I’ve always been one who wants complete control over my life where decisions are my own to make — good or bad. My poor mother would often challenge my choices growing up, and, like a tug-of-war rope, we would pull from opposite sides until one of us would finally give up. Because my mom is much wiser than I, she would often let go first. Sometimes that would cause me to “win,” but other times, when the decision wasn’t right, it would cause me to fall.
After marriage, I was forced to embrace compromise when the decisions effected both my husband and me, but thankfully I married another independent soul, and we have done well working alongside one another while also maintaining our personal identities and dreams. He rarely questions my decisions and vice versa. I’m still in control of my life.
But though I’ve maintained independence from the ones I love most, there is one thing that has wrecked me and taken me as hostage more times than I’d like to admit. Most refer to this captor as “anxiety.”
No matter how hard I fight, sometimes anxiety becomes my master. It determines my thoughts, my feelings, and my entire physical presence without ever being invited in.
Going through the same motions of laughing aloud with family and enjoying the same weekly lunch at our favorite restaurant, something was different. As I lifted the fork to my mouth to enjoy my last bite, my vision became blurry, and my body tensed. I excused myself and found composure alone in a bathroom stall — telling myself everything was okay and to snap out of it! Although the only one in the room, I lectured and encouraged myself until I could finally return to the table.
While at home, an imaginary world of dragons and caves with hidden treasure captured me. My kids and I enjoyed the magic. But suddenly my heart started to race, and then my breath tried to keep up as if the two were in competition with one other. My thoughts jumped out of the safe and magical world and into an abyss of tension and fear. Control had been stripped, and I excused myself from our little adventure to retreat to my room. Isolated and alone, I gathered what little command I had left and tried to find myself underneath the layers of confusion.
These same feelings have happened at church, the grocery store, local parks, and other not so private locations. There’s no warning, often no explanation, and no two attacks are the same. For someone who thrives from freedom, the shackles of anxiety are too much. And maybe YOU feel the same way.
Although I haven’t found a one-size-fits-all solution, and still struggle with anxiety no matter what preventatives I put into place, I’ve noticed that the only time anxiety hides away is when I put another master in its place.
Laying in bed one night, I felt as though a cement block was placed onto my chest. I breathed deeper, but the block only became heavier. In the moment I felt powerless, so I whispered: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Immediately, my chest became lighter, and my breathing slowed. Though I don’t blame God for my anxiety, I do reach for Him through those times — and He shows up! Maybe dealing with feelings out of my control has taught me to rely on God and less on myself, for I have found He is the only one who opens the door to a way out.
The only benefit I have found to my anxiety is that it draws me closer to my Maker. It humbles me by showing that independent control will always be threatened, and the only true freedom can be found in the Lord. He offers a refuge I could never find on my own — and it’s free. Though my pride and independence still try to have their way, I’m reminded of Christ’s power over me when welcomed into my life. So if you struggle with anxiety like me, know that there may not be a way to stop the attack, but there is a way out!
Let’s choose a better Master.
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