The Gift of Anxiety
Friday, November 6, 2015 at 06:54AM
Kim in Anxiety

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Ps. 119:71) 

It started with physical symptoms: insomnia, tingling hands, chest pain, and a racing heart. I chalked it up to stress. I began feeling uneasy, and it got worse. The unexplained weight loss sent me to the doctor. He said he thought I had a problem with anxiety.

I've always tended toward being a fretter, but this was beyond anything I'd experienced. And as a Christian, there was that immediate sense of shame: how can you be anxious when you're a Christian? I was reluctant to tell people, and hoped it didn't show. When a woman faces something like diabetes or arthritis, there is not a sense of shame. It's not always the case with anxiety.

Christians who struggle with anxiety know what the bible says about it. We know what the verses say, and we take them like little pills. Take a dose of Philippians 4:6; how about a little Matthew 6:25-27; perhaps some Luke 22:22-34. Everything is okay now, right?

The trouble is that the head knows things the body doesn't often want to co-operate with. We forget that even though we are born again by the Spirit, we are still trapped in bodies of flesh, and bodies of flesh do struggle with anxiety. The fact that we can't get our anxiety under control causes more anxiety. It's a vicious circle. Anxiety is an unwelcome invader who arrives when you least expect him. 

I call anxiety a gift because it was a huge wake-up call for me; a wake-up call about what is really important. We lose the fear of man very quickly when we're just trying to get through a day without a melt down. We turn to God and take stock of things. At least, that is what I did. I didn't know any other way, really. I lost interest in many things I enjoy, but when I let them go, and saw that there was life on the other side, I realized how much time I'd wasted on fleeting fancies. It was a gift because it drove me to my sympathetic high priest who can offer help in the time of need.

Anxiety has taught me a lot about compassion. It has taught me that mental illness is not as black and white as we think. And it taught me that the church has a long way to go toward understanding it and helping its sufferers through it. There is a lot of misunderstanding about it. When a woman struggles with impatience, pride, or selfishness, we want to help. We know it takes time. But when it's anxiety, it's as if we think handing out a verse and reminding her that anxiety is a sin will be an automatic cure. It isn't. I feel great right now, and when I ran into my family doctor recently he asked me if I felt as good as I looked. But another thing I learned was the fleeting nature of feeling good. As I said, anxiety is the unwelcome invader, and invaders don't tell you ahead of time that they're coming.

I'm not sharing this to get sympathy. And I even debated about writing about it because I know there are a lot of Christians out there who would immediately question my faith; I will be considered "weak." Believe me, I questioned my faith, and I am still hesitant about admitting my struggle. I'm sharing this because anxiety is not an uncommon thing for women; it's more common than you think. And I'm positive that there are women out there who are struggling with this silently because of the stigma attached to it.

Perhaps you're a woman who struggles with anxiety, and you feel alone. Perhaps you're afraid to confess it to anyone but your own family members. Perhaps you think you could not possibly be saved because you have panic attacks. Do not give into those thoughts. Satan wants you to doubt your salvation. And when we are weak, we are even more susceptible to believing lies. Find someone to talk to and get help. 

Here are some quick suggestions: 

If you're a reader, here are some books I recommend. 

Running Scared, Ed Welch
Living Without Worry, Tim Lane
Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, Bob Kelleman 

If you're reading this and you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I'm not an expert, but I understand how frustrating this can be.

Article originally appeared on The Upward Call (http://philippians314.squarespace.com/).
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