This is a tough one for me. It’s tough because it continues to be something that I wrestle with God about. God has healed me in miraculous ways, why hasn’t he healed me from my anxiety?
I don’t know. I wish I did
I have never prayed about something more. I have never asked for more prayer for anything. I’ve never tried so many different worldly methods. I’ve never felt the same level of desperation than I have in the height of my anxiety. But no matter how much I try or how many prayers I send up, I am still not healed.
But just because I haven’t been healed, doesn’t mean God has not showed up.
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that some things I’m about to share are going to sound trite to those who are not ready to hear it. When I was at my worst in terms of my anxiety, my anger and sadness blocked any ability I had to see God in the midst of my anguish. If anyone brought up God or prayer, I would politely listen while forcefully pushing down the hulk that was rearing his head. I wanted to scream “You obviously have never felt this way. If God really cared, he would take this away.” If you are there, I understand. I’ve been there. If you need to yell, let me know. I can take it. If you need to stop reading, I also understand. But if you are at all able, I challenge you to open up your heart a little bit. If you look closely enough you may see God in some unexpected places. I know for me, sometimes when God isn’t showing up the way I WANT, I forget to look at where he is showing up.
Here a few ways I have seen God show up…
God uses anxiety to remind me of my need for him. This sounds weird, but one of my biggest stumbling blocks is that I am a very capable person. I work really hard and I get things done well. Because of that, sometimes I have a hard time relying on God. Without even realizing it, I quickly rely on my own strength instead of tapping into the true source. I have tried everything on my own to be healed from my anxiety. I have no place to go besides on my knees in surrender. Nothing brings me to my knees like my anxiety will. Nothing else reminds me how out of control I really am. It reminds me of my place. No matter how capable I am, no matter how hard I try, I need God.
God uses my anxiety to remind me that there is a bigger story than mine. I wish that the world revolved around me. And most of the time I act like it should. But it doesn’t and when I’m in a healthy place, I’m glad it doesn’t. What if the reason God doesn’t take my anxiety away is because of how my story is going to encourage, challenge or bless other people? What if my story of anxiety is part someone else’s story of healing? There have been so many times where I have shared my story and people have to come to me sharing how my story has encouraged them to go to a counselor, seek prayer or start medication. If my anxiety is not going away, I’m at least grateful that my story encourages someone else.
My anxiety makes my relationship with God more authentic. For a long time I couldn’t figure out how to live in tension. I felt like I could either trust God or be anxious. I thought I either had to grieve or be grateful. Somewhere along the way I started to believe that I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t see that God was in the midst of the mess. So when anxiety would overcome me, I would muster up all my strength, grit my teeth and dig into the fight. But I would always lose. So eventually instead of digging in, I cried out to God. I cried out from the depth of my soul in true desperation. I wish I could say that when I did that my anxiety went away. It didn’t. But it begin a shift in me. A shift in my relationship with God. I couldn’t try to separate my emotions, I was too raw. I went before him with all I was, the good and the bad-just the way he wants it.
God uses my anxiety to make me more like him. I’m not very graceful by nature. I tend to be black and white. I had a roommate in college that struggled with depression. She had so much going for her, I couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like with enough willpower and a little help from God we should be able to push through anything. Wow I was wrong. Not only did my anxiety bring me to my knees, it softened my heart. I am much more quick to react from a place compassion instead of judgment. I listen better and give less advice. I pray more.
God uses my anxiety to remind me of the power of community and prayer. When I ask my people to pray for my anxiety, I literally feel a shift in the atmosphere. I can feel their prayers carrying me. Not only is my faith increased when I feel God’s presence through prayer, it is also an opportunity for others to step into faith. Anytime you get to be part of an answered prayer, whether it’s for you or someone else-your faith will increase. When I share my struggles, my friendships strengthen and my community grows. I have found that when I am honest with others, it releases them to be honest with me. That is when true community begins.
Sometimes God uses my anxiety to reveal that there is something bigger going on in me. I don’t stop very often. I am always on the go mentally, spiritually and physically. Anxiety stops me in my track. Most of my anxiety triggers are physical, but every once in a while there is something bigger at play. Am I trying to control a situation that is beyond my control? Am I harboring bitterness that is causing angst? God uses every means possible to break down barriers that keep us from walking in the freedom he has for us.
I have said many times before that I would do nearly anything to be free from anxiety, it’s true. I have never experienced anything so crippling and devastating. I will continue to pray that God will heal me. But until he does I can at least cling to this truth-he will show up. He is always there, but if you are anything like me- you forget to look.
Are blinded by your pain? Is your anger keeping you from looking for God? I’ve been there and I’m sure I’ll be there again. But my goal of this series is that you will learn from my mistakes. So pause and in the midst of your tears, take a moment. Look for God. Write it down. If you don’t see him right away, try again. He is there, he has shown up-now it’s our turn to look.