I’ve struggled with anxiety for a large part of my life. In school, it meant weeping before certain exams convinced that I would fail. At times, it meant asking my sister to read the email I received and tell me what it said. Other times, it involved avoiding social situations. Through the years, I just accepted anxiety as something I struggle with.
Recently, however, I was forced to acknowledge that I just cannot continue living with constant low-grade anxiety and nor do I want to.
My younger sister and I had the joy of being pregnant at the same time for the last few months. Her due date was 27 January 2021 and mine is 23 April 2021 - it was set to be an exciting year. On the fifth of January, my sister went for an ultrasound, brimming with excitement to see her little one. As she lay, waiting to see him, the radiologist went silent; the silence broke and so did my sister’s heart as she was told that the baby did not have a heartbeat. Their son, Rehmat Isaiah Philip, was born the next day and laid to rest.
My chubby little nephew was 3.2 kgs and had a head full of black hair. His nose was just like his mum’s. One of my aunts reminded us that, “all things work together for good for them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose” a reminder of our secure hope in Christ (Rom. 8:28). My mother prayed till the time of Rehmat’s birth that God would restore life to her grandson, but graciously accepted no as an answer. Despite unanswered prayers, we knew that we could trust God.
How I longed to go home and be with my family there, but travel wasn’t really an option with COVID-19 and being pregnant myself. My heart was broken for my sister and thoughts of anxiety began creeping in about own pregnancy. It was around this time that a women’s group I am a part of embarked on a 21-day prayer challenge. Each day we were sent a guide of how to pray, and as my mind began getting saturated with Scripture, fear and anxiety lessened.
I began to read the Psalms and pray them back to God in my own words. I realised I didn’t have to be a passive worrier, but God was calling me to be a warrior. I began practicing waging war with the weapons He provides us against the attacks of the enemy.
Charles Spurgeon once said,
“Prayer tells God what the care is and asks God to help; while faith believes that God can and will do it. Prayer spreads the letter of trouble and grief before the Lord and opens all its budget. And then faith cries, ‘I believe that God cares and cares for me; I believe that He will bring me out of my distress and promote His own glory.’”
Even when things don’t pan out exactly like I want, nothing is more reassuring than knowing and truly believing that God loves us, and His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
I’ve grown up familiar with God’s love, and yet, the words ‘dearly loved’ popped out at the me, as I recently read the book of Colossians (3:12). Dearly loved – that was true of my identity when my schoolteacher made my classmates clap for me when I failed a test, it was true when I was trying to quench my thirst through empty cisterns, true when I worried about the wellbeing of my baby and true as I asked God to make me calm.
There are no shortcuts to getting over anxiety. I really do believe, however, that it does not have to be something we embrace as part of ourselves. I remember once telling a client to set aside a time every day to be anxious; the idea being that you don’t keep thinking about things all day long and when you sit down to be anxious, it is difficult to get anxious.
Another view is to allow anxious thoughts to pass you by, much like a bird flying overhead without allowing it to build a nest. The Bible, however, presents a better option; take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We don’t have to let birds just fly over our head, we get to take them captive and feed our mind with the truth instead.
I have set hourly alarms on my phone to remind myself to pray Scripture. It feels a bit extreme; acknowledging just how weak I am and how prone to wander my mind is. But Christ welcomes me in my weakness and does not mock me for my dependence on Him, instead He is an ever-present help in trouble and strengthens me each time.
As a part of the prayer challenge in which I am participating I gave up Netflix and Instagram. Not being distracted by mind numbing entertainment and pointless scrolling had helped me give attention to the things in my life that need attention and rely on God for peace, instead of escaping anxiety through unhelpful ways.
I am thankful for where I currently find myself (on complete bedrest because of a low placenta and on BP medication because of pregnancy induced hypertension) because it finally means I can face anxiety head on and come out victorious because of Christ, who dearly loves me and in whose hands my future is secure, no matter what.
If you find yourself struggling with anxiety may I encourage you to keep turning to the Word of God and praying it back to Him because the peace He gives is truly all we need.