We chalked up my childhood anxiety to an irrational, somewhat-fleeting, crazy-child phase. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that my nightmare wasn’t actually a dream, or my stomach ache was because of a huge tumor growing in me, or that an intruder was on the other side of the door about to kill me.
I’d stumble, sobbing and incoherent, to my parents’ bedside, and they’d be up with me for hours in a futile attempt to soothe me out of yet another panic attack.
Fortunately for my parents’ sanity, the phase passed, and I went about 10 years without an attack.
Then I met Jesus. Life got really good, in that fall-in-love, find-great-friends, everything-is-perfect kind of way. And that childhood anxiety? Back and more overwhelming than before.
I had this irrational fear that God kept inventory of all the blessings He gave me, and once it reached the quota, He’d strike me down. Whenever I received a blessing, I refused to believe that it would last, and, the longer it lasted, the more anxious I’d be that it was nearing its inevitable end.
When life is going well, we don’t want to relinquish control, but, as circumstances spiral, we’re reminded that we actually never had control in the first place. That’s when fears kick in, and we’re given the decision either to pretend they’re not there or trust God with our chaos.
Pastor Matt Chandler says, “The worst thing you can do with fear and anxiety is to pretend you’re too strong to have them. The best thing you can do is just to let Him be in charge of them. Because He’s in charge anyway. And in Him, you’re in His peace.”
We run from believing that God will comfort and run to whatever we think will dissolve the anxiety for the time being. Inevitably, though, what we think will heal us—distractions, addictions, idolatry—will simply harm us more. And in that moment, God begs us to trust His goodness and hand our fears over.
When we stop running from God and instead choose to trust Him and hand over our fears to Him, (at least) three things happen.
1. We Become Brave Enough to Hear God’s Answer to Our Scariest Prayers
Praying that prayer—telling God, “I’m so fearful that something bad is going to happen,”—is threatening because God has every right to respond, “So what if it does?”
Ignoring the question doesn’t change God’s mind. It’s not a heavenly game of hide-and-seek. When we pretend anxiety isn’t there, His will doesn’t shift.
It takes articulating our scariest fears to recognize how tiny they are in comparison to God. We learn that our fear is smaller than His grace when we define them and they don’t cast the smallest shadow on His promises throughout Scripture.
When we stop hiding from His answer, we recognize that His response is because of His sovereignty. In His goodness, “So what if something bad happens?” means, “If it does, I’m still King, and you’re still Mine.”
2. Anxiety Becomes Less Terrifying
A panic attack always becomes worse when the sufferer starts to panic about the panic attack.
Jesus tells us that we will struggle and fear and fail. He also says to take heart, because He has overcome the world. When Jesus proclaims that He has the victory, He didn’t mean that He has control over everything except our anxiety.
He didn’t say, “Run from me, and we can pretend your fears don’t exist.” He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In His grace, God strips the fear out of our worst nightmares, because He knows what happens at the end of our story. His rest is our peace.
3. Joy Becomes Natural
When we stare fear in the face, our natural instinct is often to flee. But if we shift our focus away from the fear and onto the Lord, we choose to fight. And our strongest weapon and sharpest sword is joy.
As we resist ignoring our anxieties and begin to hand them over to God, our instincts change. We choose to fight back with hope-infused joy. The hope that the Creator of it all has it all—even our fears—in His mighty hands leads us straight to the foot of the cross, where anxious thoughts lose their power and where inexplicable joy and peace is found.
His promises of comfort and freedom extend from the very beginning to the very end of the Bible—we need only turn to it. When we see the repetition of His promises, trusting Him becomes unavoidable. He’s proven His faithfulness.
Holly Paulette is in love with good words and wants to share them with the world. She is the wife of a farmer, diehard Hokie, self-proclaimed indoorsy type, and will never turn down a chocolate chip cookie. She's learning to find herself at the feet of the King of the Universe, who, for some crazy reason, knows her name. Follow along at farmertakesawife.wordpress.com.