I have always been a worrier - what if nobody likes me? What if I fail? What if my family die and I am left all alone?
I am a naturally anxious person, often waking up in the night and thinking about all of the things that could go wrong with a particular situation. Often I was ok during the day, but at night when I was tired and my defences were down, the fear got me.
I know some verses in the Bible about anxiety very well, and would often say these:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
2 Timothy 1:7
The Spirit God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control.
But you have to believe it. They have less power if they are merely things that you know in your head to say, but don't truly believe them in your heart.
Faith in God means that you trust him. Really simple to say, but a lot harder to act. Until you really trust God in every situation (no matter how amazing or awful) then you will struggle with anxiety. At least that's what I think that I have finally managed to learn this year.
Only this year? But I've been a Christian for 20 years! Surely it's a pretty basic Christian principle.
Maybe I'm a slow learner, or maybe anxiety is a sin in my life that I had allowed to take hold.
So what changed? Just in the last couple of months, I have realised that God has set me free from the strangle-hold that anxiety had over my life. A strangle-hold that I hadn't actually realised was an issue, because I've always had it, so thought it was normal. Yet those scriptures above state very clearly that we can trust God in everything. So why didn't I believe them? I don't know. I guess I like to have control in my life, and not being in control (such as going into new situations, meeting new people) made me afraid.
I was really scared of driving. I failed my test 10 years ago and decided that it just wasn't for me. I let my imagination take over, and pictured endless scenes of car crashes and lost limbs and dead people. I was letting fear rule my life. I was intentionally making my life more difficult because I listened to the fears, rather than God's word.
Countless times have I prayed that God would give me a peace that passes understanding - but I meant for a particular situation, not thinking that he could give this peace over my whole life, for any difficult situations that I found myself in. Maybe I didn't think he was strong enough.
Yet when I sat my driving test, I was inexplicably calm. I felt a tiny amount of nerves for the first 2 minutes of the test (and not before - usually I would have spent the week leading up to something so stressful in a panic and not sleeping properly) and then was fine again. Where had anxiety, my usual companion, gone? I believe that God has healed me of it. Just like that - no special prayers or asking others to pray for me, or even thinking that I needed healing. He just did it.
So I drove. I didn't picture myself crashing; I didn't worry what the examiner was thinking; I didn't try to second-guess what would happen next or what I may do wrong. I just drove. I trusted that God was there for me and would help me, and that I could drive, and I passed. Easy. And it's crazy that I let myself be ruled for so long by a fear of something, when I knew in my head that God is in control.
Of course I am not totally there yet - I still get scared, and have to remember to take things back to God and give them over to him. It's so easy to slip back into old ways of thinking. I often need to remind myself who is really in control in my life.
And if you think you have overall control of your life- I'm sorry but you are mistaken. You didn't choose when to be born or who you were born to, and you won't choose when you die, and there's a lot in between that you won't be able to control either, including other people.
I believe that God is there for me - always. Yes, bad things can happen and will happen, but he loves me - always.
The thing about fear is that you have to give it to God, or you will never get rid of it. You may disguise it for while, even from yourself; but when it comes to it, in the middle of the night when there's no-one to talk to, it will come back.
I have always been afraid of my family members dying. Realistically, they will all die one day. But I won't let the fear of their death rule my life. Every so often, I give them all over to God again as I know he can be trusted, and he's the only one who could handle the responsibility of their lives anyway. He's the one who made them after all. I certainly can't keep them alive and well by the sheer force of my will-power. It's an impossible task and will only lead to my being ruled by anxiety again.
Trusting God is about letting go. I picture putting my family and friends and fears and hopes into a big box, and placing them at the feet of Jesus. I ask him to look after them, because I just can't do it on my own. It's amazing how liberating this is.
I know that I will have times of anxiety again- it's human nature. But every time, I will go back to God. He is in control of my life - not my fears and not me. Thank goodness.