As I sit here early in the morning, sun coming up, birds chirping, I just read some test results that I’d been waiting on. COVID 19 results. Now I know that might seem like very little to some. After all so many people are being tested. This is nothing special. However when you have spent years overcoming a huge case of health anxiety, it’s bigger than you think. My result was negative by the way.
It’s funny, I wasn’t anxious about the result while I was waiting. I had been through many tests about 5 years ago now. All the results came back negative. So while waiting I prayed under that same protection I received years back. That this result would too be negative. Something happened however after reading the negative result. That all too familiar negative feeling came back. “What if the test was wrong?” I quickly took that to God. I no longer give those type of thoughts time to fester.
So why am I bringing this up? Writing about it? First of all, writing is how I process. Thank you for taking this journey with me. While sitting on my couch, looking out at all the tress, I thought about Damascus Road. How some of us need to be changed. Have a moment so real with God. Some of us may be waiting for one right now. My question today is, would you know it if it happened? Or might you dismiss it as “crazy”.
I myself suffered from high functioning anxiety for years. The thing is though, I didn’t know it. Here’s a list of indicators for high functioning anxiety. After you read them I’m going to discuss how a couple of them can go undetected in Christian society.
1. People-pleasing in order to create an environment that makes me feel safe and less anxious
2. I endure long periods of hard work, then experience burnout, then I procrastinate
3. I overthink that I am not doing “enough” or I fear failure
4. Poor sleep—I don’t sleep enough hours, I wake up and cannot seem to get back to sleep, or I have trouble falling asleep
5. Racing thoughts that make it difficult to relax
6. Overly busy due to fear of saying no
7. I use alcohol and substances to cope
8. My anxiety, not ambition, is driving me to complete tasks
9. I seem like I have it together, but internally, I am struggling
10. When my routine gets disrupted, I get upset
Right now you might be like I was after reading this list. A light bulb moment that makes a lot of stuff make sense. Why though do we need a list to tell us that we have anxiety. After all, shouldn’t it be pretty obvious? And what does it have to do with a Damascus Road moment?
Please know, what I’m about to say is in no way meant to say bad things against Christians. I am a Jesus follower myself. However there are some things we are taught, that can be harmful. First let’s look at number one, “people pleasing”. You may have been taught that doing for others is the only way to be. After all it’s the Christ like thing to do. Serve others. And it is. But when we only look at one faucet of Jesus, we can get way too one sided. And that can lead to burn out. It also can mask anxiety. Let’s look at Luke 10-38-42.
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Here we find one sister doing and another being with Jesus. I can relate to Martha so much here. I was one of those doers myself. Always saying yes so I could feel good about myself in some weird way. “Look at me. Look at me” type of thoughts. “I’m worthy because of ALL I can do” type of thoughts. Maybe that’s you too. And right now you wonder what’s wrong with that. But why are you wondering that? Because somewhere along the way you and I learned that doing was the better way. The only way maybe to earn love or affection from another. Or that doing for others is just the Christian way. I ask you today, what does Jesus say?
Now I am not saying that we don’t serve others. We do. But not at a cost to our mental and physical health. Even Jesus took time to be with the Father. To retreat. To pray. And definitely don’t allow doing to become a path to worry. Jesus tells Martha, you worry about many things. Is saying “yes” causing you worry? Is it causing you to be anxious? Take some time to talk to Jesus about it today. Be with Him. Say no to others right now and yes to Him and yourself.
Now look at number nine. “I seem like I have it together, but internally, I am struggling”. Another thing you may have been taught through religion is to not show what’s really going on. Put on a good face for God and others. Fake it till you make it. No one can know that those who do life with God have troubles. It may not be a spoken thing, but I’m sure it’s been implied. This kind of mindset can lead to number seven on the list, “I use alcohol and substances to cope.”
The thing to remember here is that no one has it all together all the time. Our problems may be different in their situations and complexities, but we all go through things. And no it’s not a competition, simply a truth that can be difficult to find at times. Again let’s go to the Bible for truth.
John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” It’s a simple verse but packed with so much. We are going to focus on two points. First, permission not only to cry, but to do so in front of others. Other believers even. “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:27) Jesus asked Martha what she believed. She believed Him to be the son of God. So when Jesus wept He was doing so in front of a believer. If Jesus can cry, can say through tears I’m not holding it all together, you and I can too. You and I do not have to feel like contestants in a strong man/woman competition all the time. We have permission to feel however we feel. Second, Jesus knew what the outcome was and He still wept. None of us know where our journey is going. Where that diagnosis is going. Where that divorce we never wanted will take us. Where our prodigal child who is lost is going. And so on. Yet we feel we have to be strong all the time. You don’t. I don’t. We simply need to allow the uncertainty to point us to God. As Jesus asked Martha in John 11:26, “do you believe in who I am?” He is asking you today too. Do you believe? Bring those troubles to me. But also remember that you don’t have to hide. Let others know you are struggling, hurting too.
See anxiety can look normal to us. Because certain beliefs are engrained in us. It’s time we stop allowing them to run us. But what does all of this have to do with the beginning of this post? I’m going to get there. In my next writing. We can’t heal from what we don’t know we have. Like I said, I had no idea the extent of my anxiety. Not only can we not heal, but we can’t see what we need to because of it. A real life moment with God.
I have always loved the Demascus Road portion of the Bible. That and the talking donkey. How these two incidents changed the lives of the two involved. Different circumstances but same results. Jesus equals life change! But I started thinking, do we miss our moments because we see them as crazy? Or because our anxiety simply won’t allow us to? That’s something I’m going to explore in my next blog. I will say this, I had my moment in full anxiety mode. Now I couldn’t see it fully at the time, but looking back, God used my broken mind to finally find Him. Not simply believe in Him like I already did. Not simply volunteer at church like I already did. But FIND Him! Find Jesus. Finally hear the Holy Spirit. Finally have the relationship with all 3 I had been missing.
Anxiety is a terrible thief of joy. But it doesn’t make you a terrible person. Know today that your worth is not found in your mind, but in your heart. And Who you have invited in to be your Savior. Healing anxiety is possible. Whether it’s with medicine and Jesus. Or Jesus alone. Either way you do not have to live in the shackles of your mind. And it definitely should never keep you from having real life changing moments with God.