For years I struggled with anxiety, worry, and depression. Back in the day when I had overcome the major hurdles of depression (thank you Jesus!) and I still worked at the shoe store (I bled black & white stripes) I would become overwhelmed. And eventually I allowed the stress to get to the point that I had psoriasis-like symptoms and my hair started falling out. Not something that twenty year old girls want to be sporting, let me tell you.
But what was I stressing about? I worked in a stressful environment; but it was honestly easy enough to resolve if I would have just gotten out of my own head and done what I knew I should do. Whatever that was back then; I don’t even remember all of the issues my store had back then. My trainer joked that I just stressed about being stressed.
Did I remember to worry about how I angle the shoes on the wall??
He was right. But I either didn’t want to believe it or I somehow thought my emotions were too complex for him. Probably a little bit of both. That whole stressing over stress and not really knowing the root cause followed me even after I became a Christian. For longer than I care to admit. But I will. It wasn’t until last year that I was finally delivered of the “I don’t knows” as I call them.
It’s when you feel that sense of dread: but you don’t know why. You are anxious or overwhelmed; but you can’t remember why. You are crying and hysterical: but you just can’t figure out what is wrong with you. Imagine how much fun that was for my husband as a newlywed. Oh yeah, he loved it! And I felt like I was crazy and he would grow to resent me. (Spoiler alert: he learned me and how to handle me. Handle me: like I’m a wild animal or something!)
My husband is a brave man. He asked me what was wrong: I DON’T KNOW!!
I couldn’t tell you exactly when God delivered me of confusion and anxiety: but he did. A pivotal moment though was when I finally absorbed a scripture that followed one of my previous favorites (one that I clung to while I was in turmoil over who knows what).
Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.
1 John 2:21 KJV
The scripture that I had clung to before was this:
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
1 John 2:20
For eight years I clung to the promise that God is greater than my heart. When I don’t know what is wrong; when I feel like I am losing my mind; when for some reason I feel like I need to be anxious over what only God knows; he is greater than my heart and knows all things. He knew the source and he knew the why’s. And the word condemn described what I experienced well: I was condemned to be miserable because I don’t do things as well as other people. Because of my parents. Because I didn’t go to college. Because my boyfriend dumped me. Because I didn’t say the right thing at the right time. Because I wasn’t as good at singing or counting or spelling or doing or serving or remembering or shopping or beautifying or selling or speaking or saving or dancing or… See? I’d pin that feeling of worry or stress or misery on something in which I felt inadequate. The sad thing is that some of the things I blamed myself for I wasn’t even expected to do. Even sadder is the fact that I’m pretty good at a lot of the things in which I thought I just didn’t add up.
With moves like this who has room for worry?
But then the truth set me free. I read what came after 1 John 2:20. If I put my confidence in God then my heart won’t condemn me. If my hope and confidence and trust are in him and not my doings or undoings then my heart won’t have a way to condemn me. It won’t be able to trick me or confuse me into worrying because my confidence is in Jesus Christ. It won’t be able to make me think I should be stressed because if my confidence is in God then why would I stress? If I say my confidence is in him then that means I believe him when he tells me to cast my cares on him because he cares for me. I believe him when he says that I can rest in him and he will quiet me with his love and rejoice over me with singing.
Y’all. That was powerful for me. Realizing that I was allowing habit and old thought processes and the enemy control my mind and thus control my actions was freeing. Realizing that I did not have to spend my life shadowboxing: fighting things that weren’t even there. Realizing I was worried about things that weren’t even real… It gave me boldness to not believe the confusion or hype. To not be afraid of what the Bible describes as sudden fear.
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
1 Corinthians 14:33
Sudden fear, confusion, anxiety, worry… Not of God. He is the God of peace. Peace is described by Merriam Webster as: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. When a thought comes that would oppress you and bind you to the point that you just don’t know: reject it. My pastor preached on how to pray this past week and he taught that to pray properly we need to learn how to listen. That struck me and so I’ve been determined to listen better. And as I’m listening I’ve come to realize how many times that I will still suddenly become anxious and when I question the thought as to why I am stressed the answer is: I don’t know. So I renounce it immediately. No way am I going to occupy my time pondering and dwelling in anxiety and being disquieted for no good reason. God is freeing me more and more from the confusion of the “I don’t knows” and the torment that comes along with them.
Let me urge you and encourage you: if you have a disquieting or oppressive thought and there is no rhyme or reason to it, dismiss it. You have my permission. Not enough for you? You have the authority in Jesus to reject the emotion. Recognize it and then deal with it. Here’s how:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6,7 NLT
Is it easy? Not always. Is it better than dwelling in torment? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Try it and see.