Anxiety: How God Used It For My Good

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and by doing so all of our present concerns and worries would just be eliminated into thin air? As a self-professed “professional” worrier, I’ve often thought about how great it would be if someone had a “worry wand” where they could just zap away all of my anxieties with the flip of the wrist. Am I the only one who has thought this? I mean, wouldn’t that be awesome?

As a childhood cancer survivor, I dealt with medical complications on a daily basis related to the treatments and surgeries I received. I still deal with some of those issues today, but they’ve become as normal to me as breathing air into my lungs. As a little girl, however, they were a great source of embarrassment, anxiety, and sickness. Throughout elementary school I had to be excused from class by my nurse multiple times a day to take care of these issues. Kids were curious and I would get nervous about how to answer their questions about where I was going or what I was doing. I was sick often all throughout school, constantly concerned about making up tests, missed assignments and how I would ever graduate. Although I participated in many extracurricular activities, there were times I was nervous and constantly on edge about whether or not these medical issues would flare up during an event or a performance-and a few times they did.

 After an emergency appendectomy in high school, my surgeon walked in the hospital room to inform me that the likelihood of being able to have children would be slim due to the scarring and treatments I received from my previous cancer surgeries. Instead of worrying about what dress I was going to wear to homecoming that year or my grade on a math test, I was, at age 15, filled with worry and fear over the likelihood of my inability to bear children.

When I was younger I tried to convince myself through “pep talks” not to worry over these things. The more I told myself not to worry, the more I became consumed by anxiety-ridden thoughts. I had stored up Bible verses in my heart such as “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…” (Matthew 6) but I was conflicted because I was worried and I really didn’t know where to go from there. Even though I was a believer and clung tightly to promises that God was in control, He was keeping me, He hadn’t forsaken me, He had a plan for all things-I wasn’t immune to fear.

Six months after my husband and I started dating I was diagnosed again with cancer. While waiting for further tests to be concluded, we took a family vacation to Florida to get away and enjoy the sunshine. I was so fearful about what my future would hold-would I even have one? I had read Matthew 6 about a thousand times at that point, about how I shouldn’t worry, but my faulty understanding of those verses left me struggling with guilt and condemnation over the anxiety I had. Can anyone relate to that?

One morning I woke up early before my family and stepped out onto the balcony of our condo. The morning sun greeted me and I just took in one big deep breath and exhaled, “I’m scared God. I’m so scared. Help me.” As I turned around to go back inside, a little yellow bird caught my eye. It was sunbathing on a white chair on our balcony. I knelt down to get a closer look and held out my hands. Assuming the little guy would fly away, I was surprised when he jumped right into my hands as if he belonged there. I thought back to Matthew 6 and realized my faulty understanding of those passages had been influencing the way I dealt with fear and anxiety. 

Jesus wasn’t telling the people not to worry in the absence of worry. That would be absurd! He wasn’t telling them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, get rid of all of their anxiety and then come to Him. Jesus was telling them not to worry because He knew them well. He knew they were prone to struggle with anxiety and fear. He knew they were prone to forget God’s promises. But, you see, He didn’t just stop with a an empty suggestion. He pointed them towards their heavenly Father. “Don’t worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:25-26) Then, He reminded them that they are more valuable then these things. If God provided for these things, would He not also provide for them? Through studying the scriptures I learned I wasn’t alone in my anxiety and contrary to my initial interpretation, I wasn’t any “less of a Christian” because I struggled with it.

Just as I had learned to recognize that God has used my physical weaknesses to remind me of my need for a Savior, he has used (and continues to use) the anxiety in my life to draw me closer to Him. My worry throughout the years has led me into a dialogue of prayer with God. My struggles with anxiety have actually pushed me closer to the Lord because I am constantly aware of my great need for Him. Instead of trying to “self-help” my way out of anxiety, instead of trying to ignore it and act like it isn’t there (come on, we’ve all done that), I’ve learned to do what the author says in Psalm 55, “Cast all your cares on the Lord.” And God has met me there. God has met me in my honesty, and in my vulnerability and in my tears, and in my mess. He has met in my fear and in those dark places where I felt outnumbered by my thoughts. He picked me up and breathed life, His Word, into my lungs and He sustained me. And He continues to do so everyday.

If God hadn’t renewed my perspective through His word when He did, and if I hadn’t been able to see, through His grace, how He was using all of these difficult trials for my good and His glory, I know for certain I wouldn’t be equipped to handle the journey before me. It’s not that worry, doubt and sadness don’t exist anymore. They do. How could they not? I’m human. It’s just I’ve learned where to take with these feelings when they come pouring in-to the foot of the cross. And I’ve never been turned away. Christ always meets me where I am and greets me with His grace, truth and unconditional love. And He offers the same to you, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

Through The Storm {Trusting God With Our Kids}

Do you ever lay in bed worried about the future of your children? Do thoughts plague your mind about them getting sick? Is your child suffering from an illness or mental health disorder and you wonder how you will make it through the day? Are you worried that your child isn’t hitting all of the developmental milestones like the other kids? As parents, there are a hundred fears we could let our thoughts be consumed by. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Eight weeks after we adopted Roman and Ruby, our home, city and the surrounding area were unexpectedly hit with the Great Flood of 2016. The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking dinner for Obbie and I. While feeding Roman, I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. I frantically pointed this out to Obbie, who quickly ran out the front door to talk with all of the neighbors that had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie from a distance. He had a very concerned look on his face. I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we have to pack everything up. The water is rising and we have to evacuate immediately.”

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I dragged a large empty trunk into the twin’s nursery. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, dreaming and hoping in this room. I had flashbacks to all of the countless hours I spent on the floor praying for our baby that the Lord would bring into our home. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers mindlessly into the trunk, I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27). I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I was reminded that it was God who brought these precious children into our life. They were in His hands and there was no safer place to be. 

We threw as much as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck.  As we slowly waded through the flood, I looked down at my children and began to cry. The water was continually rising, our neighborhood was completely surrounded and there were only a few dry streets left. Those moments didn’t feel as if they belonged to me. It was like we were the characters in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where they rushed to the top of the building to prevent from being consumed by the water. I felt completely helpless. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies.” It was a prayer of surrender, as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the flood. We were in God’s hands.

We were prepared to sleep in our mini van on the side of the road with our friends who evacuated their home too. It was dark, hot and humid. Many people in the area had been rescued by boat and that knowledge was looming over us as we waited. Not long after we arrived, a young woman ran out of her house with a concerned look on her face. “Are y’all the ones with the newborn twins? My husband is working a late shift so the house is empty and our street is still dry. Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room waiting for the streets to clear. These kind people welcomed us and fed us. God took care of us through the kindness of strangers. As soon as the waters subsided, the twins and I headed 12 hours north to stay with family, while Obbie began gutting our home with the assistance of friends.

We anticipated a lot as parents of newborn twins: sleepless nights, excessive crying, dirty diapers, a messy house, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for this disaster. Once the twins and I made it to my parent’s house, I fell on the couch in complete exhaustion. This was not how I imagined the first few months of parenthood. If I’d had known the flood was coming for us I would have said, “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough.” And I was right. I wasn’t strong enough. There is no way I could have walked down that road without God breathing grace into my lungs.

When we first brought the twins home I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to them. I would stare at them throughout the night and rarely slept. Sometimes when they’d cough or make what I interpreted to be a weird sound, Google and I would spend some time together. However, through the storm I was reminded that God is not only the Creator of all things, but He is the Keeper of all things. Our heavenly Father has entrusted us with the most precious gifts, and as parents we have the privilege of loving and shepherding our children. On the other side of the flood, I came to understand that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is to remember to whom my children belong. Surrendering my children everyday to God is the best way I can love them. Surrender releases you from fear and worry. It doesn’t eliminate every fearful or worrisome thought, but surrender reminds you where to take them- at the feet of your Savior.

Parents, when you remember that your heavenly Father is the ultimate Keeper of your child’s soul, an overwhelming peace consumes you, a kind of peace that will get you through life’s biggest storms. When worry comes for you as a parent (because it will), I pray God will illuminate your mind with His truth and bring your heart to a place of surrender. My prayer is that you can see what I did as I was holding my children,  with floodwater so high I could feel it splash on my cheeks. God is not only with them through the storm, He is keeping them safe, and upholding them in the very palm His hands.