I’ve been debating whether or not I should post this confession: I wrestle with anxiety… Sometimes “wrestle” is a generous word. Sometimes I find myself in the thralls of anxiety.
Here’s the weird thing- I am not a worrier. I am the dad who gives his kids fireworks and tells them to “go nuts.” But anxiety, that is an entirely different animal. Anxiety makes me dwell on the irrational, it makes me fixate on the imaginary. Anxiety takes a possible problem and turns it into eventual disaster. It gnaws at my gut, it distracts my thoughts, it steals my life.
I know by making this confession I run the risk of altering the way people see me. I fully realize that I am now leaving myself open to all kinds of prescriptions to essential oils and weird coping mechanisms. My motivation in sharing this confession is that I recently found something that effectively works against my anxiety.
I have my own coping mechanisms; organization, a regular schedule, attention to details, etc. And then I went on vacation. It’s ironic that I was supposed to be relaxing, but because I was away from my safety net, my anxiety reared its ugly head. I realized that a short-tempered and distracted dad could ruin this trip for everyone (and I don’t want my children to have that memory), so, I texted a friend that first night away seeking prayer.
As an aside, you need a friend in your life that you can reach out to when you need help. You need someone who will shepherd you and pray for you. I consider this friend my pastor, so I asked him to pray for me. He responded with a welcome bit of advice- “Read the Songs of Ascents”. (The Songs of Ascents are Psalms 120 through Psalm 134.)
That night, my head was filled with “what ifs?” and my lungs were seemingly filled with something heavier than air, I cracked open my Bible and started with Psalm 120:1- “In my distress I called to Lord and he answered me.” I noticed immediately that the work of anxiety, to make me feel alone, was beginning to be undone. The next morning (and every morning following) I read something like Psalm 121:1-2; “I lift my eyes up to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Very quickly this wrestling match became winnable.
I wish I could tell you that my mind has since stopped inventing new “what if?” scenarios, (it hasn’t) but I did notice something potent against my anxiety- there is a thought repeated throughout these songs: “The Lord, who made heaven and earth, surrounds His people.” So when my mind invents a new (maybe) possible scenario, or, when like David we really do endure hardships, I come back to these songs because God in His sovereignty has created this world- He did it with purpose. The things that I encounter, whether real or imagined, are not bigger than heaven and earth, they are not bigger than Him. My life, in its entirety, is in God’s sovereign and purposeful hands.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Thanks for the reminder Brian, it means a lot.)