Anxious living is unfortunately a common struggle that most Christians face at one point or another. For me, the best way to describe anxiety is a fear of the unknown, having no control, helplessness, despair, and utter forgetfulness that God is sovereign and in control of my life.
My Personal Struggle With Anxiety
I struggled with the issue of anxiety for years. It was hard to pin point exactly when it started or why, all I know is that my fears had completely taken over every aspect of my life. I had trouble sleeping and that translated into my mood being off during the day. I became irritable and I tried so hard to hide and mask my struggle.
The worst part was that I tried to mask my
struggle from the One who could help me find victory over my fear. I then began to experience the physical side affects that come with anxiety. Headaches became a severe and overwhelming part of my daily life. The pain kept me up at night and I remember so many times when I prayed and cried out to God to take them away. It was a few months before I finally admitted to my family that I was experiencing really bad headaches and was insisting on going to see a doctor.
I remember crying on the shoulder of one of my best friends telling her how scared and anxious I was that something could be seriously wrong. I remember thinking that maybe I was being punished for something I had done. I began to have a blurred view of who God was and I completely forgot that God’s love had been right there all along, it was me who had chosen to fall away. I actually went through the process of seeing a doctor and scheduled multiple MRI’s to rule anything out. Turned out, there was nothing to find and needless to say I was diagnosed with being as healthy as one could be for a woman of 26 years old.
Anxiety became something that ultimately crippled me and took away any real joy and satisfaction I once had in my relationship with Christ. I felt like I was trapped in a dark hole and the harder I tried to climb out the deeper I fell. I remember I became so frustrated and angry with myself for not having enough faith to trust that God promised in His word to never leave nor forsake me. I kept trying to pull myself out of the deep black hole that I had thrown myself in and cut off all forms of being able to climb back out. I felt physically and even more so spiritually weak and I was started to loose any hope of finding victory over this struggle.
The problem was that I was depending on my own strength and not on the one who is able to take away my fear and replace it with true peace and joy. I remember thinking that I so desperately wanted to feel at peace again, I wanted to go back to the way things were when I did not have to worry about life’s struggles and be happy again.
Throughout this entire process, I knew that God was waiting for me to finally surrender all my pain and turn to Him. I think the moment when God got my attention and I let go of my stubborn pride to try and do things on my own was on one Sunday morning decided to go with my twin to her church instead of my own home church.
That morning there was a guest speaker and he got up and spoke on the very same struggle that I had been bottling up for a long time, Anxiety. It wasn’t fate or by chance that I ended up there, I firmly believe that it was God’s providence that brought me there that morning. He began to read from the well-known passage found in Philippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 in Christ Jesus.”
It is a command from God not to be anxious about anything. I have read that verse more times that I can count, however, that was the first time it ever became real to me. The Lord of the universe was commanding me to stop worrying because if I do, I gain unexplainable peace that neither the world nor my own efforts would ever be able to give me. However, it goes much deeper then that, as a true child of God, my only response to a scary situation is to remember that I am not God and that only He can have the power to save and rescue me from any and all circumstances that I face in life.
When I finally came to that realization it drew me to the passage in John 14 when Christ is telling His disciples that He is going to go away. This was probably the most anxious and fearful that the disciples had ever felt. Up until this point they had relied so much on His leading, guidance, comfort, and protection. They had fully committed themselves to Christ for the past three years and been witnesses to miraculous miracles that only Christ could have the power to perform. Imagine the anxiety they must have felt when Christ told them that the time had finally come for Him to leave them.
However, in verse fifteen, Jesus leaves them with this promise that He is not going to abandon them. He says to them “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” He also gives them the promise of peace in verse twenty seven “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubles, neither let them be afraid.” Christ is insisting on the belief that His disciples not give into fear but to hang on the promise of receiving and experiencing God’s true peace.
What Does Peace Look Like?
Now lets stop and think about what peace might look like. In my mind, if I were to paint a picture of peace it would entail me in a hammock sleeping under blue skies on a white sandy beach next to the quiet still blue ocean. However, I think that my concept of peace is completely missing the point. Here, Christ is saying that the idea of peace is not the absence or removal of your hard circumstance or conflict.
What it does mean is that in the midst of a trying circumstance our lives are not shaken or thrown off course because we are being held together by the one who can help us overcome and find rest when the storms of life come crashing over us. It means that when we can’t seem to fall asleep at night because of our worries, God reminds us that “He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps who will not slumber” Psalms 121:3. The God of the universe can grant us the rest we need because He neither sleeps or slumbers and is always at work to lead, guide and protect us when we do not have the means to do so. Our lives are never sinking ships that will be left to drown at the bottom of an ocean, when we choose to keep our eyes focused on Christ instead of our circumstances we begin to experience His sovereign power and control over our lives and truly enjoy his Peace in His presence.