I remember standing in our bedroom and just staring out the window. I was feeling uneasy. I knelt down beside the bed to pray. "Oh Lord hear my prayers! I don't know why I'm feeling this way! Yet Lord, I know I'm anxious about Laina's cancer diagnosis. Lord help me! Heal Laina!"
I felt as though the world was uprooting. That everything I knew and loved was being taken from my grasp. We were at the nine month mark of treatment for her, yet the prognosis was one year life expectancy. Did we have much more time? "This is NOT what I want Lord! I KNOW You can heal!" I felt as though I were wrestling with the Lord. Why would He allow this? I kept returning to the same questions and the same prayers, then looking out the window. I was caught in a whirlwind of fear and anxiety. Finally I called my father-in-law (AKA, D2 for Dad2). He picked up the phone, "This is George!" he spoke in his cheerful voice. "I'm anxious and I need someone here with me." He came right over.
We decided to go outside for some fresh air. We paced around the driveway, praying and making small talk. Then suddenly, I said, "George, I don't want to lose her! I immediately fell to the ground and began to weep bitterly. The tears came pouring out as if a damn had just burst open. Had I been storing all of this anxiety inside and not giving it an outlet? Was I "trying to be strong" and yet neglecting self care in processing our journey? D2 stood next to me and said, "Todd, we gave her to the Lord a long time ago." I understood his statement and I know it is the right thing to say. But did I believe it? Could I give her to the Lord too? She's MY wife! And it's MY will that she stay that way! Yet my thought turned to... our vows, "to death do us part." "But it's just too soon Lord and what about our two young daughters!" After the big outpouring of tears the anxiety decreased some, but didn't fully go away. I had never experienced this type of internal pain before. I wanted to be free from it. My counselor said I was in grief.
I've been seeing several posts from friends that are dealing with anxiety that is leaving them crippled and unable to function fully in everyday life. Since I have now experienced this type of anxiety, my hope is to offer encouragement and practical thoughts on moving forward through it.
Anxiety is not something you take on alone, it takes a community. I had mentors, a counselor, a doctor, friends and family all supporting me through this ordeal. Even my wife who was battling cancer helped to redirect my thoughts on the word of God. We read scripture together and prayed. We sang worship songs and danced with our girls. I took walks in the park and read books. But I also recognized I was not alone. All of these people loved me and were walking through this with me. And of course God was near and guiding me through this valley too.
One quote that I relate to is:
"A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the alter in a church, and meditated within himself, saying, "Oh! I but knew that I should still persevere, " and presently heard within him a voice from God, "And if thou didst know it, what woudst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure."
Thomas A` Kempis - The Imitation of Christ.
In deciphering the old English, we see a battle, a war between hope and fear. An anxious heart and mind dwell on the dangers, pains and losses in our circumstances. That is where I related to this certain man; perhaps it was Thomas A` Kempis? We read from the Saints of Old or other current authors and think they've overcome. But friends, they are human and have suffered the same as us. So why should we fear?
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
From what I've experienced there are two options when we face fear:
1). We give in to it or at minimum we try to control it. However this often leads to our problem with anxiety, which can lead to despair, which can lead to death. This is not the way or outcome God desires for us. I believe human control is where the source of most of our anxiety and fear. What we cannot control, give over to God.
2).We can fight against fear by choosing to trust the Lord and His promises and receive hope.
3 "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5
"There is no fear in love." And "because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." The trials and tribulations that my family endured has indeed brought about perseverance, has proven our character and bore the fruit of hope - all through our faith in Jesus. By God's love and His power given to us through Jesus and delivered by the Holy Spirit, we can live in hope no matter the circumstances.
However, until we accept our circumstances in light of the Almighty Sovereign God's loving and merciful hand, we cannot have peace or hold on to hope. It really comes down to surrender. We have to let go of our earthly attachments, even those whom we love. Though Laina was "MY wife," she truly belonged to the Lord, just as her father shared with me. And if any of us are in the Lord, we belong to Him too. Doesn't that give you hope?
Suffering has so much to teach us. When faced with anxiety, fear or depression we can turn to the Lord and say, "What are you teaching me Lord?" Remember when Jesus said,
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Suffering through anxiety, depression and these unwanted trials has made me mature in Christ-like-ness.
1). In my weariness I come to Him!
2). He has been true to His promise to give me rest.
3). I accepted his yoke (His teaching and His burdens) and have been learning so much!
4). Jesus is truly gentle and humble of heart. The world and its systems and our own expectations are what's heavy and cause us to be weary.
5). Yes, I have found rest for my soul by coming to Jesus.
I've had to learn this through trial. But who learns these things easier? It is little children who accept hardships and trials so much easier than adults often do. I've witnessed this in my daughters; Not that they don't grieve the passing of their mother, they do. Yet they wake up ready to face the day with joy and excitement; Trusting that God and Daddy will take care of them.
In whatever anxiety you may be facing, do you trust God? Do you believe that He loves you and will help you through this circumstance?
I will continue on this topic of Anxiety, Fear and Hope next time. Until then, may the peace of God rest on you in Christ Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit! Amen.
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