The past two weeks were rough ones for me, physically, mentally and emotionally. I was plagued with thoughts that I constantly had to rebuke and accusations that I always had to negate. Taking every thought captive was a moment-by-moment action, constantly. I do not remember struggling like this since I was a teenager. My very identity and self-esteem were doubted and in question. My mind was bombarded with an onslaught of poisonous thoughts and lies from the enemy. I began to hate myself, and starting believing that everyone else did too. Lies were whispered into my mind on a regular basis, day in and day out, and I fought for control of my very thoughts and emotions.
Eight months ago, I married the most incredible, loving, faithful, patient, honest, forgiving, compassionate, gentle, and encouraging man I know. His constant love has empowered me and has challenged me to be the very best I can be. All of the insecurities and self-doubts that I once had have been replaced by his unfailing love and his unshakable acceptance. He portrays God’s heart towards me so well. I have never been so self-assured, confident, and free – until last week when everything came to a screeching halt.
All of a sudden, I became so critical of myself, judging myself and reprimanding myself for everything I deemed a shortcoming. In every small thing, little voices in my mind began blaming me, telling me that I was a complete failure. They tried to convince me that I was stupid, useless, lazy, and a screw-up. Then, they became downright brutal. I started having dreams at night while I slept, that my husband was having an affair. I would wake up from the explicit dreams confused and frustrated. The little voices would haunt me, telling me to confront my husband and get the truth. “Make him deny it to your face. You deserve the truth!” It began rationalizing with me that when he was out on the job for twelve or fourteen hours a day, he was unaccounted for. He works alone as a crew of one, and therefore, has no partner as accountability. What if he got his job done in only eight hours – what was he doing for those remaining hours? Countless times a day, these dreams and questions battled in my head. I refused to confront him because I trust him and knew that I did not have to ask. But the suspicions got worse.
On top of that, the little voices began telling me that because of my short-comings, I was a burden to Brian and that he regretted marrying me. “Any other wife would have washed his laundry long before he ran out of clean socks. He deserves better. If he had married a real woman, she would have dinner on the table when he gets home. What he deserves is a stunning, sexy woman – but you? You are a disgrace. Don’t you see how fat you’ve become? You’re deplorable. No man in his right mind would find you alluring. Brian sure doesn’t. See? It’s because of this that he regrets marrying you every day. Of course he wouldn’t say it, but he is always thinking it. His life would have been so much more fulfilling if you hadn’t weaseled your way into it. He would be better off without you. He’s just biding his time, you’ll see. Sooner or later you’ll see how he really feels about you. He deserves more than a screw-up.” I felt fat so I walked a couple miles. Because I exercised, dinner was only 96% ready when he came on. Shame overcame me. “You can’t do anything right. The least you could do for him is have his hot meal ready when he walks in the door!” I defended myself: “But I’m fat right? I don’t want to be so I walked a few miles which took up time; I started cooking the instant I got back.” My defense fell on deaf ears and the accusations continued, undaunted. I just could not win. Constantly, it nagged me with these thoughts, and pestered me to ask him outright if he regretted saying his vows, but I refused to partner with the untruths. They, too, got worse. I began believing I was fat. Yes, cold winters indoors does add a few pounds to everyone, but I began seeing myself as a blimp. Self-conscious and insecure, I became afraid of my husband judging my body. The voices whispered that he no longer found me attractive and that “we all know what happens when husbands are no longer interested in their wives.” Again, the dreams and questions of infidelity haunted me and I began withdrawing. My “faults” were put under a magnifying glass and I saw everything I “failed” at as a mountain instead of the tiny mole hill it really was. I began to hate myself and thought my husband did too.
In my mind, I began to alienate him. I thought he judged me all the time, and was angry with me. Everything I did, I thought was a disappointment to him and was a “strike” against me. Shame and worthlessness tried to take root. Then on Friday night, Brian and I had a discussion about finances and discovered that we had to spend another thousand dollars on the truck. I hate that truck and see it as a money-sucking machine that is draining our bank accounts. We finally paid off our debts two weeks ago, and now this. I was mad. When I get frustrated, my coping mechanism is to cry. For all my life, I have hated this form of emotional release because I feel like a cry-baby. But I have slowly learned that crying when I am overwhelmingly angry or frustrated is okay – it is better than punching holes in the walls, screaming in my husband’s face, or kicking the dog, right? Instead of acting out, I just resign and go cry quietly by myself. After five to ten minutes, I’m back to my old self. But as I sat there, thinking about that thousand dollars that was supposed to go into savings but was instead being put into the truck again, my frustration boiled over and a few silent tears escaped. “Why do I even try to save money? What’s the point of grocery shopping when there are sales, when the truck just eats up all of our heard-earned savings?” *the little voice interjected* “You are pathetic. You are so useless. If you would just stop trying to chase your dream of becoming a professional blogger and writer and just get a real job, you’d have money. Stop being such a whiny baby. See, this is why Brian regrets marrying you. Any other girl would have gotten a real job instead of playing ‘writer.’ You are so useless. Do you have any idea what a burden you are to your husband? He deserves so much better. Look at you, a sniveling mess. He is so over you. This is why he goes looking for other women – women who are not weeping babies.” The more the accusations bombarded me, the more I cried. The more I cried, the more shame, insecurity and fear swirled in. Maybe that little voice was right. I was just a weak little crybaby. And Brian? Yes, yes, he does deserve so much more.
Saturday night, I knew something wasn’t right. I had refuted and negated those voices for so long and it did not seem to be making a difference. I needed to try a different angle. Brian and I crawled into bed, and after a while, I finally asked him to listen to me, and pray with/for me. I was still burdened with shame, and felt stupid, but I knew in my heart that he needed to know about my struggle. He is my husband. We are a team. We get through things together. And obviously, this was not something I could overcome on my own. I needed my husband to partner with me on this and shut those voices up. I began telling him what was plaguing me, how I thought he truly felt about me, and why I felt worthless. Yes, I cried, and yes, I felt ashamed, but I pushed through it because it was what needed to be done.
He simply stared at me and said, “Wow, you are really being attacked. Those are all lies and the enemy is coming after you full-force. We need to pray about this.” He pulled me tight and kissed me. “For the record,” he squeezed me, “none of that is true! I have not once, even for a second regretted marrying you. I have never, ever, found you unattractive – you could not be sexier to me, and I will never stop loving your body. I do not care if dinner is not completely done when I get home – heck, if you’ve had a long day and haven’t even started it when I walk in the door, I’ll step in and make it myself while you recover. It takes a lot to get on my nerves, you know that. You also know that you may come cry on me anytime you need to, and I don’t mind that you cry. I love you more than anything, and you are the best wife, friend, and housekeeper I could ask for. You do such a wonderful job making a home for me, and I appreciate you. Do not ever think that I don’t.”
I was so overcome by relief, peace, acceptance, and love that I cried again, this time from gratitude. He cuddled and prayed for me until we both fell asleep. I slept so well that night, and realized for the first time, that I did not wake up with a headache the next morning. In fact, I didn’t have a single headache that entire day. When I told Brian, he simply said that my mind was finally at peace. He explained that our minds are spiritual battlegrounds and that the enemy was fighting for my thoughts during the day, which explained the chaos. But our minds do not sleep at night, which is why we dream, and neither do our spirits sleep. The same bombarding of my mind that occurred during the day, was also happening during the night, which was why, despite getting eight hours of sleep, I woke up with headaches and still felt like crap. He reminded me that we war not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities. Our bodies are aware of the constant spiritual rifts and sometimes they manifest in physical pain, like headaches and exhaustion.
My lesson learned
Yesterday morning at church, our pastor mentioned that he had never felt so “raw and torn apart from the inside out” than he had that past week. Brian and I exchanged subtle glances. Pastor Urie explained that he believes God’s people are under attack, especially in this season. I am sure we have all heard about the witches trying to cast spells on President Trump, on his followers, and on Christians in general, and Pastor Urie believes that what he (and I) were feeling in the spirit, and physically, are connected to the spiritual battle that is happening all around us. Then, my father-in-law stood up and shared about how women in the body of Christ need to rise up and be empowered. (Our congregation in Holmes County, Ohio is predominately ex-Amish members so many of the women coming from Amish backgrounds do not believe they have voices. They may hear from God, but it is not their place, as a woman, to share it.) My father-in-law explained that God is neither male nor female, but does in fact, possess characteristics of both. Here on Earth, people are made male and female, in God’s image. Both men and women, different though they are, are made in the likeness of their Creator. Men tend to relate better to God’s strong, passionate side while women relate more to God’s grace, and gentle side. In turn, because this is how we receive love from the Father, this is how we portray Him. Jonathan explained that this is why the Church needs women to be involved. When men lead the service and do all the ministering, the congregation is missing out on the part of God that women best relate too. Together, men and women create the full essence of God. But when it is only men functioning in the Church, the nurturing, tender-loving part of God is often unseen.
It is time for women to start being the hands and feet of God, too. We need to help co-lead the body of Christ so that His entire character is fully displayed through all of us serving together. It is time for the women of God to step up and pray for others, and speak the words that God has given to them. Women, we cannot sit back and watch the men do all the work, we need to co-labor with them so that the body can receive everything from Christ.
As Jonathan began praying for God to raise up spiritual women, I suddenly felt like what I had been experiencing the past two weeks was because the enemy is targeting women and their identity. If he can not only distract us women from what God is doing in and around us, but he can steal our identity and self-esteem, then he has us right where he wants us. He wants us to feel weak, worthless, and ashamed because if we feel that way, then we will not step into the things God has for us. If the enemy can get us to believe that we are useless and worthless, then we will not minister to the body or share the things of God. We cannot let the enemy deceive us. We must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Through Him, we are more than conquerors!
I do not know if I am the only woman who has been struggling with this, but if I am not, I hope that this has encouraged you. The Bible encourages us to be aware of the enemy’s schemes and tactics – and in this instance, we are. Know where he is attacking, and be ready to combat him. Keep fighting. Do not give in or give up and let the enemy overwhelm you with his lies. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Talk to someone; your husband, another woman, your pastor, and pray with someone for the voices to stop. He is trying to cause division so that we feel alone (which is why he was trying to drive a wedge between me and my husband.) You are not a failure, you are not worthless, you are not unimportant, and there is no reason to feel ashamed. You are a treasure and you are dearly loved. C’mon, women of God – in this season God is rising up Esthers and Deborahs. These women were fierce and courageous in their faith. They knew their identities and they had favor with their kings. It is time for us to hear the word of the Lord and not be afraid to speak it forth with honor and in love.