Originally written for July 2016 FBC Pelham Newsletter, The Counselor’s Corner
I was standing at my kitchen sink early one Saturday morning, washing dishes from last night’s dinner, happy as a lark, enjoying some quiet before the household awoke. A nice, easy day lay ahead of me; I sighed with contentment. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a weird memory and a rush of anxiety overtook me; I was panting with anger at an unresolved situation from years past, with no means of resolution in the near or distant future. The wave passed, and I gripped the edge of the sink, stared at the blue sky out the window, and asked God, “What in the world was that about?!?!”
We all like to live on the peaceful plain of existence, because, well, it’s peaceful, calm, easy, undisturbed; life is good there. But then something happens and our anxiety spikes and we are sent tumbling and stumbling forward. “ARRRRGGGHH!!” we scream, like a crazed middle-class pirate.
In those moments, we grab a verse like Philippians 4:6-7, which reads, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus” (NKJV). We grab it and try to force ourselves to be calm; sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t.
Emotion is not our enemy. It is not meant to thwart the journey of our discipleship. It is, in fact, experiential information, and requires its own language to discern its meaning or purpose. Anxiety is information, but we tend to see it as an assailant to rid ourselves as quickly as possible. But the verse says “don’t BE anxious”; that doesn’t mean, don’t learn from it. Anxiety is actually trying to tell us something, to prompt us toward some kind of awareness. When we are BEING anxious, we are choosing it as our identity, our definition—that is allowing it to go too far. The emotion is not meant to define us; it is simply meant to inform us.
When we experience anxiety, we are meant to ask ourselves, “Am I too lonely, do I have enough resources, or am I too tired?” When anxious, ask yourself, do I need a partner, do I need some help, am I missing some essentials, do I need a breather? These are good questions to consider when trying to finish an important task. If we see the emotion as experiential information, we can actually do the verse of Philippians 4:6-7—pray and ask. Anxiety is enabling us to be specific in asking for help—“this is what I need.” Unfortunately, if I am being anxious (rather than listening to my anxiety), I am (another state-of-identity verb) hopping around my kitchen like a wild derelict flea-bitten raccoon on what was initially a tranquil Saturday morning (not fun!—and by the way, I am not a raccoon).
In my breathing to calm from the anxiety rush that Saturday morning, I was able to discern something important that needed to be done that day, and what I needed to ask in order to get it done. And by being more informed, my limited understanding was surpassed, which also had a very calming, peaceful effect.
Anxiety is not my enemy, and is not The Enemy. It is a part of a God-given system of internal information detection. Because of that anxiety moment that morning, I was more equipped by the Holy Spirit to approach that particular day. I was protected. Thank you, Lord.
Can I get a mighty “Arggghhh!” for that?