Signal Fires Breaching the Darkness

The darkness of anxiety, depression, etc. is not comfortable for anyone.

A friend who is a behavioral therapist recently shared this photo as we discussed the challenges of dealing with anxiety:

In her thoughts on this illustration, Marsha shared from personal experience that:

“I’m an advocate of being very open in regards to mental health because I struggle so greatly and I know how dark the thoughts can get. I also know how desperately lonely it is to fight by yourself.

I have good days and then something shifts and I’m in tears from stress that’s out of proportion to the impact of the circumstance, the inability to not worry and constant obsessive thinking. Constantly needing reassurance from people you love and then when you get it you feel so annoying and obnoxious that there’s no way anyone can love you like this so why bother , why be around, why exist…
A waste.
Not enough.
Not normal.
You’ll lose their love.
They’ll get bored and over you.
You’re crazy… The thoughts never stop. They may be less some days and manageable , but some times …they are loud and invading every single word of every single thought.”

And this is a subject close to my heart,  because I know that enemy too, so my response to Marsha on Facebook was:

My wife and I were talking yesterday during lunch about our own areas of our lives where anxiety tries to come in and ruin the day, and how there are similarities and major differences. And even though we know each other very well by now, I think that our discussion gave me a better respect for what she and I call the “crazy things” that tend to stir up anxiety in us.

I think that you used the word “trigger” and that’s a pretty good description. But for me, it isn’t trigger like a gun (that quickly strikes and kills), but “trigger” like I’ve stepped in a trap and now the noose is wrapped around me and is cutting off my air or blood supply — and I’m frantic and don’t know what to do or how to get away. And it is easy to know while you aren’t in the trap that struggling and pulling against the trap just makes it cinch down tighter — but when it is on you and you are in the moment, being calm is the exact opposite of what every fiber of you’re being is screaming at you to “react”.

Traps, triggers, and anxiety seem to me to be all about a “feeling” generating a “reaction” – so it would seem that those who have learned how to avoid letting their “feelings rule them” might be more protected from such things. But how does a person do that without being cold and detached, but instead still maintain their sensitivity and compassion and emotional acumen?

I don’t have it figured out, but I’m learning that trusting something more than just my circumstances and my feelings really acts as a buffer — like a “wall of protection” from the “trigger”. And the more trust I can build up during the good times (with family, with friends, with God) — the better chance I have not to completely lose my mind when the trap tightens again.

Even with a good support system, though it can still be maddening and disappointing when my mind seemingly overpowers me once again and has me in the place this picture illustrates so perfectly.

So why do I share this if I’m not giving you an easy checklist to follow to “fix it”? To encourage you that this enemy has not defeated either of us, and that it has failed so many times in its attempts to crush us. We come back with a little more experience, and by sharing transparently like you have, we can tell the world that even though we may have wounds and/or scars from the trap, we have lived through it, and others are not alone if they have known this same enemy in their own minds.

Love you, sis. I think it is good when we talk openly about these things and “bring boldly into the light” things that pride, shame, or fear of judgement may have once told us to keep hidden. We never know when it might be the string of hope one of us might need for the next trap.

Today’s verse put a nice bow on all of that this morning:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2 ESV

And the Old Testament record of what God has done for His chosen people reminded me of the call to action in The New Testament of how we, His children, the body of Christ should react to that reminder:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 ESV

I share some of my innermost thoughts, dreams, beliefs, experiences, struggles, feelings, etc. publicly online through writing and singing.  I can be a little anxious at times about sharing because I know that not everyone will appreciate or enjoy it. But I see others around me being a bright light, and they bring an energy into the world through that pure, bold, vulnerability of not hiding themselves from the world. I want to be more like that too — not for the attention, but for the impact, and that God will be glorified.

Imagine a world where we were willing to bring out into the light those innermost and help each other in the process. Then look to today’s verses and know that He is the waymaker, the healer — the one who turns what was once dark into light. He is the chain breaker and the one who sets the captives free!

When I think about the picture above showing what I would describe as demons above the person’s head, I’m reminded that the Bible tells me that the demons are headed for the fiery pit, and I think about fire and flames. And this inevitably leads me to consider the flames of Holy Spirit fire above the heads of Christ followers at Pentacost.

What if we saw anxiety and such, not as a huge Goliath that could slay us, but as an opportunity for Good to show up and prove those things as fuel for the fires that bring Him glory? What if we made it less about our own shortcomings and more about who He is, what He has promised, what He has done, ands what He is doing in this process of reconciling us back to Him?

What if our bringing it out into the light was just the spark needed — to start a chain reaction of signal fires being lit across the tops of mountains for miles and miles — celebrating what God has done and sounding the trumpet for what lies ahead?

Lord, have us willing to lay down our weaknesses as fuel for the fire of your glory. And use us as you see fit to demonstrate your abiding presence, your kingdom influence here on earth as it is in heaven. Let them see you, ands let the darkness be overcome by your light. Amen.

Mark Pangel’s sermon at 4 Points Church today offered some great confirmation and a strong push if you’re interested in more on the subject:

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