Happy 4thof July to all my American friends. Ian from Down Under here.
For many years I’ve struggled with anxiety. It’s played an even more prominent role in my life the last 15 years that happened to coincide with my stepping away from the Corporate world into working for myself. What I’ve discovered those of us who struggle with anxiety is we all have our individual pressure points which can exacerbate or set-off moments of extreme stress. Interestingly, my big two have been associated with either public transport (planes, trains, buses) or people living in my house.
Disconnect with Faith
The latter pressure point always bothered me because we’re called to be hospitable. And I want to be welcoming of people sharing our home. But my desire for control and ‘home being my safe place’ has often overridden the want to be hospitable. No, I don’t become a green ogre if you happen to be wondering but I tend to get easily agitated about the smallest things (eg, putting things back where you found them).
But I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to be hospitable. And I’m not supposed to struggle with anxiety. And then I used to go through downward spirals of thought questioning whether I really was a Christian and why couldn’t I trust God.
Yes, we Christians do suffer from anxiety and other mental health disorders. For most of my life I simply believed anxiety would be with me forever. From my earliest memories, mom dubbed me the ‘anxious one’ while my twin brother was the easy going one. Whenever the topic came up I simply responded by saying “well you’d be the anxious one if you had someone sitting on you for nine months in a cramped dark place.” Yes, I was the firstborn, it took Pete twenty minutes to figure out life was more fun with his brother than hanging around in the dark by himself.
There’s an increasing presence in the media these days about people who struggle with anxiety. This is a positive step as it brings it and other mental health matters into the light. But often there’s an acceptance that anxiety will always be a constant in individuals lives and even that it can serve as a form of ‘superpower.’ I don’t doubt the latter; in fact, know from personal experience it has helped me in certain situations because anxious people’s ‘fight or flight’ response is usually easily stimulated. Further, anxious ones often have a more natural empathy for others and may more easily discern when others are in need.
What I do believe is that God’s heart for us is to not be anxious. He hasn’t made us to be anxious.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I amgentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
In the past couple of years I’ve been discovering how to walk in the ‘easy yoke.’ I’d reached a point where my anxiety was just impacting my life too much and frankly I’d had enough. So had my family.
So I stopped fighting it, befriended it in a way, and sought both medical and Godly help.
I understood in my mind I was the Lord’s Beloved, but I needed for that knowledge to get into my heart. Loving God has to be more than just an intellectual love just like loving our spouse and children has to be. And I found diving into the Word was so pivotal to getting ‘this’ belovedness into my heart. For more than three years now I’ve been reading the Psalms. They are such a rich fountain of God’s love and are incredibly emotional expressing the full gamut of human emotions.
I’ve never been much for memorizing Scripture. But as I walk the dog each day I quote verses. For about a year I spoke Colossians 3:1-17 after taking a month to learn it (using James Bryan Smith’s excellent book) and now I’m walking praying Psalm 23 to myself and Beanie, our kelpie.
This memorization thing works. Scripture soaks into you, not simply into your mind but your heart.
And I got myself into a group of prayers, which I now lead. Community is so precious. I know you ladies know this. We blokes aren’t good at it and we need to be better.
In order to accept being the Lord’s Beloved, I needed to let go of some lies that many of us believe and has played a significant role in my desire for control which led to my anxiety.
1. We are NOT what we do.
This is a biggee for blokes. As we’ve talked about before we blokes hold on so tightly to our careers and gain so much of our sense of worth from it. I believe this was significant for me when I stepped out of the Corporate world as I no longer had a label that made me feel important.
2. We are NOT what we own or what we’ve achieved.
The world has gone crazy with accumulating stuff and achievements. Keeping up with the Joneses is a full time job. Let it go. All of it.
3. We are NOT what others say about us
We’ve all had some tough relationships. It might have been with our partner, or an ex-partner or our parents. And when we’ve heard something so many times its gets into our heart and we sub-consciously start believing it.
God loves each of us like crazy. He. Died. For. Us. That’s how much He loves us.
There’s always More.
“… may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us …” (Ephesians 3:18-20 NKJV)
This verse has been buzzing around mind for the past few weeks. Throughout all my seasons of being anxiety-riddled I was constantly frustrated knowing that it was limiting my life. It stopped me doing things. Good things.
But what these verses tell us is there is always more with God. Most significantly, more of Him and His love. And it’s in that discovery that we are released for more.
Dive deep, dear friends. Deep into His river of love and faith.
I suspect there are others of us who have wonderful stories to share of self-discovery and the freedom it has brought. And also there will be some of us who are grappling with anxiety. Let us pray over you by writing a simple ‘ ‘Yes please’ in the comments.
For those of you enjoying a National Holiday, celebrate well and cuddle those you love.