I spent my quiet time this morning reviewing Romans 8, Hebrews 12, and Psalm 46 in preparation for the onslaught of the next months. Sometimes I wish my brain had an open and dump feature because the work of memorization is so hard won and so easily lost that I feel certain I must have some mental disorder. I even got a little annoyed with God as I reviewed the passages because I kept asking God why he didn't remind me of these when such and such happened or before I did this or that. Seriously, what's the good of memorizing scripture, God, if I can't even call it to mind when I need it? I'm actually pretty convinced I do have a mental disorder.
I've been trying to reflect on the worth of Christ this month, reading scriptures in Hebrews and Colossians, and yet I can't seem to focus my brain for ten consecutive seconds before anxiety comes crashing down on me. I never really struggled with anxiety before we lost our daughter. They had me hooked up to a bunch of IV medications for the complications I had, and I remember waking up in a panic and trying to get them out. Oddly, the more I've walked with Christ, the more I seem to struggle with anxiety. I have begun to realize that when I open myself up to love and trust God more, I must by necessity open more room to potentially doubt the faithfulness of God. Based on the universally applicable study of my own heart, I'm beginning to suspect that I will never be able to walk in faith without this constant struggle with anxiety.
And yes, I know Philippians 4: 6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Small, very fun but slightly irrelevant example. Apparently this verse is sinking into my son quite well. I lose things regularly, and I'm always stopping to pray for things like my purse, keys, phone, a stack of papers, my sanity, etc. When I couldn't find my keys the other day, Quinn and I were looking, and when I started to feel anxious, I said to him, "I just need to stop and pray for a minute." He looked at me very scornfully and said, "Mommy, I've already done that," with one of those seriously-mom-please-catch-up kind of looks. It was awesome.
But the very command not to be anxious implies that there is a constant anxiety knocking at the door. I used to think if I could just trust more, then it would all go away and I would be magically light and want to dance. But no, if I trust Jesus more, he will guard my heart and mind, but anxiety will still be there like a poisonous gas trying to find and slip through every potential crack in my faith. I despise (to the point of having very unholy thoughts) when people apply that verse like a bandaid to someone worrying as if it should suddenly make you light and care free.
Not being anxious is a heavy, difficult burden for those struggling in the faith. What I have seen people walking in the Spirit do is to take up that struggle with anxiety in prayer, to pray for the guarding of the heart and mind and for the coming peace. I live in such a beautiful, yet unfortunately rare, community where we often experience the freedom to carry each other's burdens in this manner. It is beautiful, and yet faith is still hard. Fighting off anxiety is still a battle. Because honestly, it isn't my to do list that is going to kill my spirit, it is the anxiety about my to do list that steals my memory verses, buries my joy, and reduces me to a raging crazy lady having a meltdown over how long I have to stand in line at a store. I have spent many years underestimating the strength needed for this fight. It has taken me more than a decade to realize that it isn't going to get easier this side of heaven. And maybe I'm nuts, but I suspect I'm not.
I keep coming back to the image of Saul, who, in his anxiety over the battle before him in 1 Samuel 13, gave up waiting for Samuel and offered the sacrifice himself. I totally identify with Saul. I'm definitely a rusher. And anxiety not only makes me rush, it makes me feel justified and holier than other people when I'm rushing. I have to be really careful that anxiety doesn't become a tool of my older brother self-righteousness. So I'm praying Psalm 130 for myself this year, praying from depths of fear and shame and loneliness and pain experienced this side of heaven, that these things would not feed my anxiety, but that I would have strength for my soul to wait on the Lord with my eyes focused on the coming redemption. no. matter. what.
Excuse me while I go barricade myself underneath my bed. My cracks are showing.