When You Feel Like Joy is Out of Reach

Tiffany Ogden, Ohio University

I vividly remember the exact moment I realized I hated my body. I was on the beach with my family, and I didn’t feel comfortable in a swimsuit. I was nine. As I got older, my contempt for myself continued to grow. I felt so empty.

I used to hate everything about me: my personality, my performance, my appearance.

I grew up going to church. I heard stories about God and thought I had an idea of who He is. I thought as long as I was a pretty good person and tried to do what is right, God would love me.

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In eighth grade, I began channeling my dislike for myself by cutting. I had suicidal thoughts and wondered what the world would be like if I wasn’t a part of it anymore. I went to school with a smile on my face and interacted with my friends, constantly functioning in a state of false happiness.

In college, my struggles were amplified. I fell into the temptation of drinking, drugs and impurity. I searched for fulfillment and found temporary satisfaction in these things.

When the satisfaction wore off, I would be left feeling empty all over again. That didn’t stop me from trying to please the people around me.

I thought if I joined in what they were doing they would accept me. Maybe they would care. Maybe I would be loved. Maybe I would be enough.

My doubts about my worthiness affected all of the relationships in my life. Although I wanted to be cared for by others, I thought if I let them in I wouldn’t be enough for them. I thought God hated me. I was convinced He was angry with me for all the ways I was disobeying Him.

By my junior year, I thought life was starting to come together. I was in a great relationship, I had a loyal best friend and my career path was set in place. I constructed a mask that resembled happiness. 

As the year progressed, my friendship began to disintegrate because of my neglect of it and my anxiety. My job security that I had so carefully planned out fell through. My once-ideal relationship had gone from one extreme to the complete opposite. I was so damaged and drained that I believed I was no longer capable of loving others.

I stopped even pretending to be happy.

My heart was hardened. I shut myself off from God and the world.

I grew up thinking I had to be a certain way or get to a certain point for someone to love me. At the beginning of my senior year at a retreat for Cru, I learned God loves me exactly the way I am.

He loves me in the midst of my brokenness, my anxiety, my imperfection. I was shocked at this news. I was broken down to a place I had nowhere left to turn but to God.

“But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans

God doesn’t get angry with us. He loves us even when we feel we are doing wrong. That’s when I felt it for the first time in my life: pure JOY.

Not only does He love me, but He wants to know me and have a relationship with me. I am not perfect. I never will be, and that’s okay because God IS. 

God continued to pursue me and cling on to me even when I wasn’t clinging to Him or even looking for Him. I no longer need to fake happiness; the happiness that I feel is REAL.

I still face struggles all the time, but I know in my heart that my God loves me now and will forever, and nothing I do will change that. I used to feel ashamed by my struggles. I felt that because of them, I wasn’t good enough. Now I am reminded that my trials make Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that much more beautiful.


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