Sometimes I feel so small that I think I'll disappear.
Lots of people have this experience. Sometimes it can be a comforting thing . . . to know that God is bigger than me. More often than not, though, I find that the feeling of smallness is connected to my fear. Unheard. Unseen. Uninvited. Unnecessary.
This song, performed by the Kinge's Quire, deals with a few of my biggest fears - "the exile of the stranger," and "the fear of loneliness."
I've been fortunate enough to sing with these folks a few times. Below you will find a great recording of a song we performed this morning.
This morning the Kinge's Quire performed at the church where I work for an early service and rushed over to a different church for the late service. We sang "Do Not Be Afraid" to both congregations. During the second service I could hardly keep it together.
The words continue to sink in.
You see, I've been reading "Ruthless Trust" by Brennan Manning for the second time, and I am right in the middle of realizing that faith is not my problem . . . my problem is trust.
It is not unbelief. It is mistrust.
I find myself having a dialogue I'm sure many of you have had before.
"Hello . . . God. Are you there? . . . . it's me. Well, you know it's me. I guess you know what I'm going to say, too, don't you? I guess I'll say it anyway - Why do I spend my nights awake, washed over in this terror of something I can't even name? Why are there circles under my eyes? Is it because I'm not in the right place? Is it because I'm in the right place, but I'm not doing the best thing? Not making the right choices? Is it because I'm not faithful enough in my prayer? Is it . . . .? Oh. Oh, yes. I know you can be trusted. I know you. I remember you."
A long silence goes by.
"I know you and I remember you . . . why can't I trust that life is as it should be?"
People who deal with anxiety often feel like they can't bring that up with people who believe in God . . . even if the anxious person believes in God, it's hard for them to talk about it in connection to faith.
For me it comes from a sense of being seen as ungrateful or unfaithful, to admit to such intense fear of things that often aren't even present in the room where I'm sitting.
I've been loved by lots of people and have loved them in return . . . but no human being has ever loved me with a perfect love. We don't know how to do that.
"You are mine, oh my child, I am your Father. And I love you - with a perfect love."
It's hard not to paint God with a human brush, isn't it?
I can drag my terrified, trembling, anxious, hyperventilating self up to the altar and I will be accepted.
Better yet - I can sit down on the floor at home, weeping, shaking, overwhelmed, looking inward, and if I talk to God, if I go looking for God in that space . . . I will be accepted. Not for the person I am when the spotlight is on me. Not for the person I ought to be. Not for the potential that may or may not be there. I will not be loved for anything other than what I am in that moment.
Once I went on a trip with my sister and was astonished to find myself standing on one side of a bridge I'd walked over as a child - the mile high bridge at Grandfather Mountain - completely unable to cross.
Children were making it across the bridge - skipping, laughing!
And here I stood, 26 years old . . . frozen, shaking with a fear I'd never faced on this particular bridge before.
It was more painful to admit that I struggle with anxiety than any other admission I've ever made in my life. Saying those words: "I have anxiety attacks sometimes and I don't know how to deal with it yet."
Many times I've talked with friends about this issue of the shame inherent in our Christian culture, especially concerning any sort of mental illness or emotional struggle - it comes from poor teaching and a lack of human compassion. It is not accurate. Sure - you can go and find Bible verses that order somebody not to be afraid or not to feel anxious. But how often have we actually found this sort of teaching to be helpful?
Is this a case of the "teach a man to fish" philosophy?
We want to hand somebody the answer rather than teaching them to work through the issues that lead to the answers we need.
I've found anxiety mentioned close to two other words several times over in scripture: "trust" and "thanksgiving/thanks."
Go and read all of Psalm 56. It's an interesting read. One of those honest, human outpourings of pain. The psalmist writes about this complete misery . . . this fear and anxiousness. But after every lamentation there's a turn, a chorus. The psalmist says, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" and "I am under vows to you, my God. I will present my thanks to you."
I love that the psalmist doesn't say, "I'm never scared because I trust you."
Would that be honest or useful?
Instead, the psalmist writes about "when" . . . . this is the same sort of speech that causes me to love the song we performed in church this morning.
This isn't an "if" . . . it's a definite case of "when" as we look at honest human life.
I just so happen to be experiencing one of those definite "when" moments. It might be a couple of years long. I don't know yet.
But I do know this - I can continue to give thanks for simple things right now, and I can work toward trusting . . . part of my trust is going to come from being honest about things like anxiety. I feel certain of that.
If you know someone who struggles with an issue like anxiety, depression, or any other emotional/psychological difficulty, show them grace. Show them patience. Show them a small piece of the love of God as you become a vessel of kindness for the Holy Spirit.
People who are moving through these things need to see your love light. The light of God shining through you. They don't need any more darkness - they most certainly don't need to hear that God wants them to "just snap out of it." That's not a legitimate path to healing in this case. That's not constructive.
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," Amen.
Peace & Goodness,