The layers of fear, isolation, uncertainty, detachment and shame accompanying the anxious heart compound the dark depths an anxious soul experiences. Add to that the well meaning directives to, “just relax; let go and let God”, or the loving encouragement, “it will pass and things will soon be better”, place an unintended sense of responsibility upon the already burdened soul. As a result, not only do they unsuccessfully fight their personal unknowns, they feel responsible for the peace of those around them. All five senses are heightened. The next moment is cavernous! Or so it seems....
Perhaps you have never experienced anxiety. You are most fortunate. And yet, you might have witnessed a loved ones personal hell. You observe, but you are powerless. Yours is the daunting task of providing profound love, while you quietly experience your own fears, frustrations, hurts, anger and guilt. You wish it would, “just go away” and you are tempted to recoil from what appears to be a helpless and hopeless situation.
Oh, how I wish there was an easily defined and universal cause for this disorder that would be easily diagnosed and readily alleviated. One that required no emotional sense of failure, no chemical side affects and no social labels. But that’s just not the world we live in. And so, we must face the issue as best we can with all of the remedies afforded us through medical science, therapy, social acceptance and spiritual underpinning.
I am no expert in this area. I did not, with specific and sacrificial intent, devote years of study to earn the degree and [therefore] the right to speak knowledgeably about anxiety. However, may I all the more aggressively state that I did not devote years of intent to suffer this malady! Having experienced it I find that I am not any more prepared to speak with authority. Perhaps openly exposing those moments of horror will give hope to the hearts of someone personally afflicted and those around them powerlessly affected.
Labels are so convenient. Labels often disregard the minutia of life’s events and the complexities of the human creation to comfortably package what is unknowable as if [it were] convenient “fact”. They often serve to replace awareness and acknowledgement, care and comfort, spiritual dependence and deliverance. So what kind of person might suffer from anxiety? One living and breathing! No one is exempt. Humbly facing the plague of anxiety, totally eliminating labels and replacing them with sacrificial love prepares a pathway of freedom for the afflicted upon which the affected must pave and take the first steps. The pathway must be patient and kind. It must be faithful and unwavering. It might be a long pathway; the distance will remain unknown until that moment when the afflicted recognizes they have been reached and willingly accept that they are not alone.
Having attempted to paint what is obviously a far to simplistic word-picture of anxiety it is important to note that the afflicted have many wonderful means of help. Each method requires an honest recognition of the need and a willingness to take the next step. It is so much easier to take when a friend or family member has first reached out with non-judgmental and sacrificial love and understanding. Perhaps adjusting may require medical assistance, ongoing neurological or physical therapy. Regardless, these means of help are available and should not be overlooked.
There is, however, a spiritual underpinning that must not be disregarded. It is often the last “help” sought - if ever sought at all. It is often turned to only when the afflicted and the affected have been exhausted beyond measure. And yet, while it is not the “mend-all heal-all mystic medical elixir”, it alone can reach into the depths of the soul with words of encouragement that must be refused to be avoided. No, these words may not change the circumstances of life. It is highly unusual for them to immediately eliminate anxiety. As quietly as they work within the hidden areas of the soul, they quietly underpin the afflicted so that while an episode may exist, there comes a sense of spiritual awareness that love is not far off. This “medicine for the soul” is very unique. It can be taken at any time. The individual need not feel responsible for missing a dose nor should they feel it imperative that they be capable of taking a dose during an episode of anxiety. The affects are not often seen but they are real and they are residual. The soul stores these Words and with each dosage a thin but ever capable foundation of hope is laid. My spiritual prescription is growing daily.
“Your hands have made me, cunningly fashioned and established me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who reverently and worshipfully fear You will see me and be glad, because I have hoped in Your word and tarried for it. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right and righteous and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray You, Your merciful kindness and steadfast love be for my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. Let your tender mercies and loving-kindness come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight! Let the proud be put to shame, for they dealt perversely with me without a cause; but I will meditate on Your precepts. Let those who reverently and worshipfully fear You turn to me, and those who have known Your testimonies. Let my heart be sound - sincere and wholehearted and blameless - in Your statutes, that I be not put to shame.” - Psalms 119:73-80
“O Lord, You have searched me (thoroughly) and have known me. You know my downsitting and my uprisings; You understand my thought afar off. You sift and search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue [still uttered], but, lo, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have beset me and shut me in behind and before, and have laid Your hand upon me. Your (infinite) knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high above me, I cannot reach it. Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence? I ascend up into Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [the place of the dead], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the night shall be the only light about me”, even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You did form my inward parts, You did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You, for You are fearfully wonderful, and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret and intricately and curiously wrought (as embroidered with various colors) in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written, before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them. How precious and weighty also your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they are more in number than the sand. When I awoke [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.” - Psalms 139:1-18
Anxiety; am I responsible? If you are harboring unfinished business, perhaps uncomfortable or potentially confrontational matters, take care of the matters and deal with the situation. If, however, this neurological and physiological horror sweeps in and over you without warning, without cause, and you suddenly find yourself sinking, observing the world around you but somehow fearfully detached, then no; no, you are not responsible. As wonderfully as you have been created, you are human and you suffer the maladies of our humanness. King David, although great among men, cried out to Jehovah God as a weak and fearful child would cry out to his earthly father. Although comfort was not always immediate, King David knew within his heart that his Heavenly Father was mighty to love, might to care, mighty to save.
If you have suffered anxiety you will recognize that in the midst of your fear it is reassuring to know someone is close by to help. If your episode requires medical attention and you find yourself waiting in a doctors office just the knock upon the door and the appearance of someone who is there to help you brings an ever-so-delicate “peace”. It does not immediately eliminate your condition - but it gives you the sense that there is hope. I would encourage you to open your heart’s door to the Great Physician. Call upon Him even now. He knew you before time. He was there while you were formed. He knows your comings and your goings; there is nothing unknown to Him. He alone fully understands your condition and your need. Somehow, when you feel His knock upon your hearts door, when you let Him in, the appearance of Someone Who knows you, Who loves you, and Who will help you brings an ever-so-powerful, “peace”.
God bless you as we travel through this world together!