Anxious (for the peace of God)
My hands were shaking and my knees began to buckle. I held onto the counter to hold myself up (physically and perhaps, emotionally?) while a wave of tremendous anxiety took my very breath away. My eyes poured tears like Niagara falls (to my utter dismay) and my attempts at silencing the choking sobs were to no avail. My heart pounded, and I began to wonder if I was going to pass out.
I don’t know much about anxiety attacks, but I can tell you that when I had mine at 20 years of age at my first job in a home preservation company, I did not imagine my day was going to be like this. In fact, that morning I felt fine – work was stressful, of course, and I very much looked forward to the end of the day – but as I watched a beautiful sunset rise over the countryside during my drive, I did not think hopelessness, worry, and stress from the job would cripple me 5 minutes after I entered the building.
It’s interesting how are bodies cope with stress. We have reactions to emergency situations, but we also have defense mechanisms to deal with the daily things. And I learned for the first time that day that, something had been going on with me for a long time that I either: 1) did not see, or 2) chose to ignore.
More likely it was option number 2.
I can admit without hesitation that worry has been one of the most crippling things in my life. Looking back, I believe it has ended potential relationships, misdirected my journey, and has caused me to miss out on some of God’s good works He prepared in advance. You would think that I would learn; and yet, for whatever reason, I seem to find comfort in the dead of night replaying worst-case scenarios of situations in my mind, rather then just turning over and going to sleep.
I don’t think that a little stress is bad – how else would we get pushed to get work done? – but I do think that it has become practically an idol in a culture that provides too many opportunistic choices, has a fetish for drama-filled romantic TV shows, and young Christians who can’t decide who to marry because it may not be God’s will for them.
Obviously I live in my head a lot.
I think for me it’s not just a fear of something tangible, but, it is the fear of doing the wrong thing, that cripples me the most. Making decisions about whether to steal something or not is pretty easy, because stealing is wrong. But when you enter into the gray areas of whether or not you should confront a friend who has hurt you, if you should move to such-and-such a place, or if online dating is okay for Christians, you have added layers into the decision-making process that can be quite overwhelming at times.
A lot of people (ok, people like me) have mediated, thought on, and yeah, worried, over that passage from Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
….So if we’re nervous we have to tell God about it right?
That’s part of it.
I have been working through a Bible study on the armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, and in it she highlights this passage, pulling two things that we must do if we are to have God’s peace in our lives:
1. Give thanks
In the midst of worry, it can be hard to focus on the good things. But I have noticed that the more I thank God for what He has provided and done in my life, those things I tend to stress over don’t seem like such a big deal. Scripture tells us to give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).
God wants to hear your worries and struggles. Acting like everything is hunky-dory is not only lying to yourself, but to God. Coming to Him with an open, honest heart will help develop a trusting relationship between you and the Almighty, not only to grant you peace, but to help you understand more about God and His ways, however unknowable He may be.
Another thing I have been trying to do is to recite scripture in my mind whenever my brain begins to work frantically at ‘worrying’ over things. I will say that while there’s no instant, cure-all for anxiety, this practice along with prayer has helped me focus less on myself and more on God and others. And somehow, the less I focus on my own worries and struggles, the more they seem to be not such a big deal.
Here’s a new day, to not live in fear, but to live courageously in Christ.
“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”