Anxiety: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. (Merriam Webster)
I met a woman recently who struggles with anxiety. She was in tears, so disappointed in her inability to take part in a women’s gathering at our church. There she sat, alone in the lobby seemingly watching the program stream on a wall monitor, but in reality beating herself up for failing again.
“I thought I could do this. I’m a newer Christian and I’ve been praying that God would heal me of these panic attacks, that I would trust Him with the evening and make it through. I feel like I’m failing Him again, that I am disappointing Him.”
As we talked she shared what surely was the root of her fears, something so personal and rarely talked of from her childhood. A trauma I cannot imagine, one that took years to share with her own husband, but that she trusted me with that night.
She diligently seeks God through His Word and various teachers. She knows God does not want us to worry, but recently heard a teacher call worry a sin. While the Bible never directly calls worry a sin, it implies that most worry or anxiety is a failure to trust and believe God.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
It was tearing her up that, despite her diligent pursuit of God, she was still bound by this recurring sin.
As I was listening to this sister’s frustration with the speed she was developing her trust in God, I thought of John, the disciple that Jesus loved. In Kelly Minter’s study What Love Is she points out that John walked with Jesus as he performed so many miracles; telling the fishermen to drop their nets after catching nothing and coming up with more fish than the nets were made for, turning water to wine, watching Jesus being transfigured as he was joined with Moses and Elijah, raising a 12 year old girl from death to life, and many more. Yet John 20:8 records his reaction to the empty tomb:
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
Wait… didn’t he already believe?
Trusting God is a gift that we will continue to open and receive in fragments for the rest of our lives.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
We are all sinners and will never fully conquer our doubts and fears, until that is until we make it home. While I suppose there are people who receive the Good News and do a much better job of immediately placing all their trust in Jesus, for me it’s one day at a time, working out my faith as I learn to trust Him more. I’ve come a long way from where I started, but look forward to greater trust and a deeper faith with every passing day.
I told my lobby friend how delighted God must be that she trusted Him enough to come to our event. It was a leap of faith, believing He would give her the strength to participate and connect. While it did not turn out exactly as she had hoped, perhaps that was part of His plan. The enemy loved seeing her in tears and self-condemnation, her faith teetering and hoping to render her ineffective. But God is greater; He brought us together to share our stories and encourage one another.
Think of the testimony she will have, glorifying God as she conquers her fears and doubts one baby step at a time; focusing on the triumphs and celebrating the progress, every inch of the way.
We left there united in our intentions to thank God for the night’s victory over the enemy, with praise for the portion of trust added to our faith, and for the way he brought two sisters together just when we needed it most!