One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I think the word “them” applies to a lot of different situations for people: money, health issues, memories of abuse, a journey of recovery from addiction, etc. All of us have a looming “them” that fills us with fear even though we may know we are not going through these things alone. For me here and now in this season of my life that applies to any time I feel anxiety setting in. Ever since the summer I have struggled with panic attacks. I know everyone deals with stress differently and even though I’ve had a handful in my life this was happening multiple times a week and sometimes even twice in a day. My workload in the office was insurmountable this year with the highlight being in the summer and it still hasn’t teetered out. The verbal abuse any time I requested help or problems came up was excruciating and it was difficult for me to not feel badly about myself because of it. Sundays were hard for me because I knew I was going to work the next day and it’s like my body was bracing itself for impact. Sometimes I would be nervous staying in the city late for weekly events because I felt alone and if something were to happen to me because of my panic attacks I would be too far from home to be picked up. People would see me falling apart. People would know I was nuts or something.
Most days I would be sitting on the bus to or from work and I would pull up this verse and read it over and over to myself in my head. Sometimes I would take a deep breath or hold my breath in between words “(inhale) Be strong and courageous (exhale). (Inhale and hold breath) Do not be afraid or terrified because of them (your anxious thoughts, your indigestion, your racing thoughts, your bubbling nausea) (exhale) For the Lord your God goes with you. (inhale) He will never leave you (exhale) or forsake you (repeat). As silly as that sounds it gave me something to focus on. I carry around ginger candy or cough drops too sometimes as a means of calming my tight throat down. To settle the nausea that I often get when I start to rev up. I keep my iPod handy to drown out my own thoughts when my mind desperately tries to churn over thoughts and worries until I actually feel like I could black out from worry and exhaustion.
I wanted to write this today because even though I still struggle with anxiety and even though it is something I’ve never dealt with before– I am seeing myself improve. I don’t have anxiety attacks for as long in duration as I once did for one. I’m learning to use different tools to combat it and I try to use scripture to settle myself down when I see the signs of anxiety start to set in:
2 Corinthians 10:5
The Message (MSG)
3-6 The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.
In other words I try to take every thought captive. In the office I’ve noticed towards the end of 2013 and still into this year that people have also come to me to vent about how poorly their health is and that they are struggling with anxiety-related health issues i.e. heartburn, acid-reflux, panic attacks, ulcers, and more. And if anything as dire as it seems, if I’m honest, to be just another wounded person in this office I also know that I’m set apart because I at least know who my Healer is. I’m at the very least able to renew my mind and body through His promises and Word. Do you ever think about that? Some days I literally say to myself if I wasn’t a Christian I would have lost it by now. 100% The things in my current life/past and most people’s are incredibly dark. It’s easy to spiral. Some days I think how badly I feel or how painful this trial is for me personally and I even feel like a poor example of a Christian sometimes. Like shouldn’t I be better at finding joy? Why am I letting this eat away at me? And yet even at my absolute worst I still know that I am on the right track. I’m on a treatment plan if you will but the people around me are still sick.
It’s hard for me to know why I am here in this often toxic environment and although I have one Christian co-worker even she is falling apart. I came into the office with a private email from her saying that once again she’s at her breaking point. She wants to quit. She almost did yesterday after I left for the day. It’s not easy when everyone’s falling down like Dominoes around you. And yet I know His promises for me are for good and not evil. He promises to give me hope and a future. He knows me and my co-worker and everyone in my office for that matter intimately and longs to bring us into the fullness of what he has prepared in advance for us.
Exodus 23: 20-24 “Now get yourselves ready. I’m sending my Angel ahead of you to guard you in your travels, to lead you to the place that I’ve prepared. Pay close attention to him. Obey him. Don’t go against him. He won’t put up with your rebellions because he’s acting on my authority. But if you obey him and do everything I tell you, I’ll be an enemy to your enemies, I’ll fight those who fight you….25-26 “But you—you serve your God and he’ll bless your food and your water. I’ll get rid of the sickness among you… I’ll make sure you live full and complete lives.