Recently I have been noticing patterns in my anxiety. There seem to be certain situations in which I am more likely to become anxious.
- In the midst of change and in new situations where things are unfamiliar
- When I feel like I am not in control (while traveling or when things are not my normal routine)
- When I am in pain or not feeling well
- When I feel trapped (in the back of a car, in a plane during take-off, in the middle of a large crowd)
- Any situation in which I have been anxious in the past
Add all of those together and you get…well, a lot of continuous anxiety. Sometimes I have no real reason to be anxious, yet my body responds with anxiety because it is a habit. For example, when I wasn’t feeling well while traveling, I had a panic attack in the back seat of a car and the driver was unable to pull over immediately. I felt trapped and out of control until I was able to “escape” from the car to breathe. So, if I find myself in a situation where I am “trapped” in the back seat of a car for any length of time, out of habit, my memory sends a message to my body that there is danger, and I respond with physical symptoms of anxiety.
It’s almost summer vacation. As a teacher, every year I deal with change. One year ending; the summer beginning. Then more change as I get a new class of students in the fall and transition into a new school year. Not only that, but most summers I plan to travel, which gets me out of my comfort zone. This summer I’m flying by myself for the first time. And this summer I also have a doctor’s appointment scheduled (and I nearly always hyperventilate in medical situations — probably because of a traumatic car accident I was in at the age of 8 years old).
Looking ahead into summer, at first all I could see was panic and anxiety. That is how I respond in these situations. It seemed like a fact…but that perspective is missing one very important thing: CHRIST. In Christ, there is freedom from anxiety.
My roommate is gone for the summer, but she sent me a Puritan quote that keeps sinking in and is changing my perspective: “A fixed, constant attention to the promises, and a firm belief of them, would prevent solicitude and anxiety about the concerns of this life. It would keep the mind quiet and composed in every change, and support and keep up our sinking spirits under the several troubles of life… Christians deprive themselves of their most solid comforts by their unbelief and forgetfulness of God’s promises. For there is no extremity so great, but there are promises suitable to it, and abundantly sufficient for our relief in it.”
It may seem like my fears will overtake me…but the amazing TRUTH is that God’s promises are sufficient to replace (and even prevent!) anxiety in EVERY circumstance! Do you realize how life-changing that statement is??!!! I CAN be composed and free of anxiety in the midst of ANY change or difficulty, because God’s promises never change.
In her book Overcoming Fear and Anxiety, Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “The way to break free of your fear is not to run from it, but rather to press on in joyful obedience and faith in the face of it. Instead of hiding away, find Him as your Hiding Place.” This means that I can be FREE of my fears by facing them. What a comfort this is! I can go forward into my fears because God is with me. I don’t expect anxiety to completely disappear. I know the struggle is real and the opportunity to be anxious will come again and again (and I am learning how to fight it), but this is such a sweet reminder of the freedom that I have in Christ.
Just because there is a situation coming up in which I am *usually* anxious, does not mean that I am enslaved to responding that way. Jesus Christ gives me the choice to respond differently this time. I can step forward in faith and receive His perfect peace!