Finding Peace In Losing Control

by Jessica Carpenetti - March 3, 2021

I have very strong memories attached to songs.
One of these memories I won’t ever forget was in the spring of 2018. I was driving over the bridge on Highway 20 towards Anacortes, where I had been living with a boyfriend for about 4 years. I liked this town, I liked our life, and I knew that I really loved him. We had been making plans to get married soon and I had no intention of ever leaving. I thought my life was looking up; we were leaving past disappointments behind and heading towards some form of “domestic bliss.” I had no idea that by October, my whole life would shift, and God would lead me to leave this life behind for good.

If you were counting the red flags in this relationship, there would have been a boatload. I won’t get into them all, but to mention the obvious; I had a relationship with God and I knew I had seriously disobeyed him by choosing to live in sin. But after 4 years, and one breakup already, there’s no going back now, right? That’s what I believed. I had wholeheartedly committed myself to this person. I had made my choice and I was determined to live with it. I was going to make it work, even if it killed me. And then I found out he had a drug problem.

I had suspected this for years but had convinced myself that I was overthinking. I drove myself crazy, constantly anxious and suspicious about what he was hiding from me. When he finally came clean, it was more of a relief than anything. He was expecting me to explode or run out the door, but somehow having all my fears confirmed had the opposite effect on me. I doubled down on my commitment to this relationship. But I had recently started going back to church again on my own. Looking back, I know my soul was wrestling so much in those 6 months following, because I started to find a lot of peace seeking God again while I also became all the worst parts of myself.

I became controlling, suspicious, and depressed. I was sick constantly, having panic attacks all the time, and I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep, I usually woke up with my nerves literally trembling from anxiety. The best way I can describe it is like being in fight or flight mode without an off switch. A month before this, my anxiety was already so bad that I ended up in the emergency room with a panic attack, because I had been having constant heart palpitations for two weeks. It was like my whole body was rejecting my life choices. And every new stress, big or small, felt like the heaviest weight. I literally felt like I was drowning under my life, it was too much for me to handle.

It’s in this context of the spring of 2018 that I was driving home from work on the bridge by the Swinomish Casino. It was sunset, and the bridge passes over the water where you can see the San Juan Islands. It’s one of my favorite views in Skagit County, but I couldn’t even appreciate it. All I felt was pain and stress. My radio was on Praise 106.5, as it was constantly then. After coming back to church, with all the heaviness in my life, I slowly started listening to worship music again and the sermons that they play late at night when I would drive home from work. The song playing that night was “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns.

Feeling so fragile and heavy, I cried out to God (which was my M.O.), and a thought I had never had before passed through my mind. I told God that I honestly wished I weren’t alive anymore, because then at least I would have peace and not feel like I was drowning.

If you don’t know the lyrics to “Oh My Soul,” there’s a part that says this:
“Can He find me here? Can He keep me from going under?
Oh my soul, you are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, he will make a way
Let him show you how, you can lay this down”

God used the lyrics of that song to intervene my train of thought. The fact that I was even having that thought shocked me, all I could do was surrender and ask Him for help. It sounds so simple to “lay it down,” but all my life I have tried to handle things on my own, because I hate feeling like I’m burdening people with my problems. But God was teaching me that my burdens were not too much for Him at all. In fact, they were the very thing He wanted me to lay at His feet.

Somehow, without me noticing, God was changing me from the inside out. The more weight I felt under stress and anxiety, the more I was led to surrender and pray in response. It was the only thing left that I could do, all of these problems were out of my control. Peace was the gradual result of surrender. Internally, I slowly had more peace when I started to panic, and externally I had more peace in my relationship, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against it.

By fall of 2018, the drug issue was still not completely resolved. He told me he had quit the pain pills for good, but I knew something else was still going on. I tried my best to help, but really, I was just trying to control something that was not my problem to solve. What’s worse is that I realized I was being an enabler by driving him places and getting his life in order. But at only 22, I had a sheltered, happy childhood, and had absolutely no context for dealing with drug abuse or codependent relationships.

Everything in me wanted to leave this relationship, but I also loved him deeply and felt too involved now to leave. On top of that, my own shame for having sex outside of marriage made me feel like I had to stick it out and still get married to him. But here’s the thing that I didn’t understand about sin then – God doesn’t want us to go on being eternally punished for our sin, the whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice was to free us from it. So, if you’ve been made new by the blood of Jesus, why would you go on suffering under the punishment of your sin? This was profound stuff for me!

For months I prayed over and over that God would “give me a sign” and tell me whether I should stay in this relationship or leave. From the outside, you could say there were a million reasons to leave. However, because I had committed so hard to this, my pride made it so difficult to accept defeat. After a long pattern of praying this, and God giving me ten thousand signals, one finally hit me. One night in October, I came home before him and went upstairs. On the dresser was a single pill, just sitting there, half used. Some pills have codes on them, so being my suspicious self, I googled the code on it. It was a drug used to treat ADHD, which he didn’t have, and one he couldn’t have bought legally.

I paced down the stairs and back up, stopping halfway, and fell on my knees for another time. This time I didn’t ask God whether this was my signal to leave, I thanked Him for answering the prayer, and though I didn’t know how, I knew He was kicking down the door for me to leave. Moving out and leaving that relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. How do you voluntarily say goodbye to someone you love? But knowing that God was clearly telling me GO gave me peace. All I had to do was obey Him, and He took care of the rest.

I think the words of Jesus speak clearly in this situation, when He tells us, “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever doesn’t take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38). God commands us to love Him more than anything or anyone, no matter who it is.

I dreaded leaving for the heartache, but to be honest, when I left, I had so much joy and peace in my relationship with God that I hardly noticed it. Two days later, I got a promotion at work, the sun was shining, and gradually my stomach and my anxiety improved also (probably because the reason for my stress had disappeared). About a month later I stumbled upon a little church called Camano Chapel. I know we don’t follow God looking for blessings, but there is no doubt that my health and my life improved, and I am forever thankful that God changed my course.

In the last two years I have found so much joy in my relationship with Him, despite trials and setbacks, I am continually amazed at His power to transform. Life is not perfect, and we are promised many trials as believers, but I have so much peace knowing life is not in my clumsy, fallible hands – but of the loving, righteous, Creator of the universe.

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