I admit, for the most part, I’m a pretty relaxed person. It takes a lot to rattle me, well at least now that I’m older. Perhaps it was my training as a nurse, which taught me to remain calm in stressful situations. Perhaps, it is because I came from a fairly stable home as a kid. Maybe, it is just my personality type. But even I can get anxious from time to time.
There have been few times in my life that I have had overwhelming, paralyzing anxiety. I can’t imagine what some of you feel on the day to day. Yet I will never forget my most anxious moment in life.
My husband had gone in for a routine physical and there it was in his bloodwork –an elevated PSA. PSA is a marker for issues with the prostate and a high indicator for cancer. A second PSA would reveal yet another elevation and that would lead to a biopsy.
Through the initial part of the process, I thought: “He’s young, it’s an anomaly, he’s fine.” And then the biopsy results came back.
I will never forget him walking up to me and saying: “I have cancer.”
Never have I felt such shock, fear, or nausea all at once. Did he really just say the “C” word? God, what is happening? Not him! What if it is advanced? What if he needs radiation or chemotherapy? What would I do without him?
Why such a high level of anxiety at just a diagnosis without further information? Because I am a nurse and I had worked with cancer patients most of my career. And though I had cared for a fair number of patients in their dying days, one patient haunted my thoughts. He was a prostate cancer patient and he died a horrifically painful death. As soon as Darrell said cancer, that was the image that went through my head.
I let him go in the house and then I sobbed my eyes out.
Fast forward, we had caught his cancer at a very early stage. Through surgical intervention, he would be cured and today he is a ten-year cancer survivor!!! Praise Jesus!
But in that moment, in the next several months, anxiety ruled.
Oh, I’m sure I went to all the familiar Bible verses – “Cast all your anxiety on him …” 1 Peter 5:7, “Be anxious for nothing …” Philippians 4:6, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear…” 2 Timothy 1:7. But what did Peter and Paul really know about my troubles?
Here is the truth of it – they didn’t need to; they knew the One who did know my troubles and their words point us back to Him over and over. They knew from deep, personal experience who they could trust, and they want the same for us!
But can we really give Jesus our anxiety?
Here’s what I have come to understand from the lives of Peter and Paul – yes, we can really give Jesus our anxiety BUT that doesn’t mean the circumstances will necessarily change. See we tend to believe that giving Jesus our anxiety means He is taking from us the circumstances that are causing it. Peter, Paul, and many other men and women in the Bible would tell you that instant rescue from the circumstances isn’t Jesus’ first response.
So how are they so confident that we can give our anxiety, worry, and/or fear to Jesus? Because through their own trials, some of which were more crushing than anything we have experienced, they knew that when you give Jesus your anxiety, He exchanges it with peace.
Peter opens 2 Peter 1 with:
I, Simon Peter, am a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. I write this to you whose experience with God is as life changing as ours, all due to our God’s straight dealing and the intervention of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master. vv. 1-2 MSG
And Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. MSG
Trust me, Peter and Paul didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly everything was roses! They struggled, they wrestled, and they picked back up a few times this thing we call anxiety. But with each experience, their faith deepened. With each experience, they could let go of it a little longer. And with each experience, they felt a new level of peace.
Jesus is a transformational Savior that allows us to go through a process of growth in whatever area we are struggling in. Whether you have had a bout of anxiety during your lifetime or you have chronic anxiety, I want to assure you – it is no match for your Savior.
Just as sure as Jesus calmed the raging seas, He can calm the storm inside you.
I can’t promise you instant relief or complete resolution to your anxiety on this side of Heaven, but I can promise you that little by little, battle after battle, you can make progress against it. Direct your focus on Jesus and let Him do the heavy lifting.
Father God, I ask that You come into the room with my sister in Christ right now. I pray that Your presence is undeniable to her. Bring in Your peace Lord and fill her heart with it. Push back against her anxiety in the way only You can do. Deepen her experience with You like never before. Give her a glimpse of what a completed exchange of anxiety for peace looks like. Let it strengthen her soul for battle. We thank you Lord that You stand ready at any moment to repeat the process over and over until she is shaken free from anxiety’s chains. We consider it done! In Jesus name, Amen.
Founder, Transforming Love Ministries
Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference
For more of Elaine’s story, you can find Love Echoed Back: I Cried Out; He Answered on amazon.com.
Please note all scripture was taken from the MSG.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson