As we close out a powerful three-week series on mental health, I’m reminded that everyone has a unique story in this complex area. Among the sobering statistics and realities, God shines his light and peace in the darkest times.
I’ve shared my personal journey with mental health issues both on stage on several accounts and on the blog about two years ago. As we close out this series and enter into another, my prayer is that we keep stepping into conversations and seek God continuously and earnestly.
I was lying in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling and thinking to myself “something has to change, this can’t keep happening.”
I was 33 years old, happily married with two wonderful little boys. Everything was going perceivably great, except this was my third visit to the ER in just two years. Each time I arrived I was experiencing intense symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, numbness, pain down my left arm, dizziness, sweating, tunnel vision, and worst of all my heart skipping beats or racing out of control.
Every visit ended the same way. The doctor would tell me all the test results came back normal, sending me on my way. But this last visit the doctor suggested I look into something called “panic attacks” caused by anxiety disorder. This led me on a path of discovery to find the source and solution to this anxiety which was robbing me of living the full and joyful life God had for me.
It was about six months after this last ER visit that I found faith in Jesus Christ. As I started to follow Christ, I started to learn how He asks His followers to deal with their worries, fears, and anxieties. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks directly about the idea of anxiety and worry. He tells his audience not to worry about their life, what to eat or drink or even what to wear, but pay attention to “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?” Then he adds a great question, “which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? How true is this statement?
“Worry doesn’t add anything to our lives! In fact, research shows it actually takes away from our life, stealing our joy, happiness, and peace.”
Jesus knew this and encouraged his followers to trust in God and let God take the anxiety and worry. Peter, a close friend and follower of Jesus, says it this way, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” When was the last time you gave your worries and your anxieties to God? When was the last time you cast your anxieties upon the One who can actually take them from you?
A close friend of mine who is a long-time recovering alcoholic believes you can’t recover without a mantra. He says whenever he feels the urge to drink he simply says, “Lord I don’t want to do this, please help me.” He has trained his mind to cast his worry and fear upon God. When I feel the overwhelming sense of worry and anxiety coming over me, no matter where I am, I take a minute and recite a similar mantra asking God to take my burdens.
Over time, it has become one of my best practices to ensure deep worry and anxiety doesn’t build up and take root in my life. It has become second nature to surrender to Jesus throughout my day. By the way, this was a practice Jesus did when he was faced with hard decisions and difficult situations. He made time with his Father, praying, talking and casting his worries upon Him.
I believe a holistic approach to anxiety and worry is very important. Having great relationships, attending counseling, living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of our bodies is paramount to a flourishing life. But overall, the one cure to anxiety above everything else is the learned ability to surrender and cast our fears, anxieties and worries upon God daily and fully trust Him for the outcome of our lives. Jesus said in this world there will be trouble but then he added “take heart, have courage, don’t fear, I have overcome this world”.
Jesus came as the Prince of Peace to offer us a solution to overcome the troubles and worries of this world. When we take heart, surrender and place our trust in Him we have access to His peace, which is a peace that transcends all human understanding and is only found in the person of Jesus. Scripture tells us that the darkness of this world can’t overcome God’s light. Life can feel dark, but I believe human worry can’t overtake God’s peace. I pray this season that you experience the light of Christ in the darkest moments.