“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Today I want to share with you a journey of freedom that I have gone through in the past 13 years. This is a freedom from the darkness of anxiety. I share this with you in the hopes of comforting someone else out there that has gone through the same thing. During this journey, God has comforted me and helped me find freedom from anxiety. We serve a God who promises comfort so that we can in turn use His comfort to comfort others. As much as I do not want to share this with you, I know that we are called to share how God has helped us through trials so that we can give His comfort to others. May you find God’s comfort today through this story.
In 2003 I began going through a trial that I never expected to go through…anxiety. I was a person full of joy and laughter on the outside, but on the inside I was filled with worry and fear. My life that year was amazing. I got engaged to my husband, Andrew and got married. Very happy times. But that year also brought a lot of change. Moving, leaving a job I loved, trying to find another job, selling his home, buying a new one, and planning a wedding. Lots of wonderful and exciting times, but my body felt the weight of the stress and started behaving in ways I did not like.
I began having anxiety attacks. Ones where my chest would hurt, I felt like I couldn’t swallow, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Nothing is scarier than being in the middle of a normal activity and then feeling like you might die. I think I went through every test imaginable and the conclusion was that I had anxiety. No heart problems, no lung problems, no throat problems. Every test came back normal. Now that may seem like great news, but for me, it didn’t because I still had a problem and I didn’t know how to fix it. The doctors prescribed me Xanax and told me to relax.
While the Xanax did provide a very calming feeling, it never fully took away the anxiety. Years went by without having a full blown attack and then when change or stress in my life happened the anxiety attacks would make an appearance again. I was tired of letting anxiety control my life. Even though I had been praying through the anxiety since 2003, it wasn’t until many years later that I truly felt a freedom from it.
One day sitting in the solitude of our church sanctuary early one morning, God spoke to me and He helped me to see Him. I was finally able to see through to the other side. Before, I had just relied on myself and what I could see…which wasn’t anything but a dark cloud of stress, worry, and anxiety. However, God opened my eyes to see His path.
God revealed to me a passage from Scripture that gave me the freedom I so desired.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rejoice as: “to feel or show that you are very happy about something”[i]. So, to rejoice in the Lord, as this passage in Philippians says, we must show that we are very happy in the Lord. And the best way for me to show this is to sing! Singing can do wonders to your soul.
I once read a devotion on the Proverbs 31 Ministries website that talked about worry and anxiety[ii]. One thing it said was that we should turn our worries into worship. When you start to feel anxious and know that anxiety is creeping its way back into your mind, then you need to worship. Take that worry or anxious thought, give it over to God, and just start praising Him through song.
When I read that devotion I wondered why I had never thought of that before. I can remember the first time I implemented this new strategy. It was amazing to see the anxious thoughts leave my head as I sang my heart out to our wonderful Savior. I worshiped and the worry disappeared.
The next step I took with the Lord was to remember His presence. In that Philippians passage, Paul writes “The Lord is near.” (verse 5b). God revealed to me that He had never left my side. During all my struggles with anxiety attacks, God was there. He didn’t abandon me and leave me to fend for myself. He was there. I just had forgotten that He was.
Today I practice remembering His presence by being still. A lot of times when I feel anxiety coming on, it’s because I am going full speed ahead with no intent on applying the brakes. I must be willing to sit still and just be in His presence. I like to find a quiet place, one where I know I won’t have any interruptions: my back porch, in the church sanctuary, my sitting room, or even by Cane Creek Falls at Camp Glisson. I sit still, talk with God and listen and am just there. This helps me to feel His presence. And when I am able to feel His presence in the peaceful times, it makes me be able to remember His presence in the anxious times.
The next step I took with God was prayer. During the onset of the anxiety attacks in 2003, I never stopped calling out for God. I prayed…and I mean a lot! However, I realized that I was praying for God to take it away, which is not a bad thing to pray for. But, what I wasn’t doing during those prayer times was allowing God to take control. I was trying to fight my way through the anxiety by myself. I had my fists up ready to take out anxiety when an attack came on. When it did arrive, my fists didn’t stay up long because anxiety kicked my butt. I allowed it to control me without ever allowing God to fight for me. Basically, I didn’t give God a chance. I stopped trying to control my anxiety-ridding plans, and instead focused on letting go and giving it over to God.
And then there was one step I never thought I would take on this journey with God as far as anxiety goes. Why in the world would I ever give thanks to God in the scariest moment of my life? But, as this passage in Philippians 4 says, we must show God our thankfulness.
I read an article during my anxiety years that mentioned keeping a gratitude journal. So, I began doing that and it totally changed me. Every morning when I woke up (or even during the middle of the night when I woke up because of anxiousness), I got out my notebook and wrote down all the things I was thankful for. And I would add to that list at the end of each day as well. The list of thanksgivings was so long and I began to give thanks to God for each thing. It’s amazing to see the difference in yourself when you begin to do something simple as thanking God.
With each of these steps I took with God, the dark, anxiety cloud began to lift and lift and lift. And that anxiety was replaced by the peace of God. By rejoicing in God, remembering His presence, praying, and giving thanks, I was able to see God instead of seeing the anxiety that surrounded me. God’s peace became the guarder of my heart and my mind. I can just picture God’s peace inside my heart and my mind, surrounding them both, and not allowing Satan back in with his attempts to scare me through the change I was experiencing. The peace of God has won the battle and I now know how to conquer the fear of anxiety and change.
God comforted me in my trial with anxiety. And I know that He will comfort you in your trials as well. Are you ready to let go and let the God of comfort into your life and bring you the peace that you long for?
Prayer: God of comfort, how grateful we are for Your promise to always comfort us no matter what kind of trial we are facing. During this time, help us to always worship You, remember Your presence, go to You in prayer, and give thanks to You in all circumstances. Thank You for bringing us comfort so that we can in turn comfort others with the comfort You give us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
- What kind of trial are you facing today?
- Spend some time in prayer seeking God for His comfort. Write down what He is telling you.
- Think of others you know that you can share God’s comfort with today. Write down their names and make a point to reach out to them this week.
[ii] Karen Ehman, “Turning Worry into Worship”, accessed April 16, 2014, http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/turning-worry-into-worship/