Ministering Through Anxiety
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
—2 Corinthians 1:3-5 The Message
100, 97, 94 . . . Counting backward by threes is the only way to keep the panic at bay. Icy, viscous fear crushes my chest, rendering raw each rasping breath. My adrenaline spikes, punctuated by each hollow heartbeat. 91, 88 . . . Each number is a whimpered prayer—nonsense ciphers only God can decode. The Holy Spirt intercedes for me—begs for me—while I’m choking on my fear. Distracted, I begin the count again.
100, 97, 94 . . . Each time this happens, I ask why. Do I not trust God enough? That sentiment is what others—well-meaning people of God—have suggested. I have been active and surrendered in ministry for more than 18 years, yet I’ve never escaped this panic. 91, 88 . . . Each number proclaims my weakness. I have debilitating anxiety. Like the Apostle Paul shared in his second letter to the Corinthians, I was given a thorn in my flesh—a gift that keeps on giving. 85 . . . Mental illness. Let’s call it what it is. I go back to the beginning.
100, 97, 94 . . . More times than I can count, I have begged God to remove this affliction, but he has not. Instead, he has shifted my thinking. 91, 88, 85 . . . In this panic—this downward spiral into fear—my God is so very fierce. I now believe that my anxiety is my gift—an inward tidal wave of the powerful sufficiency of Christ swirling into my insufficiency. Instead of fighting the intense weight pressing on my chest and forcing out my breath, I open my mouth and breathe in his power. I drown in his grace, and only in that place do I find freedom.
82, 79, 76 . . . This trauma is my memento from a war intended to destroy me. I am staggering and scarred, but I am still alive. Each labored breath is a souvenir of God’s mercy. Others battle alongside me. I stand with them on this edge, and we’re connected by an ache so immense it cannot be fully explored this side of heaven. Each of us recognizes a rumbling within, reverberating with the truth that we’re not alone. Because of anxiety, I see others with God’s eyes. I see strength where others perceive weakness—potential where others observe only pain.
73, 70 . . . Someday he will heal me completely, but in the meantime I will choose to be a flawed and—if necessary—medicated conduit for him. I’m a minister with a mental illness, and I’m no longer ashamed of who I am. Neither should you be. I celebrate you, friend with anxiety or depression, and I accept you for who you are and for who God is through you. You were given this gift so you can reach the people like you—indeed, you may be the only one who can.
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