When I moved away to a different college my sophomore year, I didn't realize how much my faith would be tested. The common misconception about Christianity is that, once we're saved, we're safe from every earthly scary thing that comes our way. That couldn't be more wrong.
Anxiety disorders affect millions of people every year, and it's a lifelong struggle. Just because you have anxiety doesn't make you any less of a Christian. Anxiety causes endless amounts of overthinking, doubt, fear, and invites a lot of nasty things into your mind.
My darkest times have come from anxiety attacks over things that I would never do, worst case scenarios, and feeling like a complete failure to God. A close friend of mine gave me two important pieces of advice when I'm struggling with anxious thoughts and attacks:
1. The devil wants to keep you in isolation, and will constantly obsess, frighten, push, and twist the truth to make you believe in your fears.
2. Give yourself grace.
When I had my first anxiety attack, I was left in a state of complete hopelessness and loneliness. I didn't understand what was happening to me, and I felt like the entire world was caving in.
I didn't open to my parents about my debilitating anxiety attacks until I was home one summer and I had just experienced my worst heartbreak and I finally talked about how i was feeling with my mom. We prayed together and she said to me, "When you're feeling anxious, say this: 'In the name of Jesus, be gone. The devil always trembles with the sound of Jesus' name.'"
Since then, I constantly tell myself in the midst of an attack, "In the name of Jesus, be gone." It's a reminder that no matter what's happening around me, my God is always more powerful than my fears.
God will relentlessly give us grace and forgiveness, but the second step to that is forgiving ourselves for the lies that we've believed and dealt with for so long. I still struggle with forgiving myself when a dark period comes along and God feels so far away. When you give yourself grace, it gives less power to your anxiety. Choose to keep fighting, moving forward, and giving yourself so much grace when life becomes really difficult.
Remember that anxiety is where the devil wants you to be, and he wants you to feel small and scared. But God is so much mightier than our anxiety. God wants you to feel loved, cherished, and completely forgiven. My anxiety does not define who I am in the eyes of Jesus. The devil won't win as long as Jesus is a part of my life and embedded in my soul.
About a year and a half ago, God put the word "grace" on my mind when I was going through a difficult season of depression and anxiety. After being weighed down by guilt, shame, and my mistakes, a friend of mine said these exact words to me, "Emily, give yourself some grace."
How in the world did I deserve grace for the things I'd done and gone through? But here's the thing: God already extended His hand of forgiveness toward me, but I felt too ashamed to lay my burdens at the foot of the cross. God doesn't operate based on a 'do you really deserve this grace?' basis.
If He worked like that, none of us should get any shred of forgiveness and mercy for our sins and mistakes. But the good news is that God looks at us and says, "No matter what you've done, I forgive you and I love you."
How do you give yourself grace? It takes time, but you have to accept that your mistakes don't define who you are. It's the response of accepting that we are all flawed where beauty can be found. When we realize how precious we are, it allows us to see our worth through God's eyes and we are able to see how amazing and beautiful we are.
If anything. the little victories in my struggle with anxiety make God's big picture even more apparent. Remember the phrase, "bloom where you're planted." When we're planted in seasons of uncertainty and anxiety, these are the times when God is working within us the most. It may not feel like it, but God is relentlessly fighting alongside us to lead us to victory. Trust in Him, pray continuously, and have faith that God's strength is so much greater than anything else that we will battle.