“If the LORD had not been my help, I would soon have dwelt in [the land of] silence. If I say, 'My foot has slipped,' Your compassion and lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comforts delight me.” Psalm 94:17-19 (AMP)
For most of my life, I’ve been a master at being OK.
My answer to everyone about everything used to be “I’m fine,” which was the most socially acceptable and fastest route to get somewhere that felt safer … Most often, “safety” meant hiding inside myself.
I channeled enormous amounts of energy into either hiding my struggle with anxiety or letting it hide me. But both options eventually led me to a place where all my unspoken not-OK-ness resulted in an aching sense of loneliness. From the spinning thoughts, shallow breaths and fragmented nerves that often characterize anxiety, some of my deepest shame emerged.
Don’t be anxious! Trust in God! Faith over fear!
If you grew up in the church like me, these are some of the answers you might have heard frequenting the lips of many well-intending people.
Is there scriptural Truth in each of these phrases? Absolutely. But when given as the one-size-fits-all solution to anxiety, these answers often just sound like, “You aren’t supposed to feel that way.”
But I do feel this way.
As a little girl, the narrative I gradually learned to embody was that being a good Christian meant staying happy, always smiling and rarely talking about how I really felt. At 18, when I found myself in an anxiety-induced fetal position behind a locked bathroom door, I felt lost inside a story of who I should be.
What do you do when you’re not supposed to feel anxiety, but no matter how much you pray and trust, it still doesn’t go away?
My shame and confusion wrapped around that question caused me to silently wonder what God thinks about the overstuffed and unexpressed anxiety that sat behind my smile. When anxious thoughts multiplied within me, I lived out an ending to Psalm 94:19 that sounded more like “Your commands discipline me” rather than “Your comforts delight me.”
But when I read this psalm, I see God didn’t turn His face from the psalmist's anxiety. God moved toward him.
It’s when the psalmist’s honesty met compassion that healing began to happen. When he vulnerably cried out to God, the psalmist experienced God’s gentle arms holding him up, not pushing him away.
Anxiety requires the counterintuitive act of reaching for connection rather than further sinking into isolation. In fact, I’m learning that anxiety isn’t as much about looking for a solution as it’s about looking for space. Space to be sensed, felt and named in the presence of another.
We cannot heal what we refuse to feel.
Over and over again, the pages of Scripture testify that the places touched by pain, struggle and death are the places Christ chooses to go. The dark valley is precisely the place where God promises to be with us. Our anxious moments are not where we are abandoned but where we can expect to encounter Him again.
We will never be able to move through anxiety by mentally whipping ourselves into not feeling this way. But we can move through it when we experience the witness and with-ness of God and others in the very places where our anxiety resides.
Today, rather than racing for the quickest emotional exit, I wonder what it would be like to show up to the journals of our hearts honestly, bringing our full selves to these pages. While we often immediately try to silence the voice of anxiety, God doesn’t. As the Shepherd of our souls, He leans in to hear what our anxiety has to say, and He whispers the truth of Psalm 94:19: My compassion and lovingkindness will hold you up.
Dear God, I don’t want anxiety to consume my life. Would You help me attune to what my anxiety might be trying to tell me today? Would You show me what it looks like to be with You in my anxiety and to receive the comfort You offer me? In Jesus' Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Stop Saying I’m Fine by Taylor Joy Murray is a generational call to honesty, healing and a spiritual hunger that defies superficial Christianity. We'll dig beneath the bedrock of our anxiety into the pain of our experiences, and together we'll learn how to connect to the stillness that exists beneath the chaos, finding that the wholeness and healing we long for isn't as distant as it may seem.
To learn about Taylor Joy, her books and other resources, go to www.taylorjoymurray.co.
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For a free processing tool to use when your anxiety screams, download “Leaving the Land of Silence,” which Taylor Joy created just for you.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 139:23, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (NIV)
When you struggle with anxiety, does it hide you, or do you hide it? What is the typical outcome of your hiding strategy, and how might the outcome be different if you invite God into the struggle?
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2022 by Taylor Joy Murray. All rights reserved.
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