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  • Writer's pictureSusie Renzema

Anxiety, Worry & Fear

I confess, I’m really hesitant to put this plan out. The last thing in the world I want to do is minimize the pain and desperation involved in fighting anxiety and depression. I also don’t want to add to someone’s already overly full plate of guilt and shame that they can’t seem to get over this even though they believe in Christ. I think we, as the church, still have a long way to go in terms of loving our members who struggle with the dark night of the soul in whatever form it takes.

 

And yet, when I asked for topics for the upcoming year, this was the most requested subject. I was asked to write on worry, fear, intrusive thoughts - all components of anxiety and depression. Before I go any further though, I want to tell you that I write from a place of understanding. I too lived through a prolonged season of darkness. I know what it’s like to cry out to God over and over and feel as if my prayers aren’t being heard. I distinctly remember the day I walked out of my bible study because the God they all were talking about didn’t seem to be the same God I was talking to. My depression and anxiety caused a full blown crisis of my faith. I was living the phrase, “the dark night of the soul” and it was as bad as it sounds.

 

Sometimes depression and anxiety are linked or caused from illness or medications, sometimes from traumatic events or abuse. Sometimes it seems to have no link to anything in particular. Whatever it is that tips us over the edge, the reality is that it’s very hard to get back up again without help.

 

My struggle began with an unexplained condition that caused me to have my first heart attack at the age of 32. I was the mother of a 3 and almost 5 year old at the time. I was treated by the entire cardiology department and no one could figure out why a healthy 32 year old female with no risk factors had a heart attack. I was put on a regimen of medications, some of which caused depression as a side effect. My two constant companions were my pill organizer and my ugly men’s Timex watch with an alarm to remind me to take said pills. A third companion joined shortly after: fear, gut-wrenching, stop you in your tracks, heart-racing fear.

 

I didn’t understand that this was part of depression. I thought depression was pulling the covers over your head and not wanting to leave the house. I wanted to leave the house, I wanted to parent and be a good friend, and do the work assigned to me in my church. And so I tried, but the fear never left. It’s far too long a story for this introduction, but it went on for years until God finally delivered me from it via medication and His grace. Today I am both medication and anxiety/depression free. And although I am profoundly grateful for this, I hesitate to write about it because it feels like a slap across the face to the one still struggling.

 

There’s a quote by Joseph Bayly that sums up what was happening to me during this time. “Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.” The problem was, I hadn’t learned that much in the light. I had been in churches that had taught me some great worship music and had given me many topical sermons to make me a better Christian and person, but I don’t recall being taught the true character of God. I wasn’t being taught about his holiness, his power, his sovereignty, his omnipotence… I wasn’t even really being taught how to listen to him. Because of this, when the darkness came, I didn’t really have much to hang on to. I have come to see that in everything my anchor is what I believe to be true about God. And this learning is hard to do on the fly, it’s best if it is deeply settled in your soul before the storm. However, God is infinitely merciful and meets us wherever we are. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” No matter how dark, Jesus is there with the lamp because He is the light. I can’t state this emphatically enough, LEARN THE CHARACTER OF GOD! If you’re unsure where to start, ask me, I would love to help you. I have an entire year of journal plans on His character and I will gladly share them with anyone who asks. I have some great book recommendations too.

 

My husband and I have had the privilege of doing pre-marital counseling with some young couples and one of the main things we talk about is the fact that whatever you focus on gets bigger. If you focus on how he squeezes the toothpaste tube, that will become a big deal, or where the dirty clothes land, or who always loads the dishwasher. Likewise, if you focus on how he gets up before you and makes sure there’s coffee, or that he shovels the walk and puts down salt before your bible study arrives, or is always willing to run to the store on his way home from work, those things move into first place in your mind. I really think the same principle is at work when we think about God. Do you rehearse in your mind all of his promises and are you well acquainted with his character?

 

I want to say again, I DO NOT believe that all you need to overcome anxiety and depression is a big dose of positive thinking. If you recall, I was put on medication and I was counseling with my pastor, AND I was eventually taught how to have right thoughts about both God and the enemy. And I realize that some of you are doing all of these things and more and yet it persists, if that is you, I am truly sorry.

 

The other thing I want to avoid is formulizing this, turning it into an equation with an expected outcome if you just put all the right pieces in their proper place. My aim is to offer up what has brought me comfort and hope, that’s all I have really, my own story. Shortly before the Lord graciously moved in my life I was in an amazing bible study at my church. Our leader had been through some serious stuff and she was extremely open with all parts of her story. She shared one day about how she was encouraged by her mentor to write down verses on index cards and keep them with her at all times. Whenever she felt fear or the pull to go back to her old life, she was to pull out her cards and start reading until the feeling or fear passed. Again, I know it’s not always that easy but think of it as another line of defense against the intrusive thoughts.

 

I feel as if this introduction is woefully inadequate for a topic as difficult and varied as anxiety, yet I also felt it would be dismissive to those who asked for it to ignore it because of its scope. What follows is just a beginning and not a guaranteed prescription. A word of encouragement: the verses I’ve chosen need to be read in context so once again some of the passages are quite long. You may journal as much as you like, however, I am often comforted and encouraged by writing out longer sections. I also encourage you to read more than just the Psalms I’ve included. And as beneficial as reading and writing scripture is, try to take the time to sit quietly in reflection on what you’ve read and written. So often in my anxiety I wanted God to answer me now, I wanted it gone now, of course I did, who doesn’t? But I’ve been learning that there is much to be gained in sitting with feelings and listening to what God is saying in them. Again, this is another skill to acquire in this battle, and not an easy one, but do try to listen after you’ve poured out your heart to Him. That’s what many of the Psalms are, an anguished soul crying out to God and then writing out His response or writing out what one knows to be true about God. That wasn’t just for bible times, you and I can have that conversation with God too.

 

I’m praying for each of you.

God Bless,

Susie


April 2024 - Anxiety, Worry & Fear
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2 commenti


Aliyah Dan
Aliyah Dan
05 apr

Such a timely and needed word. Thank you!

Mi piace

rocksoupal
02 apr

Thank you Susie! For the Scripture journal plan and for sharing your heart! I love you!

Mi piace
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