4 a.m. – I still hadn’t gotten any good sleep, a daunting reality when I reminded myself the day’s alarm would be blaring in less than 2 hours.
5 a.m. – I jolted awake, somewhat confused because it’d been more than a year since a wave of panic had washed over me like it did in that one sweeping moment. Yet, also somewhat aware of where those overwhelming anxieties were stemming from.
I realized I didn’t want God to be God in HIS way, I wanted Him to be God in MY way.
Having survived years of abuse and working with a number of trauma survivors, I’m well aware of the brokenness life can bring. What heightened my awareness this week was sending all four of our children off to school where they’re no longer under my watchful care. I whispered, “God, please help me to trust You’ll protect my children.” Then, it hit me: what if God protects them the way He protected me? Tears spilled down my face as I realized I didn’t want God to be God in HIS way, I wanted Him to be God in MY way. I don’t want God to allow a fraction of the pain in their lives that He allowed in mine. I want His protection to look like mine would. I want Him to prevent our pain, but He’s determined to purpose our pain.
When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit there are times that I don’t want God to be God. That’s what the heavy dose of panic coursing through my veins was really about. It was really about whether or not I am willing to embrace God’s allowance of affliction over my preference of protection. Do I desire my Savior to also be sovereign? Anxiety and fear can be normal human reactions to normal human experiences. We can trust God fully, know He loves us, and still be scared. Yet, quite often, our anxiety is intermingled with a difficulty in trusting the sovereignty of God, a difficulty in relinquishing all illusions of control to an all-consuming God who won’t reveal all of His plans to us. Notice I mentioned we seek to retain “illusions of control” because our striving with God says nothing of His enduring omnipotence. He’s still in control. He’s still God.
Sometimes, at the root of our anxiety is a difficulty in trusting the sovereignty of God.
Our enemy uses the truth about our experiences to speak lies about our God. His native language is deceitfulness; he’s the father of lies (John 8:44). And, he is still feeding us the same lie he fed Adam and Eve all those years ago: we’d be better gods than God Himself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with experiencing fear. I used to agree with the saying that “fear is misplaced faith,” until I came to believe that without big fears we wouldn’t need big faith. Anxiety has a neurobiological basis, but it also has a psychological one, and much of what maintains our anxieties, no matter where they begin, is our thought patterns. Sometimes, anxiety is misplaced divinity. Sometimes it exists in its magnitude because we’ve made something or someone else God – usually ourselves. When we allow our emotions to escalate unchecked, when we listen to the lies about God’s goodness, lies about His character, about His steadfast mercy and love somehow not being what’s best for us, we’re choosing to exalt potential problems over the Prince of Peace. God foresaw that we would experience anxiety, but He calls us to repeatedly submit those worries to Him because if we don’t we are essentially making a god of whatever or whomever we trust more (1 Peter 5:7). It won’t happen over night. But keep submitting it. Keep reapeating it. If I trust myself to handle my situation, protect my children, etcetera, more than I trust God, then I’m saying I don’t want God to be God; I want to be God. If God isn’t God, then someone else will be. But even the most terrific person will make a terrible God.
If God isn’t God, then someone else will be.
If you are struggling with anxiety, first, know that you are not alone. Know that the God of the universe looked ahead in time, knew you would be burdened with this struggle, and specifically called you to cast all of those anxieties on Him because He cares for you. Second, know that help is available through Christ-centered counseling and medical interventions. You weren’t meant to bear this cross alone. I’ve already prayed for those reading and wanting more help; I believe God for you. Below is a list of resources for anxiety management and finding a skilled therapist in your area.
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