Surviving or Thriving: Fearful Strength
Day 2 of Mental Health Awareness Week and we're so honoured to share this brilliant testimony from the lovely Vicky, whose faith inspires many of us on the More Precious team. We hope you are inspired too.
I mentioned to someone at church the other day that I struggled with anxiety. “Really?” she asked. “I would never have guessed that about you!”
It made me realise that I’m quite good at hiding what has been, for me, one of the most significant struggles of my life.
As I’ve grown older, it seems as though my fears have multiplied, and the effect they have on my life has become more intense. I fear sickness, pain, being stuck on a plane or train, travelling away from home. I spend my life avoiding things – germs, certain foods, holidays. Sometimes I feel my world shrinking – there are things I avoid doing now that never seemed to bother me before.
At its heart, my problem is one of control. My fears overwhelm me, and my response is to try to control my life and environment in order to minimise risk. I guess I am trying to make my life ‘safe’. But I can never be fully in control, and the only thing I manage to do is to make everything feel more dangerous.
Where is God in all of this? Three things have begun to take root in my heart over the past couple of years as I’ve brought these struggles to Him.
1. He is With Me.
‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)
Anxiety can be an isolating experience. It can feel as if no one understands you. I look around and see others apparently managing life with ease, and my fears seem so ridiculous and weird that I’m afraid to voice them. To be fully known, including all my weaknesses, is a scary prospect. But to be fully known and fully loved is miraculous and liberating. And the God who knows me fully loves me enough to be present with me through every mind-numbing panic attack, and He promises to get me through it.
2. His Strength is Made Perfect in My Weakness.
‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”’ (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
For a long time I felt frustrated that God wasn’t answering my prayer to take anxiety away from me. I didn’t want to be fearful. I wanted to be bold and brave, to never be afraid of anything. I wanted Him to take away my weakness and make me strong. But, if anything, the fears got stronger and I felt weaker. As I reflected on 2 Corinthians 12, it dawned on me that perhaps the thing I wanted to be rid of was the very thing God was using in my life to help me to know Him better. To push me towards Him and His strength. To learn to depend on Him more fully. I’m now praying for growth in these things.
3. With My God, I Can Scale a Wall.
‘With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.’ (Psalm 18:29)
Recently I chose to attend a conference that involved driving over two hours and spending three nights away from home. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I was aware of a big wall of fear looming over me. My instinct was to run in the opposite direction, but a friend challenged me to see it as an opportunity to press ahead in faith. I realised that I would never fully know God’s help in the battle if I always ran away and never actually tried to climb the walls in front of me. So, with prayer and trembling, I forged ahead, and found that God indeed enabled me to scale that wall. I ended up having the best time, and came back from the conference with a fresh sense of excitement and encouragement.
So, this may be one of my greatest struggles, but it has also been a rich soil for growth in the gospel of grace – the kind of grace that turns weakness into glory.
Vicky became a Christian at 17 after her A-Level Biology teacher told the class about Jesus. At university she learnt a lot about the Bible, for which she is very grateful, but in recent years the Lord has really captured her heart. She lives and works in Cambridge as a university admissions officer. She loves making music, watching movies and spending time with friends and family, and has a growing passion for biblical counselling and encouraging others by connecting the Bible with the everyday struggles and joys of life.