Hope for the Anxious Heart

Author: Chara Donahue

Last year my four year-old came running at me as I laid reading, and she jumped with reckless abandon onto my back. Normally, this would have been benign, but this time her elbow struck the tissue sandwiched between two of my vertebrae. The result of which was nerve damage the doctor said was equivalent to that of being in a car accident. I could not lift my son; I could not lift the laundry; goodness, lifting my coffee hurt.

The thing that might have been the most annoying was that my back would shake at the weight of anything. I was hurt, wounded, and stripped of my strength.

Many have felt that wavering , that shaking, for reasons other than physical injury. Anyone who has ever suffered from crushing anxiety, weighty depression, or the paralysis of panic attacks knows that sometimes the strength just isn’t there. My body was in distress, and I was completely aware of how inadequate I was to carry life. Day to day tasks were dreaded, difficult.

My back is better now, but there is a greater healing and renewed strength present in my life: It has been 14 years since I suffered a panic attack.

They plagued me for two and a half years. I vividly remember the first attack, because I thought I was dying. I was seventeen. I was making cookies and thinking about the realities of my life, and the jeopardy I had willingly been submitting myself to when disquietude took over and began to reign.

Suddenly, the pathways to my brain that allowed for the involuntary action of breathing began to collapse. The breaths were rapid and massive. A haze hindered my vision and my body pulsed with adrenaline. I wanted to run, fight, or just be knocked out. It was then I began to see that my life needed to change, but I blocked out that sight because it wasn’t what I wanted. I loved him so much. I chose to stay anyway. I tried to be the anchor for a man who was spiraling out of control even faster than I was, and as we sought to find sustenance within one another, we were each consumed. It wasn’t until I surrendered to the God who strengthens that the attacks ceased, it wasn’t until I saw how Jesus sought me out and offered freedom, that I began to hope for more than captivity.

Jesus met me there in the bleakness and whispered comfort into my broken spirit, He was close. He knew all my stuff and still reached down and lifted my head with the promise that He could make me new. I left the toxicity behind and took back my life and what I stood for, then I turned around and laid it all at the foot of the cross surrendering it all to the God who can quiet the raucous soul.

In that surrender, I discovered that faith must be fed with not only with grace but also with truth. It has been my experience that those who most often find healing are the ones who follow the truths God has left in His word to guide us. I clung to them even when they were hard to swallow, rested in the comfort that was always near, and began to walk forward betting on that God was not a liar.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33

I have noticed I clamor for control when I’ve placed my hope in others, circumstances, or temporal things. Depending on anything other than the person of Christ leaves me weak and desperate to find my footing. I can let the distress of the world melt away, because I know Jesus is who He says He is. Instead of striving for an absence of struggle, I can stand in the midst of a fallen world with open hands, a quiet soul, and hope for tomorrow. 

 

 

Readers,

What truths help to calm you when your heart is tempted to feel anxious?

As always, thank you for reading!

Somewhere Between the Be and the Go

Author: Chara Donahue

It was early Saturday, my husband leaned over to me and whispered he was going to go to the gym for his jujitsu class. Perfect, I thought, he will take the little ones with him, and I will go back to sleep. What a beautiful plan; he is so wonderful; I love sleep, all drifted through my head as my eyelids surrendered to their heaviness. Then about 20 minutes later he said he wasn’t going to go. I half-jokingly glared at him and said, “Rude.” Selflessness, FAIL.

I had hoped I would escape coming face to face with the pressure to get up. He reassured me that I could retreat back into slumber, but I knew I wouldn’t. Saturday mornings when there is time to make breakfast, slowly sip coffee, and talk with slowly-waking children are sweet times, and I don’t want to miss them. I treasure those type of mornings, of parental demand mixed with the anticipation of joy. I lingered in bed but was determined to get up in attempts to both choose love and assuage guilt.

Then my husband rallied, like a freaking rock star, and decided to go anyway. I nestled into the sanctuary of my pillow, and silently rejoiced at the chance to just be. I listened to the hints of fall gently blow through the yard. Our open window provided an inlet for the cool of the early morning to keep the second story stuffiness at bay, and I was soothed back to sleep by the sweet dance of my curtains breathing in and out. I found peace in the physical reminder that new seasons are just around the corner.

I slept for a while and woke on my own accord, which is quite a luxury when you have four children. Then I disturbed the splendor—I picked up my phone. Dun,dun,dun… slowly, without conscious effort, I obstructed the peace. The world was accessible right there in the little magic box. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are all luxuries, and yet they disturbed the shalom I had so been enjoying.

The brief glimpse of freedom from the hustle, the clamor, and the weight of everything that battles for a place on my shoulders stripped away by a pithy perusal of the phone. I had invited it back in, I would soon push it off, back into the hands of God where it belongs, but temporarily the weight bore down.

What was I doing?

I hadn’t even emerged from the covers that keep me warm at night, and I was already trying to ooze productivity. Seeking out purpose, I laid there reading an article called: Stop Wasting Time, Especially When It Comes to Social Media.

Was I attempting to drown myself in a pool of self-designed irony?

I took the moment to breathe, to be. I regrouped. I clicked on the article because, really, I had already asked myself if lying in bed had been a waste of time. There is so much to do, so many little things to tackle. I wondered if the rest was worth the high priced currency of time it demanded. Is it worth it to just be?

I know God puts value on rest, and yet I find that often this can be one of the harder things for me to believe. Knowing my own propensity to self-deceive, I wonder if I abuse the knowledge that God values rest? Do I manipulate the idea of obeying His command to rest as a defense for my own languor. I CANNOT read Proverbs 6:6 without feeling LAZY, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

Even if I work all day I don’t know if I will ever work as hard as an ant. Really, those pests are relentlessly focused. However, I long to be wise. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.[1]” It’s clear the indolent and the sluggards don’t often see the precious fruits of purpose, so I search for wisdom like the ant seeks out unattended food. I scour for the answer that will alleviate the tension I find between the beauty of being and purposeful living.

For now I’ll just be over here in my comfy bed, or out in my city trying to bust out some passionate purpose, and I will keep praying for wisdom. I will search to discover how to dance between the two, with hopes that in whatever I do, I do it all for the glory of God[2], and I will rest in knowing that whether I BE or I GO there is grace for it all. For is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is so much bigger, it is a gift from God[3].

~~~

Readers,

How do you find the balance between the beauty of being and passionate purpose? Let us know in the comments.

[1] Proverbs 3:13

[2] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[3] Ephesians 2:8

Chara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.