Anxiety is my constant companion. Has been since I was just a little girl, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it always will be. While the fact that I have an anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, to be exact) hasn’t changed, my perspective on it has. As I’ve said to many people over the past two years, I’ve learned to make my mess my message (thank you, Joyce Meyer, for teaching me that phrase!). And, in the process of learning this, I’ve also learned the best lesson of all–to laugh at myself.
I’ve given this post it’s tongue-in-cheek title because that’s pretty much how my whole life operates, and I’d venture a guess that many of you who struggle with anxiety would say the same thing. Each day presents challenges provided free of charge by my sweet little brain, and they make performing everyday tasks a little more, shall we say, interesting.
Brittany takes a vacation…with anxiety!
Brittany goes to work…with anxiety!
Brittany does the dishes…with anxiety! [OK, so this one might be an exaggeration.]
For about three years, I had a panic attack every single time I went to the movies. I can remember one time we were going to see Iron Man (J’s a comic book nerd) and we sat in the parking lot forever before I finally had to just tell him there was no way I could go in. Even now the theater provokes more anxiety in me than almost anywhere else, and I have zero idea why. I am usually monitoring my pulse and breathing while everyone else is chowing down on popcorn.
Once in college I was required to attend a conference out of town with a counseling class I was taking. For two solid weeks leading up to it I was convinced I was going to die in the van on the way there, and proceeded to inform my family and closest friends that I loved them and would miss them. I can laugh about it now, because it was so ridiculous, but at the time it was the most real, most terrifying thing I could imagine doing. There was no way out–I went, or I failed. I shared with my small group Bible study what I was going through and was SO BLESSED by some sweet friends who got up super early the next morning to see me off and to pray with me before we left. Obviously I didn’t die, but I was SHOCKED when I got there alive!!
I share these things for a laugh, but also because I know Someone out there is dealing with the same thing, but they are too embarrassed to admit it. Maybe they’re like me and they think that others will perceive them as weak if they admit it. Maybe they’ve been hurt by people in the past when they’ve opened up about their anxiety. Maybe they don’t know how to even talk about, or they think that everyone will call them crazy.
I prayed for my anxiety to be taken away for years [and years, and years, and years…]. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties before I was willing to concede that maybe God didn’t want to take it away. Maybe He wanted to use it somehow, and maybe I would be more effective for Him with anxiety than without anxiety. Tough pill to swallow. I know this is the “thorn in my flesh”–the thing that God leaves with me to display His strength in this broken vessel.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Scholars differ on what Paul’s “thorn” was, but the point is that he was willing to be OK with God leaving it there. What’s your thorn? It’s not anxiety for everyone. But something in your life that you would deem a mess is exactly the thing that God wants to turn into your message. Will you let Him use it?