I had a couple of rough days last week. Holiday bustle and planning, my ever growing to-do list, and roller coaster emotions stemming from some personal health issues, all combined inside of me to form that familiar feeling of unrest.
On top of personal and seasonal stress, this time of year also fills me with an intense nostalgia for my younger years. I was blessed to grow up in a loving family that imprinted memories and traditions in my heart that will never fade. Memories like Christmas caroling, pageants, and even the small things like remembering my favorite Christmas nightgown, fills me with warmth yet a deep feeling of sadness from missing my family and the innocence of youth.
As I internalized these things more and more each day this week, my anxiety grew. In the past, this type of anxiety would eventually consume me for days, or even weeks. I used to feel incapable of “snapping out of it” and coming back to the reality of the goodness in my life. I think it’s because I didn’t know exactly what the “it” was. All I knew was a mess of feelings. Sad feelings and happy feelings at war with one another, and tangled up into a general feeling of anxiousness and depression. And I just couldn’t put it into words. But now I can name it. And as my Papa has taught me, naming it is the first step toward healing.
Naming it brings the “it” to the light. And that is exactly what anxiety needs. By nature, anxiety stuffs itself. It internalizes and ruminates until it becomes this toxic THING that consumes you. So today, I named all of those suffocating feelings that had me sinking back to that place of darkness. After I named it, I reminded myself of the freedom that I know exists; the freedom that I have personally experienced.
So I revisited and re-read my own post: “The cure to my anxiety“.
As I dug deep into my own words, one part kept standing out to me. So I read it over and over.
“[Natural disasters] are an unfortunate reality in our broken world. Yet ironically, they have become a gateway to my inner peace…
Anxiety is wiped away where it seems like it “should” be most rampant here in the midst of the unknown…”
(Read the full post for a better understanding of my context.)
In it, I explained how I found the cure to my anxiety through mission trips following natural disasters. On these trips, my church family and I serve the victims of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes; you name it. We come alongside them in any way we can. We rebuild where we are able, but more importantly, we establish relationships and form a family-like bond with these people that we otherwise never would have met. Though my impact is tiny in the grand scheme of things, these victims and their stories have given me that type of peace that surpasses understanding.
It seems kind of twisted at first. Shouldn’t I feel peace when disaster is absent? When all my ducks are in a row? When all my bills are paid? When I achieve perfect health? When the world around me is pain-free and at peace?
So I asked myself. Why is my anxiety cured in these disaster zones? And I realized,
It’s because of what Christ did at the cross.
Because of the cross, darkness now reveals His light.
Destruction reveals His hope.
Pain reveals His healing.
Weakness reveals His redemption.
Sin reveals His forgiveness.
His death revealed the life that we may now have in Him, and with Him forever.
This is why healing and peace occur so intensely in places wrecked with pain and desperation.
“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 upon me…” 2 Corinthians 12:9
This is the paradox of glory. It is not that disaster makes me happy, or that the weakness or suffering of other people brings me peace. It’s quite the opposite. These places of disaster allow His Word to come to life in our world. They are a tangible reminder of Who God is and what He can give us in the midst of this world where we will always find trouble.
These broken places and people have taught me how to become empty enough to receive what He offers: light, hope, healing, redemption, forgiveness, and life. And now this ironic cure to my anxiety makes complete sense.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33