Since I was seven years old, anxiety has manifested in my body in a variety of ways: from stomach pains, to headaches, to chest pains, to nausea, to insomnia, to simply obsessing over a thought…I’ve felt like I could never catch a break! Some of my close friends and family members also suffer from PTSD, OCD, and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). It is not only a struggle to suffer from anxiety; it is also a struggle to watch others suffer with it.
I conducted a poll on my Twitter, and even though only 16 people voted, I want to give a voice to the 94% who suffer from anxiety to some degree (including 44% who consider anxiety a daily struggle). Based on this poll, it’s safe to say that anxiety looks different for everyone. Some people get anxious in certain situations, such as going on a plane or speaking in front of a large crowd. Other people have difficulty controlling their thoughts and emotions, so their thoughts and emotions control them on a regular basis.
Truthfully, I wish I had a cure-all answer for anxiety. However, there is no blanket statement, no perfect pill, no secret diet that can make anxiety disappear. I can only speak from my own personal experience, and offer a voice of encouragement to help those who may be plagued with anxious thoughts, or who don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
After all that I’ve been through, I’ve learned that my anxiety brings me closer to God.
This isn’t the typical Christian answer to anxiety. When I tell people I’m feeling anxious, they quickly whip out Philippians 4:6. Anxiety, I’ve been told, is a sin, and must never be entertained in the mind of a believer.
When I mentioned this to one of my pastors, he let me borrow the book God Will Make a Way by Henry Cloud & John Townsend. The book mentions that fear is not all bad. As a matter of fact, fear can be a good thing, as long as it does not debilitate you from living. For example, if you’re in an area of the world that experiences tornadoes, if you see a dark cloud forming in the distance, your natural instinct is not to say, “Wow, look at that! What a pretty cloud.” Your reaction is to panic, grab all you need, and hide in a safe place. When traumatic things happen to us, it is natural and correct to freak out and try to figure out how to get our lives back to equilibrium.
My life hasn’t been exactly easy. Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited encouraged me to think about how I’ve suffered as a child, a teen, and an adult. Between the death of my grandma, breaking my elbow, dealing with an abusive step family, and loved ones moving out of state, I really wondered how I made it through.
By the grace of God, around that time is when I remember learning that it is possible to trust God. Literally a week before my grandma died, I read in a fiction book that a girl was going to trust God with whatever situation she was facing. It was such a foreign concept to me, to trust someone who was so far away and yet seemed so interested in my life. However, taking the responsibility off of myself in these difficult circumstances and putting my trust in God gave me such overwhelming peace that I was able to overcome my pain, and even forgive those who have wronged me.
Knowing what I know about anxiety, it makes so much sense that I reacted to most of these occurrences in fear. My grandma died unexpectedly; I missed her, and seeing my mom upset affected me as well. Breaking my elbow caused me to miss a lot of school, resulting in lost contact with a few of my friends, and falling behind on my school work. Having a verbally abusive stepfather instead of a loving father in my house caused me to question what family is supposed to look like. But I didn’t stay in fear. I cried, I journaled, I prayed, and I trusted that God would be glorified in this experience. Here I am today, twelve years later, thankful that God did not disappoint.
So, if you’re facing anxiety, I applaud your body for reacting in a way that is natural given your circumstances. But don’t stay there. Whatever you are facing, ask yourself what is triggering your anxiety. Are you about to do something out of your comfort zone? Are you currently in the midst of a conflict with a loved one? Are you overwhelmed at your job or at school? Pinpoint exactly what makes you anxious.
Then, pray about it. Be absolutely honest with God; He can handle how you really feel! If you are comfortable, share your anxiety with a trusted friend. Sometimes, just saying the fear out loud decreases its power over me. After you’ve confessed the fear, take your mind off of it by focusing on the Word of God. Memorize Bible verses. Listen to a worship song that is based on Scripture. Watch a sermon online. Do a Bible study with a support group. You might not get the instant results that you crave, but over time, you will notice your anxiety losing its grip over your life.
When you decide to give your anxiety to God, He uses your difficult circumstances to draw you closer to Him. Life with Jesus is the most beautiful adventure I’ve ever had. Trust Him today, and see how He moves in your life!
(If you would like to see other posts about my journey with anxiety, please type “anxiety” in the search bar on the left side of the page).
Cloud, Henry & Townsend, John. “Fear and Anxiety.” God Will Make a Way. Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2002. Print.
TerKeurst, Lysa. Uninvited Study Guide. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016. Print.