Truth Is (Natalie Thompson)

The bulk of this post is a summary of the testimony of God's healing
power in my life. I decided to write it out and share it with others
because I felt God prompting me to do so and because, in my
experience, so many of us carry the weight of our trials and sorrows
alone, feeling that no one else has suffered in this same manner, or
that we need to be ashamed of our condition. I have had a few
opportunities to open up to people and share a bit about my previous
struggles with my health and how it produced and combined with
depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and emotional eating (basically
an emotional addiction to food). I remember one of the first times I
stepped out shakily to share part of this story (while I was still in
the middle of some of it) with a woman at my church and how astonished
she was to find out that I-the pastor's daughter, I-the music director
and worship leader, I-raised in a healthy Christian home, I-the
seemingly happy and successful young woman, would ever have dealt with
these sorts of problems. That's just the problem... we often feel
alone in our struggles because we never let anyone see that we
struggle and no one ever lets us see that they are struggling. So we
all continue to struggle on alone afraid to take our masks off and let
others see what lies beneath. While it isn't wise to just "put it all
out there" or describe in sordid detail our every failure, doubt, sin,
etc. in every venue or circumstance and there are some personal
struggles that may be better discussed with a mentor or accountability
partner, there are most definitely appropriate avenues to allow
ourselves to lose the mask and simply be real... stop pretending we
have it all together, stop painting a beautiful existence over our
broken lives, stop posting mountaintop statuses while we're lost in
the valley. There is something wonderfully strengthening in hearing
someone else's testimony about how they've passed safely through the
storm you are currently in. So here it is... truth is... life hasn't
always been exactly what it may have appeared to be from the outside
looking in. God bless.



I was nineteen and I had just ended my freshman year of college. I had
begun to notice odd physical changes a couple months before but wasn't
alarmed, then the changes started inside.  Sure, each of us grows up
and has to face her own demons, has to yank the skeletons out of her
closet and bury them once and for all, but it wasn't just that normal
process.

I had grown up for the most part as a happy and contented child and
even through the rougher waters of being a teenager, I always came
back to a grounded center, a foundation of physical and emotional
well-being nurtured by my wise, caring, and sensitive parents. I
didn't battle some of the emotional and mental plagues that seemed to
haunt some other teens. My health had been fairly strong as well. But
toward the end of my freshman year of college things began to shift.
Slowly, subtly, things began to change: fluctuations in my weight and
appetite, changes in hair growth, and other physical symptoms began to
surface. Then came the internal symptoms, the kind no one can see.
These can't be measured on lab reports or exposed by testing and
imaging. These were the worst symptoms.

Being a happy and contented young adult, I was completely blindsided
by the sudden onslaught of emotional upheaval I was experiencing.
Certainly, as I mentioned before, some of this upheaval was enhanced
by the simple processes of growing up and dealing with past mistakes
and failures or facing doubts, fears, and questions that were
surfacing, but beyond these normal bumps in the road the pavement
didn't resume its normal smooth surface... larger potholes and rougher
patches loomed ahead. Finally, a month or so into my summer break,
after talking things over with my mom, we set up an appointment with
our dermatologist to discuss some of the symptoms I had been
experiencing. After examining my case and discussing my situation, he
immediately referred me to an endocrinologist to look further into my
case. A couple of consults and a few lab tests later, I had been
diagnosed with two auto-immune diseases, Hashimoto's disease and poly
cystic ovarian syndrome. Neither can be managed by medication (in the
case of Hashimoto's which attacks one's thyroid, synthetic thyroxin
may be prescribed after reaching a certain point of deterioration) and
both affect nearly every other system in your body because they mainly
impact the balance of the hormones in your body. These same chemicals
manage all your other systems and greatly impact your emotional and
mental states.

The following year was one of the worst in my entire life. I went back
to Indiana Bible College where I began my sophomore year of study as a
music major and Biblical studies minor. Most days throughout that year
I struggled to keep it together in public, trying to make it to
classes and through my shift at work without breaking into tears.
Somehow I was successful at not having a breakdown in class or at
work; this success was mostly due to God's grace and His beautiful
merciful acts of kindness in speaking to me through as many mediums as
He could to let me know He was there, second to God's great help (and
indeed one of His favorite ways to speak to me throughout my life) was
my dear mother. She was so kind, loving, patient, and above all she
gave me complete understanding. I would call her multiple times a day
and even at odd hours of the night, in tears and fully convinced I'd
finally gone completely mad. Never did she treat me as if I were crazy
(most people would/should have), inconvenient, irrational, annoying,
or unwanted. She talked me down each time from my frenzied and frantic
state of mind and back down to earth with her godly wisdom.

Throughout these desperate months I learned to wage a mental battle
and how to control my mind better. You see, once the devil saw I was
susceptible to fears and anxieties he jumped right on the bandwagon
throwing fuel on the fire... and I'm not just talking about dry leaves
and tinder kind of fuel. I'm taking about the gasoline and dynamite
kind of fuel. My chemical imbalance would have me waking up in the
morning with inexplicable feelings of guilt or sorrow and before I'd
know it, the Accuser would be there next to me whispering in my ear
and I'd soon be questioning my salvation. I remember my mother wisely
opening my eyes to scripture during one of our many conversations
surrounding my fears; she brought my attention to 2 Timothy 1:7 which
states, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power,
and of love, and of a sound mind." She explained that once when she
had been battling fear, God had prompted her to look into the original
meaning of the phrase translated "sound mind" in the King James
Version. She was surprised to find that it literally meant
"self-controlled mind." What a revelation! One of our God-given
weapons against fear is self-control over our own thoughts!

It took weeks and months and many many bouts with fear before I could
get a steadier grip on my weapon of self-control. But through these
trials I learned valuable lessons about not giving the devil a
foothold in my thoughts.

I wish I could say that that was where it ended, that my emotional and
psychological nightmare came to a close after a nine month stint
learning to manage my own thought processes, but that isn't my story.
In fact for the next six and a half years I continued to battle with
the physical and non-physical symptoms of the diseases I had been
diagnosed with.

During my years in college, I unwittingly exacerbated my conditions
and weakened my body further abusing my health through massive sleep
deficits (getting roughly four to six hours of sleep each night
through the last year and a half to two years of college) and poor
dietary decisions (sadly considered healthy by the standards of many I
knew including myself). I continued to push myself to an unseen limit,
never imagining it would catch up with me because, in all honesty, it
hadn't appeared to affect me yet. When I finally graduated and moved
home and started living on a normal schedule, my body was so utterly
drained and exhausted that I experienced a severe physical crash. For
a couple of years following college, my poor health colored everything
I did. I was encumbered with an enormous amount of fatigue, a symptom
of Hashimoto's and PCOS which had been compounded by my poor sleep
schedule. I would awaken each morning so exhausted I couldn't imagine
how I would be able to get out of bed, get ready for work, and drag
myself to the bus stop on time, let alone get through my work day. I
remember trying to explain how tired I was to someone one day, saying
I was so tired that I could cry... simply out of hopelessness and a
sense of being overwhelmed at the very thought of trying to get
through that day. I really don't think the average person can
understand this kind of exhaustion unless they have experienced it.

My immune system during this time was drastically weakened leading to
a constant battle with acute illness. If I didn't make a concerted
effort to get sufficient sleep, I would rather quickly find my body
succumbing to acute illnesses such as colds. My immune system had been
compromised to the point that without much exposure or lack of care I
would contract sickness almost immediately. I was caught in a cycle of
fighting illness, succumbing to illness, fighting back to a place of
feeling as if I was "over" the cold or sickness, to find myself
fighting against illness once again at the slightest disruption to my
body. I couldn't stay out late with friends or miss too many hours of
sleep without the worry that I would become sick again lingering in
the back of my mind. I felt handicapped, disabled, trapped at how
tightly I was gripped by my poor health; how closely I had to manage
and how gently I had to balance my life and schedule to keep things
from tipping too far and losing the battle.

I had also had drastic changes in my metabolism and appetite due to my
condition and my sleep deprivation. Research showed me that when
lacking sufficient sleep, the human body sends out more
appetite-inducing hormones encouraging the body to eat more (probably
to make up for energy lost by not sleeping). I had become so
accustomed to sleeping so little that during my last year at college,
I had begun to keep crackers or pretzels and a bottle of water on my
nightstand because often I would wake up in the wee hours of the
morning so hungry I was nauseated, but so exhausted I couldn't get out
of bed. This became quite the problem because then I couldn't sleep
because I was so nauseated, but couldn't eat because I was so sleepy I
couldn't force myself out of bed. Eventually I would have to get out
of bed and stumble over to the adjoining room where the groceries were
kept and scarf down enough of whatever was on hand to keep my stomach
satisfied until it was time to get up for classes. My appetite spun
out of control, encouraged by my busy schedule as I was often eating
when I had the opportunity between classes or before work or on a ten
minute break on the job, smashing a "meal time" into my overstuffed
schedule and eating when I could knowing it may be some time before I
was able to eat again.

During this time I was also dealing with the difficult transition of
leaving what had been a comfort zone of being a student and beginning
a journey into post-college life...  a huge looming spector of the
unknown and unexpected. My family had moved to a different city and my
parents had begun co-pastoring a new church less than two months prior
to my initial move to college for my freshman year. I was returning to
a hometown and church that still felt relatively new to me where I had
no deep relational connections outside of my family, no job lined up,
and seemingly no future.  I felt lonely, confused, purposeless, and
lost. Depression and anxiety began to surface again in a more serious
way than they had been for the last two years. Now that I was free of
the distractions of an active social life and more time awake than
asleep, I found the deep silence of the night foreboding. I didn't
want to go to bed at night (in spite of my fatigue) because I didn't
want to face all the thoughts and feelings and fears and questions
that crept out of the corners of my mind when there was nothing else
on which to focus. In conjunction with this avoidance of sleep, I also
found myself seeking solace in the comfort of food. My appetite and
eating habits had been skewed by my health problems (Hashimoto's
affects your metabolism) and my lifestyle, but I had unbewittingly
made an idol out of food, eating for the "fun" of it when I was bored,
eating to drown negative emotions, and turning to food to fill many a
void in my tumultuous life.

Some of this tumult was situational, feelings and mindsets arising
from the pain of a new and unwanted circumstance in my life and the
gaping distance between myself and many of my closest friends; but
lingering still, beyond the discouragement of my surroundings, was the
chemical imbalance feeding into these thoughts and emotions.

It was during these precious years that I learned that when I had been
distanced from my closest friends and when I found myself in what
seemed a dismal landscape and when the journey of my life seemed to be
dead-ending, that I truly was never forsaken. I learned that there is
a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, there is a Shepherd to
guide me down the mountain slopes, there is a Redeemer to restore what
is lost and broken, and yes, there is a Healer to bind your wounds. I
began cultivating a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ than
I had yet experienced and regardless of how it was brought about, I
wouldn't trade it for anything. I learned through these years of
testing that there is Truth to stand upon when I am unsure, there is a
Hand to steady me when I am unstable, and there are Ears to listen
when I don't have any words, there is someone Who understands even
when I can't explain, and there are Arms to hold all my pieces when I
finally can't keep it together any longer.

For over six years physical symptoms persisted, although sometimes
seeming to abate. I also continued to battle emotional and
psychological challenges although these also seemed to reverse at
times. I often desperately sought God for healing, as did my family
and others who knew my battles, but although I would seem to
experience small triumphs, nothing permanent ever seemed to occur.
There were times I got downright angry with God, literally screaming
at the top of my lungs, hot tears streaming down my face, fists
clenched, veins popping, as I vented all my frustration on Him. I was
so sick of hearing the testimonies of other people getting healed and
other people experiencing miracles and other people having their
prayers answered. I couldn't tolerate it anymore when my plea was
seemingly met with silence. But even through my tantrums and pouts, my
ever-loving, all-wise God didn't leave me. He could take it, He could
take it all: the tears, the shouts, the gritted teeth and glaring
eyes, the bitterness in my heart. He could take it all, and He did,
and then He'd turn it all around with a soft answer and I'd know He
was there and He had everything in control and He had it all planned
out and that one day, I wouldn't wake up feeling horrible, that one
day, I'd wake up healed.

The really cool thing about God is that He isn't concerned with just
making us feel better; He's concerned with making US better. And so
the healing began, but not how I had expected, or requested, or wanted
(initially), or imagined. God was concerned with healing the soul
before fixing the body.

As I look back over those years, I see where He took the festering
disease of long-ignored wounds deep set in my heart, some of which I
didn't even know were there, and began to work a miracle of healing.
He began to use our time together and all my desperation and pain and
discontentedness to steer me away from what I thought I wanted and the
life I thought I should live and into His plans. He used it to dig up
resentment and bitterness and unforgiveness. To break down old walls I
had put up, some of them as a very young child, that held some things
and some people out and myself in. To replace ancient lies I'd been
believing (and living and telling) with His unbreakable truths. To
expose the hidden idols I'd been serving as the dissatisfying foolish
sham that they are. And through all of it, He was so patient and kind
and tender with me. Time and again, I would pray for healing and time
and again I would walk away feeling disappointed thinking that God
hadn't healed me yet. But I was wrong... He was STILL healing me.

Over the years I sought care through many physicians. I tried dietary
changes, had tests taken, had medications offered (to manage symptoms
only), and eventually started receiving care through a naturopath. I
was very frustrated throughout this confusing search for a solution as
I continued to seek care from the Great Physician. I eventually did
start seeing results through a significant lifestyle change per
doctor's orders after starting treatment with my naturopath. I believe
that God does heal us, but also guides us toward the knowledge we need
to help ourselves (like teaching me to fish rather than constantly
providing me a fresh meal of fish and chips). This care did help turn
some of my symptoms around and I am grateful for the knowledge and
treatment I have gained. (Now I know what some of my triggers of
imbalance or fatigue are and how to avoid them.)  Most importantly,
God used the processes of this treatment (in conjunction with the book
Captivating by Staci and John Eldredge that I "just happened" to be
reading at that time that "just happened" to address the forms
idolatry can take in a woman's life, including food) to reveal to me
how I had made an idol out of food and was using it to fill a space or
satisfy a need that I should be taking to God and how it had taken a
serious hold on me. It forced me to realize my desperate and sinful
situation and cry out to God, who ever so graciously fully delivered
me from this addiction (I'm not saying I don't ever slip up or that
there isn't the temptation from time to time, but it doesn't have a
hold on me like it used to and Jesus has given me the power to
overcome these temptations). God also used this care to turn my
fatigue around and make me more aware of how my body responds to my
lifestyle. I learned so much and now have a much better grip on how to
care for my health and prevent certain problems or remedy them if they
occur.

The drawback to natural care is that it usually is a time intensive
process (I didn't ruin my health in one week, so I can't expect to get
it back overnight. It is a series of steps in the right direction.),
and it is very costly and not covered by health insurance plans. I had
seen some improvement and felt like I was on the right track but some
symptoms had worsened and I occasionally suffered setbacks as I would
derail from my program in frustration (read lack of willpower 😉).
Aside from the length of time it was taking and the struggles I was
having with some of the lifestyle changes, a very real barrier was the
financial burden I was encountering in trying to continue care. My
parents helped as much as they could to foot the bills trying to help
me reach good health again, but it was clear that I would have to take
a break for awhile from receiving care. I sometimes felt like the
woman with "the issue of blood" in Mark 5 who had gone to many doctors
and had spent all her money and was still sick. I was desperate for MY
healing too, I continued to reach up for the hem of His garment and
seek my healing from God, as I felt like He was still reserving a
healing for me.

It's funny how things work out. I continued to seek healing and would
often make my way to the front of the sanctuary where many gathered
for a time of prayer for healing during our regular church services.
Every time another missionary or evangelist came through preaching
signs and wonders, faith and miracles I was up there with the rest
claiming my health. But on some occasions, I would put my efforts into
praying for others, still believing that God was a healer but perhaps
thinking that it wasn't "my time" yet. Somedays I would get
discouraged; other days, I just would put my own situation aside
knowing that God knew the desires of my heart and had already heard my
many prayers. Sometimes I felt guilty for constantly seeking for
prayer for my own circumstances when others needed miracles from God.
Whatever the reason, there was one Sunday this past January that the
pastors called for all those needing a special touch from God to come
to the front for prayer, and I don't know why I didn't go up there for
myself that day, but I saw a friend in need and went forward rather to
support her in prayer. While I was up front before the altar praying
with my friend for her need, two sweet ladies quite a bit older than
myself came up behind me and laid hands on ME (remember, I'm praying
with someone else) and began specifically praying for ME (I don't
recall hearing their words, but their intention became clear very
quickly). My friend finished praying and these two women were still
praying for me... and praying hard. I mean they began travailing
spiritually. I stood there thinking, "Well, why not? I've wanted a
healing, but didn't have what it took to ask for it myself. I might as
well make my request known!" I threw my hands in the air and all the
heartache of wanting to be whole, wanting it sooooo bad and repeatedly
not receiving it, came pouring out. There were no words in my human
language for this... only my spirit could communicate this desire,
this desperate request. These two women flanked me, supporting me in
prayer and holding me up with their hands (I wasn't about to fall over
or anything, but they had ahold of me tight and weren't about to let
go) reaching, grasping, and fighting spiritually for my need like I've
never felt before. I knew when there was a breakthrough and so did
they because, if my memory serves me correctly, we all were dancing ad
worshipping when it was done. From that day forward, I know I have
been healed from the emotional and psychological trauma of my
sicknesses, and while I still bear some of the physical symptoms, I
firmly believe that one day I'll be free of those as well. Now,
healing isn't an easy road in my experience as the enemy of our souls
is constantly seeking a way to bind us and distract us, but when you
have received a miracle and a truth from God, hold to it for dear life
regardless of what it looks like. Truth always wins in the end so
don't join the losing side in accepting lies that contradict God's
word over your life. There have been moments that I've had attacks
from the enemy, trying to convince me that I would always be captive
to fear and that I will never be free of anxiety, that I will always
be subject to loneliness and I will never rise above depression, but
these were lies and spiritual attacks. I did my best to fight back
using all the spiritual tools I had been learning about at church (on
time as my God is, we were going through a series of lessons on
spiritual warfare in our church's midweek study during this time and
then started studying the armor of God in our adult Sunday school
classes following that), and when I felt like I was losing ground I
got help from my mother and father. Fear has continued to rear its
ugly head over the following spring and early summer, trying to
paralyze me as I pursued God's calling on my life as I applied for a
local license with the United Pentecostal Church International. With
the help of my parents, I fought fiercely against it and two days
after receiving word that I had been approved for licensing, in the
altar following an amazing camp meeting service that spirit was broken
in my life and I have been utterly free from it! Yes, I struggle at
times. Yes, there are still battles to be fought. Yes, I must still
guard my mind. Yes, I have more healing to receive. But, yes, my God
is more than enough and will perfect all things concerning me and He
has not been slack concerning His promises in my life but rich and
abundant in His faithfulness and mercy, a generous and glorious love
and a purposeful Healer of my life, redeeming, restoring, sweet, sweet
Savior. He truly has never forsaken me.