Overcoming Anxiety…by His grace

I’ve been wavering back and forth on sharing this piece of my life for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it’s humbling for me. It’s not easy to revisit history at times. It’s also a highly emotionally charged topic for many people. I’m treading forward carefully, recognizing that this is still a very real struggle for many individuals. But if that’s the case for you my prayer is that, by God’s grace, my story could contribute to your own journey to freedom in Christ. So here goes.

Three years ago began my battle with severe anxiety. But that’s not really where it started. That’s just where I first began to recognize it for what it was. It really all started six years ago when my Dad was in a near-death, head-on collision.

I was a pretty average kid growing up- wouldn’t have been considered anxious by any means. I got nervous about the things that most kids got nervous about: presentations in front of the class, going somewhere I’ve never gone before, school concerts… the usual. I was a pretty smiley, carefree and outgoing kid. Even as a teenager I wasn’t easily phased by anything. But I remember that all changed on the cold, snowy Saturday in October six years ago . It was the day I checked my phone casually on a work break, seeing several missed calls and a voicemail telling me that Dad was being transported to Emergency at UofA Hospital after being in an accident. I would have no idea until hours later how bad the accident really was. We got to quickly see him in the minutes before they brought him into surgery and I was shocked and traumatized. I barely recognized him. His body was bloody, swollen from the trauma, unconscious, and had tubes and wires attached to different parts of his body that were keeping him alive.

An ER doctor came to the room we waited in to tell us that while Dad was alive, he was in really rough shape. They had extracted him from his T-bird which was mangled beyond recognition. He had lost a lot of blood in the time it took for emergency vehicles to arrive on the scene- a 2 lane highway outside of Edmonton- and the impact of the crash had crushed the lower half of his body. The shock to his body caused him to stop breathing. They were able to stabilize him, but he needed immediate surgery. The doctor was kind and gentle, but also honest. She said that she wasn’t sure what would happen and that we would need to wait to see how the surgeries went. If he lived, it would be months and months of rehabilitation and healing.

I didn’t even let myself cry. I was in so much shock, but trying to be strong for my family.

After the first emergency surgery he was sent to the ICU, where he was in an induced coma and everything still hung in a weird limbo for a while. I had never experienced such stifling anxiety in my life before. I was still so new in my relationship with God and somehow this didn’t fit in with what I envisioned life with God to look like. I was angry at God. Deeply distressed. I would beg him day and night to let my Dad live. In my immature understanding of God and prayer I tried to barter with Him and make deals with Him and promise Him my unwavering allegiance in return for sparing his life. Somehow this had shattered my trust in God and I felt need to hold onto life so tightly that it wouldn’t slip through my fingers again.

I was in my first year of my Nursing degree at the time. This stuff was supposed to be comfortable and familiar for me. Taking vitals, doing assessments, medications, dressing changes, keeping people alive… Instead, I felt a crushing burden of trying to support and be strong for my family, be there for my Dad, keep up with my insane class load (truly- I have no clue how they squish that many courses in for first year students…), while also juggling my relationship with Wes, whom I’d only been dating for under a year at the time, my friendships, Church commitments and relationship with God. It felt like a total whirlwind. I actually remember very little from those months apart from school and being at the hospital.

Despite God giving us a miracle and allowing Dad to live, heal and recover, this point in my life had left a scar deep inside me that I didn’t even know how to fix. This was the start of me becoming a control freak. Needing to have as much control over what happened and how it happened. I lost the part of me that was more “go-with-the-flow” and carefree. Having control over as many situations as possible gave me the allusion that life was in my control.

It became more common for me to respond in seemingly unreasonable ways to stressful situations or changes of plan. I started to not enjoy being around big groups of people anymore. I lost a lot of my joy.

riccardo-mion-652660-unsplash

As I grew in my relationship with God, He began to work on me in ways I didn’t always realize. He brought me a long way in understanding His nature and character, true trust and surrender. I no longer struggled with anxiety in the same acute way I had back in 2012… but it was still always lurking in the background. And I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. So I didn’t actually know how to deal with it.

Fast forward to couple years ago. I began having more pronounced ‘episodes’ of anxiety. By then I had learned enough in the mental health portions of my education to understand more clearly that I was struggling with anxiety. I would often have my most severe anxiety before needing to spend time with people that I didn’t know very well- I also really felt claustrophobic in group settings, even at Church. I would sometimes go to bed in tears over things that made no sense, crying while Wes consoled me and tried to encourage me and pray for me. Certain tasks became daunting for me. The smallest things had the potential to tip me over the edge, especially if things hadn’t gone according to plan or I wasn’t able to get everything on my to-do list done.

Once again, I had a season of relief. I was growing rapidly in my walk with Christ and I know that this contributed to this season of less anxiety… but still only less- not an absence of.

By this point I was now in a new job, working in an exciting new field of youth ministry. I was loving my work.

As months went on I started experiencing a bunch of physical health issues (another story for another time) which exacerbated my anxiety again. It once again became harder for me to handle situations that were remotely stressful. I was SO emotionally fragile. I remember one morning in particular where I had a terrible panic attack and didn’t even realize it was a panic attack… in the moment I really felt like there was something so wrong with my that I had to call 911. I could barely breathe, my heart felt like it would burst out of my chest and my vision was impaired. I actually ended up calling Wes who came home from work to make sure I was okay and pray for me. For a while I was in denial about it being a panic attack. I felt such shame. My sleep became very poor during these months as my racing, anxious mind often kept me up late or woke me up in the middle of the night.

I also had a season of extreme spiritual warfare. I know that in part it had to do with the fact that there was lots of amazing victories with the kids I was working with and there was immense resistance by Satan in return. But looking back now, I also recognize that part of it was me allowing a foothold for Satan in my life. My weakness- my anxiety- left a back door open for him to come in and terrorize me. And I didn’t know how to take hold of my weaponry in Christ and fight back.

revival pic8

Now it’s important for you to understand that throughout this whole time I never doubted my relationship with God. I never felt that because I struggled with anxiety I wasn’t a Christian. I DID however struggle at times with feeling like a bad Christian because I struggled with anxiety. I felt shame over it. But my relationship with God was still as real as the air I breathe. I continued to grow in my understanding of who God is, of how to study His Word, of what it means to live out the Great Commission… I found great joy and peace in Christ. He truly was my rock and refuge during these challenging years of my life. I knew that I was on a journey with overcoming anxiety, but I failed to truly understand and take hold of God’s grace and provision.

Through this time I shared my struggle with others only on a couple occasions- mostly as a prayer request, but also giving praise to God that in the midst of my anxiety He also allowed for little victories along the way. But one thing struck me over and over again, and I never knew how to justify my life against it. Scripture tells us- compels us- Do not be anxious. Be anxious for nothing. Cast all your anxiety on Him. Rejoice always. Do not fear. I could go on and on, but you know exactly what I’m talking about. So how am I supposed to understand and reason through these scriptures in light of my life? That was the big question.

So now we’re in the part of my story that lands us in April of 2018, in Windsor, Colorado.

As mentioned in some of my recent posts, I had the opportunity to take part in a 100 day discipleship training through Bravehearted Christian on Ellerslie Campus. It was a life-changing week for me on campus. The foundational truths they taught were completely Scripture based and Jesus was at the very center of it all. I was newly in awe at the power of the Word of God. I understood for the first time how to truly read, study, and reckon with Scripture.

We had two sessions that were specifically on this concept of “Reckoning” with Truth. Quite truthfully, I had no idea what it really meant.

“Reckon” as an accounting term means to establish by counting or calculating, or to conclude/believe after calculating. Now what in the world does this have to do with Christianity you might think? Everything. Reckoning as a Christian means to participate and activate truth in our livesWe don’t have blind faith, but instead are called to reason through scripture.

The way I act, react, make decisions, handle challenges…ALL of it depends on how I reason.

blog pic adoration 2

Before Christ, I still reasoned like “Adam”, or “the old man”. Jesus works in us to develop new habits and life patterns to awaken the realities of the gospel in our lives each day! My “new man” in Christ now reasons with and claims the truth of Scripture every single day. It becomes my new reality.

I would love to go into this sooo much more, but I can’t cover all of it so I encourage you to go to scripture to discover a couple of important, foundational truths for yourself in personal study.
1. Who is God?
2. What is the nature of God?
3. What is Truth?
4. What is your position?
5.What are the truths and promises that you have in Christ?
6. What does it mean to reckon with Scripture?

Romans 6:11 “Likewise, reckon yourselves also to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When you repent and believe, by faith you enter into a new position… no longer the old man in sin, but a new creation IN Christ! This is your new position.

In Ephesians you can read more about how, by faith, you have been also crucified and died to your old self….you also rose again to new life with Christ, and then stepped into a new position IN Christ…And where is Christ?

“…where Christ is, seated at the right hand of the Father.” (Colossians 3:1)

“…And He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” !!! (Ephesians 2:6)

I am IN Christ, who is ascended to the right hand of the Father, having access to EVERYTHING by the Father. In Christ Jesus I have ALL I need for life and godliness and victory. This is a truth that I get to claim for myself every day if I am a child of God.

blog pic grace3

I really hope you were able to follow the train of thought there, but most of all I pray that you would discover and experience in your own life what it means to reckon truth. Because this is how simple it is: Hear the Word, and take it to your account with faith. It’s a transaction with Christ. It’s saying, “Do I have what I need? No. But…do I technically have what I need? …Yes. How? by faith in Christ.

He has already done it, has already accomplished it and made it possible for you. He already has provided all you need. You just need to accept it in faith as the first step of obedience.

Reckoning is our proper response to the Word of God. It’s the action of my faith in the absolute truth of His Word.

A wonderful woman of God, whose many years of wisdom and spirit-led life blessed me deeply, she led one of our discipleship sessions with the women on reckoning with truth. After sharing some words, she gave us some time to reflect and talk with Jesus about which area of our life He was revealing to reckon with His truth. We came together as a group of ladies again and she said, “Okay girlies, now is a time of reckoning. Each of you, as you feel led, is going to come up here and share what Jesus is showing you and renounce it in the name of Jesus and reckon His truth.

This wasn’t a totally foreign concept to me, but still not very familiar. What does it mean to renounce?

To renounce means to declare in an official way that you will no longer have or accept something; to formally give something up; to refuse to follow something any longer. To say, “In the name of Jesus I break the chains that this has had on my life and I declare that I am subject to it no longer.”

Wow. Let me tell you, that was a powerful, beautiful day for me.

I was one of the first people to get out of my seat because nothing could hold me down anymore. I wanted freedom. I shared of my struggle with unruly, anxious thoughts. Thoughts that terrorized me and caused so much grief and heartache in my life. I had the opportunity to be prayed over that day. I had the opportunity to renounce my anxiety in the name of Jesus. I had the opportunity to reckon with the truths in Christ that applied to this very area in my life. I experienced freedom.

photo-1512078718055-8ffaad296044

The reality is that Christ has called us into an impossible life. Christianity is utterly impossibly in an of ourselves. I don’t have what I need to do any of it. But if I believe that just because I can’t do it, it can never be done, then i still don’t know the power and grace of God. Anything that God has called us to do, He has also provided what we need to do it. That is grace.

His grace is His enabling power. His grace is His provision.

Now, this doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced anxiety since that day. As long as I’m still on this earth I know that Satan will target this weakness and tempt me with anxious thoughts. But I am delighted to say, to God’s glory, that I am no longer held captive by anxiety. It no longer rules over me. I walk in freedom. Alive unto Christ and dead to sin. My position is in Christ, and in Him I have access to all I need for life and for victory. I have all that I need to be victorious over my anxiety each moment in each day. Praise God for this reality.

I think it’s important to talk about feelings briefly still. Do you think that by choosing truth I ignore my feelings? Let me tell you- I don’t ignore and suppress my feelings… I still validate and recognize my feelings for what they are in the moment- this is an important piece in emotionally healthy spirituality. However, the change that comes into play now is that after recognizing my feelings of fear and anxiety and discovering where they are rooted, my next step is to ask, “Jesus, what does your truth say about this?” The key is my willingness to step forward into the reality of HIS truth in a step of faith and obedience. Not waiting for my feelings to match up first.

“…And we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Let me just give one quick current day example to give evidence of how this is playing out for me in reality.

Money has been a very real stressor for Wes and I in our marriage. Stepping into ministry, needing to fundraise for my salary, a house purchase with WAY more renovation costs than we could have anticipated, unemployment for Wes for a while, a new job with a big pay cut, etc… you get the point. How would the ‘old me’ handle it? Sleepless nights, stress-induced habits, tears at times, worrying and fretting and trying to plan and control and make everything work out.

Now? Well just recently there was a day where we found out there will be future layoffs at Wes’ job and because he’s a somewhat newer hire we have no clue what this will mean in the upcoming weeks. I also have plans to attend further discipleship ministry training next year and have no clue how in the world we’ll afford it. Christmas is coming soon and the list of possible costs is piling up. Wes’ vehicle just had several unexpected costs that really gouged us. How did the ‘new me’ handle it? With a smile on my face! Just kidding….not quite. I’ll admit, I was tempted to stress out. But instead I took the thoughts captive, shared my fears, breathed deeply, and then I asked Jesus to ground me into the reality of His truth. And you know where He pointed me? To two stories in the gospels.

photo-1538421001169-6774f32315fe

Twice there were times during Jesus’ ministry where He and His disciples were faced with crowds of hungry people. First in chapter 14, now here we are in Matthew 15 and it happens a second time. Just a little time prior they had encountered this exact same situation and God came through in a mind-blowing way… I mean His provision was totally unexplainable and miraculous! Not only did He somehow provide enough food for 5000+ people, but also enough leftovers for each disciple to collect a basket full (coincidence? I think not!). Now here they are, confronted with the same type of situation, and what do they do? They doubt. They forgot so quickly what He had done. They were walking alongside His ministry witnessing miracle after miracle, provision after provision, and still doubted.

I may shake my head in bewilderment at the disciples’ lack of faith, and yet wasn’t I doing the same thing by not trusting? As Jesus brought this Scripture to me I was humbled with the reminder that He has indeed provided faithfully, time after time again for Wes and I. Unexplainable miraculous provisions, simple provisions, every day provisions. How could I doubt? How could I fear and worry?

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life…?” Matthew 6:25-34

This is only one example and I wish I could share more. But this is my new reality. A pattern that causes me to move past my feelings of anxiety and fear to His truth. I now walk in freedom, in joy, in peace. And I walk in truth. And as John 8:32 says… “the truth shall set you free.

If you also have a complicated journey with anxiety, or maybe something completely different that is causing you to relate right now, I understand that you may be feeling skepticism or frustration. It can’t possibly be that easy. You don’t know my story… It’s true, I don’t. I won’t pretend to. But I’ve shared my own very real story with you, and I’m here to tell you today that victory and freedom is possible in the name of Jesus. There is true power in the name of Jesus. The bible tells us that there is NO other name under heaven that holds the same power. So why don’t you at least start by taking a step forward in faith like I did?

Jesus, there are others experiencing the burden and weight of slavery under anxiety. Bring freedom to them by the power of your blood and the work you did on the cross. Open the eyes of their understanding that they may see truth. May they understand all that they have access to in You.

blog pic adoration

If you’re lacking someone to reach out to, I’d love to invite you to reach out to me. I will intercede on your behalf and support you in prayer.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Elvira says:

    Thank you, Jen! Yes, if we do what is pleasing before God, we can leave all our anxieties and cares before his mercy seat. Yes, God provides and giveth and giveth physically and spiritually by HIS GRACE and we cannot thank HIM enough! God bless you and Wes!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s