Can believers have anxiety?
It’s a difficult question at first glance. Can believers have anxiety? How is it possible that someone who knows of God’s love, healing, and power, struggles with something as crippling as anxiety? Something everyone else struggles with, and dare I even say what we’ve thought; something someone who isn’t saved struggles with. The answer is very simply put; we are human. And humanity comes with some messy strings.
I lived a long time without any clue on the extensiveness of anxiety, and I think many others do as well. This is where those messy strings come in — more often than not, the tangled knot we deal with is actually misunderstanding of the problem. The problem being the thing itself; anxiety. Now, before reading on, check to make sure the world didn’t end at the mention of a mental illness in the church. No? Great!
The statistics for anxiety as a mental disorder are staggering; over forty million adults between the ages of 18 and 54 are affected by it, and that doesn’t include those under eighteen. As someone under the mark, I can speak for its effects; but even then, it’s different for everyone. Sometimes I can pray it away; God is my Comforter, my Counselor, and He can pull the anxiety from my heart just as quickly as it came. And sometimes, well — I can’t pray it away. Sometimes I can’t even focus my thoughts to find the words, or my lips to form the sentences. And those times are more often than I’d ever care to admit, especially aloud, and especially to anyone who reads this. Who would? We live in a world that doesn’t care to admit weakness, and we live in a church that cares to admit it even less. Does that seem backward to anyone else?
2 Corinthians 12:10 reads,
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God calls us to be weak– so that we are able to lean into Him. We find our downfall by attempting to live this life alone and in our own strength. How do we expect to live in our own strength when we can be crippled so easily; for example, by anxiety? Anxiety in itself is something that defies logic; when I feel overwhelmed, it’s usually for a reason that doesn’t make sense. My anxiety attacks me in ways that make me feel ridiculous for being bothered, or feeling like there’s something to fear or worry over when there isn’t. And even then, my anxiety is not everyone’s anxiety — my personal struggle is not necessarily yours, or hers, or his. But it is a struggle, and I don’t think there’s ever been a time I successfully handled it on my own.
We love to say we’re blessed and live a life devoid of struggle, but the hard truth is that we are in a battle. We fight everyday for our lives, our hearts, and our minds; it’s time the church stopped trying to play the perfection card. We can have the joy of Christ, know His unfailing Love, and still know the late hours of the night far too well. We can struggle with whispers in our minds, heaviness on our hearts, and still be someone who knows a close relationship with our King. Why couldn’t we? He made us His, and He made us human; that includes every cry and weakness in between.
In the bible, there are hundreds of examples of the way we grapple within ourselves. There are wise men and women of God, prophets, who struggled internally; in Jeremiah 20:14-18, Jeremiah cries out in pure hopelessness.
“Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you,” making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?”
Do you see a difference between us and him? Any of the prophets, or any of the men or women whose legacies we follow? No matter the time between us, we all share the need to lean into Him, or risk falling from our frailty.
Society has made mental disorders, such as anxiety, hard-pressed to be discussed; and unfortunately, the same is true for the church. We continually act like it’s this scary, taboo thing to talk about – and that’s half right. It is scary. Feeling out of control, worried, terrified, whatever way it’s manifested – struggling with that can be terrifying. For me, it causes doubt; in my self worth, my ability, and even in my relationship with God. It has this funny little way of making me feel less and less like a believer in Him. Simply put, it’s difficult. But if we don’t discuss it, how many people will be struggling alone? How many tears will be counted in the dark? How many people will lose their faith, their self-worth, or their joy?
Every single time we start moving forward, there will be an attack. This is the truth of the life we take on when we die to Christ, and the enemy continually presses lies to our skin, whispering the anxiety that scatters across our minds. How are we supposed to fend those off? How are we supposed to get past the demons we unwillingly carry?
Simply put – not easily. As humans, we are weak and imperfect, and we cannot get past struggles like this without the ever-lasting Light of the world. Even when we feel like any of the above, we have to remember the hand reaching for ours.
And that may take a while. That may take days, weeks, months, or years. It may take rock bottom and no other possible option before we collapse in His embrace, but we have to get there. That’s what it took for me. There is no other way to destroy what comes to kill. You have to pray for defeat – but you also have to believe. You can’t count on the half-hearted prayer of others – or even the full-hearted prayers of friends. It takes you. It takes personal drive and belief in the perfect fact that God can bring healing to absolutely ANYTHING. There is no difference between the healing of a physical sickness, like cancer, and the healing of anxiety by Christ. Both are sicknesses and hurts that need His Love.
It took me a long time to realize that we have to seek that. It took even longer for me to actually push past the fear to do so; I still struggle, even now. We have to dedicate our hearts to desiring the healing God can bring – and to desiring Him. If we don’t, nothing will change.
We live all of this in an on-going war that would have consumed us from the beginning if not for the cross. It’s okay to be overwhelmed by the anxiety, the panic, the hurt– these things do not prove you any less of a Christian, or any less a child of the King. It only proves your need for Him – and that is what solidifies your lineage in Christ. That is what decides you are a Son or Daughter of God. It is absolutely okay to not be okay – but don’t stay in that. Never stay in that. And never, ever believe the lie that you are alone.
2 Corinthians 12:10
Thanks for reading! See you in a few weeks ~ ♥