When the past comes crashing, rudely interrupting the beauty of the present it is unnerving. This happened to me recently. I was driving nonchalantly going about my “to-do’s” when the past wrecked into my today. Nothing physically happened, but a reminder of things before, not so pleasant triggered an anxiety response. I really struggle with fear and anxiety. It grips my insides and won’t let go. It clouds my perception where I’m unable to discern reality from illusion. My emotions can take over and turn me inside out faster than I realize what’s happened. I hate it. I feel out of control, short of breath and frantic. Frozen yet reeling. Grasping for anything to hold onto & regain my sense of control. But this is where I habitually take a wrong turn. I try to control. I frantically take action hoping that changing some external stimuli will settle my soul. Frequently it’s a person. If I can get another human to act the way I’d like, I falsely believe my security will be found there.
“So woeful about the past and so worried about the future, we miss the wonder of God in the present.” – Beth Moore
Anxiety can sneak in. Uncertainty created within a circumstance. Some of my personal anxiety was born out of extremely stressful and traumatic life events. Yet those events shouldn’t be allowed to alter my perspective on life indefinitely. I have a decision to make. In whom or what will I place my trust & allow to shape my perception of reality? I’m not saying that I just have to “get over” things that may have happened. I’d never so callously suggest anyone else do so either. I’m in the midst of a battle to walk through the remnants of past destruction and cling to God as He restores what has for so long lay in ruins. Many recent life events are revealing an underlying brokenness I’ve accepted as normal MY ENTIRE LIFE. I even wrote “Faith in the Midst of Fear” several years ago. I cannot remember ever being absent of the dull ache of anxiety and need to control my surroundings to feel safe. The daily dread and insecurity shadowing each day has wrecked havoc in my life for years. That is one of the main problems of fear, anxiety, dread, worry….whatever term you prefer. Pick your poison, but they all have the same cage to offer. They steal from the freedom and beauty of the present. “Today” becomes pressed upon and shrouded by “yesterday” with a suffocating dread of “tomorrow”. Fear is ever-so taunting of the “could-be” or “once-was” refusing attendance to the “actually-is”.
One way my anxiety is created is when my devotion to something is out of proportion. I naturally associate false gods and idols with tokens made of gold, however that is much too simplistic. I easily make relationships something I worship. If I value these relationships more than the Lord, anxiety can arise. Nothing was made to hold my security other than Christ. Even good things, like my husband and children, that are gifts from God create opportunities for anxiety when out of balance. God celebrates marriage, family, friendships, community, our aptitude’s and gifts but these things are all meant to point TO Him. They aren’t for my “glory” or comfort. Recently my son was hospitalized for breathing related issues. We’ve had some difficulties in the past but have always been able to manage at home with breathing treatments. This time it was different. As my mothering instincts to protect and nurture my child weren’t enough to “fix” him, I hit the wall of self-sufficiency. Do I trust God with it all? Do I trust Him with my children’s health? It’s a question I’ve continued asking myself since we’ve been released from the hospital. Security is reality only when centered on Jesus. It is not circumstantial, because very disagreeable things happen. Life happens. I must continually make a decision to live in this truth: my comfort comes from security in God alone. My feelings or positive outcome of situations are not a sufficient substitute but a temporary distraction from the source of anxiety that still remains.
Recently I heard a person share something so simple but it was huge for me. “Feelings are not always truth. They are just feelings.” I relate. This was a sudden realization of how much faith I place in feelings, my own and others. I’ve continued mulling over the powerful effect emotions can have on life. Feelings can easily become the active driver for decisions. This can be very dangerous when operating from a false basis, not living in truth. If I allow my emotions to shape my reality, I’m in for quite the ride. Cue the playback reel of my life! I mean really, think about it. Do people make major life decisions like divorce because someone isn’t helping with laundry, one spouse works too much or financial disagreements? Would it be more accurate to say divorce stems from the emotions evoked by each of these circumstances? Some of the same emotions can be created with each situation. Perceived betrayal. Abandonment. Fear. Insecurity. Anger. Loneliness. In no way am I dismissing the true absolute damage and destruction caused within abusive & unhealthy relationships, but is it not the feelings that bring us to a breaking point? A wall we can no longer push forward.
Our journey may be different. Some paths may be similar. However one thing I’m learning – feelings cannot be the tool for navigation. There must be a higher truth that I rest in. A consistent basis to gauge life instead of the broken lens of my perception ever clouded and smudged by my emotion of the moment. I’ve accepted the truth that I’m dealing with spiritual warfare. I’ve noticed the subtle emotional manipulation within my life and surroundings. I’ve suddenly become attune to this pervasive cloud and realized I’ve accepted its presence far too long.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV
I’m meditating on the above passage as a direct approach to remove the enemy’s influence over my reality. I’m refusing to accept these all too familiar feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m beginning to see how they are a stronghold in my life. A stronghold can be a safe place offering protection from outside forces. However when I use strongholds of self-sufficiency, I’ve walled myself in from the true source of help. Fear has been my safe place. My false argument against discomfort. Fear has been a place of complacency. A place to hide & escape reality. An excuse to push others away and a desperate attempt to control people who get too close. The stronghold of fear has served as a way to refuse accountability avoiding the responsibility and charge to make changes within myself. I’m ready to take some action. I want there to be a revolutionary change , cause I ain’t done.
Change is a process. It’s not an overnight thing. Once the battle for change begins it becomes a daily grind to press on and not settle back into habits of the familiar. It’s much too easy to react in fear because that’s what I’ve always done. A different approach is to actively take my thoughts captive and ask God to show me a different way. To plead for His truth to become louder than my anxiety which may be deafening. Although my thoughts and emotions may continually default to fear-based, anxious and self-protecting norms, with God’s guidance I battle to change the status quo. I’ve begun this process over the past few months and continue to pray for awareness in the many ways I attempt to fight with the limited arsenal waging war by the flesh. One way God brings clarity is through writing and being vulnerable sharing my struggles with others. I believe this fear, anxiety and the resulting depression is something weighing down so many of us. Let us take up our weapons which have divine power and begin to demolish strongholds offering false security. Let us together wage war using the truths of scripture as our swords. I plan to continue sharing my struggle with fear and would be honored if you’d reach out to me and share yours.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV
*The reference of fear as “an evil and corroding thread” is a reference from pg 67 of Alcoholics Anonymous**