Milk and Honey Magazine discussed how even missionary life can lead to hardship. Rest in Jesus and He will make your path straight (and ease your heart!)

You Are Not Weak

Kate Alderks

You know how seeing a picture can bring back memories?

I saw a photo recently that reminded me of a time in my life where I felt my lowest. It was a photo of myself and a few friends the day after I had a major anxiety attack. At the time the photo was taken, I had been living in Southeast Asia for almost 4 years as a missionary. I was involved in wonderful ministries, had amazingly encouraging friends, food to eat, a place to live, etc. Life was good. From the outside.

Inside, I was a mess. It seemed that discouragement, disappointment, and despair were pressing in from all sides. I no longer felt passionate about the work I was doing. I doubted myself all the time. If I returned to the US, it would mean that I had failed. 

But... I held on to the fact that God had not released me from the country and people I was ministering to. And, even though I couldn’t see it, I knew that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There just had to be, or everything I believed in and based my life’s vocation on was false. I knew that God had not brought me that far to abandon me.

As I trusted the Lord and hoped in His faithfulness to keep me while I stayed obedient to Him, He began to reveal to me the areas of my life that needed His healing. Seeing these things come to the surface and “owning” them as a part myself that need to be changed was difficult, but necessary.

In my efforts to be the “perfect" missionary, I also had some health issues that were exacerbated by the mental and emotional turmoil I was in. My physical state reflected the condition of my heart. I had let the busyness of doing good things replace my active relationship with God. I had let my need to please others come before my own physical health and mental and emotional well-being.

In my healing process, I needed time to sit with God. And practically, I realized had to slow down. I learned there’s nothing wrong with saying, “No.” There’s nothing wrong with taking time to recharge and be alone. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on doing something you enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you need help. You are not weak.

I had to determine to believe that statement and not a lie. I actively had to avoid making lies my mental and emotional home. Instead, I had to stand on God’s word and His past faithfulness to me.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, 
and the flame shall not consume you...
Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you...
Remember not the former things,
not consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43

In my journey, I had to find my ultimate identity in Christ. I had to discover what boundaries look like in ministry and in life. I had to see myself as a child of God, in whom He delights, and He made to enjoy Him and the world He created.

A year after this photo was taken I finally gave myself permission to throw off the pressure of being “perfect.” I started taking care of myself. When I needed rest, I took a nap. When I was emotionally spent, I found a quiet cafe where I could read my Bible. When I was mentally exhausted, I got a massage. When I was spiritually dry, I listened to friends share their experiences with God and was encouraged.

And guess what? I got better. In every way. I still struggle with anxiety. I still struggle with boundaries. I still fight the pressure to always be put together. But those things no longer hold power over me like they once did. 

“I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.” 

Song of Songs 2:16

Even though that season of life was not easy, and that picture brought back memories of feeling inadequate and alone, I treasure the lessons I learned during that time. With God’s help, I am a stronger (read: more dependent on Him) person. 

You may identify with my experience, but maybe you’re not on the other side yet. Slow down. Care for yourself. Take time to be whole. I can’t promise you that it will be easy, but I can promise you that it will get better. We have a great Father who loves and cares for us. He longs for you to be whole.

“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the [sunless] [a]valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with [b]oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.” Psalm 23

Left: Kate pictured 3 years ago experiencing extreme anxiety
Right: Kate today feeling healthy, whole, and filled with Christ's peace