"He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength...But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." -- Isaiah 40:29 & 31 . . . . . .
I know I have gotten stronger in this season--physically, mentally, and spiritually. For me, these three components really intertwine. If I feel good physically, it has a ripple effect through the other areas of my life and I become more positive. I've struggled with self-image my whole adult life (so far), so feeling good physically has helped to improve my mental state.
Many Christian friends of mine have tried to pour the "typical Christian" wisdom into me--all that matters is what God sees; you are made in His image; He calls you beautiful. The problem is when my depressive symptoms present, I don't hear that. Instead, I hear all the negatives. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. I knew I needed to do something about that negative voice, so I started a different exercise regimen. Not only has it helped me to manage my anxiety and depressive symptoms, but it's also encouraged me. Because here's how I see it: if God calls me loved and beautiful, then I deserve to make myself feel the way He sees me.
Really, what it has done is make me stronger.
I know I'm stronger physically because I can run faster and for longer and have a shorter recovery time. I can lift heavy things--like cat litter and my 45-pound dog--and it feels easier than it was even six months ago. I don't have as much knee pain as I used to, even though that is an issue that will probably never go away.
I know I'm stronger mentally because I'm not crying the minute my mind because spinning. I can take a step back and be a little more objective. Don't get me wrong--I still have days where I just want to cry, and on those days I allow myself the release. Once I do, I can walk away from those feelings, confident they were dealt with. I still overanalyze and play things on repeat--because that's what anxiety does--but I'm getting better at stopping the cycle. I made friends, and I make plans with them, neither of which I had dreamt I could do a year go.
I know I'm stronger spiritually because I am more patient. I have constant silent prayer to God, sometimes just whispering "Jesus." I go to church every Sunday and worship with my whole heart, something I didn't think I could do a year ago. I write down my favorite Bible verses. When something starts going in my head, my first line of defense is to look up a related verse.
I'm far from perfect, though. I sometimes cheat on the nutrition in the exercise program, but I'm better about not beating myself up for it. I do still have negative self talk, but I'm better at combating it. I sometimes let my daily life get in the way and forget to seek out time with the Lord or put Him first like I should. But I know I'm not where I was.
. . . . . .
I know I've written on strength before, and I probably will again. Gaining strength is a part of the growing process, and it's continuous. We don't just stop finding or gaining strength--everything we encounter helps us dig a little deeper and be a little stronger. When we are weak, when we think we cannot possibly go on, that is when God gives us strength. My storm is far from over, but I am, so far, proud of the person I have become. I feel like I am getting back parts of me that I lost, and that takes strength every day.
Just like picking up new and heavier weights is hard, picking up pieces of yourself is tough. You have to decide how the pieces fit back together. You have to decide if you will include everything or only some things. You have to decide who you are and who you want to--and are meant to--be. You have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and be satisfied with who you are. Are you?