Anxiety and Depression

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

~ Psalm 46:1-3 ~

CarrieannMy name is Carrieann Harris. I am gratefully married to my dearest friend, Jim, since 2013 and have one daughter, Megan, who is in her senior year at Clarks Summit University in Pennsylvania working towards her master’s in counseling degree.

Throughout the last thirteen years, Jim has been a true and faithful friend. He has consistently reminded me of God’s love for me as I walked through this valley of the shadow of death. You see, there was a time when I feared every evil. I was not convinced that God was with me or concerned about my personal well-being. He was humbling me and preparing the soil of my heart to receive His true grace…real faith in Jesus Christ so that I could be with Him from that day forward.

I was raised and confirmed in the Catholic faith, yet I had no faith. I had a lot of questions, but no real answers. When I was seventeen, I went looking for God at a non-denominational bible church. I heard about Jesus offering salvation, and I accepted Him and these truths about Him and was baptized. I later realized that I accepted Him intellectually but not relationally. Truth was, I did not fully trust Him though I desperately wished I could. I lacked true saving faith and any real heart change. Twenty-one years later, after many trials, tears, and prayers; God saved me in His perfect timing…the very night my first husband signed our divorce papers. I had feared that day more than any other day, convinced that my divorce would ensure my separation from God once and for all. But as I sat at my pastor’s table that night, with him not even aware of what happened that day, God led him to open his bible and start reading verse after verse about God’s unmerited saving grace and predetermined plan to save His children and glorify His holy name. It was that day, September 14, 2012, when my heart was regenerated and my life truly changed. It was that day, when God saved me from myself and my sins. It was that day, when I truly gave my life to Christ and began to trust Him fully. It was that day, when I was assured of my salvation. I remain assured on the basis of Colossians 1:6, that the gospel has come to me and “is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (NASB, Emphasis mine).

Since that day, the Lord has been teaching me how to love and serve Him, as well as others. He has impressed upon me the importance of prayer, for He has ordained to usher in His holy kingdom through prayer and the preaching of His word. I enjoy many things, but I have no greater passion on earth than coming into the presence of God in worship and baring my soul before Him, asking for His grace and mercy in the lives of His sheep. Secondly, I love sharing with others how to find peace and fulfillment in Christ alone, for He is the bread of life (John 6:48-51). Therefore, it is my desire to see God glorified through this one voice ministry by encouraging all women to develop an intimate relationship with our Father and Savior through the torn veil of prayer, directly from their hearts to His ears, so that He may reveal Himself to them as they read His word. This ministry is necessary because God ordained that we should glorify Him through unity with Him and each other, for Jesus prayed that we may be perfect in unity so that the world may know that the Father sent Him, and loved us, even as the Father has loved Him (John 17:23).

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My Wall-Papered Pit

Saturday Morning Meeting

Testimony – Carrieann Harris.

As I was preparing my testimony to share with you this morning, I had originally written all about my upbringing and the sad course of events that pummeled my heart and soul over the last 40 years.

I wanted you to take a walk in my shoes and understand a bit better how satan had a hold on my life and had the power to destroy my well-being and happiness so that I could show you how God saved me from the hopelessness that comes from all those evils and ills.

But the truth of the matter is that I don’t have to stand here and tell you all about the horrors of my life…of all the people who scarred me and ruined my faith in humanity…do I?

You all have your own list of disappointments and hurts that are just as equally painful as mine, don’t you?

I don’t really need to compare those parts of my notes with you in order for you to find the hope you so desperately need to encounter God’s peace and joy.

What I really need to do to encourage you and build you up in faith this morning is to testify that God’s love and His faithfulness towards those who seek Him is real.

But therein lies the problem most of us have…do we seek Him righteously so that He will bend His ear and hear our cries for help and actually help us?

Why does it seem that God helps some and not others?

Here’s what I learned from God in the last eight years that changed my relationship with Him in a way that I truly feel connected with Him to the point where I know He hears me and answers my prayers according to His will.

It all started with a realization: The center of my universe was me…and that needed to change.

God needed to become the center of my every thought and action. Jesus needed to become my true Savior and Lord, in every sense.

I saw myself as a good person…kind, considerate, relatively obedient…but honestly, much of my life has been about me.

How I interpreted the world around me, the things that happened to me, and the way that I treated others revolved around how I felt about and towards them and each situation.

Even at my lowest point in life, I was absorbed in self-pity.

I wanted to be vindicated of all the ills said and done against me…and there were plenty of ills done against me ranging from simple lies to sexual sins.

I wanted to be respected, physically and mentally, and I wanted the whole world to justify how mistreated and misjudged I was.

Even when I began to seek God, my search was essentially about me for many years.

I wanted to secure some sort of eternal joyful existence for myself.

I wanted to be glorified…and it took me many years to realize that I was even willing to be glorified by the world apart from God.

The truth of the matter is that I was just as self-oriented as those who sinned against me, and my inability to forgive them stemmed from my sinful pride that elevated myself above them as though their sins were worse than mine.

Yes, what they did to me felt more disgusting and horrendous than my selfishness; but to a holy God, can I honestly say that they were??

What if my sins towards God felt infinitely more disgusting and horrendous to Him than anything that was done to me?

I was not holy. God is holy.

That was when God revealed to me that all of my heartbreak had a righteous aim…to humble me before Him to the point where I realized that I utterly needed Him and could not recover any sort of real peace or true joy apart from Him.

I needed to be humbled before this Holy God, because God ordained to only give His grace to the humble. That’s precisely why He broke me and brought me to the end of myself.

But it took a lot to get to that point of brokenness…thirty-three years.

Thirty-three years wandering around in my own desert.

Fourteen of those years, I isolated myself from friends and family.

I became well acquainted with depression. I put on a mask when I left the house.

When I couldn’t manage to leave the house, I pulled down the blinds and pretended I wasn’t there.

One of my closest girlfriends would come banging on the door when I started ignoring her calls, but I still wouldn’t answer. I just wanted to be left alone.

Beth Moore described it well in one of her bible studies—I was not only in a pit, but I was wall-papering it.

I saw no way out of it, and all I could manage to do was care for my daughter. She was all I had worth living for and is the only reason I am standing here today…or at least that’s what I thought for a long time.

By that point, I had lost all hope that God would even take an interest in me anymore.

After all, why should He? I apparently wasn’t one of those extraordinary Christians with the faith worth His time.

I believed He cared for the Body of Christ as a whole, but not me personally.

I was just collateral damage in the spiritual war happening all around me.

That’s when the anxiety came in full force.

I had already felt afraid of most men, unprotected by our law enforcement and judicial system, misjudged by many Christians, and now doomed by God because I just couldn’t figure out a way to make everything right.

I felt unassured of my salvation, yet I couldn’t bear the thought of going to hell.

I couldn’t even sit near a campfire or woodstove without trembling on the inside feeling as though I was destined to end up in those flames.

It was a terrifying time…

But God…

Despite my warped and messed up view of who God is and how He works in the lives of His people, God answered the one and only prayer that I could muster up during those eight anxious years, “please don’t let me go; don’t let me give up and leave you.”

I chose to cling to God’s promise that He was faithful and would never leave me, but I wholeheartedly believed that I could certainly wander from Him…and I began to realize that He was the only one with the power to save me and to keep me.

The Lord gave me that faith in Him to realize that I couldn’t save myself, and He began to refine and deepen that faith.

He made me realize that I needed to confess that I did not truly trust Him and ask Him for that faith.

When I was seventeen, I believed the truth about Jesus in my head intellectually and was even baptized, but something still wasn’t quite right.

I struggled with assurance of my salvation for many years after that.

I wanted to believe in Jesus with all my heart, but truth be told, I didn’t quite trust Him with my whole life. I couldn’t give up my own life.

What if God wanted me to live in a way that was outside of my comfort level?

I look back on it now and I realize that the head knowledge of Christ and His love hadn’t truly reached my heart.

I wanted escape from damnation, pain, suffering, lack of material wealth and respect from people…but it never occurred to me that what I should have really wanted the most was just Jesus Himself.

I didn’t think that He was or could be enough. After all, how could a distant, far-off, divine being fulfill my earthly needs?

But God in His great grace answered my prayer far beyond what I had imagined. He never gave up on me.

Instead, when I was at my most broken state, He came and gave me new life.

I was thirty-nine when He gave me a new spiritual heart, one that was able to experience Him and actually begin to know Him and His presence in such a way that I began to heal and grow from the inside out.

I no longer felt like a whitewashed tomb, being painted on the outside, yet rotting on the inside.

That was when God began to repeatedly show me that He chooses to reveal His power through my weakness…and I needed to be ok with that weakness and my neediness of Him.

I began to experience His presence in those times when I brought my entire self to Him…every anxious thought, every downtrodden feeling, every desire and every hope needed to be given to Him each day.

It is at the end of myself where I continually find His help…it just takes faith.

Faith to submit myself to Him, faith to know He cares, and faith to renew my mind with who He says He is and believe that He will fulfill His promises to even me.

Believing and not doubting…having nothing left to believe in but Him…that is why He allows His children to experience suffering and trials…because we so desperately need what only He can give us…faith, hope, and love…and the greatest of these is love.

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