Ever get yourself into a bit of a tizz? In fact, scratch ‘tizz’. Tizz is for part-timers. What I’m talking about here is FULL-BLOWN MELTDOWN. With enough time and effort, (particularly in the early hours of the morning), what starts as a mental hiccup can escalate into an existential crisis of global proportions. That is, if I let it.
Anxiety, can often be a choice. It’s like a circuit I’ve hard-wired in my body and brain – one tiny trigger and red lights start flashing across the dashboard. But Scripture tells me this:
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6)
Yikes. Sounds nice, huh? A pipe-dream. Or, depending on your perspective, maybe it’s a threat – stop worrying, you miserable sinner and Sort Your Life Out. God as a despotic gym teacher.
But hang on. Either the Bible’s a real book for real people or it’s a collection of fuzzy thoughts, nice in theory, but a fat lot of practical use. It’s not ‘handy in some situations’, but ‘bonkers in others’. It’s true – or it’s not. And if it is true, then it’s precisely what I need – a circuit-breaker for anxiety.
To return to the verse – ‘don’t be anxious’. On the one hand, this shows a real understanding of where I’m at. As humans we do worry, all the time – but the Lord recognises this and speaks into our concerns. Yet as well as understanding that anxiety is something I’ll be tempted to indulge, He offers me a way out. His word tells me this – that a life hemmed and bounded by fear is not the only option.
Of course, it doesn’t feel that way. And it’s not even as simple as wanting to be free. Anxiety is not always the enemy. Sometimes it looks like a very good friend or a careless old flame – both inviting and addictive. Instead of challenging it, too often I’ll fling myself into its big strong arms and gleefully gallop off to Worry Central. Instead of taking captive each poisonous concern, I’ll lay out my bedding in the dungeon.
Example. I see an old friend in the street. She’s got two screaming kids under her arms and can’t stop to chat. I’m disappointed not to catch up, but understand completely. That is, until 2am, when I wake up convinced that actually I’ve offended her in some unforgivable sense, that she hates me and that our friendship (and indeed All my friendships) are a pathetic lie.
I realise as I write, that these may appear to be the ravings of a Crazy Lady (and indeed, I do have cats). But I haven’t yet started licking lamp-posts. And I don’t think I’m alone in my madness.
Here’s another. As a rule, (oooh I do love a bit of law), I think in black and white. (This is true of many people who struggle with eating disorders, but again, it’s not just us). Feelings are therefore ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and decisions ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Not only is this nonsense, it can also be very dangerous. Thus, ‘recovery’ for me has been not simply a case of regaining weight, but recognising that some decisions are neutral and that issues come in shades of grey.
What’s changed? I haven’t made an executive decision to hang loose to the tribulations of modern life. Nor have I stumbled upon a five step ‘I Can Make You Chilled’ life-plan. The temptation to worry is still there. And often I’ll look those concerns in the eye and then give in. But sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes I give them up instead. I remember this verse: Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
I remember that I’m not in charge of life – God is. That it’s not just me who cares about what happens – He does. That worrying changes nothing, but prayer – prayer changes everything. And it’s hard to be anxious when you’re also being thankful.
God tells me to pray, not just about the big stuff, but the tiny stuff too. Those little niggles and concerns that nibble at the corners. We are told not to worry about anything, but instead, to pray about everything. I think of it as writing him lots of little letters. Sometimes I get as far as addressing them and sticking on the stamp, but balk at the post-box. Then I remember who they’re going too. Which means letting them go. And trusting Him with the results.