by Rachael Dymski
Anxiety, for many, is a hard thing to reconcile with Christianity. How do we profess to be Christians, people of peace, as our stomachs twist and turn with worry? How do we raise our hands high in worship while we try not to let them shake, while inside, we are forcing ourselves to breathe in, breathe out?
Anxiety is not cancer. It is not a death, a disability, a heart condition. It is not so public or so noticeable. Anxiety is an inner disease, one that, because we cannot see, we think we can order around. Stop being anxious is a phrase I have heard more than once. Just have more faith.
There are countless books on the subject of anxiety: self help, ten step programs to get your best life now. These books tell us to focus on the positive, to recreate ourselves in our heads. They address they symptoms but not the root of anxiety.
What does God have to say to the anxious of heart? Does he stand there, tapping his foot, rolling his eyes and checking his watch, asking impatiently, are you done yet?
As I look to scripture for clarification, one command appears on the pages over and over again, in different forms. Trust me. Be Still. Surrender.
The God we worship is not distant, not full of self-help ideas, not waiting for us to fix ourselves. He is the God who holds every tear in a bottle—they are all in his record. He is close to us in our anxiety, near to the broken hearted, ready to bind up their wounds. All he asks is that we trust him.
It is counter intuitive. Anxiety, after all, is born from the need to be in control. What more is anxiety than a fear of the unknown, of being alone, of the uncontrollable? God asks us to trust not in ourselves, the strength of our horse or our chariot, but to trust in him alone. In Psalm 59, the psalmist declares God as his strength, who he watches for, his fortress, his loving God.
When anxiety rises up inside me—when I realize I do not have answers to questions or control over the safety of my life or the lives of those dearest to me—that is when I turn to the Psalms. It is there that I repeat, rhythmically, to the breaths in my chest that defy all pattern, that I trust in the Lord, who turned my wailing to dancing, whose love reaches to the heavens, who will fulfill his purpose for me, who will redeem my life and take me to himself.
Maybe we are anxious because we ask too much of ourselves. God does not ask me to conquer my anxiety. When the earth of Psalm 46 gives way, when the mountains fall into the sea, he does not ask me to stop them quaking. He only asks that I be still, and know he is God. He only asks that I seek refuge in him, for he is a mighty fortress.
I know no greater love than this.
Rachael Dymski is an MFA Candidate at Chatham University. Her work has appeared in Relevant Magazine, Squirrel Hill Magazine, Gris Ventre Magazine, Humane Pursuits, To Save A Life, and Healthy Leaders. She lives in Pittsburgh and is working on her first full-length book, titled This is the Texture of Happiness: Where Anxiety and Gratitude Meet.