By Alex Florez
The first time I had a full-blown anxiety attack, I didn’t even have a name for what was happening to me. It was years later, with dozens of these events under my belt, that I understood my panic disorder and that I am not alone in feeling this way. It seems that panic disorders are on the rise; more and more people seem to be suffering from crippling anxiety. Speaking for myself, this worry was a signal that something was wrong within me, but I wanted to live without these feelings. As Jesus asks, “Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). The answer, I acknowledge, is “yes,” but I confess that I spend an inordinate amount of energy worrying about what I will eat or what I wear. And that’s just the beginning of my portfolio of anxious thoughts!
I employed what I now believe is a very dangerous strategy for dealing with anxiety: making my feelings go away. By reading Scripture more closely or trusting God more effortlessly, I tried to numb my worry and be on track to the hope and future God has prepared for me. By becoming a “better Christian,” I would be led to some emotional promised land.
But when I squash my feelings, I alienate myself from the heart of God. He made me with strong emotions, so when I ignore them or withhold them from Him, I am not giving Him my complete self. Therefore, I miss the opportunity to welcome Jesus into the places where I need Him most.
Instead of asking me to stifle my feelings, Jesus steps lovingly into my emotional center. In that historically lonely and painful place, He gently attends to my needs. Bringing all of myself to Jesus is what I’m truly after, and that can only happen when I return to Scripture and to the presence of the Holy Spirit. I must daily refocus my eyes on the one whose promises never fail.
Thankfully, as children of God, we are all works in progress no matter what kinds of feelings bubble within us. When we give thanks to God, we rest in the capable and willing hands of Jesus, anxiety and all.