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When God Doesn’t Take Away Your Anxiety

A question I’m often asked is, “How did you stop having anxiety?”

I haven’t.

Then comes the inevitable follow up: “You mean, you still feel anxious?”

Every now and then, yes.

“You mean, God hasn’t healed you from it?”

These questions are not uncommon to me and I imagine they’re not uncommon to others in the church.

The giant chasm which exists between faith and mental health would suggest that this will always be a difficult topic to discuss. Many Christians, including myself, do not understand how these two things, God and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), could possibly co-exist.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people who ask me about my faith and its role in regards to how I cope with anxiety. Where does God fit in?

They might expect me to give them cookie-cutter” answers like “Because I’m a Christian, I don’t struggle with my anxiety.” Or “trusting in God removes all anxiety.”

But as someone who has suffered from anxiety and is still affected by it at times, I can only tell you that there are no simple answers.

Instead, let me offer you five things to keep in mind if you’re a Christian struggling with anxiety.

 

1. God can heal us from anything, even anxiety.

As a Christian, I believe that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him (Luke 1:37). Does this include healing people from illnesses, including mental illness? Yes.

I know people who have personally experienced God’s healing from different neurological or psychological disorders.

Yet for me, and perhaps to others, the question remains: is there room for God amidst an anxiety disorder when He hasn’t taken it away? Where is God when the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet?

The answer is not so black and white.

 

2. Having anxiety is not a reflection of your lack of faith.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well-meaning churchgoers tell me, “You just need to pray about it more; you really need to go before the Lord.”

Let me tell you about my going before the Lord.

As someone who dealt with panic attacks and anxiety disorder throughout college, I can say that I wasn’t only just going before the Lord, but I was face-down-lying-on-the-bathroom-floor going before Him.

If you have been there before, you will know what I mean. Our body meets the end of ourselves. All dignity is pushed aside, and we beg and plead, often on our knees. Or in my case, on my hands and my knees.

Take this from me, God. I cannot do this anymore. It’s just too much.

 

3. Healing comes in many forms.

The night that I lay face down on the bathroom floor of my apartment, God did not take away my anxiety disorder. He did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety in one instant act of extraordinary intervention. I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a work meeting to avoid a potential breakdown.

My experience wasn’t one of immediate relief. It wasn’t a miraculous healing that some encounter in church pews. Instead, managing my anxiety was a long and drawn-out process.

It was the result of many months of intense counselling sessions and emotional energy. But in that process, I found relief. And I experienced some healing.

It all started by going to speak to a complete stranger about my fears. She taught me tools to help stop the onset of a panic attack. I slowly learned how to manage overpowering feelings of anxiety.

As I accepted the fact that I struggled with a disorder, I also began the frightening process of opening up to my family and friends. I took a step back and observed the bad habits I needed to break, and I even had to say goodbye to some unhealthy relationships. The process was anything but easy or formulaic, but it allowed me to slowly regain that peace of mind that Philippians talks about.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

So did God heal me? Did I achieve breakthrough?

Not in the way you would think. Not in one heavenly instant.

I have no shame in admitting to you that my prayers didn’t result in the end of my disorder. Healing takes place in many different ways. Sometimes, it’s the immediate relief from anxiety during a worship service, and sometimes it’s ongoing treatment from a doctor.

What I can attest to is that God gave me the peace and determination to manage those days where anxiety was too close for comfort. And through that, I found grace, and ultimately, freedom.

 

 4. We are not alone in our anxiety.

It’s important to recognize that God does not promise we will never experience hardship.

I would still feel a sense of nervousness from time to time, even after attending a counselling session. I still had the occasional random panic attack in the supermarket (bless the dear woman who consoled me in the freezer aisle). We will never live a life free of adversity.

But God does promise that He will be right there with us when we go through those difficult times.

How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in those moments of darkness! I have the companionship of one who has already overcome anxiety. He’s been there, done that.

In Matthew, it says that Jesus overcame the world. He knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed. To feel anxious. He knew pain and suffering. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief to know I am not isolated in this fight.

 

 5. The road to recovery can be slow and messy.

I’ll be honest with you: today, I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. I still have those moments of uncertainty. My faith does not remove the voice of negative self-talk.

But I do have confidence in one thing: God meets me where I am. He has been with me every step of the way, from diagnosis to recovery. And looking back, I can certainly attest that I am not the same person I was several years ago as I sat in the doctor’s office discussing different side effects of anti-depressants. I can confidently say that the worst is behind me.

When I hear that there is no room for God in the whole “mental health” debate, I want to remind those people of one of the key issues at the centre of this whole conversation: God loves people in their humanity and we are to do the same of one another. Despite our perceived “weakness” and our human tendency to fear and to feel insecure—God still uses us to inspire, to lead and to love others. He uses anxious people.

I am the most peaceful I probably have ever been on my journey, but every now and then, I still feel a little off. But it’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to be perfect.

I don’t have to feel perfectly. I can just be. And that’s perfectly okay.

Chester Bennington’s death: Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it

Written By Priscilla G., Singapore

It was just one of many suicides among celebrities. But the death of Chester Bennington, the frontman of American rock band Linkin Park, struck a chord among many fans of my generation.

The 41-year-old was found dead in his home two days ago (July 20), on the birthday of his close friend Chris Cornell. Media reports say Bennington’s suicide is similar to that of Cornell, the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, who also hanged himself two months ago.

The news triggered memories of the rasp in Bennington’s voice on songs like “Numb” and “Somewhere I Belong”, which captured the angst I felt as a teenager. Millions of people felt the same way—the music video of “Numb” has had more than 560 million views since it was posted in 2007.

I remember particularly liking that song, which is about the frustration of failing to meet people’s expectations, when I was 14 years old.

I was a head prefect in my primary school when I was 12, and I was very disappointed when I failed the probation to become a (normal) prefect in my secondary school. Becoming a little more rebellious seemed like a cool idea, although I was really more of a closet rebel with angst that I kept to myself. The “Numb” lyrics also expressed how I felt towards my father, whose words typically came in the form of scoldings or instructions instead of encouragement or concern.

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there / Become so tired, so much more aware / I’m becoming this, all I want to do / Is be more like me and be less like you”. I thought of my father’s weaknesses as I sang that last line, about wanting to “be more like me and be less like you”.

But all the times I screamed out the chorus could not drown out the voice of God in my heart. Towards the end of that year, I rededicated my life to Jesus.

Shortly after, I stopped listening to Linkin Park’s songs, because I grew to realize that the message in many of their songs did not align with Christian values. The last line in the “Numb” chorus suggests self-centeredness, pride and an attitude of ‘I am better than you’ towards authority figures whom we disrespect. The song’s suggestion to numb emotional hurts is also not helpful.

To numb something is to ‘deprive of feeling or responsiveness’. But to be able to feel pain is to be able to sense that something is wrong, and that ability is important. Without pain sensors in our body, a person’s hand on a stove could be burning without him even realizing it. As American Christian author Philip Yancey, writes in his book, Where is God When It Hurts?: “By definition, pain is unpleasant, enough so to force us to withdraw our fingers from a stove. Yet that very quality saves us from destruction. Unless the warning signal demands response, we might not heed it.”

Having read about Bennington’s life from media reports, I see a man who was in pain. My own experiences cannot begin to compare with his, but it seems that he didn’t deal with it in the best way.

From the age of seven or eight, he was frequently molested by an older friend till he was 13. His parents divorced when he was 11. His first marriage ended in divorce in 2005. His struggles with drug and alcohol addiction inspired some of Linkin Park’s top hits, but did not end despite the band’s success.

Bennington said in an interview in 2009: “I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.” Bennington added earlier this year: “If it wasn’t for music, I’d be dead. 100 per cent.”

While venting negative emotions through music or other avenues (such as drawing, poetry, or running) may be better than bottling all the feelings inside, it doesn’t result in a complete healing of emotional wounds.

Numbing pain is like using fingers to plug the holes in a leaking water bottle: the leaks stop temporarily, but it is pressurizing (literally) to keep plugging those holes, and all this does not address the ultimate problem.

If you are feeling broken, know that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Broken cisterns that cannot hold water will not help, but the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13) will. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

I pray that you will find the true source of comfort and joy.

 

Photo credit: Kristina_Servant via Foter.com / CC BY

Healing Through Brutality

Title: Healing Through Brutality
Materials: Mixed media installation
Description: It was while I was working on this piece that I realized why I indulged in horror and gore films as a child – because there was a lot of hate and unforgiveness in me which I was unaware of. In retrospect, I recognize this interest to be a form of escapism from the anger and hate I harboured, and as a visible cry out for healing and redemption.

The red threads which represents guts, growing into flowers, is an expression of finding healing and meaning through brokenness and allowing beauty to be revealed through this process. Embroidery as a medium emphasizes this outgrowth to be a form of meditation and act of mending.

This piece reminds me that God can redeem anything, from the bitterness in my heart by the most violent and unjust death of all, Jesus’ crucifixion, and make it into something beautiful.

 

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When God Didn’t Heal Me

Written By Juan Carlos Tulalian, Philippines

For the past few days, I had been down with a bout of flu. Fortunately, I was cured after taking some medication. I thank God for healing me; I believe that divine healing can take place through medicine. It got me thinking, however, about miracles—and why God sometimes doesn’t heal us.

When I was young, I followed a Christian television program that featured an evangelist-faith healer. His miracle-healing ministry caught my attention and gave me hope that God would heal me of the abnormality in my right abdomen. Once, the pastor said that if we were to give such and such amount, the Lord would pour out His blessings, there would be divine healing and great revival, the gates of heaven would open to a flood of blessings, and so on and so forth. “Wow!” I thought. “This is awesome!”

I felt my faith come alive, and immediately gave a pledge of 500 Philippine pesos together with a prayer request. I followed the pastor’s prayer and believed wholeheartedly that God was going to heal me and solve all my problems. I was expecting a great miracle, together with signs and wonders.

But nothing happened. I received no healing, no deliverance, no revival, and no change . . . nothing. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I was most disappointed, frustrated and discouraged. “Why was God delaying?” I asked. “Why didn’t He answer my sincere prayer for a miracle or divine healing?”

Over time, I became skeptical about miracles. I became someone who needed evidence before I would believe something I was told. I would not easily believe claims of a miracle—that the blind could see, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear—or anything involving supernatural power. I would not believe anyone who said he saw heaven or hell, or claimed to have seen signs and wonders.

Years later, I was still asking the same questions. “If God is sovereign,” I asked, “then why does He seem to limit His power regarding miracles, divine healing, divine interventions, or signs and wonders?”

Why we don’t get more miracles

Some believe that God doesn’t give us what we want for two main reasons: we lack faith, or we have sin. But these reasons didn’t seem to explain why God doesn’t always give us divine healing. Perhaps, I thought, there were other reasons.

I started to wonder, do miracles really make our faith stronger? Do signs and wonders really convince more people to believe in God or in His existence?

In the four Gospels, we can see that Jesus didn’t always heal or perform miracles, signs, and wonders. When He did, the miracles were shown to selected people and were purposeful—they demonstrated the Kingdom of God, or showed that helping the poor, sick, or oppressed people had to be holistic.

In the book of Acts, too, Jesus’ disciples performed miracles, signs, and wonders in a very purposeful and significant way. The miracles convinced many people to believe and follow Christ. I do wonder, though: Did their faith become more rooted? Did all the witnesses of the miracles take up their cross, deny themselves and follow Jesus?

The right motivation

We may not know or understand why God chooses not to give us miracles or divine healing. But I do believe that if a heart longs for God’s power rather than God himself, then it misses the point. If our relationship with God is based on signs and wonders, we will not have a true, intimate relationship with Him.

Many of us today are thirsty for miracles, signs, and wonders. We long to see God’s supernatural power manifested. But we need to avoid portraying Him like the genie in the bottle who tells its holder, “Your wish is my command.”

Instead, we need to seek God himself rather than His miracles. Our relationship with God needs to be based on obedience and not demands.

God can give us miracles if He wants, according to His own will and purpose. But if we believe in God or love Him only because He performs miracles, provides healing, and gives us signs and wonders, then we miss the point. God may use miracles to evangelize, but what is more important is that people seek Him—with or without any miracle. What matters to Him is that we worship Him simply because He is God, and have an intimate relationship and fellowship with Him.