My mother had a saying when I was little. “…this side of heaven.” She used it when unforeseen things happened…tragedies that begged for explanation when none was available. She would simply say, “We aren’t meant to understand it this side of heaven.” As a child I never understood that phrase. It often times was told to me when I wanted a true, tangible explanation, and so, many times it left me angry. I couldn’t understand why it gave her such peace to say something so passive. It angered me that she didn’t want a reason for the pain.
My mother had another saying when I was little, too. “Don’t tell Andra.” Because if someone heard about a deadly virus, or a child abductor, or killer bees, or giant army ants that destroyed anything in their path and I found out, I would be consumed with worry. I was, in true southern slang, a worry-wart.
I’ve come to realize why my mother’s first phrase caused me such angst. I wasn’t looking for an explanation to understand the situation. I was looking for an explanation so I could avoid the problem in my own life. So I could be safe; so I could avoid the pitfalls; so I could do things right. I was raised to be a good Christian girl, go to church, follow the rules, pray to God and everything would be okay. And I believed that for a very long time…until I didn’t.
I’m going to be very honest about something. I spent a large amount of my adulthood expecting God to reward me for good behavior. Every Bible study, every sermon, every inkling in my heart told me I was foolish, but somehow I strived to perform for reward. And when I didn’t, I was overcome with anxiety. I feared I would make God mad and that He would withhold his favor. This is infant theology and I knew it, but I couldn’t quite shake the notion. And then, I was gobsmacked from left field in a lot of areas. I had checked all the boxes and yet, everything fell apart and I was left pondering a huge question:
“Did this happen because I didn’t do everything right?”
I knew the answer in my mind, but my heart really has struggled to grasp the concept. And I’ve been struggling ever since. And the struggle has come in the form of anxiety. If I even tried to explain how I arrived at the corner of fear and freak out, I would write far too much for this short blog. Let’s just leave it at this: I had a scare, it was legit, and now I can’t seem to mentally recover. My husband watches me struggle…sometimes daily. He feels helpless. I feel helpless. I lay in bed at night and I can’t sleep because my mind goes down rabbit trails to dangerously scary places. It’s awful. And if I’m truly honest with myself, it’s sinful. It is not what God wants for me or for any of us.
And sadly, I am not alone. So many of us can identify. Women are complicated creatures and we can fear things so deep within our hearts, that it’s almost too difficult to understand the origin of it all. We are anxious that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t doing enough. We stress over loving others and being loved in return. Some of us fear losing the life we cherish, while others fear not having the life we want and desire. Longing can cause such anxiety and yet we live in a world of social media that forces us to play the comparison game daily. We are anxious over our health. Every pain or bump can send us into a panic. And don’t get me wrong…for many of you, it’s a legit worry. You’ve seen the devastation of sickness and it leaves you forever changed.
These are times when anxiety can get so overwhelming. I firmly believe this is Satan. He LOVES for us to take our focus off God and put it on things we can’t control. He loves it because it steals our joy. It clouds our judgement in situations and circumstances. It robs us of living in the present and enjoying the blessings God has placed in front of us. And it wrecks our bodies physically and emotionally. And each time I find myself surrounded by anxiety, I remind myself:
FEAR IS THE KILLER OF JOY
I have to focus on two scripture verses.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.“
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I have repeated those verses to myself for the longest time. Repeating them in hopes of the words seeping into my very soul and fully taking root so I can 100% believe in God’s truth and relieve some of the nagging anxiety that has hovered over so many moments in my life. My prayer is this:
Father God, help me to captivate my thoughts regarding anxiousness. I’m not going to borrow tomorrow’s troubles. It’s out of my control anyway. I will choose to believe God is for me and I will have faith that He is a good God. I will focus on HIS truths and not my own fabricated, fear-based versions. I will choose, daily, to focus on NOT things of this world, but on things I cannot see, this side of heaven. I don’t think it will be easy, but I can no longer let my anxiety of the unknown rule. Life is so precious. We can’t waste our days with anxious thoughts. Lord, captivate them. You are faithful to carry us all through whatever monsters we are battling within our own hearts. Amen.
Andra Pape, CHM Contributor