How You Gonna Win When You Ain’t Right Within: Dealing with Anxiety
My first panic attack was in the middle of my shift at my first job TCBY.
A customer was in front of me placing her order, nothing unusual. But me? I was watching her mouth move yet I couldn’t hear anything she said. I couldn’t hear her over the sound of my heart beating harder and faster.
Losing my ability to grip anything, I dropped the ice cream scooper that was in my hand. Two feelings had come over me. The first one was the same feeling sensible US citizens felt when Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election, followed by the second feeling- one experienced right before you got your butt whooped. Pure anguish. Run!
I ran to the single-stall bathroom, locked the door, and left the lights off. My back hit the wall and I slid down until I was sitting on the floor. I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like I’d just ran a 5k race. What was happening to me?
I always held it together, I always kept my composure, but in this moment, I lost all control. “Really God?! This is how I’m about to go out? On this nasty bathroom floor?!” I reached into my pocket for my cell phone. I dialed the house number and my mom answered the phone. I tried to explain what was happening, but I didn’t know how. While I was gasping for breath in between each word, my mom began to pray. What I didn’t realize during that attack was that while I felt like I had no control over anything in my life, God had control over it all.
Anxiety is a tsunami of what ifs, a suspicion or apprehension, and a peace thief. Anxiety is a graduated concern that can consume our mental and even physical well-being. It has a way of knocking us down before we even make a motion or decision to get up. Anxiety can hold us back from receiving a blessing because we do the most. We overthink every aspect of our anxiety- from identifying what it is, to identifying its cause (person, place, thing), to deciding whether to reciprocate. Chile! And to top it off, anxiety even has family members! Cousin Fear, Auntie Anger, and Grandma Guilt. Oftentimes we feel alone because we don’t think anyone will understand what we’re facing. This feeling of anguish can make even the most extroverted individual retreat from society. And for the believer, it could make Romans 8:28 seem unrealistic, like an unattainable dream. But we are all human and this is a very common human emotion. Even Jesus was sweating bullets in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22! But at what point does anxiety surpass a moment, and arrive to this disadvantageous state many of us are familiar with? And how can God and anxiety coexist?
While that was the first panic attack I experienced, it most certainly wasn’t the last. I grew even more anxious over any and everything. And even to this day, after a quick “freak out session”, I look myself in the mirror and ask, “Why am I like this?!” New York Times bestselling author Max Lucado worded it best. In his book Anxious for Nothing, he writes “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional.” I was choosing the imprisonment of anxiety because I didn’t think I had any other choice. But as my mother reminded me, I did have a choice. I needed to choose God.
In Philippians 4:6, Paul reminds us not to be anxious for anything but to pray and ask God for what we need with a humble spirit and a grateful heart. God wants to hear from His children. In these situations, we should always seek God not only for direction, but for peace. Verse 7 goes on to say, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Concentration is key. When we concentrate on His goodness and our relationship with Him, He will give us an incomprehensible peace. We cannot recognize and rejoice in the sovereignty of God if we choose to be in perpetual states of anxiety. The recognition of sovereignty comes by not only reading His word and growing spiritually, but by allowing him to have complete control over our lives. Instead of worrying about what we can or cannot do, we need to focus on what God can do. Because…..it’s already done! (Insert Shout).
And sometimes it’s not always the situation at hand that needs to be addressed. It’s about you too! How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?! COME ON LAURYN! God will get you all the way together. He won’t always simply remove the problem, but instead He will reveal His divine power and presence in the midst of your situation to expose your lack of faith in Him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worried and cried about something and God came through in the biggest and grandest way. I could imagine Him looking at me like, “sooooo, are you done? I told you, I got you!” I was thankful for those moments because it encouraged me to get closer to Him, to rely solely on Him, and to continue to choose Him. Choosing anxiety is a promise of mental suffocation, physical decline, and compromised faith. But in choosing God, we are promised so much more. There are many scriptures throughout the Word of God that reveal the promises of God:
- Isaiah 40:31
- Jeremiah 29:11
- Malachi 3:10
- Joshua 1:9
- Philippians 4:19
- John 14:13-16
I have made it a point to memorize the promises of God or to have them handwritten and posted somewhere as a constant reminder that even moments that I doubt God, He still loves me and wants the best for me.
God doesn’t promise us a life on Easy Street or Blissful Blvd. But He does reassure us that He will be with us while we are going down whatever path of life we’re on. After many years of dealing with various levels anxiety, I’ve learned that we can live our best lives when we change our attitude about our circumstances. We can turn away from the spiritual paralysis of anxiety and choose to run into the arms of our loving and sovereign God. Overcoming anxiety may not happen overnight but choosing to walk out of its imprisonment can.