In my last post, I shared Val’s most recent talk, the core of which I would say is our life anthem (click here to watch). Over the last seven years of being married to Val, I’ve learned the beauty and freedom in seeing and acknowledging my weaknesses, struggles, sin, and brokenness and pursuing God and His purposes in them. Whether God transforms or frees me from the hard reality or He allows a weakness or struggle to remain, I’ve found that knowing God in these places has completely changed me and how I live life. Specifically, when I acknowledge my weaknesses and struggles, I find that I get to know Him and walk in His power and strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 lived out).
This is all totally opposite of what I want to do. I want to point to my accomplishments and success. I want to look awesome and strong and like I have it all together. And I want to hide my weaknesses and struggles. This is basically what we all do. We’ve been taught that success is to be shared and shown and weakness is to be hidden. There is a learned shame surrounding weakness and struggle. Shame keeps things hidden, increasing our isolation and preventing our freedom.
God set things up exactly opposite of this hidden, shame-ridden system. He said that in our weaknesses, His power will be made perfect. Perfect. That when we are weak, then we are strong in Him. So rather than remaining bound in weakness, He set up a system where in seeing and saying our weaknesses and acknowledging Him in the midst of them, He can give us power and strength through them. The weakness, struggle, sin, and brokenness are not the most powerful reality. He is.
So, not only to dismantle my own isolation in places of weakness, but also to normalize weakness and invite others toward freedom, I want to start sharing posts about places of weakness in my life, places of struggle that God’s power is being displayed through. This will not be a consecutive series, but random posts along as I sense His leading (I’ll subtitle these types of posts “The Struggle is Real” so that they’ll be easy to find).
This first post today is simply to expose anxiety as a common weakness and a place that God wants to meet with us. Anxiety is a reality with which I am incredibly familiar.
Anxiety is one of the most paralyzing feelings ever. When you struggle with anxiety, something triggers you, anxiety grips you, and you can’t escape. Your heart starts racing, you get lightheaded, your palms sweat, and your mouth dries up. The anxiety inducing reality becomes all you can think about and you are stuck. You enter that fight or flight space emotionally, and can think of nothing else. It is awful.
I actually used to think this was normal. In my late teens and early adult years, I began to realize that I worried more than most, but thought that was about it. Until I married Val, I didn’t have anyone telling me just how rampant my anxiety was. When Val first started pointing out my fear and anxiety, I thought I was the normal one and he was simply abnormal in his lack of fear. And while he may be abnormal in his lack of fear, what I’ve come to see is just how extreme my fear, worry, and anxiety actually was and is. It is a process to acknowledge something as abnormal that you’ve thought was normal your whole life.
As I began to acknowledge the grip fear had on my life and the reality of anxiety that often overcame me, I began to have the chance to step toward freedom and peace. While I’ve never actually been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I am sure that at various times in my life (and maybe even now!), I could have easily been diagnosed as such. Those feelings can be so consuming at times that I literally can’t get out of them. Val has literally held the hand of my heart and walked with me out of the grip of anxiety through patience, acceptance, love, listening, speaking truth, prayer, and continually pointing me to Jesus and His love and tenderness toward me. Those terrifying moments of gripping anxiety have become fewer and farther apart, and when they do arise, I have more tools now to almost always find my way out of that grip.
Recently, a counselor in our life explained that anxiety is basically seeing your future without God in it. This unlocked so much for me. Val and I have done healing prayer with people where Jesus takes a person back into a memory and shows that person where He was in that memory. Seeing Him back there in that memory can be so very healing. This process is basically what the counselor was sharing with us, but future-oriented as opposed to past memories.
I am now often able to engage this prayer approach toward the future: rather than asking God where he was in past memories (healing prayer), I ask God where He will be in my future fears. I am learning that when I am lost in anxiety, I am actually lost in seeing a future reality without God in it. But if I can find Him in it, the fear often loses its grip on me. Sure, there could be really hard realities ahead of me, but the anxiety does not have to grip me because He will always be with me.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ESV)
So, I am learning to trust His love for me both in the present and in all future realities, even the ones where fear taunts at my heart and threatens to grip me with anxiety. I am learning to acknowledge that I actually do struggle with anxiety, rather than ignoring the struggle out of shame. And I am experiencing His nearness and power and strength.
…and sometimes even after all that…after I have prayed and found Him in the anxiety-driven reality…after acknowledging that anxiety is running rampant…a glass of red wine helps to slow my mind and body down and reset me. So there’s that common grace, too.
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