Anxiety is a huge part of my testimony in coming to know the Lord. When I was a junior in college I started to have a lot of anxiety that even turned into panic attacks. The anxiety made it hard to go to class and even cope with everyday stressors. I could not handle the anxiety on my own even though I tried. I turned to old habits that proved to make it worse. I turned to some positive things like exercise and diet that hardly helped. God let me come to the end of my rope so that I would turn to Him. So I initially turned to God in prayer so that I could rid myself of my anxiety. However He had bigger purposes for me. I still struggle with anxiety and yet I strive to rest in God’s good purposes. It is much harder than it sounds as you may know. When I first became a Christian and found myself still struggling with anxiety I thought that He was punishing me for the sins of my previous life. My heart towards God would swing like a pendulum. Some days I would hide in fear of God and other days I would lash out in anger. At the heart of my sinful responses to God is a distrust that God is in control and that He is so orchestrating things that everything works out for His glory and my good as a believer.
As much as I have struggled with trusting God in His hard providences in my life He has graciously given me ‘signpost’ along the way to show that He is at work and I can trust Him in His providence. When I was a camp counselor at Camp Thunderbird I often had a hard time with anxiety. I worked there for three summers and my last summer was particularly hard because I had more responsibility as a head counselor. I often thought to myself that my suffering and pain was meaningless that summer. However in the last session of the summer which is the last week of camp I had a camper who suffered from anxiety in the same ways that I did. He was going into 9th grade. The things that I often felt inside He was verbalizing. At such a young age I could see that it was much harder for him to cope. It was getting so bad that he could not stay at the camp anymore. He would go to the nurse’s office claiming that he knew something was wrong with him even though she could find nothing wrong. He was so anxious he would pace back and forth in her office in a panic. I tried to help in any way I could, but he could not be consoled. I had to call his parents to tell them that he was in panic every minute of the day for what seemed to be no reason at all. Most of the other staff members or counselors thought he was just being a whiny camper that needed to get over himself. I knew better though. As I spoke to his mother on the phone I could tell that she knew it was different too and it broke her heart. As his parents came to pick him up the next day his mother was in shambles and I was able to share with her that I struggled in much the same way and yet I knew that God is trustworthy and has a purpose in the midst of what is so painful and what may even seem meaningless. I could tell by talking to her that no one had attempted to understand her son’s pain. God allowed me to suffer with this kind of anxiety in part so that I could minister to someone who either directly or indirectly was suffering from the same thing.
There are many instances like this that I could share where God has used me or has shaped me. One of the most direct ways that God uses my anxiety is that I have to constantly turn to Him and rely on Him for all things. It constantly tests my faith and trust in Him. The cross is like a light that shines on all of our suffering. When I think of my situation I can often get lost in introspection which will trap me in myself. I can get confused and hardened by my suffering. When I ask God why I suffer this way or if I question him on His good purposes He always turns my gaze to the cross where we see the ultimate answer to suffering. Jesus on the cross suffered incalculably and yet God used that very thing for the greatest good. When we truly get that reality we can rest and know that God’s purposes are good and we can say with Paul in all certainty and assurance “that for those who love God all things work together for good, to those who are called according to his purpose.” If we rightly understand this it will only lead us to worship Him because it is amazing that He can turn something that is so painful and so hard into something that is for our good. Just to consider that as a concept is amazing in itself, but when we see that that is what He is doing in our very lives it will move us to worship Him with our whole being. Let us worship God in the midst of our suffering.
Scripture: Ezra 7:1-28
Sermon: Worship: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop