Anxiety Sequence – Part 4
Last week, I opened the door a little wider to the struggle I’ve had with anxiety. I tried my best to paint a picture for you that was a genuine illustration of what being trapped within the chains of anxiety feels like…at least for me…and, I was confronted with the very real fact that I can either hang tightly to that ever-eroding cliff of fear or take the chance and leap onto the Wings of my God.
Gratefully, I have chosen to leap onto His Wings…
I haven’t exactly leaped gracefully, but I’ve done it nonetheless!
See, while this realization has been an awesome one, there’s some work awaiting me behind it. I firmly believe, and always have, that while God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Eph.3:20), He also wants us to do our part as well. He certainly is capable of doing everything all on His own, but He is also the greatest Teacher we could ever have…and, us doing our parts is the lesson He so often teaches us through.
So, if you find that you too have made a similar realization as I…that you unwittingly had chained yourself to that decrepit cliff and you want “off” as well…take heart in knowing that that is just the beginning of your journey. It’s a victorious start, for sure, but you will still need to put in the work, in order to keep yourself from returning to those horrific chains.
For some reason, it seems human nature to return to what we’ve known for so long, regardless of whether it is good for us or not. Even though fear and anxiety are the exact opposite of what we want, it will likely be our tendency to return to it, because it is what we’ve grown to know the best. It’s what we’ve grown “comfortable” with, as dysfunctional as it has been…it is what we mistakenly had begun to identify as “home”.
If you find yourself returning to the familiar grounds of fear and anxiety,
be kind with yourself.
The rest will come in time.
If life is the classroom for our greatest lessons learned, I’d like to think of anxiety as the crash course with no abridged versions and certainly no cliff notes allowed.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned through my own crash course that I’ve been a reluctant participant in:
Recognize and Accept Your Anxiety (& Yourself!)
Before you can rid yourself of your anxiety, you’ve got to realize that you are struggling with it in the first place, and then you need to accept it. Accept that you, along with millions of others, struggle with anxiety.
Accept yourself amid your anxiety.
Don’t fight it.
Don’t fight yourself.
The fight only fuels the anxiety further.
I’m not saying “this is how it is, deal with it” and “end of story”, but what I am telling you is that, before you can break free from your anxiety, you need to recognize and admit that you have it in your possession in the first place. Don’t give your anxiety a place to hide. Expose it. Get it out in the open, and be kind to yourself while doing so. This, right here, will help to strip anxiety of at least some of the power you never intended for it to have.
So, recognize it. Own it. Don’t be afraid of it. This is the beginning of your way out.
Live life with an open hand
Everything about our lives,
and everything we hold most dear,
belong wholly and completely to God.
Our acceptance of this, or lack thereof, will never change the fact that this is the truth.
Part of me feels tremendous peace over this, while the other part of me still wants to curl my fingers around those things that I love the most, in an effort to keep them and never let them go.
I’ve never been a materialistic person, so the things I try to hold most tightly to are my children and my health (and yes, I realize I have not mentioned my husband, but there’s a reason!). I’m assuming that the reason I hold onto my kids so tightly needs no explanation. Why I covet my health, however, warrants a little disclosure.
My fear over my own health is not so much about me as it is about my kids. I want to be here for them. I want to see them grow and to watch their children’s children grow, but in order to do that, I must be healthy. I must be well…and too, I don’t want them to know the devastation of losing a parent at any young point in their lives. (Incidentally, there is an amazing post by Maggie Meadows Cooper over at Blogs by Christian Women on this topic. If you struggle in this area at all, I highly recommend reading it! Hopefully it will grant the same peace it has me!)
Something interesting, though, about that whole closed hand idea: The tighter you hold on to something, the more you become afraid of it slipping from your grasp.
If you are busy spending all of that time in fear over your beloved treasure,
you’re literally leaving yourself no room and no time,
to love the very thing you’re aiming to keep.
The more I hold onto my kids in fear, the less room I have to love and enjoy them the way I was designed to. The more time I spend in fear over my health, the more unhealthy I seem to get! As hard as it is, we need to open up our hands so that we can see and really enjoy our treasures.
Nothing can thrive.
Nothing can grow within a closed hand.
God doesn’t want us to live our lives in a corner huddled around our prized “possessions”. He wants us to enjoy them and celebrate them! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of anyone that was able to celebrate life while sitting in a corner riddled with fear. I don’t think we realize we’re doing that at that time, but now that I see it, it is not any kind of life I want to live, and it’s most certainly not any kind of life I want to teach my children to live either!
Change your perspective
The way we choose to look at and respond to even the smallest moments of our days, has the power to tilt our levels of anxiety in either direction. Every morning, when we awake, a figurative cup is set before us, whether we realize it or not. Every day, we must choose whether to drink from the cup that brings us peace and joy, no matter the circumstances, or to drink from the one that is wrought with darkness and fear.
I know that, far too often,
I have chosen to drink from that horribly wretched cup of fear,
and it can be hard, even now, to understand why.
I mean, if someone came up to me and was like, “Here, drink this, and you will be overcome with terror!” I’d obviously opt for not, while simultaneously looking for the fastest way out! Yet, morning after morning, there have been times that that is the exact cup I drink from.
Philippians 4:8 is very clear about what we are to focus on throughout our days, and you know, it really does make a difference….
Thinking about the days when my kids were still babies will inevitably soften my heart and distract me in a favorable direction. Focusing on the fact that my gas is really the start of a heart attack, however, is going to push me over the edge and send me reeling for the rest of the day while I try to determine if I really am in the middle of an emergency or not!
So in the spirit of Philippians 4:8, think about what is good and lovely and admirable…anything positive really, and be on the front line to guard your peace.
I’ve got more coming to this blog about beating anxiety, but I think here is a good stopping point for now. Please know that I do not assume any of this will be easy. It hasn’t been for me, but I find comfort in Jesus’ words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It’s amazing to know that the same God that has overcome the world has overcome every last bit of fear in me. It might take me a while to absorb this. It might take me a while to really let go…to really be free of the talons of fear…but every day I draw closer still.
Every day I am more free than the one before,
and even if I do experience a set back,
I’m still further along than the day I started.
I’ve got these lessons learned tucked under my belt and a God who frees me on the daily that is fighting my battles right alongside and for me…(and He can for you too!)
I will be praying for anyone that has come here looking for peace in the midst of their raging storm of anxiety. Please know that I get it, and you’re in good company here! If you need more specific prayer, or if you have any questions about my own personal journey, leave me a message in the comments or email me directly.