Anxiety, Missions, and How Every Bitter Thing is Sweet
Life happened. I’d wanted to fall into summer’s sandy shores and slowed time with abandon. But mostly I got anxiety and tumult. I’m not a busyness lover, I’m a stillness lover.
I always know I’m not doing well when the ink from my pen dries up. I hit a deep soul weariness that cratered larger than physical exhaustion. It wanted to swallow me whole. Last week, I hit a wall. A sense of being so done.
Ever have one of those weeks where Murphy’s Law is excruciatingly apparent? Everything that can go wrong, does, all at the same time? It feels like just as you find your footing, another wave rolls in and knocks you plum over.
There are days that seem to conspire to take you out.
Body tense, you’re waiting for the backfire.
I remember those impossible days on the mission field in Uganda living under siege, where nothing could go right, not the plumbing, or the power, or the internet, the government, the kid’s attitude’s, or my plans. Where every week it seemed I was attending another funeral. Loss upon loss spooned me out.
Even though we’ve survived pain, we don’t become immune to life’s hardships.
About a month ago, my brand new home flooded from a broken toilet pipe meaning we had to rip up all our floors, move all our stuff out, and live in chaos while we renovated ourselves. I don’t know if it’s just me but when my house is in disarray, when I don’t have a simple, safe space to retreat to, I go into full fledged anxiety.
I’ve also had some health issues, thyroid issues, and challenging blood results which led to pushing our dreams of IVF back. Disappointment.
Infertility is a constant ripping bandaid.
Life doesn’t stop when we get strung out. There is still work and clients, kids to feed, friends to help, birthdays to plan for. All I’d wanted was to feel rested and full of emotional reserves before we entered the stressful high’s and low’s of IVF again, and here I was, depleted. No vacation in sight.
In the pressure, my brain felt like it couldn’t take any more input.
I tried to have perspective, to be positive. I tried to look at the situation and know that in Africa, I had survived worse things and I should be grateful I was only dealing with “first world problems.”
I started questioning my promises. Just my regular, quarterly life crisis.
On occasion, I hit these ice patches of terrifying self-doubt where it feels like I’m skidding. Rudderless and rootless. Out of control. I begin to panic. Life seems like it’s happening to me, not from me. I don’t like that.
I want to thrive, I don’t want to just survive.
But sometimes depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads.
Sometimes survival is all we can do, just to wake up to another morning and put one foot in front of the other and know it will get better soon.
Sometimes courage in the face of suffering is simply saying, “I’m here to fight another day.”
It’s staying rooted.
It’s seeing this place though stark and barren, as holy ground.
In these times, I can’t always feel God, I can’t always feel His comfort.
In times like this, often my first question of God is, “Why?“
“Why is this happening, and where are you?”
But “Why?” implies I’m a victim of my circumstance.
So lately, I’ve started asking the question: “What?”
“What are you doing?” “What can I learn from this?”
“What is the silver lining?”
“What is the intimacy you are building between us in this?”
“What are the ways you are fighting for me?”
I’ve been loving the lines of this book recently by Sara Hagerty,
“That old worst case scenario thinking threatened to disrupt a day that was holy. Holy because of my pain, my hunger and my choice of how to respond in it. I am set on finding the sweetness of Him waiting inside what the world calls bitter. His beauty meets my pain’s hunger.”
I recently returned from a Conscious Leadership Coaching training and one of their concepts of living above the line is the framework that everything in life that happens can be for our good, to help us along our path, to aid us in doing the work we need to do in our own souls.
Am I willing to see I am not a victim, that this situation is an ally in my growth? (It’s beautiful work.)
For me, I translate this to:
Am I willing to see every “bitter” thing as an intersection with Heaven’s sweetness?
Because longing, and living in the waiting, these are moments where we have the opportunity to come face to face with Jesus again.
These are invitations to experience a depth of His presence in our desperation.
Intimacy is rooted in these dark nights of the soul.
It alone, is worth it.
He is the salve for this soul’s weariness.
When we come up for air, we reach out to know He was always waiting for us. All grace.
Last Tuesday, I did the only thing I could do when things are outside my control:
I took a mental health day and just checked out.
I stayed in bed and journaled and prayed. I told God all my fears and thoughts and areas where I feel I’m failing, areas where I feel broken and beyond repair. Instead of running from the feelings, I felt them ALL.
I stopped rejecting the parts of me that were weary. Instead I loved them, I offered them acceptance.
It’s ok. You’re going to be ok.
Because receiving love is about loving yourself too.
I listened for His still, small voice inside me.
I met with my counselor and had a good, long cry. I saw a friend and laughed prayed together.
I played Katy Perry’s song “Rise” on repeat and sang it at the top of my lungs (because sometimes you just have to sing!)
Eventually all the thoughts and feelings I was trying to trap or run away from or keep at bay, in feeling them and releasing them, they began to subside like waves at low tide.
I realized He is my peace, not outside circumstance. When home is disrupted, He is my home. And because He lives in me, I am my home.
The enemy can try and exhaust and tire us out so we won’t pursue our dreams, so we’ll give up on the brink of answered prayers, but God always has enough reserves.
When I’m weak, He’s right there waiting to lend me His strength.
My weakness isn’t bad, it’s an invitation for an encounter.
He never runs out of peace or love to offer me.
I’m not the only one struggling. So many of us feel on the verge of our breakthrough, waiting, exhausted, holding on and hoping for the promise.
I feel the tipping point is coming, the dawn is coming. We can’t give up.
But we can give in to the safety of our Father’s arms.
Surrender is breathing, it’s opening up space in our lungs and our hearts to know we don’t have to be in control of everything.
We can let go, lean in, feel the embrace.
We can know we’re not fighting these battles alone. Don’t lose heart and don’t lose hope.
It’s been my challenge lately to see every bitter thing as sweet.
Even my home flooding. Even anxiety. Even infertility.
These are opportunities for my soul to expand. These are opportunities to lean in.
These are opportunities to take stock of life and see where a shift must take place.
Tomorrow the sun will shine again, the thimble-like hummingbird will come to feed, a whir of wings, and a gratitude I didn’t expect will overtake me.
I’ll gently surrender to the fact that in this very moment, there is enough.
I have enough.
I am enough.
How are you pushing through anxiety?
What I’m reading that might help: