This very sermon was on my local radio station, WCTL, about a year ago.
That time in my life was full of worry. I was diagnosed with Panic in early 2015 as I dealt with many changes in my body as my first pregnancy sprouted other ailments and our housing situation was changing more quickly than my body. Dr. Tony Evans has always spoken directly to my heart and mind. He has a spirit-filled way of connecting the two so I might draw closer to Christ and fulfill the direction God has set for me. I distinctly remember feeling relaxed and affirmed of my mental state as a diagnosed anxious person. Recognizing my weakness and imbalances, but being reminded of the hope I have in Christ. It is always mind-blowing when I listen to Dr. Evans.
My life was a wreck four years ago. I was a full-time student going through pregnancy and new motherhood, and I was so off-balance as I experienced weekly or bi-weekly panic attacks. My mental state was horrific. My hormones were even more unpredictable than my emotions. I was desperate for a solution, for a sense of peace in the midst of my drowning spirit. Feeling like I would do anything to change how consuming it was. I remember being furious when others would call my anxiety a sin, because I felt uncontrollable under its grasp. Now, I realize the depth of my sin was the very thing strangling me. I did not trust God. In fact, I regularly and habitually doubted Him. No wonder the devil found a playground in my mind.
I beat myself up mentally. So much so I turned every mistake into a river of hateful thoughts and anger I accepted as my identity. Looking back, I can even recognize the feeling I had when the devil grabbed a hold of my thoughts and directed them like a cow out to pasture. Feeding on the hatred I created for myself. Knowing, deep down, that God did not take care of me. I was in this alone. And, therefore, I needed to take control and care for myself. I could no longer understand truth. In it, no longer understanding God.
I have learned so much since then.
After listening to Dr. Evans’ sermon, I began to look at how I interacted with anxious thoughts. As Dr. Evans states: I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was looking at my situations instead of being grateful for God’s goodness in simply giving me life and creating my body. If He chooses to make it, He will care for it.
I started with my prayer life. As each worrisome thought entered my mind, I began to disclose it to God in full detail. I was specific about what concerned me, each and every little piece that might go wrong, I told Him. At first, recognizing my worrisome thoughts was difficult because it had become such a huge part of how I processed everything around me. I feared so many things it felt like I would be praying all day. Eventually, as I learned how to recognize the physical and emotional sensations that signaled my worry, I did start praying all the time. First about my worries, but slowly about the other thoughts going through my head. My prayer life was strengthened in the process of releasing the panic.
The vulnerability of praying to God, out loud, was more intense than I imagined. After all, wasn’t it basically the same as thinking the thoughts already playing over and over in my mind? In case you are starting here, no. No it is not. Hot tears streamed down my face. Alone and afraid, I begged God to take care of me and my family as I slowly lost control over everything I was afraid to lose control over. And God would not answer much, as I did not listen much, but when He did, it was always about how much He loved me. He continually pulled me back to His loving arms. Broken and scared. It began as a very one-sided relationship.
Slowly, I searched for truth with a new thirst.
A few weeks later, I started to write down each and every worry I prayed over on our dry-erase calendar.
- A new hairbrush
- A rake and shovel to care for our unruly yard
- Clothing for my new postpartum body
- Provision for upcoming trips to see family
- Joy in my marriage
- A job
- Relief from back pain
While it may look like a “wish list” at first glance, it has become a visual representation of the worry I have trusted to God.
As you can see, the worries vary from minute to life-changing. Each prayer represented on this list has slowly been crossed off as God answers each one. Many times, like with a new mattress that still lingers on my list, items are there to remind me to wait for His provision as God directed. I have added new items as my worries and needs change, such as peace and comfort for loved ones going through a hard time. Other ones, like a job and affordable childcare, have been answered in unexpected ways. Now I am a writer and a stay-at-home mom. But, one by one, I see God’s faithfulness and love for me as He provides for every need, concern, and worry in my life.
Just Getting Better
My relationship with God is better now than ever before. I am starting to truly feel God’s leading and recognizing the still, small voice. There is still much more to learn, but I can be more vulnerable, take risks, and find some boldness in the truth of God’s love for me. His deep love for me. He wants good things for me, even when my panic-prone brain lacks trust and falls into bad habits. My list and my prayer life have brought patience and freedom for my health concerns, taking the guilt of medication away and drawing me towards counseling when I go through rough patches.
If you struggle with any kind of mental illness or worry, I highly suggest you start your own worry list. It has changed so much in my life.
It can be anywhere, but the goal is to see the list and access it regularly. Then you can refer to it or edit it when you find another worry to pray about. Realistically, your story is not the same as mine, so each list should be tailored to fit each person’s unique needs. God knows what will help you best recover and draw nearer to His love. When we hide ourselves, we cannot find healing. In fact, we are telling God He cannot be trusted with our thoughts. We steal our very own healing. We must constantly seek His truth and clarity by allowing Him to know our concerns.
Visual reminders are a huge help to me, and my worry list was no different. If you worry, tell God. Be vulnerable and detailed. Say it out loud. Write it down to remind you that Gods and is taking care of things in the background to care for you. When the fear creeps back, you have a list to remind the devil that your heavenly father is working on your behalf, and He will always care for you. I pray you would join me in finding healing through our Savior. He loves you and cares for you.
For more help in overcoming emotional strongholds, I would encourage you to read Dr. Tony Evans’s 30 Days to Overcoming Emotional Strongholds. The image below directs you to where you can purchase book, which will also support me at no extra cost to you.