I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. When I was a child, I would lay awake for hours, terrified our house would catch on fire. As I got older, I switched to fearing bad grades. Then I became a mother, and my fear exploded.
Here I was, responsible for these little people who felt like tiny pieces of my heart walking around in the world. SO MUCH could go wrong. So much could hurt them.
The fear and anxiety ate me up, and to combat it I tried to control every aspect of my children’s lives. I thought that maybe if I could control everything, and do everything right, I could protect them.
I exhausted myself and went to such extreme measures that it actually became a problem for our family, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of my kids getting hurt.
Then my 2-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia, and to my horror I found out that controlling everything didn’t necessarily mean I could keep my kids safe. Bad things would still happen in this fallen world.
How was I going to deal with that?
Luckily God had a plan, and I’ve spent every moment since that horrible day of my son’s diagnosis learning how to follow it. God’s plan is for all of us, and it’s so much better than my plan was. It allows us to live a life with less fear and anxiety.
You see, the fatal flaw in my desire to control everything is that it’s impossible to control everything. And since it’s impossible, I was setting myself up for more feelings of fear and anxiety every time I failed.
I knew all along I should turn to prayer. I even bought a cute little sign that said, “Stress Less, Pray More.” But I didn’t know how to do that. I’d been a Christian all my life, but every time I prayed, it sounded like the frantic pleas of a person wandering through a dark maze.
But God knew my struggles, and so as He began to teach me, He started small. One day my husband was planning to leave the hospital when suddenly a blizzard began to rage out our window. I was terrified for his safety. What if he got in an accident? How would I do this without him?
With gentleness, God encouraged me to stop worrying and just enjoy the snow. Through this, He saved me from a lot of anxiety and worry about something that was never going to be a problem. The storm blew over quickly and the snow melted before my husband had to leave.
Then, by the grace of God, over time I learned the power of stating my trust outloud – verbally rejecting fear and embracing trust.
When Cooper’s immune system was wiped out by the chemotherapy, and I wanted to clean 24/7 in an attempt to remove all danger, I made myself stop and say out loud, “Do your best and let Jesus do the rest.” Then I would force myself to stop trying to control the situation with obsessive cleaning. Instead, I would do what the doctors said was necessary in order to realistically keep Cooper as safe as possible.
Through consciously coming to God and stating my trust out loud, I started to slowly train my brain, and my will, to trust God.
My son is still on cancer treatment, but things have slowed down, and we are getting back to normal life.
Recently, in this “normal” life, we had a scheduling conflict between Cooper’s cancer treatment and a big event in our other son Anthony’s life. We needed to make a decision about what would be best for both boys, and it was stressing me out.
That’s when I remembered my “trust-training” and made a conscious effort to bring my fear and anxiety to God. I presented Him with the problem and asked for His help. Then I let it go and fell asleep for the night — letting the blizzard of worry pass.
The next day, I felt God had given me some clarity about the situation, and my husband and I were able to make a decision. I was grateful for God’s help, and I was determined to trust Him that it was the best solution.
Finally the big day arrived, and as it did, I had a Bible verse running through my head:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)
Things didn’t go as expected at our doctor appointment and one hiccup after another put us behind schedule. Even so, I felt at peace throughout our day. If I started to get stressed, I just repeated the Bible verse out loud, and it helped me remember to trust.
But then the appointment ended, and we found ourselves in the middle of rush hour traffic with a 120 mile trip ahead of us. I started to lose some of my resolve to trust God as we drove through the frigid, black night.
I needed to come to terms with the fact that we were late, and we might not make it to Anthony’s event. But I couldn’t get the image of him sitting there feeling disappointed and abandoned out of my mind.
I believed God’s hand was in our day. I felt Him stretching me, asking me if I could trust that His will was best — even if His will wasn’t what I wanted.
But I was devastated. I wanted to trust God. But the truth was, my heart just wasn’t in it.
That’s when I remembered what my years of trust-training had taught me — it helps to declare out loud that I am rejecting fear/anxiety and instead choosing to trust God.
So I told God, “I want to trust you, but I’m just not quite there. I know it, and you know it. But I’m going to declare my trust and pray that your grace gets me there. So God, I choose to trust in you and lean not on my own understanding.”
Nothing happened, and to be honest my husband kind of looked at me like I was a looney bird. But I sat there and worked on my heart, willing it to trust.
Not fifteen minutes later, I recieved a text that Anthony’s event was being rescheduled.
I shouted for joy! We wouldn’t miss it. It would be rescheduled!
Then I started to grasp the fullness of the situation. Obviously I hadn’t known this would happen, but God did. And with this new information, I realized the decision he’d guided me to earlier that week was the perfect one.
I’m still learning to trust God in every situation, but when I get it right there is so much joy, and it builds my faith.
Questions for you:
Do you struggle with fear and anxiety? If so, what do you do to cope? How has God guided you to trust Him over the course of your life? Have you ever noticed that stating your resolve to follow God out loud makes a difference? What are your favorite Bible verses for when you struggle with fear and anxiety?
I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below!