Faith / Anxiety
You’re not praying enough.
You lack faith in His ability.
You are broken.
Anxiety is a sin.
If you are a believer who battles anxiety, these hurtful comments and their effects have most likely become customary to you. What’s interesting is that I would never ask patients if they pray enough for their illnesses to be cured or why they believe medicine is needed. There is no need to do so with physical ailments because I understand many diseases are multifaceted. Genetics, trauma, and environmental triggers can all play a role. The body is one thing; the brain is another. Our minds and their thought-producing capabilities are complex and even mysterious to some degree.
Here is my reality: I am an outgoing woman with a worthwhile life. From skydiving at 14,000 feet to exploring magnificent countries, thrill and adventure have always beckoned me. Yet, sometimes in the quietest of moments, my heart begins to race. Worrisome thoughts bombard my brain and I become paralyzed by fear. Yes, anxiety is a part of my reality.
Again, I have been skydiving. For many of you reading this, the mere thought of jumping off a cliff with faith in a bungee cord causes your palms to sweat. It sounds so… terrifying, correct? Or maybe crowds are your Kryptonite. If asked to immediately stand in front of a group and give a speech, would your heart pound so loudly that those in attendance would hear it beating through your chest? I would venture to say that, although naturally occurring, a racing heart isn’t a response you would choose on purpose. Whether the feeling true or false, our body has a way of alerting us of danger. Fear can kick in even though you ask your mind to be still. That’s how anxiety feels.
Anxiety is an internal response to distressing thoughts. Over the years, I have trained myself to appear “normal” when it kicks in. I can smile while sipping a cup of tea, and you would never know that I am smack dab in the middle of an attack. I look calm to you. In reality, I am desperately working my way through the clamor of my mind. My inner warrior fervently goes to battle, throwing Truth at every lie that dares to invade my mind. It’s exhausting, to say the least.
Your husband is going to be taken from you just as your father was.
You can’t do this! Who are you to even try?!?!?
You are too broken. God can’t even fix you!
The thoughts are unrelenting in their assault on my mind, self-esteem, and security in Christ. Do you see the pattern? The majority of these mental messages are focused on me. Either I am losing someone or I am unqualified or unworthy. My fellow anxiety sufferers have similar
thought patterns. We do not choose these thoughts, yet we are often deemed selfish when an attack arises. Imagine being the one with these raging thoughts only to be accosted by the aforementioned remarks regarding your spiritual fortitude and right standing with God. Consider the pain of being labeled as selfish while praying intensely to wrangle the mental circus in your head. The anxiety I have is amplified by the careless statements made to and about me.
I remember studying anxiety and asking God why this happens to me. I believe that, in my case, there are several layers. This is quite likely true for everyone. My father passed away from cancer when I was a child. A myriad of events and circumstances surfaced after his death but, more than anything, I never knew what it meant to have a father. Although I was raised in the church, I once believed that God was a distant being who didn’t care much about me. As I grew older, I came to understand the sacrifice made on my behalf but still wrestled with understanding why. Why me? After all, who am I? Is there really any way that I can be “fixed” and made new?
I began researching the Bible. Granted, I’m no theologian but I sought out verses on the character of God to be best of my ability. If I was to truly choose Him as my Father, I first needed to know who He really was. Studying brought me to a startling discovery. There was a
stark contrast between my beliefs and God’s nature! I grew up in the South. The God I was reading about did not at all mirror the hellfire and brimstone God to whom I was introduced as a child. Could it be that He wasn’t ruling from on high with an iron fist and demanding my
This personal discovery was just that - a discovery! God is in fact mighty but also gentle. He wants to engage in fellowship and conversation with me. I am not a burden! I began to see the Lord in a new, enlightening, and freeing way. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
This is one of the most popular passages regarding anxiety. I remember sitting on my bed and having a mental lightbulb go off all of a sudden. Ohhhh, a dad PROTECTS and LOVES his daughter!!! I had no idea. When I read that verse, I didn’t imagine God yelling at me to stop being anxious. I couldn’t hear Him asking what was wrong with me or telling me to suck it up. I envisioned a loving Father crouching down to His little girl, whispering, “It’s okay. Talk to me.
We are going to get through this together.”
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
I kept searching through the Bible and do you know what? I continued to find an immense amount of evidence to prove that God was fighting with and for me. It was upon this information that I began to build a relationship of trust with God. As I mature in my walk of faith, these truths are the basis for me overcoming anxiety. (Notice that I didn’t say “cure”, although I do believe that God has the power to do so.)
When panic and insecurity set in, I may momentarily freeze. Doubt still rushes in like a waterfall to my brain from time to time; yet, I remember who my God is. I know He loves me. I know He has a plan for me. I know His Word never fails and He never changes. I reach out to Him in desperation, and then I hold on for dear life until the attack dissipates. To date, we - as in my Father and me - have made it through every storm… together.
Honestly, using my anxiety as a crutch can be incredibly tempting. I have the option of caving to self-berating thoughts. I can turn down career opportunities, travel excursions, and a million or more open doors. The ups and downs of anxiety in times past most likely caused me to do so but not now. I finally learned that I am in a battle but I have a secret weapon.
I forge on through sweaty palms, chest pains, a racing heart, and mental warfare. Most importantly, I fight through it all with God. In this current space of Truth and spiritual clarity, I believe God’s presence is the main point. You see, what others fail to comprehend is that many believers who suffer from anxiety are clinging to God more than anyone could ever know. I wish this was a blatantly obvious truth to onlookers. It is He who gets us to the next breath, the next
step, and to the other side of this invisible battle.
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