Anxiety has rewritten who I am for most of my life. Most people do not know me as I am without it because all they have ever seen is the anxiety that clings to me like a staticky dress. It feels like that first moment you realize you have fallen and there is nothing to stop you before you hit the ground: your heart shoots sky high and a shock goes out from it all the way through your fingertips. And why? Who knows! Maybe because you caught someone’s eye. Maybe because you said, or you didn’t say, or you should have, or you should not have, or you might, or you might not – everything you do or might do all day long, be it wave to a neighbor or do a load of laundry or say “I do” to your own just-right. Or maybe you don’t know why, and trying to figure it out sets off the rest of the alarms in your head. Almost never have I ever lived through a major moment of my life without it clawing at my heart; the moment itself passes quickly, but I have lived it three ways. I have worried before, I have been anxious through, and I have scrutinized in agony every inch of it after – “I can’t believe I [fill in the blank].”
I have coped with my anxiety in so many ways; it’s like the wind that’s always blowing, and I am constantly turning this way and that way, first with it blowing in my face so I don’t have to eat my hair, and then with it at my back so I can open my eyes and so it won’t rip things out of my hands, and then to the side to see if I get the best or worst of both. Sometimes I stare straight into the things that make me anxious and run toward them, and other times I turn my back on dreams and loves and hopes because I just can’t stand it anymore. I have let things go, wonderful things, irreplaceable things, because I was simply too tired of battling. (If you are one of those things, I regret you most of all. Please know – when I ran away from moments with you, it was never because of you.) I have put my best days behind me, forgotten things on purpose, just to be rid of the clawing. Most days, I would just rather hide somewhere safe, somewhere out of the wind.
Oh yes. I know what anxiety is. Anxiety is that evil thing that takes all the most beautiful, most astounding, most profound and life-giving moments in life, big and small, and steals them, and stains them, and breaks them, and disfigures them beyond repair. It is a killjoy, the killjoy – the thief.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.
I have battled anxiety in so many ways, and often, I have lost. But that is because I am foolish and forgetful; I have beaten it, really won, once or twice, and if I would remember, I do know how. I found it a long time ago, a secret that is painted on the sky every morning and night and sung by the birds all day long. The only weapon that beats the anxiety in me is worship.
Most Christians who hear the word “worship” think of singing a set of songs in church every Sunday, or perhaps singing those same songs at home or in their car throughout the week. Stick on some Hillsong and sing along, right?
To tell you the truth, I love to sing. My children can both attest – I stick on some Hillsong and I sing (and dance)(and grab them to dance) along enthusiastically. There can certainly be worship in song.
But I am going to meddle and challenge what we typically call worship, only because I mean to be precise. Plenty of the songs we call “worship” are profoundly self-focused, and it turns out, that’s pretty weak on the real worship. Real worship is utterly and helplessly selfless; it is so fixated on its Worshipped that there is simply no room to think of anything else.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
What is true? “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”(Romans 3:4) What is noble? “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18) What is right, and what is pure? “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than His Maker?” (Job 4:17) What is admirable? “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) What is excellent or praiseworthy? “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” (Psalm 145:3)
Think about God. Meditate on who He is, and forget, for a moment, about myself.
There it is. The Rock that breaks the constant wind of worry in my life. Sometimes, when I am wise, I choose to think it, to speak it, to write it, to sing it, to live it – the goodness of God. I hide inside the Rock and I find peace, calm.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your house forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
I have a bookmark that I got years ago with the names of God on it; God is called the Provider, the Almighty, the Master, the Creator, the Holy One, the Healer, the Redeemer, and many, many other names, and each of them tells us something about His character. I pull it out and read them and meditate on the Scriptures that call Him that. I pull out the Psalms and I read what others have said about Him. I look throughout my own life, and I remember times when He provided, or healed, or created, or mastered, or redeemed, and I worship Him for that.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done!”
I take my eyes for however long it takes and turn them on Jesus, and like He did for Peter, He reaches out and takes hold of me.
When my eyes fix on the eternal – He who was, and is, and will be – the winds die down in awe of Him. Something quiet and still comes into me instead: “He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2ish-3ish)
I am beginning to wonder if that’s why “worry” and “worship” start out the same; is one the world’s illness, the other the Healer’s cure?
God alone understands the human heart, and He alone can say for certain. But this I have read, that God encourages us to lean on Him for our courage as He did Joshua, and He commands us, again and again, to remember Him and to worship Him. Maybe, just maybe, He has a reason for that. Or many. 🙂
Anxiety is a condition more than it is an illness; it is chronic, and so to be effective, its cure must be habitual. What would my heart, what would my life look like, if I were in a habit of meditating on and worshipping the character of God instead of my own?
I don’t know exactly – but I think I would like to. There’s no time like the present for me; I am in the thick of it, losing again to that darn wind. Here’s to growing, and to peace! 🙂
Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.