“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.  But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” -unknown

True strength is something I think we all overlook.   We do not realize how much strength we have until after we have gone through the difficult times and look back on how we made it through. For me, giving up was the easiest way out, but ironically it was the hardest thing I had to deal with and overcome.  I want to share with you something that is very personal to me.  There were times I  gave up, attempted to take the easy way out, and showed a lack of true strength.

Throughout my life, I have dealt with very low self esteem, and I hated who I was in every aspect.  Learning always seemed like a much bigger challenge for me than for others, and I was often picked on in school for many reasons.  I eventually found myself in a very abusive and controlling relationship.  After a while, it became just too much and I wanted to give up.

During my adolescent years, I became suicidal. Life was too hard and I thought I, like many others, did not have the strength to overcome the difficulties which weighed so heavily.  I tried everything I could to get out of my so-called misery. You name it, I did it.  The suicide attempts went on for years.  I kept this secret deep inside, hidden from everyone who knew me. During my abusive relationship, I was reassured that I was worthless and that if I died, no one would care.  In high school, I recall one time being at home sick, and my mom received phone calls from fellow classmates trying to harass me while I was down. Life just never seemed to get easier.

Many kids like me have dealt with abuse and bullying.  For many, suicide provides a temptation as the easy way out. Those who go through with it never see their full potential fulfilled in life.  The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” could not be more untrue.  Words hurt more than we want to admit.  Bullying has become so wide-spread, becoming the norm for many teenagers. Our culture often turns our eyes away and pretends it doesn’t exist. For those victims who turn to suicide to escape bullying or other hardships, their lives remain unfinished. We will never know who they who they were supposed to become.  Who knows if they could have changed the world.  Because of the lack of strength and a healthy love for themselves, we will never get to witness what that life could have been. Suicidal thoughts and attempts don’t qualify an individual as crazy, but demonstrate the inability to handle life circumstances and a lack of knowledge of how to channel the stress of the situation in a constructive way. Unfortunately, they need to find their true strength deep inside in order to be able to rise above it.

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” – Jeremiah 29:11

I, too, could have been just another number on that list.  As I look back on my life today, I realize that God had more in store for me.  I always wondered why I was not able to give up the way I had wanted to. I attempted to end my life in numerous ways, but it was not the plan God had for me. God had a specific purpose for my life that I did not know or understand at the time.  I started to grasp the notion that He kept me alive for a reason. I removed myself from the abusive, 4-year relationship and decided that I was worth more than he made me feel.  I also focused on what was important in life – God number one and learning how to love myself in a healthy way number two.  I went through many years of counsel in order to rid myself of negative thoughts I had developed of myself from years of toxic relationships.  Even though I had given up on myself all those years, God did not not.

When I was diagnosed with both a thyroid disease and heart and adrenal condition in 2006 and 2008, respectively, I came to the point again of giving up on life, both  emotionally and physically.  I gave in and allowed my disease to win for a time. Over the next few years, my life ground to a halt, as I stayed angry and bitter with the world. Not being able to work or have a normal life, I wanted to do nothing but sulk and give up because it was easier than fighting to live.  I became very depressed, lost my friends, and came close to losing my marriage due to the physical change I was experiencing. It was just too much for us to handle all at once. All the while, I treated myself and others horribly out of anger because of what my life had turned into.  I gave up because it was easier.  I had thoughts during this time of wondering why I had not been successful during my attempts to end my life.  I certainly wasn’t living. I would have rather been dead than live this life.

It was not until Sunday, September 21, 2008, that I became truly aware of why God kept me alive all those times.   During a powerful testimony at church, I saw a glimpse of why my life mattered, why I was alive, what I was supposed to do with my life, and why I went through hard times, including being diagnosed with POTS disease.   God was not done with me.  He shook me that morning and broke me in a way that I have never been broken before.  He miraculously changed my life, removing ALL the bitterness and anger that I had been harboring all those years.  I finally accepted my disease, as well as the changes in day-to-day life.  I have been a Christian since the age of 11, but until that morning, I had never experienced the relationship with Him that I have now.  He helped me discover my true strength and gave me a new life and the ability to seek out my “new normal”.  That morning, he started to heal my marriage and transform it into a healthier, loving, more understanding, and supportive marriage that was needed for our long road ahead.

It takes true strength to make it through each day. I’ve found that this strength can’t just come from me, but from Him. The subject of  this blog is deep, personal, and may be a little uncomfortable to read.  Some may be wondering why I shared this story.  I cannot change my story to fit in the mold of what others think it should be.  I was given the life I have for a reason.  I may never truly know the effect my experiences can have on someone else going through hard times, but I have to be honest and not ashamed of my story, for it is mine and unique from anyone else.

While I was on one of my mission trips to Africa, I shared part of this testimony with a classroom full of students, as well as in a church service. In the middle of talking, I was rudely interrupted by a few of the guys who were in my youth group.  In front of everyone, they demanded that I stop immediately and told me not share anymore.  “This is too inappropriate for you to talk about.”  They felt that it was unsuitable to share experiences that were different from the “growing up in church” testimony.  It both crushed and humiliated me in front of everyone.  In that moment, I  gave up and ceased telling my story.

After my testimony was abruptly cut short and we were wrapping up to leave for the day, God confirmed that my story matters and others who are dealing with similar struggles can find hope through it. I was swarmed by numerous African people from the church and school, many of whom had been moved to tears. They graciously thanked me for sharing my story.  In their mindset, being American meant we all live easy lives and do not face the same struggles as they do.  I was touched hearing from each and every one of them that  my story was just what they needed to hear. Many shared how they were suicidal.  Living with the struggles they live with every day, they did not know any other way out.  My story gave them the ability to see that there hope in the midst of a storm. This provided another confirmation as to why my past attempts had not been successful.  God offered another plan for my life instead.

None of us knows what the person next to us is going through.  They may be contemplating giving up or struggling to find their true strength.  You never know whose life you can touch by sharing YOUR story of hardships and how you overcame them.

I hope that this blog helps you reflect on all the times you wanted to give up or did give up in the midst of hardships.  It is during those times that our true strength is tested. We can choose to overcome the hard times with that strength or choose to be defeated.  Never be scared to share how you found your true strength in times of darkness.  It can make a world of difference one life at a time.