Category: Faith

Breakups, The Greatest Love, & Healthy vs. Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Painful Emotions

Heartbreak: It’s a killer. If you’ve experienced a breakup before, you’re familiar with the emotional, mental, and physical toll it takes on us. Whether it’s the end of a friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage, the breakup and grieving process can come with intense pain.

A few months ago, I went through a breakup.

Feelings of loss and insecurity especially bothered me at first. These are some of my specifically “triggering” emotions, causing me to think thoughts that made me vulnerable to my struggles. To be honest with you, in my initial moments of weakness, I didn’t choose to use healthy coping tools. I wanted to isolate myself at home, I didn’t reach out to many people, and I even found myself returning to old eating disorder behaviors…

The one healthy thing that I did choose to do was pray for guidance and healing. But even though I was asking God to help me, I still turned inward and turned to my body for security. 

At the gym I tried to make myself feel better. But rather than inflate my self-esteem, I  ended up with the same deflated heart. 

I was trying to console myself on my own – trying to feel “good enough” and “lovable” without leaning on any other person. Despite my rebellion, God swooped in and reminded me that I already am worthy; and that he loves me enough to pursue me.

God pursued me. 

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 121:2 “He heals the brokenhearted.”

The day after the breakup, I felt this gentle nudge on my heart that I should go to an event at church. Surprisingly, I decided to emerge from my cave of grief that evening. I didn’t try to hide my melancholy mood at church, but I didn’t go seeking sympathy, attention, or connection.

However, while I was there, three people came to me and initiated some very special and unexpected conversations. They were people who I wouldn’t necessarily go to for help; yet I received love, validation, hugs, and words of encouragement from them. When I went to bed that night, my heart was full; and I remembered that I’m worthy of love. 

I really felt like God was using his people – the church family – to speak truth and show his love to me when I needed it most. 

The next day, I turned to some of my not-so-helpful “coping tools” again. But God’s love proved stronger than my rebellion. Again, he pursued me through his people. While I was at home, three different people sent me texts saying things like, “Hey Jess, I was just thinking about you,” “How are you?”, “Can we talk soon?”, and “Let’s set up a time to hang out!” 

As much as I wanted to isolate myself during my time of insecurity, people were coming to me, pulling me out of my pity, showing me that I was worth their time and connection, and loving me at the right time.

Those connections, and the words of encouragement that followed, quickly began to build me up. People supported me. They inadvertently made me realize that I didn’t need to be so insecure or question my value. It’s cool to me that those friends reached out to me, not knowing what I had been feeling. I truly think this was an act of God.

Psalm 94:18-19 “Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

What’s even cooler is that this pattern continued for the next few days: I would turn to my Eating Disorder, but then I would connect with someone; they would encourage me; and I would momentarily snap out of my mental turmoil. 

To end that week, God reminded me of my value in an even more unique and powerful way. I attended my friend’s baptism service. Seeing my friend joyfully and publicly display how Jesus had transformed his life filled my heart with happiness. But what made the moment even sweeter was remembering that I was the one who introduced him to Jesus Christ. 

As I sat there, I could hear God saying to me, “Jessica, not only are you worthy and loved by me and by others, but you have the ability to change people’s lives! The most important thing about you is not your body or what others think about you – it’s that you can draw people into my Kingdom. 

Right then I started to tear up, and I felt the weight of all my insecurities fall off my shoulders. 

There’s two things I’d love for you to take away from this story:

1.) God loves us enough to pursue us! His love is stronger than our rebellion. He can draw near to us in our heartbreak, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy, and remind us that we’re made whole and complete in him. And I think sometimes he specifically uses his people to clearly and audibly speak the truths that we need to hear.

I love that when God chases after us, we get to remember that we’re cared for and seen by our heavenly Father; and we learn that it’s okay to rely on him when we feel weak. Like these verses say:

2 Corinthians 1:4-5, 9 “[God] comforts us in all our troubles. . .our comfort abounds through Christ. . .that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”

2.)  The other point that I want to stress is this:

The coping tools that I turned to (my eating disorder and isolation) did not cure my insecurities.

I think that a lot of us turn to self-destructive or unhelpful things when we’re insecure, lonely, heartbroken, etc. And those with eating disordered or introverted tendencies especially turn to our bodies or isolation when we feel insecure. But I found that what really made me feel better was connecting with people. Connection paired with a little bit of vulnerability created the opportunity for so much encouragement and healing! 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 13, he urged the Christians not to “think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” I won’t go into full Bible student mode to explain what this means; but I know that turning to my body for feelings of control and security would qualify as a fleshly desire. Paul advised them instead to “clothe” themselves with Jesus and to fight their battles with “the armor of light.” I love this! To me it reaffirms that Jesus is the key to getting through external pressures and trials and to overcoming internal conflicts as well.

So my friend, I want to remind you that you are valuable and loved. If God would pursue me, I know he would easily come after you too! He wants to be the source of your security and for you to feel whole and complete, because you’re his child. the Bible says clearly that nothing can separate us from his love, and that he’s close to the brokenhearted. He wants to hold our hand through the trials of life and for us to depend on his fatherly affection rather than trying to do everything and feel good enough on our own strength.

Comments and questions are welcomed! Have a nice week!

 

Passionfruit Doughnut

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 27, 2016. I had just decided that I actually wanted to go to college. After this post was originally published, I dreamed about Biola for 2 years while doing my time at community college. By the time you’re reading this, I’m either weeks away from getting there, or I’m finally there!

If you want to understand the obscure title I chose for this post, you’ll have to bear with me till the end!

SO. I’m going to give you something a little more lighthearted this time.

A few months ago my mom asked me if I’d be interested in going on a visit to Biola University, my brother’s school. I didn’t really care much for the idea at first because:

  1. I’ve never seen myself as someone to move out of state or even go to college. (Mostly because I haven’t had a clear vision of what I want to do in the future, career-wise.) And
  2.  The idea of considering colleges has been daunting and anxiety inducing in the past. So, I didn’t particularly want to go to Biola, but I thought, “Hey, I can hang out in the sunshine with my brother and go to Disneyland for a day.” So I let my mom sign me up.

Tiny back story: For a long time I have been resolved to the idea of going to community college and figuring the rest out somewhere along the way. It seems like the easiest plan. I wish I had a more passionate spirit like some people. My brother, for instance, is one of my biggest role models because of how passionate he is, how he works hard, and chases his dreams. But I haven’t felt very passionate about what I can accomplish in life.

So, as I prepared for Biola Bound, I was feeling unsettled about a lot. I prayed over the trip for weeks in advance. Specifically that I would not have panic attacks, that God would provide me with energy, that I would be joyful and confident in meeting new people, and that God would just reveal something to me while I was there.

The trip started off tricky because I had severe panic on the airplane. But I prayed myself through it. The rest of the night was a blast! The next day I met high school seniors and Biola students from all over the U.S. Though everyone’s cultural backgrounds were diverse, it seemed like the one thing everyone had in common was a love for God. (Biola is one of the biggest Bible Institutes in the country). I don’t even really know how to explain it, but I could FEEL the presence of the Holy Spirit over that campus. And the joy of the Lord was inside so many people I met. My joy increased quickly. I loved being immersed in that positive environment, and I felt comfortable. My normal insecurities seemed to vanish!

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As hours and days ticked away, I noticed all my prayers about panic and having energy and joy being answered. I was having such a good time (and Disneyland was only a sliver of the fun). My mind was clear, and my focus began to shift: I found my apathy towards college disappearing, and I realized I really loved everything about this school. – The weather, the campus, the people, the feeling of Christ-centered community, and mostly how God is elevated above everything that happens there. On day three I was feeling stronger about it.

I had a nice long hour to talk with a communications professor over lunch on Monday. During my chat with her was when It finally sunk in that it could actually be a possibility for me to attend the school some day. And that I now had a dream school. After going to a business class, Bible class, and a communications class; I was sold.

I could hardly contain myself when I ran across campus to John’s dorm that evening. I sat there with my hands on my head because I couldn’t even believe I was telling him, “I want to go here some day…” Could this be the answer to my last prayer? Was this what God was wanting to reveal to me?

I’m confident that If he wants me at Biola, I will get there. Regardless of what happens, I’m thankful for the experience and that he changed my heart toward college. I have honestly never felt so strongly about something in this way…I did not want to go home.

The experience as a whole reflects this AMAZING doughnut I sampled during my trip. When I bit into it, I didn’t know what flavor it was. It tasted like…lemon? But then I kept chewing, and my taste buds danced! There was a curd filling on the inside accompanied by something crunchy AND a whipped cream on top. It was perfect. John read a sign and said, “No, it’s not lemon. It’s passionfruit flavored!” For some reason this excited us both immensely. It wasn’t what we were expecting. That intricate doughnut was just like my trip: I went into it with narrow thinking. “This will be a typical doughnut. Whatever.” Or, “It’s a scary college. I don’t want to go to college.” But the more I experienced and learned about the different aspects, my eyes were opened, I got excited, and I left wanting more! And how appropriate that the flavor was PASSIONfruit, and I gained a new passion and vision for my future. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Waking Up to the Truth

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 31, 2016. This was the very first blog post I ever wrote, launching my blogging career. Posting it gave me a feeling of freedom and excitement, as I shared my struggles publicly and received a lot of verbal support from others who read it.

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, and thank you for being interested in what I have to say. I’m really excited to use this as outlet for sharing my thoughts and stories. I think A LOT; And most of the time I either bottle those thoughts up or let them spill out into my family’s ears…But, I believe I’m ready to start sharing my perspective with the world too. Please understand that my intention is not to gain attention, sympathy, affirmation, or anything like that. My heart’s desire is to bring glory to God through what I say. He’s gifted me with the ability to think hard, be aware, feel emotions, and encourage others. He’s also radically changed my life in the past several months; and I hope that by telling my story I’ll glorify him and be able to encouragement others who may be struggling.

Now, this first post will probably be a little longer and different than future ones. I want to set up for you how I’ve been shaped to be who I am today. Though I used to be embarrassed about my struggles, I have realized that what I’ve gone through is not so uncommon. I’m an imperfect human and I mess up like everyone else. I think hearing personal testimonies from others can be impacting. So, sparing some (actually, a lot) of the rough details, here’s my story:

If you know me, you know that I’ve been blessed with a great family who’s always encouraged my faith in Jesus Christ. I have loved my God for as long as I can remember, and I’d say faith is my strongest spiritual gift. I just haven’t truly doubted his existence or that he is who he says he is. – I’ve also had a life with minimal “big trials,” so why worry? Life was good! I was happy! Anything hard that came my way in middle and high school was an opportunity to depend on God and let him comfort me.

Somewhere along the way, though, I started caring too much about people’s perception of me and about the world’s standards. I become very insecure. In the midst of that, I developed health problems that made me feel physically defeated. In my own mind, my body wasn’t good enough. My self-consciousness made me want to hide. My body image got so bad over my junior year that I started restricting my food intake and exercising harder. These secret compulsive behaviors took over me. I wanted the satisfaction of feeling in control. I thought “If I can lose X amount of weight, then i’ll be happy and secure.” This lifestyle and these lies stole my joy. I became increasingly tired, anxious, and depressed. I gave up on social activities and even stayed home from church at times because I had no energy. Normal, every day tasks looked harder to me, and I was afraid of being vulnerable. My heart was hardening toward God and others, but I didn’t realize I was the only one hurting myself.

The world’s comforts looked so appealing to me that I lost sight of God’s will for my life. I eventually lost that X amount of weight…And even more pounds after that…But friends, that didn’t make me truly happy! Happiness from that was only ever momentary. Even after I achieved the thing I had longed for, I was miserable and clinically unhealthy. Migraines, naps, anxiety attacks, and feeling faint all occured more and more. After seeing a doctor, and after lots of tests, It was determined that there was nothing wrong with me except for my weight loss and depression. This was upsetting to me; But a few months later something snapped. I finally got sick of this lifestyle, and I missed my God whose truth I had been neglecting. One hard night I broke down and asked Him to help me escape this nightmare.

I strongly believe that when we surrender to God in prayer, he won’t neglect that cry for help. It IS the first step in any recovery process or escaping/letting go of sin. It says in the book of James,“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This was my seed of hope.

When I started listening to God’s truth again, a verse particularly struck me: Jesus said in Luke 12-

“Therefore I tell you, DO NOT WORRY about your life, what you will EAT; or about your BODY, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

This passage was telling me that all the things I’ve obsessed over are not healthy for me! It also goes on to talk about how valuable we are to God, just the way we are. It convicted and encouraged me to get back on track. I didn’t know how to start; But since the things of the world (and my own self) weren’t working toward my joy, I gave God some control.  Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. . .they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” I had to wait on God, and trust in his promises.

I hesitantly started talking to a counselor who helped me with my depression. This was a good step. At the end of my junior year, I was told by professional nutritionist that i had “disordered eating” behavior and thoughts. I also hesitantly began following her eating plan. This was unexplainably hard for me, because I was giving up control. I slipped up a lot. I still felt sick, and my anxiety and body image got worse. But my relationship with God got stronger because I was depending on him more and thanking him when I would have good days or make progress. I recognized that a chance to redeem my past was possible.

This fall (beginning of senior year), overwhelming and sometimes uncontrollable anxiety struck again: Constantly feeling uneasy about possible negative outcomes and feeling so afraid that I slip into panic attacks. I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” this recent December. I have been taking medication and seeing my old counselor since then. These are not things I ever wanted to have to do. But instead of feeling beat up and constantly insecure about it, I’ve pressed into scripture and prayer for comfort.

It’s not by controlling my circumstances, being affirmed by the world, or hiding that I’ve found peace. None of that satisfies and calms my heart for long enough. God tells me to take care of my body because it’s to be used for bringing him glory. So now, I fight my disordered thinking every day. I’ve learned how it looks to surrender in my times of panic and just let God’s truth calm me. I pray and remember these verses:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10

“joy fills hearts that are planning peace.” Proverbs 12:20

Fighting against the battle in my mind is still something I deal with daily. At times I feel so weak. But, I go to sleep every night remembering that I don’t have to fight alone, and that continual growth is happening and shaping me. The physical health I have gained back is also something I think about every day as a reminder that my prayers have been answered. I’ve been humbled and broken down so many times. I go through highs and lows, but it’s only when I give up and surrender that I can see clearly enough to grasp God’s loving truth.

I do my best to listen for God’s directions now, and I believe He communicates with me through the Holy Spirit often. I’ve experienced what separation from Him feels like. It can feel deceivingly good for a while, but I know that there’s nothing as filling as being close to Him. He fulfilled his promises and SAVED me from so much. His plans for me don’t include fear, insecurity, or bondage. My life is in His hands, and I can have peace because of that. I’ll follow Him for the rest of my life because He cares enough about me to save it.

(If anyone is struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, or feeling stuck; Feel free to talk to me any time! I love to help. 🙂