Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This Anxious Heart

Taking a quick break from talking about heavenly rewards to share something that God has been working out in my heart...

In general, I'm a very anxious person. Really, I'm an extremely emotional person. And the emotions that seem to surface the most are anxiety and stress. Anxiety over the circumstances in my life. Anxiety over how I relate to people. Anxiety about what people think of me and whether or not people like me or approve of me. Anxiety about fitting in-- any time spent with others, whether it be one-on-one or in a group, will inevitably, probably 95% of the time, be followed by me retreating to my car and "melting", completely overwhelmed by the amount of effort it just took to smile, to talk, to place myself in a vulnerable position and trust that I'd come out unscathed. And when a "bruise" does surface, whether real or perceived, it can be crippling.

And here's the kicker: I think I have spent more time being anxious about my anxiety than about anything else that I find to fret over. I feel like there's something wrong with me, like I should be able to overcome these feelings if I pray a little harder, trust God a little more, love God a little more, understand the promises of God a little more, you name it. I hear the words of "encouragement" telling me to trust in Jesus and lean on his love, to rely on the Holy Spirit to give me strength and peace and stability. Every book out there points to verses like Matthew 6:34 and 2 Timothy 1:7, painfully reminding me of the truth that I'm supposed to know, but obviously don't, since I'm still finding that I'm panic-stricken.

Now, obviously, we do have to trust that God holds the future in his hands. We do have to believe that God is taking care of us and will never forsake us. We do have to cling tightly to the Holy Spirit and be filled with the kind of power and love and sound mind that only He can give. But what does that really look like? How do we really live that out? So many Christians are so fond of saying things like, "In this life we will have trials and tribulations, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we don't have to be afraid or anxious." But what if my anxiety IS my "trial and tribulation"? What if this sense of panic and fear over relationships, over life, over being hurt or wronged, is in itself the great trial of my life thus far?

JJ Heller has a song called Have Mercy On Me, where she shares her own story of anxiety, and there is one line that resonates so deeply with my own battle: "I know it's not because I don't love you enough. It's not because I'm weak; it's how you choose to speak to me."

Well, God has certainly been speaking. Were it not for these untamable fears, I probably wouldn't be half as dependent on Jesus as I truly am. He has used these feelings of panic and anxiety to draw me in closer to himself. And it's certainly a push and pull. There are times that I am so overcome by a sense of hopelessness, feeling like I will never grow beyond these crippling emotions, that I lash out at God, so angry and frustrated that He would watch me suffer and not reach down and take it all away. But He always draws me back. He reminds me that my hurt is not a sign of weakness. And he does fill me with the strength to walk into church or go to a party or meet a friend for coffee and smile and shake hands and socialize.

The feelings never go away, and I am coming to realize that they probably never will. But I am also reminded so gently that God is all I need, that his love is enough, and that even though those things are true, it does not necessarily mean that I will ever feel that way. I am slowly accepting this part of me as something that God has allowed and most likely will continue to allow, knowing that he does work all things together for my ultimate good, because he loves me and has allowed me to love him. So I will stop trying to "make it go away" and simply learn to let him speak.


  1. Oh, Tarrah, my sweet friend! You know I battle panic disorder and even though it works out a little differently in each person, I have to say, You Nailed This Perfectly!!! So true!!!

  2. Thanks Jan! I do know you understand my struggle all too well. Praying for you friend. So grateful for your love and encouragement!!

  3. Psalm 94:19 "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul."

    There is a special COMFORT that DELIGHTS my soul that I experience even with a MULTITUDE of ANXIETIES WITHIN. Sometimes I don't FEEL the comfort as strongly as at other times, but I grab on in FAITH anyway. The COMFORT of Jesus is actually in the anxiety because He is alive IN me. HE has overcome it. HE carries it for me. He carries ME and YOU, Tarrah. This is a mystery, but it is spiritually discerned.