want from me? Oh, and of course I was going out with the youth to homes for the less fortunate and to feed the homeless once a year in winter. And of course, I read my Bible and all the other spiritual books that came with it. So hey, let me enjoy getting mine while I’m at church. And allow me to talk about so-and-so to see how we can “help them out”. It’s so easy to slip into that way of thinking about why you’re at Church. Trust me I know.
That’s the thing with us Christians. God has recently been removing the scales from my eyes and showing me how much we are unloving towards each other (again, I’m preaching to myself first here). We stand up in church and deliver earth-shattering, tear-jerking, mind-blowing and eschatologically correct sermons or prayer garden messages or offertory readings. Or we post up deep quotes and messages on FB or Insta. We dress better than the royal family themselves on our church days and take strategically poised pictures to post on Instagram and Facebook later so the world can see what good church-going folks we are (and of course we get our egos stroked in the process).
We organize bi-annual trips to homes for the poor where we play with the children for a few hours and feel good about giving our time and resources. We organize program after program after program with powerful speakers for ourselves so we hear messages that have been preached to us millions of times before but still haven’t changed us – we just want to hear how this Pastor/Evangelist will twist the message in a way we haven’t heard before. We don’t go to worldly concerts but best believe we are there at the church concerts where we’re pretty much behaving like we’re at a Rihanna or Kanye gig – screaming our lungs off and dying over the cute guys or girls singing!
So, on paper we’re great. But then, we loooove to do sinful things undercover. We have sex with each other in the church outside of marriage (and sometimes in marriage) and we’re not exposed. We fight for guys as girls and even end up taking a guy our “friend” was interested in because well, “he didn’t like you anyway”. We may not drink but some of our get-togethers would shun the presence of the Holy Spirit. We gossip – that’s our favourite one. We dissect people and their lives and intentions for breakfast, lunch and supper. We can also be so fake towards each other. We give insincere hugs and greetings at church – sometimes because the person stopped us as we walked by. We greet those we like or believe are worth our time or are important enough, and ignore people we don’t know or who “aren’t good enough” for our standards. We defame each other’s characters and paint one another in such negative light. The list is endless but I think you get the picture.
Now, I’m not writing this because I want to point fingers or to make anyone feel bad. If you feel bad or angry or guilty, it’s a good sign. Take it to God and ask Him where you fit into this equation and how He can help you change. Sometimes we don’t know our behaviour is hurtful until it is said. Truth is, I’m speaking to myself here first. I’m guilty of most of this stuff and over the last few months God has been rebuking me on it. I’m writing this because we are meant to be each other’s keepers. We are meant to share the truths God reveals to us so we grow better together.It’s like keeping the cure for cancer to yourself. It’s not right, we need to share it. I need to share the revelation I have received in my own life.
I am writing this because we’re failing God guys. As His children and as His disciples. We’re hurting each other. We’re putting each other down at “home” in front of guests. We’re telling the world that it’s impossible to be different. That it’s impossible to be like Christ – to be genuine; long-suffering (patient); kind; loving; encouraging; and to have each other’s backs. I literally see a scene in the wilderness where a pack of lions is ripping each other to pieces. That is what we are doing in our conduct with one another. And believe me, non-believing visitors may not be there every Sabbath at church to witness what goes on, but on the days they are around the devil is sure to expose our nastiness to them. Just on that one day, we may do or say something that is so opposite to what we would have just preached or shared and it causes a non-believer to never want to seek Christ again.
Our lives are not our own (Psalm 100:3). We don’t get away with sounding like Christ’s children but acting like Satan is our real father. Let’s not pretend to be peacemakers while murdering someone with our thoughts or words later on. Christ rebukes us in John 8:37-47. He expressly says that if we were God’s children we would hear His words and do (not speak) His will. We would fulfill the 2nd greatest commandment He ever gave to us – to love one another. Instead, our actions sell us out and show that we truly belong to the devil. These are not words we like to hear. Trust me I didn’t enjoy having that highlighted to me. But though the truth hurts, it does set us free (John 8:32). And I love God so much because He does not show us our wrongdoings so He can leave us in our mess. He reveals to heal.
And so, as a young black African woman (bAw) who is also a Christian, my desire is to see us truly love one another and represent our Father correctly in the Church. To also see us take pride in the wonderful family God has established for us and that He died for. Time is running out and Jesus will soon return for us. Let us work hard to allow Him to change our hearts and our sinful behaviour so we can work with Him to bring more souls to His kingdom – his life-changing, life-giving and amazing kingdom! We can’t do it if we’re being fake with ourselves; with Him; and with others.
If you’re reading this and feeling angry with what I’ve said or feel I’m unfairly accusing you, please take it to God. If I am wrong He’ll direct you in the right path – that’s why we need a personal relationship with Him. If you’re feeling really terrible and as though you’re a bad person because you’ve done or are doing some of this, don’t allow the enemy to imprison you in condemnation. God still loves you and desires to change you. Give it to Him. Ask for forgiveness and let Him walk you to a repentant life. If you’ve recently woken up to the fact that your behaviour needs to change, I am so happy for you. You’re in good company. Let’s keep praying and allowing God to change us.
The truth is that none of us deserve the very lives we live. It is by His grace and love alone that we are even blessed with the lives we have and with the opportunity to know Him. We can never repay Him for this goodness but one of the ways we can show our gratitude is how we treat each other as His children.
Heaven will be beautiful because our relationships will be based on love. It won’t happen automatically. We must work on getting there on a daily basis. So why not start now? Why not start in your small church community. As we genuinely learn to love one another with the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit, we’ll attract more brothers and sisters into our family. I wish you all the best in that endeavour and I ask that you please pray for me too.
I’ve recently been frustrated with my life and have felt like I’m not adding anything to this world or being as purposeful as I should be. I have felt highly inadequate and as though I’m missing something that everybody else has caught onto and I’m failing in the race of life. Actually, the other day I was remarking to my sister that I was feeling uninspired by life and feeling aimless. And it was eating me up because I’ve always been a person who believes in living a life of purpose and doing great things to make a difference in this world for Christ. I have had no doubt in my mind that we are chosen of God to do wonderful things in this life if we choose to let Him work in us.
Yet here I was stuck in nothingness.
Enter an enlightening article that my sister shared entitled “Why Generation Y is Unhappy”. I’ve been asking God to help me get out of my funk of feeling aimless and He answered through that article. In it, the author highlights the fact that my generation (Y) is unhappy because the reality of our lives is not as good as our expectations, and we have an attitude of entitlement believing that we should just become great and do great things because we’re so inherently awesome and special. We have forgotten that it takes hard work, tears, sweat and blood to achieve the great things in life.
This is certainly something that I have lost sight of. I’ve always been a believer in the need to work hard to achieve anything. I’ve understood that things do not just get handed to you on a silver platter, and often if they are they can just as easily be taken away from you. But I’d forgotten this important truth. Not only that, we live in a society that compares a lot. Just log onto any social media and you’re watching someone else’s amazing life. They’re always smiling. Always out and about doing some amazingly great things. Life never seems boring.
And then it hit me – life needs to be boring majority of the time!
Truth be told, there is nothing exciting about waking up in the morning and preparing for work. There is seldom much exciting about work itself even if you’re passionate about your career – you do hit some dry patches. There are moments that are lack lustre in even the most wonderful and passionate relationships! At some point you need to go buy groceries as a couple and you need to clean the house. That does not scream excitement or “greatness”. Yet, our focus tends to always be on the exciting, the new, the thrilling. We’ve come to believe (and I certainly have) that if our lives do not resemble an award-winning movie or book, there is something wrong with us and we’re not world shakers. What a lie.
Truth is, it takes 4 long and gruelling stages before an egg turns into a beautiful, awe-inspiring butterfly. That lava needs to go through periods of darkness and aloneness. It needs to struggle and experience pain as it breaks out to become one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. I mean, Christ spent 30 years out of His 33 years preparing for His eventual ministry on this Earth. He didn’t just wake up as a baby and have it all figured out although He was actually God (another discussion for another day). He had to experience the mundane tasks of working as a carpenter; obeying His parents; reading and studying the Bible; eating and sleeping; fasting; praying etc before He did all His amazing and earth-shattering miracles and work. All we ever remember or focus on is how He gave sight to the blind or raised people from the dead. Or how He said such deep and profound things. We skip right over the “boring” long years He had to endure.
So what am I saying? I am saying that we need to embrace the mundane elements of our lives. In fact, we ought to celebrate them because these are the moments that actually prepare, groom and shape us to be who we are meant to be. It is through the day-to-day activities that you learn your strengths and weaknesses. That you exercise your muscles – physical, spiritual, mental, emotional. That you develop discipline and good work ethics for life. That you appreciate what you already have and actually become even more grateful for what comes along. Yes you have wonderful dreams and hopes for your life – great achievements, movements and ideas you’d like to bring into this world. Just make sure you don’t birth them prematurely and do your best to learn all you need to in the mundane parts of life so that you can apply these lessons when you are walking that exciting path. Besides, you are building the foundation that will hold up said dreams as you go through the boring moments of life.
By celebrating the boring in our lives, we are opening the door to future greatness. So I’m prepared to just buckle down and keep my head buried as I live out the boring parts of my life and as I seek to work as hard as I can. I believe that it will be worth it in the end and will prepare me for whatever tasks the Lord has placed on my life. I hope you’ll join me on this journey 🙂
Do you agree with this article or do you believe life can always find a way of being thrilling? I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve recently become aware of certain behaviour amongst the youth in my faith as a Christian. You know, when I decided to become serious again about my faith and about being an active member of my Church, I believed that the people I would interact with would all be seeking the same things that I was. What a wrong mentality that was. The truth is that the Church is a clinic. A hospital. We’re all congregating with different ailments, needs and wants and there is no way we will all require the same treatment or medication. Thus, I have come to quickly recognize a difference in thinking in terms of different issues including that of dating or romantic relationships amongst people at Church.
I have been fellowshipping at my Church for about 6-and-a-half years now and in that time, I have not entered a romantic relationship with any guy there. Yes I have naturally crushed some gents there but for various reasons, nothing has materialized into a full-blown relationship. That truly frustrated me for a good 4-and-a-half to 5 years! I’d watch those close to (and not-so-close) to me start dating, get engaged, have bridal showers, get married, and now we’re on baby showers. And it just felt like God had put some sort of cover over me so that no guy even SAW me. Over time though, and in the last year or so I’ve actually grown grateful for my situation. I’ve realized that God was protecting me – from entering hurtful relationships and most importantly, protecting me from myself. I had NO clue on how to recognize the right partner and listen to His counsel on it. And I was certainly not ready to love one of His Princes the way He requires me to. It has also given me time to observe and pick up on the things that we young people do right as well as do wrong in picking our life partners – myself included.
There are several patterns that I’ve picked up on in how we young people go about dating in the Church:
Easy Come, Easy Go – I’ve watched people quickly fall for one another and in the space of a month or a couple of weeks of acknowledging these feelings, they are dating and in a full-blown relationship. They talk all the time; spend each opportunity together; and just move from point A to Z in record time! It’s natural to feel such great euphoria when you first meet someone and are getting to know them. They’re a sort of mystery and you tend to pick up on all their great qualities and breeze over the more unflattering ones. I think though, in rushing into love we miss out on actually getting to know the person without our rose-coloured glasses on. We don’t take the time to observe their character and how they respond when someone makes them angry; or when bad things happen to them; or when they fail at a task; or how they treat those closest to them (because that is a sign of how they will treat us). Then, as time passes and we start to see their true colours, we’re quick to say that they’ve changed when the truth is that we never actually knew them (James Michael Sama). I believe that we need to be careful about how quickly and blindly we enter into relationships because that which comes easy tends to go just as easily.
God Spoke to Me – We’re all encouraged to have a personal and close walk with God. We’re told that God still speaks to us today as a collective and individually. We just need to take the time to get to know Him and listen. This is beautiful and it’s the absolute truth. We ought to always seek to hear from God so that we do what He purposes for our lives. However, I have issues when we misuse this blessing (whether knowingly or unknowingly) for our own personal gain. Most recently, I’ve heard this statement being used in getting romantic relationships going in the Church. More especially from the gents. A gentleman will approach a lady and tell her that he’s been praying to God either for a life partner or about that specific lady and he believes God is directing them into a relationship. What is a higher authority on relationships to a Christian than God Himself? And so, the lady willingly and happily obliges. Not many months down the line, things have gone sour.
This makes one wonder whether God really spoke or what He said. It’s a dangerous thing to use the name of God when you’re not even sure that it was Him speaking. I must say though, that it’s not just the gentlemen’s fault. We are commanded in the Bible to test everything and all spirits to ensure that they are from God (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). We can never take as gospel that which someone comes and tells us God told them. And so even if a gentleman approaches you and tells you God has spoken to him about you, it is your duty as a lady to take the time to return to this same God to hear whether it is in fact true. I think we just get so caught up in the beauty of it and our strong desire for love and relationships that we quickly hold on to what appears good and right. It seems like such a godly approach after all. But we need to learn to be cautious and speak to God about what someone else claims to have spoken to Him about.
All Out of Fight – A great mentor of mine remarked how our generation no longer fights for things especially relationships. It’s as though we’ve come to believe that if something comes to us and happens without much of a struggle, then it’s meant to be. It should be natural and effortless. That is the lie of the devil. If we look at all the great Bible characters and their stories, their journeys were far from easy! They had to at some point put up a fight – either with others, themselves or the devil himself. Some had to exercise patience for years (Abraham). Others had to run and fight for their life until they became what God had promised them they would be (David). Still others had to work 14 years to marry the love of their life after being deceived (Jacob). The list is endless.
One of my favourite quotes says, “The couples that are ‘meant to be’ are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.” That is a powerful statement! Truly, anything worthwhile does not come easy. It is through the difficulties and fighting to be with the other person that your bond is strengthened. I think the issue is that we are a generation that is used to getting things at the click of our fingers. We’ve sadly translated this into every area of our lives including relationships. But this is false. It’s an illusion. For you to value your partner, you must have had to face and overcome some challenges together. A person more readily appreciates a fairly pricey bag that they’ve been eyeing and have worked hard to save up for and buy, than an even more expensive bag that someone just gives to them. It’s in the labour of your hands that you value what you get. So, let’s not give up too easily and let’s put up a fight to keep the relationships we believe we’ve been given.
There is so much more that could be said, but I just wanted to point out those 3 issues that stand out the most for me at this point in time. All relationships are complicated, but if we take the time to better understand them and each other we can have beautiful, God-ordained unions.
What are your thoughts around romantic relationships in the Church? What lessons can we learn in engaging in these? Let’s share and grow together!