This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for fear. That’s a strange statement, I know, but it’s true: I’m grateful for what worrying has taught me. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life, and this year I’ve realized that as frustrating as that journey has been, I wouldn’t trade it even if I could. It’s been an incredible blessing in disguise, and today I wanted to explain why.
Here’s a little piece of my story. 🙂
I think my life can come across as mostly perfect on this blog. I’m a pretty cheerful person and I love making beautiful, positive posts to brighten your day. But you should know that my life isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. And I feel like I owe you guys a look at the hard stuff since I so faithfully share the good stuff.
I’ve been afraid my whole life. Most of the time I wasn’t afraid of some specific event or object; I was just afraid in general. I only recently realized that’s called “anxiety.” I kinda feel guilty using that term so lightly because “anxiety” seems like a label reserved for people with intense, debilitating fear and insecurity that limits their lives like an illness does. My anxiety hasn’t really stopped me from doing things because… well, if I waited until to do something until it stopped scaring me, I’d never go anywhere or do anything of importance. So I did it anyway – while feeling mildly terrified.
I’m not sure when the anxiety started. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel worried. Even as a little kid I was always worrying about money, worrying about family and friends, worrying about my reputation, and especially worrying about doing the right thing. I was the most conscientious “good girl” you’ve ever met. When I got home from school (I went to private school through 3rd grade and then was homeschooled), I immediately sat down on the floor in the foyer, opened my backpack, and didn’t go a step further until I’d finished my homework. I was that really annoying child who asked my parents about every little thing because I didn’t want to be disobedient.
See, I desperately wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to please God, please my parents… please everybody, actually. And I did a pretty good job of it. But inside, I was a wreck. If it looked like we were going to be late to school, if it seemed like I’d hurt someone, if I had to go somewhere or be in a situation where I didn’t know what to do or what was happening, I got so. Stressed. Out.
Thank the Lord I was raised in a family and a church where I never doubted that God accepted me by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through my own good works. I’d have probably died otherwise. But it’s one thing to know about grace and another thing to live it out. I still felt immense pressure to do right. I needed to please. And to do that, I needed to be in control. So I was either bossy or worried (or both.) My poor siblings.
As I grew up, God mercifully put me in situations I couldn’t control, where I didn’t know what was happening and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. And every time the stress of that broke me a little more, it also grew my faith a little deeper. Because it made me understand down to my core that I simply cannot not handle life on my own. I need someone to cling to.
So when my heart was aching with anxiety and stress, I prayed. When there was nowhere else to turn, I turned to Christ. And He held me. Always. Even when the very reason I ran to Him was because I refused to surrender to Him, even when it was my own stubbornness and disobedience that was hurting me, he opened His arms patiently and without judgement.
The book of Psalms has always been one of my favorites because of the way David unashamedly brings his real emotions, requests, and entire self to God. No holding back. No hiding. My fear stripped away any pretense of trying to hide who I was from God. He was my comfort precisely because I didn’t need to clean myself up first. I came as I was, trusting Him not to leave me that way.
The more I came to God, the more He alive he became to me. To be clear, my faith is not some warm feeling about an imaginary friend I bring to life in my mind. No, I believe in God’s existence intellectually as well as emotionally because I believe He is Truth. We can talk about that later. But my point here is that while I’ve always been good at knowing about God, my anxiety forced me to know Him. Why? Because you can’t have a strong relationship without communication. The more you talk and listen to someone, the better you know them and the more you trust them.
Another thing that happens when you really love someone is that everything brings them to mind. The more real God made Himself to me, the more I could see Him and His love for me in so many little things – sunlight on the floor, a smile from a friend, an unexpected patch of mushrooms, a good book or movie or song…
And that’s what I share with you guys on this blog – all the little things I’m grateful for. Looking for those shards of grace helps me slow down and count my blessings instead of my… stressings. (Hehe, that should be a word.) This blog is a way to repay my debt, in a manner of speaking. It’s a way to remind myself of how much I have to be grateful for, but also to share some beauty with you and to remind you to look for the light wherever you are.
These days I don’t struggle with fear as much as I used to. This year especially, my stubborn brain is finally starting to accept what God has been patiently teaching me all along: my only hope for rest and happiness is in surrendering all to Him. Although I’ve always trusted God alone for my salvation, I trusted a little bit of God plus a whole lot of “being nice and doing the right thing so everyone likes me” for my happiness.
I bring this up because we’re heading into the season which often feels like the opposite of rest, a season which carries with it huge temptations to find your happiness in material things or in pleasing other people. My friend, I’ve learned in my short 21 years of life that we need an identity based on something outside of ourselves. If we’re to truly be grounded, we need a foundation that won’t change the way everything in this world changes and fades away.
So do you need rest? Come to Jesus. Come with your weariness, your worry, your desperation. Come with your desire for control, your need to please, your heavy insecurities. Come with empty hands and a full heart – He is big enough to handle all of your fears and failures. You don’t have to hide anything from Him. He already knows. I can attest that His presence is enough to get you through it all, because nothing – not other people’s expectations, not tragedies and hardships, not even your own traitorous heart – can separate you from your Father.
The world isn’t safe, and I’m probably always going to worry about silly things. But this year, I’m grateful for blessings in disguise and for a life I can’t control, one filled with bumps and battles. God doesn’t promise to always give us what we want, but He promises to always give us what we need. And He promises to be with us in the midst of the fight.
So why should I be afraid? If the brokenness of life helps me grow closer to Christ, why should I fear it? Maybe those thorns I keep running into are really rosebushes. And maybe… no, certainly, His power is made perfect in my weakness.
give me the tangled, brushy woods,
the twisty streams,
the rolling mysteries.
let them teach me to
wander life the same:
a divine mystery
waiting to be discovered.
is not God here
even in the most
the world glows.