All Things are Possible

Today I spoke at Premiers Woman to Woman conference, on the theme of ‘with God all things are possible. This is a tricky subject for me, as I do believe God can do anything, I just don’t often feel that he is going to do much for me. This is what I said – longer than a usual blog post!

With God all things are possible – but this does not mean that everything that we ask for will happen.

In my experience faith is incredibly messy. How do you reconcile what you believe to be true but have very little (if any) tangible proof of, with the world we live in and the lives that we lead?

I live with depression and anxiety and have done for the past ten years. Three years ago, everything I had thought was safe and had worked towards crumbled around me during a nervous breakdown. I was signed off sick for 5 months. I prayed for healing daily. For peace, for comfort, for change. I sought out healing prayer and yet suicidal thoughts and an overwhelming blackness did not fade. Since then, my mental health has been consistently poor and God has not made me well. With a recent diagnosis of a hot pot of anxiety disorders, it seems that rather than making me well, God is letting me live with this.

But if faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain, what does it mean that I live with this illness, with no sign of it improving? Is my faith just simply not big enough for this God of the impossible? Do I have less faith than a mustard seed?

No.

God may not answer our prayers in the way we hope or even expect. Psalm 73 says ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’ Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 talks about the thorn in his flesh, but God said to him ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Paul goes so far as to delight in his weakness, hardships, insults and persecutions because ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’.

This can, on occasion be of great comfort. It is an encouragement to know that being weak is not wrong. Having weakness and being able to acknowledge it, in fact, gives God an opportunity to work through us.

Recently, however, I have been losing hope. It has been getting harder and harder to find that I have become happier with my life and relationships, and yet still ill – and in many ways worse health wise than previously. I find more and more that I don’t know where to turn. I am so so tired of fighting. The idea that every day is another opportunity to battle the constant barrage of thoughts that inform me of my every weakness both perceived and real, is often too overwhelming to contemplate and the TV – that always friendly source of absolutely brain free entertainment is an increasingly constant friend.

I am exhausted, fed up and drained of any anticipation that this I am going to be released from this illness anytime soon. Paul and his thorn can feel like cold comfort and the hope I have had in the past few years of improvement and change is becoming increasingly hard to access, however, the journey I am on is never lonely. I have biblical precedent for living in a state of misery and despair beyond what I can even imagine. The psalmist is the most eloquent depressive I know. He can summarise a desire to curl up and fade away better than anyone else. Elijah and Jonah both had a desire to die. Job was very justifiably fed up – to say the least. And yet all of these people lived in awe and praise of God. They questioned him, challenged him and sought out hope.

They believed in the God who could destroy an entire nation, who showed up in battles and played an active part, who answered them – spoke to them through the prophets and directly. God was their guide, and he had brought them out of slavery and into freedom. Having seen him perform the impossible, they all still had moments of despair. What they were waiting for was not happening, or wasn’t happening quickly enough. Or life had just simply got far too much and God did not seem to do anything about it. This, their God, the God of the impossible, was not fixing it for them. And yet this never changed the fact that they wholeheartedly believed that he was still the God of the impossible, he would always come through, but it would be in his way and in his time.

This offers us an opportunity to let go of the pressure of what we ‘should’ do in order to receive the possible. The thing the prophets all did, was recognise that God is a mystery – bigger than our comprehension, his ways are mysterious. Jesus free’d us from the ‘should’ and broke down the barriers between us and God, creating an impossible relationship where we have the freedom to speak with him.

Recognising that God can do all things, is about looking beyond my own immediate desire for a happier less depressed life. Towards the end of Job, God speaks – he talks of his might and power, and reading it, it is easy to understand why Job came back to him saying ‘I won’t question you, I shouldn’t question you, you are awesome and big and mighty and wow!’ God has already done things that are considered impossible. Yet, he never forgets us.

He has shown me a picture of his love for me which goes deeper than ‘being happy’. When I am in my blackest and darkest place I have found that even though I often can’t even hear the words of anyone around me, I can find a sense of peace that can only come from the knowledge that God is sitting in the darkness with me.

It is this companionship, that makes him so awesome to me. Beyond his mighty acts of creation and saving and all that – he has time to sit and be with me. He makes space within his complete and absolute knowledge of the universe to think about how much he loves me and to take the time to let me know. A lot of the time I don’t want to hear about hope and healing. I want to find peace where I am. I don’t want to hear that God can do anything because my reality is that he isn’t doing the one thing I really want him to do.

Except, what he does do – in taking that time to sit in the darkness with me, to catch each one of my tears – is the impossible. Our call is to accept this impossible relationship, to recognise that actually God may do the impossible for us – the healing we hope for, but he may do it for our neighbour and leave us be. We need to stand together, God the trinity is an example of community, and within our community we need to recognise the joy of those who have experienced the impossible, and the pain of those who are longing for change.

The unifying part of this is that we all come together to praise the God with whom all things are possible. And to recognise that like the prophets within our community there will be the contrast of the now and the not yet and all the hope and pain that comes with that. If we stand together we will be able to love each other through the highs of the parting of the red sea and the disappointments of being taken into exile. Knowing all the way that God is in love with us. Present with us. And that he is seeking the relationship that for many in the Old Testament was entirely impossible.

17 Comments

  • Thank you for your honest words. I am glad that you can believe/feel that God is there with you in the darkness. It is something I could not, despite years of crying out, prayer and study etc. For me it just wasn’t to be. In my doubt and fear it was dangerous, I felt such guilt not being able to ‘believe or trust enough’ to live with the biblical promises in the terrifying darkness and suicidal thoughts. Because of that guilt things just felt even worse. So I had to let go of the fight to believe in order to keep up the fight to stay alive. Over time my faith struggle has diminished and the desire to know a God or need to believe that He was there is all but gone. I struggle alone and somehow that is easier than when I struggled to ‘let God in’ to be here with me in the darkness.
    But I am glad that you have that comfort and hope.
    Kind wishes. I’ll stop rambling now! x

    • Dear Katharine
      You are a BEAUTIFUL ENCOURAGEMENT 🙂 what a refreshing speaker. I thought the conference was awesome! Every church needs to hear you speak about your illness. I just wanted to hug you afterwards but I didn’t get the opportunity! I was there with three other ladies, I noticed one of them, Kirsten has posted on here too 🙂
      You were designed by God for great things, he loves you so much. He did a beautiful job.
      We’re all on a journey and I’m hugely thankful that I personally have the Holy Spirit with me 24/7 on mine! I can emphasize somewhat with your darkness because I’ve had many a dark moment and seasons in my life but I’m happy to say that I’m in a good place right now and I’m receiving more of God’s love every day which enables me to share the overflow with my own husband and sons.
      I pray that you keep embracing your strength through the cross. I thought that you shone with Jesus’ love last Saturday in front of all us women. May God use you to fulfil his plan and purpose for his glory and to save more lives in this world and to reach heaven too!
      1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1)
      3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)
      God bless you richly daughter of the King!
      Love and blessings and prayers
      Vanessa xx

  • I’m so glad for this post…Depression bad at the moment…Watched Danielle Strickland’s talk today online at the conference and she said ‘All things are possible’. To which I thought…yes but it doesn’t feel like that at all when you have depression and can’t even cook yourself a meal. To have you post on the same topic…but with the lived experience of depression is so helpful. Sometimes when depression is bad I just wonder what we’re believing for, does God actually work, where is he, is not what we believe just a host of platitudes that mean nothing if you have a mental health condition…Anyway Thank you.

  • Thanks for posting this! I was hoping you would as I listened to you at the conference today, you were incredible and I will definitely share this with friends with similar struggles. From a young age, I was exposed to situations where God did not heal. My dad had Parkinsons disease between the age of 40 to 58 when he passed, it was a struggle yet I learned from him about Paul’s thorn in the fless, his favourite piece of scripture. He explained to us as children that God is looking after us eventhough he doesn’t heal him. I have never known anyone closer to God, he touched many lives. My brother have been struggling with depression for the last 22 year, yet God has given him many opportunities. Keep strong and God bless you,I will follow you blog from now on….

  • Hey Katherine, always good to receive your posts. I love that you say what’s in your heart. You make me smile. The fellowship of broken souls says hang in there girl; we love you and reach our hands to you, we will come through this together. He’s kind and loves the peculiar and contrary, which is cool for us! It’s time to kick some butt.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this Katharine. I was at the Premier conf yest and thought the word you brought was one of the most powerful, honest and challenging of the day. I too have suffered depression and anxiety since being a teenager (around 20 years) and have also been recently diagnosed with ME/Chronuc fatigue syndrome which I have had for the past 3 years. I am also a Christian who loves God passionately and believes Jesus died that we could be made whole in body, mind and spirit and walk in the fullness of our inheritance in Him. As you so eloquently described this is a tension that is not easy to live in and hard for Christians and non-Christians alike who don’t suffer from mental health issues to understand. I do believe the way forward is to talk about these issues in an open and honest way as you did yesterday and in doing so have provided tremendous encouragement and inspiration to myself and no doubt countless others to do the same. Thank you so much and may God bless and strengthen you as you continue to serve Him.

  • Such truth in this post. Even in the pit, we can still look up and say, ‘You are my God.’ I love the picture of God in the darkness with us, like that cliched Footprints poster. Thank you – praying for you.

  • Hi Katharine

    I attended the conference yesterday and I have to say I found your message inspiring but also it broke my heart.

    Having lived with a Bipolar for 15 years, I believe, in all the despair, sadness and loss God has created us all for a reason and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

    Until 2012 when I had a severe mental breakdown I had been in denial that this is the portion for my life, I endeavoured to do all I could, not to have another breakdown but sadly in March 2014 I did.

    I however refuse to believe that even though I accept the fact I have bipolar, I believe it does not define WHO I am in Christ.

    We must indeed be the light in the darkness of depression, that is roaming around our world seeking to kill and destroy and as we know mental illness has no respect for who it will ravage, but for the Grace of God go any of us.

    So I will pray for you as I believe this is not WHO you are it’s WHAT you have and greater is He that is within us than is in the world.

    We need to change the worlds view and your mission on earth is clearly to do this, I believe it is mine too.

    Well done for your faithfulness and bravery, I saw that speaking yesterday was not easy, that you were in a difficult place, but as we know “Yet I will praise Him”.

    I may not understand why I have this affliction of Bipolar but God does know and He has never made any mistakes.

    Continue to trust in Him.
    God bless you wonderful sister in Christ.

    x Michelle x

  • I can resonate with all you say, it’s been three years since I was in the darkest place and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And still have to struggle with life each day. But I trust the God of mystery, and can find peace in knowing he sits and crys with me in those darkest moments. Your not on your own when you wonder why God has not chosen to heal you, but then I realise…. By not healing me it allows him to walk with me and in my weakness he is strong. #noregrets

  • This post annoys me because you are so convinced that God exists that you make yourself suffer even more by thinking that somehow you aren’t worthy. STOP PUNISHING YOURSELF. I live with many quite serious mental health issues. The best thing that I did was to stop worrying whether God exists or not and whether he was abandoning me or anything. The moment you let go of whether God has anything to do with your illness and whether He will heal you or not, is the moment you will begin to feel better. I bet you have looked up at God and said why me? Many people with or without God can live a decent life with mental illness. Thus I conclude that your illness has absolutely nothing to do with God and is all about what life throws at you. WAKE UP to that truth and you will be able to seek the help and support that you need to find a better place in your mind.

    • Thanks for your reply. I am awake, I know God has nothing to do with my illness, I know that I am worthy and God certainly doesnt make me feel unworthy! I have plenty of medical support as I am well aware that my illness is no more than that – an illness. One thing I dont do is say ‘why me’ – I know this is not God inflicted. Please don’t make conclusions about my state of mind, it doesn’t help. I am sorry that this post upset you though. I write because I don’t believe my mental illness is anything more than chemical imbalance, but often teaching can leave people believing it is themselves to blame. There are no easy ways of living with a mental illness, but I believe that sharing our experiences can help each other. So that is what I set out to do.

  • Katharine thank you so much for speaking at the Women to Women Conference! For being so honest and brave to admit your place of Depression.
    I dont know if you have heard of a book called ” Sarah ” by Sarah Shaw.
    Its about a girl who was suicidal due to such a damaged human spirit caused by an abusive childhood.
    Your background will not be the same, of course, but Sarah’s Psychiatrist had given up hope of helping her anymore,
    She was referred to Ellel Pierrepont, and after a few years of Christian Healing Prayer Ministry, she was completed and totally healed.
    Do read the book.
    God is in control, and as you said in your blog, not everyone is healed, but I would love for you to visit Pierrepont for some Ministry. It is a wonderful place.
    I myself had a history of anger and depression, but spending a year at Pierrepont, Jesus healed me through Deliverance Ministry.
    The book is such a wonderful testimony showing that the human spirit can be so resilient and triumphant !
    But of course God has ultimate control !
    Please give Ellel Pierrepont a chance !
    Thanks again soooo much for sharing !
    I love your job working for Livability in the Community ! I am a retired Nurse from St Thomas Hospital and i do understand about Mental Health issues.
    All the Best, Blessings from
    Stephanie Skold

  • Keep on going and doing what you do! It is helping, it is an all round posative thing you do. Keep sharing please! I thought I was on a solo journey, sailing this ship of affliction on my own. It’s good to look around, out on the distant horizon and see others here too. To see how battered and damaged some of my fellow travellers are is an inspiration, as this affliction bares no outward visible signs, I can tell you after thirty five years of my own voyage so far, I’m pretty beat up to the point of utter exhaustion.
    What keeps me going is not of this world, it is simply The Lord Jesus Christ. He Points my bow to the oncoming waves, I cannot do this on my own, if I tried I would without doubt capsize. He is my compass who I stay fixed on.
    It gets very dark and very lonely, I thank The Lord my God for those who share this seemingly never ending voyage.
    May we be close to The Lord our God always, and be as filled with The Holy Spirit as we possibly can be. Christ is in you Katharine….never lose sight of that.
    Gary

  • It’s a long road ahead of you, this one. You’ll learn by experience that there will be good things in this. One day God will show you that this was all for the best and that all this pain was necessary (I speak from experience). But at the moment … load shed. Learn a relaxation technique. Don’t take anything on. Treat yourself kindly. And … God is with you. Your feelings will be all over the place. You probably won’t be able to go to church. But He is with you.

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