I’ve been fearful recently. Anxiety has attacked and panic set in more times in the last few months than ever before in my life. Depression has snuck in and tried to take root, which is a more familiar enemy, but one I’ve been determined to battle. The anxiety though, well I’m less familiar and more unsteady when those moments come in and the feeling of being out of control is not something I enjoy.
I know that there are strategies and coping methods and ways to press through, but many times the things they tell you to do involve making a rational choice to not be anxious. And if you’ve never had an anxiety attack, let me just say that often, “rational choices” aren’t exactly the easiest to come by in that moment. Those moments are more about just trying to breathe and less about talking yourself through the 1-2-3’s of relaxation.
In all of this, this big annoying, ongoing battle, I know a few things that are (thankfully) out of my control and remain the same. Those are: God is good, and this world is not my home. I am not meant to find peace and rest in the circumstances of my life. I am meant to find hope and rest, peace and joy in Jesus Christ and the nearness of His Holy Spirit.
There are many days that I cannot get control of my emotions right away, and in those moments instead of listening to the whirlwind of thoughts in my mind, I must speak the truth of Scripture and listen to the promises of God. I know these things to be true because He is sure and steady, not changing or wavering like I am.
He is a good, good Father. It’s in His nature and character to be good, all the time. So when I am weak, when I am tired or weary or sad, running back to Him is the only sure and steady remedy. And I know that just praying more or reading more is not often the answer that a sick person wants to hear. I’m familiar with that argument too. You don’t tell a person with cancer to “pray more”… no, instead you pray with them as they walk through treatment and see doctors and take medicine on their path to hopeful recovery.
How often though do we forget that there is mighty power in His Word and in the prayers we raise to a mighty God? I think my mind usually wants one or the other. I want a physical remedy… to see a counselor, find a remedy, be “fixed” — or I want the spiritual fix… to just have more faith, pray and dwell in Scripture, and overflow with joy.
I’ve had a hard time learning how the two mesh. How do I seek help in the Spirit along with counsel in the body of Christ and those wiser than me? Can the two coincide?
Yes. Absolutely they can. They don’t have to be separate or unrelated. They can be simultaneous. At least in my experience, the strengthening of spirit that comes from time with our good Father is often spurred on by time in community and under wise counsel. Often those people in our circles who are willing to lift up our weary arms can speak the exact word that I needed to hear. The sermon I hear will affirm the truth I read this morning in my quiet time. The counselor will speak words of practicality that support a spoken word of the Father. The partnership of His Spirit with His Church is something so special and unique to the faith that is found in Jesus. The body is the living portrayal of so many good characteristics that come from Him. Just like the sunset reminds us that He is faithful and creative and kind, the body reminds us that He is near, patient and loving.
I love these verses found in Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
“The God of peace will be with you.”
The order of that phrase makes my heart rejoice! It does not simply say “the peace of God will be with you.” While that is still a good thing, we know that peace seems to come and go with circumstances more often than we would like to admit. Sometimes peace seems to be lacking in times of trouble.
But the God of peace does not change. His character is not affected by circumstantial times of hardship. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So, if the God of peace is with us, that means that He is in our midst, and His presence brings more comfort than any other “remedy” available. Peace exists eternally in tandem with His Good Nature.
Recently I have been able to see the difference that recognizing His presence can make. I saw a counselor not too long ago who walked me through a really helpful practice I’ve been able to implement lately.
Back in February, a woman came into our home that shook my sense of peace. She knocked on the door late one evening asking to borrow a phone. When Ethan turned to get one, she let herself in the door, locked it behind her, and sat down on our couch. Immediately, panic overcame me and I thought surely she was going to harm or rob us. She was seemingly scoping out the place and acted extremely odd, as if she was strung out.
She ended up leaving and we were alright, but our neighbors down the street were robbed by some men she was working with that evening. She was arrested the next morning at our church down the road. She had multiple warrants out for her arrest and she was carrying drug paraphernalia, weapons and ammunition.
That night seemed to be a trigger for some of the anxiety I’ve experienced lately. So the counselor had me envision that scene and recall who all was there with us in the room (me, Ethan, crazy lady.) She asked if I was forgetting anyone (I was. Jesus.) So she had me envision that scenario with Jesus visibly and physically in the room. We talked about how that image of His presence changed that reality. The memory no longer felt like complete chaos and fear, it felt like peace from a God who was with us and protected us from harm. When I go back to that moment in my head, remembering His presence with us completely changes the sense of anxiety and fills me with gratitude and calm in the great care He offered.
Practicing His presence is something we can never stop pursuing. Remembering to call on Him and trust that He will answer – this is always the best option in moments of panic.
I’ve also been learning to ask for help. Sometimes the people who love us can help carry us back to Jesus when we feel we’ve lost the strength to go on our own. This Fall hasn’t been a shining season for me personally. But over and over again Ethan has graciously helped train my eyes to see the joy and hope of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me. I know that my first resort always has to be Jesus, but some days it’s hard to know where to start. I am abundantly thankful for the people and friendships God has provided to help my weary heart remember His faithfulness.
I’ve also been listening to music that speaks truth pretty much on repeat. I’ve been singing those melodies and promises over and over again and meditating on them day and night. Letting truth fill my heart is one of the fastest ways to calm down in anxious moments because His presence overcomes our every weakness and fear.
I have a long way to go and a lot to learn in terms of daily depending on Jesus for hope and satisfaction. But in the middle of a storm He is always nearby, calmly ready to settle the sea and prove His power over our circumstances.
My prayer in these past few months has been simple: Jesus be near, Jesus be enough.
I know that He already is near and He always will be enough. But this simple prayer of dependance and seeking after something I know He is able to provide has been a truly helpful step in surrendering to Him in those moments that feel out of control. I pray that He is near and enough for you, just as He has been for me.