A few nights ago, I had trouble getting to sleep…I mean TROUBLE! Everything was wrong…the room was too warm, my pillow too hard, the covers too heavy, and my mind- I just couldn’t shut it down. It was speeding into overdrive imagining every possible thing that could go wrong. Yes, that old frenemy “fear” had come to visit.
I’m not sure why I was so anxious that night- it had been a great day— but as I was winding down, I started to feel uneasy. “It’s too much….” The day was too much, my commitments were too much, the news was DEFINITELY too much…and before you know it, I was laying in bed tossing and turning to the sound of complete chaos in my mind while watching precious minutes speed by.
I tried praying– that’s what most Christians do (understandably) when we start to panic, but I couldn’t!! There was so much noise in my head that I could not organize a single, coherent sentence!!
It went like this:
Me: “Heavenly Father, PLEASE help me, I’m…
NOISE: remember that news article, how sad about that toddler left in that hot car- what if that were Charley- what if YOU did that, you know, you are always so distracted!
ME: “Lord, my MIND!”
NOISE: hey, next Sunday is an important day to lead worship, make sure you don’t CHOKE and ruin it for everyone!!
ME: “God, can you hear me? I can’t even complete a sentence- my thoughts are spinning out of…”
NOISE: Don’t forget- you have this big event in three weeks to prepare for and your team hasn’t even STARTED…it won’t come together…it’s too late, you’ve waited too long to plan….you should just cancel it)
ME: GOD, I can’t…”
NOISE: did you hear that there is going to be another economic bust? You need hoard your money so that you won’t lose everything! And braces will be needed soon…and you’ll have a teenager driving, and don’t forget that college tuition now costs a house!
ME: “Lord…I’m sorry, I can’t even form a complete…”
NOISE: also, your kids are growing up so fast and you’re furiously working on other things- they’re going to resent you being here, but not really (as trendy bloggers call it) present…
ME: Help me God, I just can’t….”
And this goes on and on…
Have you been there?
This happens to me periodically. Depending on what’s happening circumstantially, personally, even globally— sometimes the conditions are right for an all-out mental panic and doomsday of my mind. Every thought that enters my brain has a negative outcome- a devastating end.
What was frustrating is that I couldn’t pray myself out of it. I felt like my prayers couldn’t even leave my head, because they weren’t fully formed yet. I sometimes envision God, as being like me when I am impatient, “You called, I’m listening, so spit it out…”
But I couldn’t spit it out. All that happened was garbled, fragmented thoughts that I couldn’t even organize to completion.
Knowing these thoughts were not from Him, but were keeping me from (communicating to) Him, I started looking back. I noticed the strangely negative outcome of my every thought and concern, and realized that has not been my history, so why should that be my future?
I began to recount major events in my life, difficulties in our young marriage, financial obstacles, miscarriages, painful ministry failures, and on and on…I began to remember His faithfulness and His provision, and His presence through all of it. And I was grateful.
Immediately, the noise that had been screaming at me began to diminish. I kept going…
“Remember when God came through during this time of uncertainty?
And remember that time He did that thing we NEVER expected or planned for?
And recently, He has been….”
The noise was now, no longer noise, but just a whisper. My thoughts became clear and I could complete an actual sentence in my mind…I could finally articulate what I needed!
But by that time, my needs were no longer the subject of my prayer. Sure, they were in there, but moreso were my thanks…
“THANK YOU God, for being there during this struggle- for bringing it on in fact– you led us during those times of confusion and proved your faithfulness! Thank you for always providing even though things were scarce for a long time…for giving peace when our world once again spun out of control…that was YOU! Thank you for all of it!
And I need that same peace especially now, as I face these things that make me nervous about the future. Please help me to focus on YOU and not these circumstances!”
The rest I can’t remember…why? Because I fell asleep! Because the noise had been silenced and His peace had come- and I didn’t have to fully express every thing that was bothering me or every need I could anticipate. He already knows anyway!
What I did need to do was to control my thoughts…take them captive and make them obedient to Christ as Paul instructed (2 Cor 10:5) – but they had somehow captured me and were holding me prisoner! I needed to break free, but couldn’t. No amount of praying, Scripture memory, or any Christian-y thing worked!
Until I gave thanks and praised God for all He has done!
Now, it reminds me of the time Paul and Silas were imprisoned for healing a demon possessed girl. They were beaten and imprisoned- even bound by their feet. But instead of fearing the next day, instead of focusing on their circumstances, they began to praise God and the earth shook and their chains were literally broken! (Acts 16:16-36)
As I woke up the next morning and recounted the events of that late night, I wondered why on earth did this “work” and nothing else did? He reminded me of this passage:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7 (NIV)
Don’t be anxious, but pray, giving thanks, making your request, and His peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! The path to peace is paved with thanksgiving.
Did my circumstances change? No. Did I get immediate solutions to the problems I am dealing with? Not yet. But I felt my chains had been broken— and I was given peace and rest— what I did need immediately.
After reflecting on my past, I know God will also be here with me in the future. He will protect….He will provide…He will strengthen…He will guide.
And He will do the same for YOU too!
Do you struggle with fear and anxiety? I talk about this in greater detail in my book, Crowning Wisdom, and share from Proverbs how “an anxious heart wears a man down” and what Scripture teaches is the wise way to address fear and anxiety that wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies!
You can get your copy here!