By Nathan Achterhof
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”
These are the words often said on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church season of Lent. It is the season leading up to Easter. And with these words we are encouraged not to embrace a sort of fatalism and futility but to reflect on our lives, what is good, what is troublesome and what we need to turn over to God.
But as I sat in the Ash Wednesday a few weeks ago I could feel my anxiety levels rising. As someone who has depression and some anxiety, the questions of “what do you need to fix in your life?” and “where do you need to draw closer to God?” aren’t always easy to answer. I can do self-reflection, I can do self-critique, but sometimes in my experience with depression it’s hard to see the line; the line between healthy reflection and being overly self-critical. When ideas like I should have a more consistent devotional time, can morph into how awful a person I must be for not being better at devotions.
Often times I may feel the pressure to make change and then respond with great promises and plans, “I will spend hours every day in devotional time!” or “I will have a strict schedule of how I use my time from now on!” But often those fall flat and I can feel even worse. Again, I’m not against self-reflection or bettering myself, but sometimes for someone in my emotional state the church season of Lent is kind of a minefield.
But as I sat in anxiety and the ashes were rubbed on my forehead, and later in my classes I thought of about that anxious feeling. I was able to find a few kernels of hope. Lent prepares us for the whirlwind week of emotions is Holy Week or Passion Week.
Jesus and his disciples and friends go from on top of the world, to joyful and thoughtful at a supper, to anxious in a garden, to hurting and despairing on the cross, and confused the days after. All to be culminated in the beautiful crazy victory of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. And the beautiful thing, is that He gets it! Jesus went through all the emotional ups and downs of life and all of its uncertainties. Anxiety, uncertainty, depression, He gets it and he went through them to get to the beautiful restoration of life that was the resurrection.
I don’t expect my anxiety will suddenly disappear this Lenten season, but as I ponder what I must improve and what I could do better I know Jesus understands and relates to the struggle. And that though I may feel out of my depth God is continuing to shape me into something beautiful.