To preface this in case I have new readers, I’ve struggled with anxiety and OCD all of my life. I’m also a Christian, and there is this stigma about mental health in some Christian circles that I feel can be pretty powerful.
Last night, par the course for my demons, I was /convinced/ that I would be fired from my job. Highly irrational, almost certainly, but there it stood. A single request from my admin had me worried senselessly. But even so, in that period, I couldn’t shake what was rapidly becoming absolute dread in spite of my best efforts.
As the anxiety worsened through the afternoon into the evening, I lay in bed agonizing at the whims of alternating mindsets: an adamant, “well if they fire me, to heck with it! I’ve worked so hard for them!” and a far more realistic, “what will I do about insurance and also about my calling in life?? What else would I ever want to do??” It was a lot, and it continued to be a lot until words from Casting Crown’s song, “Praise You in this Storm” popped into my head. They’ve done that before, honestly. And they comforted me like nothing else could have at that moment, I think.
There is a portion of the lyrics which read, “And as Your mercy falls, I raise my hands, and praise the God who gives and takes away.” Even though I couldn’t shake my irrational dread (what’s new?), I also realized that God does give—He gave me a vocation—and if He takes away, He only has more planned that I can’t yet see. Somehow, miraculously, I accepted that it /could/ be taken away, but…you know, God would be in that, too.
And I was okay.
If you have OCD, you know how difficult the acceptance that bad things can and will happen to you really is. It’s like end-game Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, right there.
I’m not always able to do that. I try to trust and breathe through the fear and have faith, but mental illness is something that no amount of faith in my Lord can just… you know… cure. Because it’s an illness. So unless a miracle is worked, it’s just how my brain IS. I’m so worried so much of the time. It doesn’t take much to set me spinning, and when I’m not fretting over something, my brain ACTIVELY searches for the next big concern without restraint. I often have to mentally repeat over and over “Stop it. You’re fine. Stop it. Stop it.” in effort to take up enough brain space that I can rest from the constant nagging and go to sleep.
But in that moment, over this issue, I truly gave it to God. I realized that He’s seen me through so much in this journey, and He’s been beside me all this time, and I know that His plans are beyond me. And it’s going to be His will. The will of a Father who loves me even when and if things don’t make sense.
As a Christian person, there is sometimes this expectation that if you truly trust God, you can let go of fear and anxiety and just be. But it doesn’t work like that when your brain is actually not *right,* you know? I mean, that’s not an easy task for anyone, much less when your brain seeks dread like a dehydrated frog seeks water. (Oh, wow, that was a sad image. Poor frog.) The same can be said about depression, because if the Lord is your joy, why should you ever feel despondent to the point you can’t escape with the help of God? (Sigh. See what I mean?) It makes mental health in the Christian community kind of a taboo subject, sad as it is.
The point is, my brain doesn’t always like me, but even anxiety-brain can’t shake those lyrics that so long ago touched my heart and refused to leave me. I’m not into tattoos on myself, but as far back as college, I had contemplated getting lyrics from the song tattooed on my body as a constant reminder.
I fear /so/ much. I worry /so/ much over things that are big and real, but also things that are little yet smash through the walls of my mental composure like giants swinging clubs.
But even in that, God is there, and these words to live by help me deal with all of that, if only just a little when they hit me out of the blue. Because they reference what it’s like to say “amen”—Lord, please help me. Please, please make /it/ go away. Amen.—but then the illness, the dread is still there, laughing at me, filling me with fear.
Songs mean different things for different people, and for me, this song is about acceptance. It’s about knowing that God is there through the struggles both real and those that seem much larger in my head (that in itself a major life struggle). It’s about crying out to God asking HOW CAN I CARRY ON?? when I don’t see a way out—when there ISN’T a way out—and getting simply in answer, “I am with you.” It’s about holding to that answer even when “my heart is torn,” and knowing that it is enough. Even when it isn’t easy. Even when it hurts.
I don’t expect God to miraculously cure me, though it is within His power, but I know He’s going to walk with me. And I don’t expect that I’ll always understand the things that happen in my life both real and in my mind, but I know He’s going to be there.
And sometimes, that’s enough to bring quiet when anxiety is screaming.