Anxiety really sucks.
For some people, anxiety is something that comes and goes in times of stress and trouble, but for others, including myself, it’s a constant struggle. Having an anxiety disorder is more than just being a constant worrier, but it’s also just an irrational fear that completely takes over your mind and body. A lot of people don’t understand it, despite the increasingly large amount of people who struggle with an anxiety disorder on a daily basis. If you have an anxiety disorder, you know exactly what I’m talking about (and if you don’t, you should read this article because it’s spot on).
A couple of weeks ago I sat at a table in my favorite coffee shop and flipped open the pages of my Bible to Job 23. I was taking a break from the long hours of studying I had been doing in order to prepare for the four tests and two papers I had due that week. Not only was I super stressed about school, but I also was having an especially bad week with my anxiety disorder. In fact, my anxiety has been effecting me more than usual in the weeks since then, and it’s made for some really rough days recently.
In all honesty, I didn’t really feel like reading my Bible or doing my quiet time, but I was in major need of a break, and my Bible was the only book besides all the notebooks and textbooks I had with me. I’m not sure if I would have made time to do my devotional in the midst of that busy week, but God is good and is constantly drawing me to himself.
As I began to read Job 23, I knew Jesus was reminding me of some very important truths, and I felt encouraged for the first time in a long time. One thing in particular that stood out to me was verse 17: “…yet I am not silenced by the darkness.”
Job is going through absolutely horrible circumstances and loses everything, which God allowed to happen in order to test his faith and prove that Job would remain faithful to the Lord, despite what the devil threw at him. Even though Job is surrounded by darkness, he does not let it silence him. He did not allow his circumstances to prevent him from talking to the Lord and praising him for all that he had been given. Job says in verse 12, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food…” Not only is Job praying to God, but he is spending time in his word, actually desiring it more than food. How many of us can honestly say that we desire to read the Bible more than we desire to eat food when we are hungry?
As I read this, the Lord humbled me. Why was it so hard for me to spend even just a few minutes a day talking to him and reading his word? Even though I felt consumed by my anxiety and stress, why did I think that was a valid reason not to spend time with Jesus? As bad as my anxiety makes me feel, I think it’s safe to say Job had it worse. As much as my anxiety makes me want to draw away from others and be left alone, I shouldn’t let the darkness of my circumstances force me into silence with God.
After reading this, I prayed that God would give me the same desire for his word that Job had. And honestly, I’m not there yet. I’m nowhere close to that point yet. But through spending time in the word, Jesus has continued to reveal to me comforting truths and encouragement, especially when it comes to my anxiety.
1. The first one also comes from Job 23. Verse 10 says,
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
Sometimes life is just really hard. Sometimes things get thrown at us like anxiety disorders or a bad test grade or depression or arguments with friends and it’s hard to even make it through the day. Some people may try to tell you that cliche saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” but I don’t think that’s true. I think God does give us more than we can handle so that we can recognize our inability to handle things on our own and turn to him instead. And not only does Jesus promise to get us through the tough times, he promises to strengthen and grow us. He turns us into gold.
2. God keeps his promises. He hears our groaning and he won’t forget about us. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have prayed to God to take away my anxiety. There was a season of my life less than a year ago where I really questioned if it would ever be possible for me to even lead a normal life because of my anxiety. While my anxiety has not been completely removed from my life, I have learned to deal with it. God, in his love and mercy, heard every prayer I prayed and answered it. That being said, he didn’t answer it in the way I had initially hoped, but his plan was better. Rather than desperately trying to hold myself together, he taught me to lean on him for strength. Rather than trying to plan out every aspect of my future, which only increased my anxiety, he taught me to trust. Rather than removing my anxiety disorder, he gave me people who would encourage me and comfort me and remind me of where true joy comes from. Rather than feeling like I was the only one who had to deal with this, he gave me a friend and future roommate who deals with the same exact stuff (S/O to Katie!!!).
3. God can use our storms as a platform to encourage others. I was reminded of this simple yet profound truth at church on Sunday. Paul, in Acts 28, was able to be used by God in the seemingly hopeless situation of a shipwreck. He was a prisoner on the ship, and when it crashed on the island of Malta, Paul was able to witness to the pagan people who may never have heard the Gospel otherwise. God can use our own stories—the bitter and the sweet—to minister his grace to others. Each of us has our own unique story, and sometimes God allows us to go through difficult times so that we may one day be able to relate to and help others. When we look at our struggles with this perspective, we can once again recognize how wonderful God is— he is orchestrating our days and circumstances so that we may be used to further his kingdom.
4. Our struggles are a testimony to God’s power.
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.‘” // John 9:1-3
Not only can God use our struggles to encourage others, but he can use them to glorify himself. The blind man in the passage from John certainly lived a difficult life, but Jesus’ name was able to be glorified through him and his disability as the Lord healed him. As I mentioned earlier, Jesus doesn’t always heal us in the way we hope he will. Sometimes he heals our hearts instead. But no matter what, he can be glorified.
So whether you struggle with anxiety like me or you are lost in some other sort of darkness, do not be silenced. Continue to seek after the Lord, even when you don’t feel like it, because he is good and he is worth it. Jesus Christ has already won the battle against darkness, and that gives us hope! When you are afraid that the darkness will consume you, remember what Jesus did on the cross. He loved you so much that he died in order to save you. We already have God’s affections, and we don’t need to earn them. His grace and love and mercy is enough to sustain us. He is the Light in our darkness.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things, we are more than conquerers through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” // Romans 8:31-35, 37-39