It happened on a Tuesday night, during Bible study. It was after we had discussed our homework for the week, after watching the weekly video, slipped in during the last bits of conversation.
And it was exactly what I have been searching for.
As anyone who has been reading my blog for any manner of time knows, I have struggled with fear and anxiety for the majority of my life. I just didn’t have a name for this constant state of worry until the early part of last year. I thought it was just a part of who I am; it didn’t occur to me it was something I could control.
And then I started getting panic attacks. Late in the night, waking me up from a deep sleep with ragged breaths, chest pain, and a feeling that something was terribly wrong.
“Jesus, I need you to help me breathe. Jesus, I need you to help me breathe,” was the only thought racing through my brain.
That isn’t normal. Constant worry isn’t normal. It was anxiety.
I talked to a friend about it. I brought it up to my mom. I discussed it with my grandma (who has dealt with debilitating anxiety attacks). They all concurred with what I thought. Anxiety.
Right now, my women’s Bible study group is going through the study Stuck by Jennie Allen. I was incredibly excited about this series, dealing about all the places we feel stuck in our relationship with God. Jennie is an amazing speaker and writer and with each new chapter, I’m smacked in the face with a new way of looking at my relationship with God.
I’ll be honest: I had a bit of a faith crisis last year. It wasn’t that I had stopped believing in God, but I came to a fork in the road and I didn’t have the right tools to take me on the path I needed to be on. I was focused on what other people around me were doing, comparing my life to theirs, trying to make sure it measured up to the standard they seemed to want it at. I was trying to understand God and frankly, sometimes His ways are hard to understand.
Luckily, with a new year came a new attitude about my faith – as well as a new women’s Bible study. I have never felt more welcome or accepted at a church than I am at Bible study. (I’ve been to youth groups and young adult groups at church where I feel completely unwelcome and out of place. It’s hard being an introvert at church!) Our first study was a Beth Moore one and you better believe it was a good one. Is it possible for Beth Moore to write a bad study? I think not.
And then came Stuck. The weekly homework isn’t as involved as Beth Moore’s was, but Jennie finds a way to pack a punch in the short few pages she gives us. We’ve dealt with brokenness, discontentment, anger, and last week: fear. I was excited to dig in and discover what Jennie had to say about fear and just like the other weeks, it was eye-opening.
I’ve never looked at my fear and anxiety in the way Jennie described it: as a sin*. A sin. I’m telling God that I don’t trust Him, that He is not in control. I’m telling Him that what other people think about me is more important than what He thinks. I am so concerned by how people perceive me that I have anxiety attacks for what people will think of me if this happens or that happens.
Every time I start worrying and panicking, I’m telling God, “I don’t trust You to know what’s good for me. I don’t trust You to take care of the people around me. I don’t trust You to be there when my world shatters.”
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5
That verse took my breath away. Fear God. All of my other fears and anxiety get me nowhere. Sure, I can worry that something bad might happen to someone I love. I can worry about how others perceive me. I can worry about getting a terrible diagnosis. I can worry about losing my job, my apartment burning down, not having enough money to eat. But honestly, where does all that worry get me? Does it help me in any way? The only thing worry gives us is control. If I have something to worry about, maybe the worst won’t happen. By placing all my worries into God’s capable hands, I am giving up control.
For someone who is a worrywart, it’s hard to give up that control. To say, I won’t worry about worst-case scenarios anymore. If they happen, they happen. I firmly believe in the saying, everything happens for a reason. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe in that reason. It’s hard to understand why my grandma was given a cancer diagnosis three times. Or to reason my mom getting hit by a car. To believe my father leaving me was for my good. Bad things happen and bad things will always happen. (Until we’re in heaven, that is!) But to worry about the possibility of them happening? To let myself get wrapped up in my fear?
It’s killing my spirit.
What if I just stopped? What if, every time a worrisome thought crossed my thoughts, I gave it directly to God? What if I fully gave Him control over my life? What if I trusted Him to know what’s best for me? Trusted Him to know what’s best for my loved ones?
It would be hard. Worry is such an integral part of me that to not worry? That feels weird. I feel out of control and reckless.
But it could also be the most freeing thing I could do to myself.
*I want to clarify that Jennie does not, in any way, think there is anything wrong with having an anxiety disorder. She fully understands that some people need therapy and/or medication to control their anxiety. But before she went that route, she wanted to see what the Bible had to say about dealing with fear/anxiety. I still intend on seeking out therapy about my anxiety, but my eyes have been opened to a new way of approaching my fears.