Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finding Sanctuary

Since I was a young child, I have struggled with anxiety.  I've had specific phobias like heights and water, but the most lingering aspect of my struggle is the irrational anxiety.  There is no cause.  It isn't reasonable.  It's just there.  At one moment, I'm feeling comfortable and relaxed; the next, my heart is racing in my chest.  I can't breathe.  I can't focus.  It consumes me.

Panic attacks came to me frequently when I was younger.  I don't experience them often anymore, but they will occasionally still occur, especially if stress has been building in my life over a period of time.

I have yet to meet many people who are open about struggling with anxiety.  In fact, a few years ago, I thought I must be alone in my struggle.  And on the nights when anxiety clamped its inky hold on my mind and heart, I was certain I was alone.

I don't believe that anymore.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Every temptation I have struggled with has been common to man.  I am not alone in my anxiety.  You are not alone in your struggles either.  And yes, anxiety is a temptation for me.  When I allow my fear to take hold, I am losing faith in Jesus Christ, even if it is only for a moment.

Recently, I've come to catch familiar glimpses of my struggle with anxiety in the Bible.  King David dealt with what certainly looks and feels like anxiety. 

Psalm 55:4-7
My heart pounds in my chest.
The terror of death assaults me,
and I can't stop shaking.
Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
that I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away
to the quiet of the wilderness.

If you have ever struggled with anxiety or panic attacks, then you can probably relate in many ways to the passage above.  The terror, the pounding heart, the ache for rest and security.  Psalm 55 is a familiar passage to me.  I know what it's like to feel what David is feeling in this moment.

No matter what your struggles are, know that you are not alone.  Others have dealt with your temptations and have gotten through with the Lord's help.

For those of you who are currently dealing with anxiety or another struggle, I would like to offer you a few Biblical tips that have helped me to break my chains and conquer my fears through Christ.  I hope these passages will encourage you as much as they have me.

Psalm 55:22
Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.

1.) When you are struggling with the heaviness of your temptation, do not keep the Lord at arm's length.  I know what it's like to be consumed by worry and doubt... and I know how shameful that can feel.  But remember this: Christ did not die because we are flawless.  He cherishes us despite who we are and the mistakes that we make.

Trust in the Lord.  He will guide you.  He will give you reassurance.  He can help you through struggles and temptations, even when you feel like you are drowning.

When you are in your darkest place, give your burdens to the Lord.  He cares.  And even though He already knows your heart, He wants you to open up to Him.  He wants to embrace you, soothe your fears, and give you rest

Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

The Lord can be a sanctuary for you.  Give your burdens to Him.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 

2.) If you are feeling alone in your struggles, turn to a friend who actively seeks out Christ and who will encourage you with prayer and a listening ear.  Although your struggle may fill you with a terrible sense of awkwardness and shame, share it with a friend.  Encouragement, accountability, and prayer are all extremely effective in fighting battles against sin and temptation.

About a month ago, I was struggling with mentally putting myself down.  Everything I said and did wasn't good enough in my eyes.  And thought-by-thought, I broke myself to bits until I was a fragmented shell of my usually confident self.  I was under attack.  I was struggling.  Confused and ashamed, I approached a close friend and confessed what I was doing to myself.  She listened to me with sincerity, she encouraged me without false compliments, she gave me godly counsel, and then she prayed over me.  And she has held me accountable ever since then.

Spending time in the Lord with a friend who was able to hold me accountable in love has brought me enormous encouragement and strength.  And I was able to conquer my struggle much more easily than if I kept silent in my shame and doubt.

Do you have a friend like this in your life?  Does someone hold you accountable?  If you don't have anyone like this, seek them out.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."  Encouragement and accountability are so important.  Make sure you have that in your life.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

3.) And finally, seek the Lord relentlessly.  Do not only put your faith in Him; seek Him.  Spend time in His Word and in prayer each day.  Luke 11:9 says, "Seek and you will find."  If you spend time actively pursuing Christ and getting to know Him better, He will guide you through your temptations.  He will continue to show you the way with reason and confidence. 

I love Psalm 34:14, which says, "Seek peace and pursue it."  Peace is something I long to have when I'm in the depths of my anxiety.  We are asked to seek peace.  Through accountability, seeking God, and faith in Him, we can achieve peace.  He will guide us through every struggle. 

Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'  So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper.  I will not be afraid.'"  No matter what you're struggling with today, know that the Lord isn't going to leave you.  He loves you endlessly.

Pursue peace.  Pursue the Lord.  He will guide you.

He cares about you, you know.

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.


  1. Emily, I love this. So full of the love and wisdom of God.

    I thought of something else, from my own experience with a loved one experiencing panic attacks: embrace it, and seek the gift in it. You might know what I mean, and if so, I imagine you can explain it, and illustrate it from the scriptures much better than I can.

    Another idea, more in the way of practical details, is to imagine that the panic has some work to do, and decide a certain amount of time to let it work, like ten minutes for example, then ask God to help you let go of it and go on to something else.

    Another one: The person in my life keeps finding things to worry about during the panic. Writing them down, to think about later. helps.

  2. Emily,
    I was just wondering your view on dating vs. corting?

    1. That is a very big question and actually something I've wanted to blog about, so expect something on this blog about dating and courting within a week or two.