Delivered from anxiety in 2020? Yes, really.
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4
I've struggled with anxiety and depression for a long, long time. Through the years, I've been on and off medication so many times, I lost count. I went to counseling faithfully. I tried yoga. I tried deep breathing. I went to an herbalist and took natural supplements. I drank too much alcohol. I took vacations, walks and long baths. I diffused oils. I tried to "just relax." I read self-help books, some disguised as Christian books. I studied the Enneagram to try to understand why I was like this. I tried to control and plan for any circumstance in a feeble attempt to feel secure.
Some of these things helped me cope temporarily. But none of them gave me the ultimate cure I was looking for. (Some of it actually sunk me deeper into the pit I was in, but I'll save that discussion for another day.)
My chest tightness, headaches, stomach aches, breathlessness, irritability, paranoia and a general sense of being overwhelmed by life — it all continued. My sense of dread persisted. My inability to make the smallest decision left me paralyzed. My germophobia dominated my family's life. When things went wrong, I lost my bearings. But most of the time, I just worried about what could go wrong. My thoughts about the future were uncertain, my ability to thrive in the present was shaky and, though I didn't realize it, my past still had a grip on me.
Sure, I had seasons where I appeared to have things under control. I could put on my "everything's fine" face and go for months keeping the fear and pain to a dull roar. But then there would be another panic attack or another week-long debilitating headache or a repetitive stabbing pain in my chest that convinced me I was having a heart attack. (Instead, I left urgent care with another prescription for anxiety medication.) I beat myself up for not being "Christian" enough to overcome this. At my absolute worst, I even had thoughts about not living anymore. And that scared me even more.
Then 2020 came along. The whole world joined me in my fear. It seemed everyone started feeling like I had for so many years. At first, of course, I was paralyzed along with them. I was terrified of this new virus called COVID-19 and its implications, to a point where it began to dictate how we lived. On top of everything else I was carrying, it felt like too much to bear. But praise God, I didn't stay there long! I literally couldn't go on like that. In a sense, the unstable state of the world pushed me to a point where I was either going to break — or break free.
At this crossroads, the Lord intervened in my life. He had been preparing me for this moment a year earlier by placing me in a church where I was encountering Him like never before. When the world shut down, I was ready to get serious about surrendering to Him and I was equipped with the tools to do it. 2020 became an AMAZING year for me. Not only did I not live it in fear, but I actually thrived.
Can you believe that of all the years, it would be 2020 when I broke free from anxiety? I mean, seriously?! Only God could do that! The timing of my experience alone proves that fear has nothing to do with circumstances — and everything to do with our trust in God.
Since accepting Christ at age 10, I trusted Him with my eternal life. But I wasn't trusting Him with my life on earth. I thought I had to be in charge of that. The pandemic was the storm that woke me up to the fact that I'm not in control, and I never have been. That's actually a good thing! It was so freeing to just hand over the reins to the very capable God to whom they belong. I was tired of steering.
After that wake-up call, the Lord was able to help me deal with other things that had been blocking my faith in Him. The more I tore down those barriers, the more I started to hear from Him and experience His presence. Guided and discipled by godly pastors and mentors, I started earnestly seeking God through prayer and the in-depth study of His word, and He began to heal me. With the barriers destroyed and cleared away, the Holy Spirit could fill me and start to rebuild my life with the things of God.
Ultimately I made the choice to put my trust in His promises and be grounded in His perfect love for me, where fear simply can't exist (1 John 4:18). The world around us is still unpredictable, disappointing and downright scary, but for the first time in my life, I HAVE PEACE. Because my faith isn't in the world anymore. It's in the One and Only true source of peace (turns out it's not yoga, wine or self-help), and I have direct access to Him. What an amazing privilege!
The transformation I went through last year is a huge cause for celebration! But I am still a work in progress. I have not attained perfection in this area, nor will I until I see Jesus face to face. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being transformed gradually "from one degree of glory to another" to become more and more like Christ. I still have a lot more degrees to go.
Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," yet then goes on to warn: "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." So yes, there are days when I have to fight to hold this precious ground of freedom. Days when the enemy says to me, "Who do you think you are to claim victory over anxiety? Don't you remember your history?" But the difference is that now, I am no longer enslaved by it. I know my identity as a child of God, and I know that Jesus has already won the victory for me. It's my choice every day whether I want to live in it or not. That choice is yours, too.