RSS Feed

Category Archives: Anxiety

God Is With Us No Matter What

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ve probably heard me talk about my past issues with anxiety, specifically when it comes to flying. (You can read more about it here). God has delivered me from anxiety and anytime I feel moments of anxiety leading up to or while flying, God continues to deliver me from it. However I have found that the fear of anxiety—the “what if it happens”–is more troublesome in the lead up to a flight.

The prospect of a trip with some long flights came up recently. While I felt excited about the trip itself I kind of didn’t want to go. I wanted to put it off. When I realized that the main reason I wanted to put off the trip was because of feeling afraid of the “what ifs” of anxiety associated with the flight I decided that I’m not going to miss out on great experiences because of fear of anxiety.

Then I read Psalm 139 and these verses stuck out to me in a new way:

Is there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit? To be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You.” Psalm 139:7-12

Even when I climb to the sky in a plane, God is with me.

Even when I travel on the underground trains, God is with me.

Even when I fly to the other side of the world, God is with me.

In fact, He’s already there waiting to greet me upon arrival.

Even when I’m in a literally or figuratively dark place, God is there and I’m immersed in His light.

Always.

What ever your fears, doubts, worries or what-ifs are, God is with you, surrounding you with His love; ready to help you in your time of need. Because He loves to help.

He says:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Treasures in Darkness

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” I read that Persian Proverb several years ago as I was walking through a year-long wilderness journey of extremely high anxiety and panic attacks that came on out of nowhere. The anxiety was so high and so pervasive that I couldn’t even shake it when I was with close friends who I knew I could fall apart in front of, if needed. It led to a huge crisis of faith where I questioned if God was even real and if the Bible could be trusted. Much of the time I felt like I was hanging onto faith by a thread. God eventually led me out of that intense anxiety and taught me how to overcome it. Now I can honestly tell you that on the other side of it, I am thankful for the experience.

Treasure Hunting With God
In Isaiah 45:3 God says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Only in walking through darkness–that wilderness–do we receive those secret treasures from God. There are certain things we only learn and experience while suffering.

My experience of anxiety tested my faith (proving it stronger on the other side); developed my character; gave me deep compassion for others in similar trials; and drew me closer to the heart of God. In the midst of what feels like darkness to us, we can be encouraged that even “darkness is as light” to God (Psalm 139:12). He sees everything. He is with you, no matter what “time of day” it is in your life.

Recently I listened to a sermon where the teacher suggested that perhaps the wilderness times in our lives are one of God’s favorite times to spend with us. Not because we’re suffering or are experiencing pain but because during those times we tend to draw even closer to the Father; to have our character refined causing us to resemble Jesus more and more; and we gain insights we never would have learned if we always stayed on the mountain top. And while suffering we also have the opportunity to fellowship with Jesus in a way that we cannot at any other time; to tap into just a small piece of what He suffered for us on the cross.

O My Strength, I Watch For You
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is written by David, who went through a very long wilderness experience before he became king. During that time he grew so close to God and learned to truly depend on Him for every need. David’s character, way of thinking, and the way he worshiped God were forever imprinted in a positive way because of that dark wilderness journey; a journey that prepared him to be king of God’s people. In Psalm 59:9-10 David writes:

“O my Strength, I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” 

Notice that David addresses God as His Strength and his fortress; and even in the midst of his trial David knows how kind and loving God is toward him. But here’s an interesting thing: David is watching for God to show up to help him. He is expectant. David knows that God will come through for him; he doesn’t doubt for a second. He knows from experience after experience that God will not fail him. Ever.

God Will Never Fail Us
God always wants to draw us to Himself. He wants us to rely fully on Him. He wants us to give up control to Him. So He will allow certain situations into our lives that accomplish just that: coming to the end of ourselves; not being able to control situations; having to fully lean and rely on and trust in Him. That can be a tough experience to live out daily. And that is where I was living while walking through anxiety. But the result of that experience is that I know that He is my Source. And I know now that God will not fail me. Ever. I don’t just mean I know it in my head. I mean I know it. Just like David, I know to look for God and expect Him to come through for me no matter what I am facing.

Be encouraged by that today if you are in the midst of groping your way through the darkness. God is with you. He is. Submit yourself to Him. Trust Him and watch for Him. There is treasure in the dark times, just as the stars are a treasure only visible to us at night.

I’m sharing this blog post as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus

 

Read other stories of faith here.

 

 

Overcoming Anxiety—A Personal Testimony

I had never had any major issues with anxiety until six years ago. One night just after going to bed I suddenly became very dizzy, my heart started beating extremely fast, I became short of breath. I felt like I was going to die. It was an awful and intense experience. And then after about 5 minutes it passed. I realized that, out of the blue, I had had my first anxiety attack. It was very scary and puzzling. Why did it happen? I didn’t think I was feeling anxious that day. Over the next year I would have a handful more of the attacks I just described; two of which came on an overseas flight to another country, which instantly gave me an intense fear of flying; something I had not experienced before and have had to battle through as I continue to fly. Although the anxiety attacks were not frequent or long-lived, what did develop for about a year was an ever-present and fiercely intense anxiety that threatened everything I did.

As a Result…

I began to feel unbearably anxious all the time, especially when I went anywhere I had to interact in depth with people. Even going out to eat with close friends I trusted made me feel so anxious that I would be near tears and would want to cancel the outing. If I was going somewhere with friends that required driving, I would drive myself so that I was “in control” and knew I could leave anytime I wanted to. When I went anywhere that required me to sit with a bunch of people, like at church, I always sat on the aisle. That way I could easily get up anytime and leave if I needed to. Having an “out” like this made me feel more like I was in control and that made me feel slightly less anxious. Despite the anxiety I still pushed through and kept going to church, kept getting together with people, kept going to work, even when I felt like I was barely making it.

A Crisis of Faith

Also as a result of this anxiety, I had a major crisis of faith. I questioned if God was real, if the Bible was even true and reliable, if God was good, etc. I felt like I was hanging on by a thread of faith. Sometimes I questioned if I was going crazy. I even considered leaving God. But I realized that peace comes directly from God and I didn’t want to ever live apart from Him and have even more intense anxiety. I was also comforted by good friends who had gone through similar experiences and had come out OK on the other side. They encouraged me to keep on going….it really was going to be alright, which was difficult to believe at the time.

How I Overcame It

I knew I had to deal with this anxiety so I started meeting with a Christian biblical counselor to work through issues that I needed to be set free from. I made a choice not to take any kind of anti-anxiety medication. This anxiety had not always been a part of my life, and I wanted it gone, not merely subdued. Even though it was extremely difficult, painful and harrowing, I wanted to get to the root of the problem so I could get rid of it for good! I think it takes a lot of courage to actually feel and deal with unpleasant emotions and experiences as you work through them. I’m not necessarily anti-medication; there is a time and place for it. But I do think medication should not take the place of dealing with the deeper issue, emotional or otherwise.

During this time I learned that the anxiety I felt was a result of feeling out of control in life. Most things in life we really don’t have a lot of control over, especially other people’s actions and responses. The only way to have full, real and lasting peace is to know and trust the loving and good God who actually is in control of all things. This is where true peace and freedom come from. From then on, anytime I felt anxiety come up, I would ask Jesus to come into the feeling and dissipate it. And I would make a decision to trust that He really was in control of everything. I have to tell you, that as I leaned on and trusted Jesus to take care of me, every single time I asked Him to take away the feelings of anxiety, He did! Most of the time it was immediate. A few times I really had to press into trusting Him and it took a little while because I was so worked up. But He always took the anxiety away. Always. Whether it be in the car, on planes, while meeting with people, while at work, while being way out of my comfort zone.

Walking Into Freedom

Over time, as I kept learning more and more to trust God with everything in my life, to fully lean on Him and to ask Him to come into these negative feelings and transform them, I began to come out of the constant “anxiety coma”. All of a sudden I would realize, I went to church and sat in the middle of the row and didn’t even think twice about it. Or, I did something with friends and I didn’t feel an ounce of anxiety. I haven’t had any anxiety attacks since then and I don’t have much anxiety now. When I do feel anxiety or fear or any other potentially crippling emotion, I still rely on God to help, and trust that He’s in control. I still ask Him to come into those negative emotions and dissipate them and to show me the root cause of them. He always does. He is faithful and is fully reliable. His reputation precedes Him.

So…

+What has God set you free from? Be sure to tell other people about it! One of my favorite verses in the Bible,Revelation 12:11, talks about the power of our personal testimony of what God has done in our life! “And they overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony…”

+What do you still need to be set free from? Ask God to help you and to show you your part in receiving freedom. Do you need counseling? Or to start reading the Bible to learn who God is and who He says you are? Or do you need to start realizing that you can’t control everything so you need to learn to fully trust God? Or….?

God desires to meet us in the midst of every large and small experience in each of our lives; in everything that scares us, troubles us, confuses us and breaks our heart. What are you struggling with today that God desires to meet you in the midst of and deliver you from? I encourage you to invite Him into it and ask Him to deal with it and minister to you in the midst of it. It can be frightening and painful to look into all of the dark and wounded places of our hearts. But I tell you from experience that God’s freedom on the other side is a million times worth each step of the journey!

Prayer ….

God, You are truly so, so, so good, faithful, loving and kind! I know that from so many of my personal experiences. Thank You for caring about me with such tenderness and for caring about every aspect of my life. And thank You for setting me free! Even after experiencing intense struggles through things like anxiety I can genuinely say that I am thankful for the experience because it makes me know more and more how good You are, and it gives me more compassion for people who are experiencing their own struggles. I love you! Amen.

*You can read more specifically about my personal experience overcoming anxiety while flying, right here.

God’s Deliverance

Posted on

I’d never been afraid to fly. From the time I was less than a year old I’ve been flying on a regular basis. Even flying across the country a few months after 9/11 didn’t scare me because I trusted God with my life.

And then it happened.

A few years ago, out of nowhere, I started having anxiety attacks. Thankfully, I only had a handful over less than a year’s time and with God’s help I worked through the anxiety to the point that I do not have it anymore. But unfortunately two anxiety attacks came back to back on a long plane ride to Ireland. It was a dreadful experience, to put it mildly. As a result, from that moment on, stepping onto a plane was a trigger for extremely high anxiety. I’ve dreaded even the thought of flying. Now, for those of you who have never personally dealt with anxiety you may not have sympathy for this situation but for those of you who have experienced it….I know you’re tracking with me. I went on two trips in the last few years which consisted of 8 plane rides. And each of those times I had such high anxiety that stepping my feet onto those planes was the most courageous thing I could have done at the time. It took everything I had in me to get on those flights and to stay on them before the doors shut. Anxiety comes when you feel out of control of a situation. I have found that when I trust God, who is truly in control, and lean on Him, then there is no room for anxiety. In each of those anxiety-filled times I asked God to come into the feeling of anxiety and dissipate it..take it away…and every single time He has done it. Sometimes I had to ask more than once, especially during flights because I was so worked up, but God has always been faithful to meet me in the midst of my trial; which brought me to the point of knowing without doubt that God will not fail me ever. Ever. That’s an amazing truth to know; and it’s great to have experience after experience to back it up. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) But still, even with God meeting me in anxiety while on the plane, I didn’t want to be haunted with fears of anxiety every time I wanted to fly somewhere.

And then the Washington trip came.

Last year Joel and I had plans to fly to Washington to visit his family. I was a little nervous about the trip in general because I would be staying with his family for the first time. Then add the plane ride to it—

this huge hurdle that would mark the beginning of the trip– and forget about it! The thought of going made me want to crawl into a hole and hide out. Forever. Part of me wanted to cancel the trip just because I didn’t want to fly… but I also know that the devil would have liked for me to run in fear in the opposite direction of God’s plans for me. And I’m finally at a point in my life where I firmly refuse to do that. So I knew I had to go. And that God would go with me.

I was so scared to experience the anxiety I knew was coming that I sobbed out loud the morning of the flight and I didn’t know how I was going to hold myself together. But I told God that I was tired of dealing with this. I don’t have high anxiety in any area of my life anymore other than this and I don’t want it there either. I asked God to completely deliver me from this flying anxiety once and for all.

I likened it to the Israelites in Joshua 3; (this is one of my favorite stories of all time). God is getting ready to lead the Israelites into the land they will inhabit but in order to get to it they need to cross through the Jordan River…which happens to be in flood stage at the time. God instructs Joshua to have the Levites, who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant, (where God’s presence resided), to take a few steps into the river and stop. “When their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off from upstream, and the river will pile up there in one heap.” (Joshua 3:13) This will allow the Israelites to cross over into the land God is leading them into.

I love this because God requires our faith to have an action step. And he also wants to have us partner with Him in the miracles He performs. He doesn’t need us to partner with Him but He wants us to. Did God tell the Levites that He would pull back the waters first and then they could step out? No, just the opposite! He told them to take a step of faith into the water, to trust Him, and to watch Him be true to His words. Can you imagine God telling you to literally go stand in a raging, flooding river and trust that He will not only protect you from being swept away but He will make the waters stop so you can cross over to the other side of the bank?

“Now it was harvest season and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream…Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them…until everyone had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:15-17)

I love that it says that the people crossed over on dry ground. Not wet, muddy, soggy ground. Dry ground.

So, in May, as I walked down the hallway toward the plane bound for Washington, feeling full of anxiety, I likened it to the Levites walking toward the flooding Jordan River. I asked God that as soon as I took the first steps onto the plane that He would “pull the waters” of my anxiety back and that I would “cross over” through the flight on dry ground…with no anxiety. I asked Him by faith to do this and I chose to believe, by faith, that He would.

And He did!

Two flights. No anxiety on either one. None. Coming from where I came from, that, my friends, is truly a miracle. God’s deliverance!

I feel now that God has truly delivered me from the high anxiety that came with flying and that I won’t have it anymore. I am so thankful!

I never took any medication to numb the anxiety. I probably could have and it would have made things better for the moment. But since the anxiety was something new to my life, I didn’t want it to keep sticking around. I wanted to deal with the root issues of whatever was causing it and get rid of it. I could have canceled the trip but I chose to walk through the fearful valley of anxiety because I wanted to walk into God’s freedom and not let fear control me.

God desires to meet us in the midst of every large and small experience in each of our lives. In everything that scares us, troubles us, confuses us and breaks our heart. What are you struggling with today that God desires to meet you in the midst of and deliver you from? I encourage you to invite Him into it and ask Him to deal with it and minister to you in the midst of it. It can be frightening and painful to look into all of the dark and wounded places of our soul. But I tell you from experience that God’s freedom on the other side is a million times worth each step of the journey!