Every anxiety has a story attached to it.
There are many stories to my anxiety, but The Story that I tell and that has most often come to define my struggle with anxiety is a story about “The Day I Became a Stutterer.” I write about this story in the introduction to my book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?
Two weeks after my mom died from her five-year battle with breast cancer, I found myself back in school. I was 11 years old and in the 5th grade. My mom’s breast cancer had been a part of my life since I was six, and it had been aggressively been building a mountain of anxiety in my life. I had done pretty well at quelling it for those five years through rituals such as counting and touching items a certain amount of times — anything to have a sense of control.
But finally on that day in the 5th grade my anxiety came full circle through the traumatic loss of my mom to breast cancer. I write the following in my book:
“What many people who know me now may not realize is that I am a stutterer. Two weeks after my mom died, I went back to school. It was like any Monday, except that my family life had been forever changed, and to my surprise, I found that I could no longer read out loud in class. I went from an outgoing fifth-grade student who loved to read to a shy, cautious little kid who was afraid to be called on to read aloud.
All I wanted to do was hide inside myself, for fear of others finding out that I was somehow weak, or a failure. The apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians that God’s strength is present in our weakness didn’t resonate with me as an eleven-year-old who had just lost his mom to breast cancer. I did not feel God’s strength. I only felt my weakness.
I felt so much shame and embarrassment that I could not even read a simple sentence out loud. When called upon to read, I knew that at best I would be humiliated. My classmates would only hear pathetic puffs of air escaping out of my mouth as I desperately tried to pronounce a word from one of the sentences staring back at me from the page.
The feeling of inadequacy caused me to withdraw inside myself, and I would often pretend during class that I did not know where we were during our group reading times. As each student took their turn I felt my chest tighten and found it harder to breathe as my turn to read inched closer. When the time came, I chose to have my name put on the board as punishment rather than trying to muster up the courage to read out loud in front of my classmates. This inward shame was manifesting itself now in public humiliation.” (pp. 13-14)
This is what I mean when I say that every anxiety has a story attached to it.
That story is a narrative that I lived out for a large part of my life until God reached down and helped me re-frame that story. He showed me how to use my anxiety for good, and he continually helped me in the transformation of it.
So that is not the end of my story. My story of anxiety has been redeemed and it is a continual process of allowing God to use it on a daily basis.
So what is your story of anxiety? Are you ready for God to transform it and use it as a catalyst for your growth?
I close my introduction to the book by writing the following:
“You might find yourself full of all kinds of anxiety, worry, and panic. And those feelings might be keeping you captive and holding you back from the abundant life God is calling you into.
Maybe you’ve experienced death and disease, divorce and conflict, physical and emotional trauma. And maybe those things have stirred up so much anxiety in you that you don’t know if you can step out and take any more risks.
Or maybe you find yourself in the midst of some major life transitions, and all the options before you have you paralyzed in the grip of anxiety.
But I want you to know that God is not finished with us. He has only just begun. And if we take the risk and step out in faith, He is there to guide our anxiety toward a fruitful endeavor in order that we may grow into the person He desires us to become.
Wherever you are in life, and whatever you have experienced, I’m here to encourage you today, and to tell you that you can do this. You can face your anxiety, and God can use it in a way that breathes new life into you.
Will you please join me on this journey? What are you waiting for?”
So I leave you with two questions on this journey of transforming your anxiety:
One, what is your story of anxiety? Can you identify it?
Two, are you wanting to re-frame it? Are you wanting God to use it as a catalyst for growth in your life?