Fear Not and Give Thanks
Growing up, my parents would occasionally ask me if I felt "stressed" or "anxious" about anything.
"No. What do I have to be stressed about?" And I meant it.
Dad would sigh in relief.
Then one day as I was driving home from work, my skin started crawling; I couldn't catch my breath, my whole body tensed. I couldn't think straight. It was overwhelming. When I got home, I went to my parent's room, sobbing, and told them I thought I was dying. I tried to explain and thought it was beyond understanding. But my dad understood.
Since then I've always struggled with anxiety. I didn't know that a problem like that could hit you out of nowhere and stay, but turns out it can. A lot of times there just isn't any reason for it. It's hardest to handle in those times, especially when you're trying to explain your panic to your husband. Other times there is a cause. A worry, a fear. A small thing irrationally made into something it's not and a body's reaction to it.
I worry. I am fearful. While those things are not my identity, it's easy for me to believe that they are. It's easy to let those things shape me. A few years ago I mentioned that flying wasn't my favorite thing ever and over time, "I'd rather drive," turned into "I'm afraid of flying." Those words have since stretched and taken root and my recent four-hour flight felt like an eternity of tears and nausea and ideas of plummeting out of the sky through the darkness to my death and the death of my husband. My mind played images of my mother receiving the news and having her heart broken again at the loss of more family. I saw my brother and our friends grieving our loss. I saw my hopes and dreams for my future with Chad and our someday family go away. Every slight noise. Every tiny movement. I clenched Chad's hand tighter. In my mind, there was no hope. All was lost.
I talked to my mom yesterday about my New Year's resolutions. I didn't officially have any but as I stepped into the new year I decided, hey, I could stand to love people better and quit complaining so much. Let me tell you, this week I have had something negative to say about everyone and everything. I may not have actually said them, but your attitude pertains to your headspace, and my brain has been extra negative in the year 2016 so far.
I've had too much free time lately and a lot of times my discontent shows up then. Busyness, my brother has always reminded me, isn't the same thing as Godliness, so I can't expect a full schedule to fix the problem. The problem is in my heart and in my head. It's in my decisions. Filling my free time with positive activities would help. Like spending time in prayer and listening to what Jesus has for me on a daily basis would help. Like eating healthier and exercising would help. Like focusing on what's working rather than what isn't would help. The hard part of all that is that somehow those things truly feel impossible to act on in the moments when I need them the most. The past few days I've been sleeping too late, staying in bed too long, and getting up mostly looking forward to going back to bed. My mom calls that depression, but as a primarily anxious person, that really makes me feel like a lunatic. My mind is racing yet my body can't move.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:8
It seems to me like the root of a lot of anxiety is fear. It seems to me like the root of a lot of depression is discontentment. Not always. I tend to err on the side of "let's make more lists of stuff we have to do to fix ourselves" and that's really not the point of all this. I know, firsthand, that there is a very real psychological aspect to mental struggles that can't be "decided" away. Personal, psychological, spiritual... All valid aspects of the same issue.
But for what it's worth... I recently heard that "Fear Not" or some similar variance is mentioned in the Bible 365 times. I like to think that means I'm not the only one who needs constant reminders. There is no reason to fear. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) And worry? "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" (Luke 12:25) Instead, worry only destroys each hour you waste on it. I know.
As for thanksgiving? It's constant. Colossians 3:17 says, "and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." In my free time, rather than be anxious, I should thank Jesus for my opportunity to rest in this season. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6. I should thank Him for health and for continued provision through a period of inconsistent income. I should thank Him for a roof over my head and food in the fridge. There is plenty to be thankful for.
Fear Not and Give Thanks.
I've considered these subjects for months and the thought of addressing them just made me feel extremely tired. Where to begin? Ultimately fear and discontentment rob us of joy. Ultimately, we experience fear and discontentment anyway. There's no off button, there's no one-time decision to fix the problem. There are choices to make everyday, and there is an abundance of Grace to extend to ourselves for the pieces of this thing that are out of our control.