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Anxiety may hit you at your peak

In 2015, just when I was about to begin seminary, I noticed myself feeling more anxious than usual. I have always been a worrier, but for the most part, after a few days of churning, I would settle back down again. Not this time. And then physical symptoms began to happen. It was actually my family doctor who suggested I had out of control anxiety.

It is easy to think that Christians become anxious because they are spiritually lazy; or sinful; or apathetic. But that was not the case for me. I was about to embark upon something I had been waiting for: going to seminary. That is not spiritual apathy or sin.  

At that time, I was active in my local church. I taught women regularly. I had a consistent prayer and Bible reading habit. That did not prevent anxiety from lowering me. And maybe, that lowering was not entirely bad. When we are in a place of spiritual growth, it is sometimes easy for our minds to tell us: "You are invincible." Those three words used in combination like that -- subject, verb, predicate -- are deadly.

I was thinking about that idea of lowering as I was working on my translation of Philippians. I'm doing it from my Greek NT, a verse a day; slowly. Here is my rather crude translation of Phil. 2:5-7:

Have this mind in you which is also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider being equal with God something to hold on to, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men.

Jesus lowered himself by becoming human. He was divine, yet he took on the flesh of humanity. That is a kind of lowering I don't think we will ever understand. When we are lowered, it can feel like we are being humbled into someone we don't recognize. I did not feel like myself when my anxiety was out of control. I railed inwardly at myself because I could not get it under control, and I felt guilt and shame. And of course, it made me cry out to God. Praise God, in time, I got better.

It is true that when we are spiritually weak, we are a target for Satan and his attacks. But there are also times when things are going well, that we don't see the weak spots, and we are open to being tempted. And when it comes to anxiety, we have to remember that there is a whole physiology accompanying it. We don't always understand why we have the reactions we do. I don't think we fully understand how the mind and body work together. That is both the beauty and the mystery of human creation; it is a combination of spirit and body, and each is influenced by the other.

When we see Christians struggling with anxiety, we should not automatically conclude that they aren't trying hard enough, or praying hard enough, or reading their Bibles enough. They may be doing exactly that. The anxiety Christians feel is not necessarily linked to a particular sin, although while we're struggling with anxiety there is ample room to sin in the midst of it. My anxiety sideswiped me at a time when I least expected it.

Having had a time when my anxiety was beyond my control was ultimately good for me for many reasons; one of them being that I have grown more sympathetic to others who struggle.

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