This is what God said. To be more precise, He said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Phillippians 4:6-7 NIV. It seems that we almost never follow His direction on this. I know I tend to worry first and then remember that I’m really supposed to pray and ask Him for help and guidance on how to fix the problem at hand. No, I panic first. I’m a natural worrier and it is very challenging for me to ask for help in any situation. So, by my very nature, when presented with a problem, my first inclination is not to be calm and peacefully and prayerfully consider my options. That would be awesome, but if I’m being honest with you, I still pretty much freak out first. Sometimes I even rant and rave about how unfair something is before I remember how much He has brought me through. I mean, I know in my heart of hearts that it has been God who has really fixed things for me. I know that if He hadn’t covered me, even when I was messing up my life, I would never have had the opportunity to watch what He can do with a hot mess like myself. He has been through some things with me that I could never fully share in the interest of remaining respectful to others. You don’t need the gory details; all you need to know is that when I was so low that I couldn’t even see the underside of the bottom, He was there with me, whispering to me as I cried. Telling me that it was all going to be okay. I didn’t realize it was Him at the time, but there was always a voice in my head telling to be strong. And boy was I in some situations that required great strength. I’m so thankful that I finally found that strength and learned how to use it.
Aside from my years at the bottom of the pit, there were also some years when my depression and anxiety were so unbearable that I wasn’t sure I could go on. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted the pain to end. I wanted to stop being afraid, but I couldn’t. For a while, the misery just kept piling on, and I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was so sick all of the time and I spent so many hours in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. My mind knew that I was okay, but my body was not convinced. Heart palpitations, racing thoughts, weakness, dizziness, and an incredible feeling of dread would fall on me for no reason at all. I couldn’t stop thinking that I was going to spin out of control and that my entire life would just fall apart. I would be okay for a little while and then something stupid would trigger this ridiculous panic attack. And the rest of my day would be spent in the hospital having tests run. When you’re overweight and you start complaining of chest pains, they automatically want to put you through every kind of test to make sure your heart is okay. And it was most definitely a heart condition, but not the kind they were looking for.
The problem was that for a very long time, I had set God aside. I’d had a terrible experience with church as a teenager and I had gone from being a very active member of the youth choir in a small Baptist church to never setting foot inside a church or even picking up a Bible. I left the church for over twenty years. And when I had gone through so many years of pain and suffering, the solution presented itself as the solution to marital boredom. My now ex-husband and I were out together one night on one of the rare occasions when we had been able to have a “date night.” We had been fighting a lot and we were stressed about lots of things. I had miscarried five times, we’d been through a bankruptcy, and my husband was dealing with some serious health issues as well. Things were not good, and it seemed like we blamed each other. We hadn’t been able to find anything to do, so we ended up sitting at Tim Horton’s at the end of the night we were looking at a newspaper that had been left on the table. My husband found an ad in the back of the paper for a Saturday night church service. It had been in the back of my mind to try and go back to church, but I hadn’t wanted to try because of the things that had happened in the past. But God has a way of letting things come full circle. My forty years in the wilderness was really about twenty-one years in the gutter. And when I finally came out of it, I came out fighting.
I went back to church and although my marriage eventually ended, my relationship with God became stronger and stronger. I threw myself into learning more about Him and I began to see things that hadn’t been clear to me in the past. I woke up. I understood. And now, even though I still worry first and pray later, I know where my hope lies. I know that it is God who will always bring me through whatever is going on in my life. So, I keep that verse I mentioned earlier at the back of my mind at all times. And I remind myself that the thing that I do where I freak out and then remember that I need to pray is really just the flesh going through the motions of using old coping skills to deal with new issues. I don’t really feel that fear but because I’m not fully healed, I just feel obligated to not appear more stable than I really am. The difference between now and then is that now I know that the day is coming when I’ll be all the way okay and I’ll be able to stay calm as I seek His guidance before I feel the need to worry.
47 Days of Self-Care is a blogging project that is being published between three different blogs owned by Author & Publisher, Rebecca Benston. Over these 47 days, she hopes to share thoughts and resources for better self-care. You can view related posts at Higher Ground for Life, at the Leading the Follower blog, and on the Higher Ground Books & Media blog.