Friday, July 9, 2010

The Thorn

Okay, so I've actually been avoiding writing this post--partly because I'm not exactly sure what to write or how to write it, and partly because I'm just so tired of thinking about it.

However.

I've realized that this blog, although it may be uplifting, might just showcase my spiritual journey as too polished. And although the Holy Spirit has certainly been pouring into me over the last few weeks and months, I also want to share the struggle.

So let me tell you about the thorn in my flesh.
His name is anxiety, and he's probably not a stranger to you.

(Just a heads up: this post may be a bit lengthy. I'll try to include some pictures to break it up a bit. Be mindful, dear reader, that it's possible that you may have already received a version of it via e-mail. Also, please click the links to be re-directed to related Scripture.)

Off and on throughout life, I have struggled with a slight anxiety disorder. By slight, I mean: avoiding crowds (malls at Christmas or on weekends, the grocery store on weekends or holidays, traffic, amusement parks, etc.). After getting married, I could sense that my anxiety was steadily increasing. For the past year, driving a car or going to the grocery store (EVER) became nearly impossible for me without my husband. Instead of merely picking up some groceries, I am constantly battling with myself and my fears--repeating over and over again that I will NOT die and I WILL get out alive and someday this [grocery shopping] will all be over. I usually come back exhausted and irritable.

I knew this was an issue, but I sure as heck didn't know how to deal with it. So onward we go.



And onward we went. Until --
BOOM! -- Sunday: Major. Panic. Attack.
In the city. On July Fourth. In the midst of thousands of people.


Since then, I have steadily been going downhill this week-- just fighting myself to stay functional in front of people. Behind closed doors, I was constantly crying. Or shaking in fear. Or dreading the next time I would have to leave. Or thinking about how the walls were closing in and I was suffocating.

(Please bear with me. There is hope at the end of this post.)

It was a rough battle today. Right now I currently feel at peace. But worn down. I definitely feel like I had a spiritual attack today. At one point, in my sobbing mess, I hear an enemy voice try to defeat me by twisting words and thoughts: "You fall short. You are forever falling short. You should only fear God, but instead you fear man. You should find your refuge in God, but instead you escape. You are falling short. There is no way out." It was a downward, scary spiral and I realized I had the potential to sink into that despair that has won me over in times past.


However.

God is victorious!
Satan does not win.

My sense is that God is answering a prayer that I asked for, but the process of that prayer is painful for me because it is requiring change -- a breaking of myself in order to rely fully on the Lord. The past week, I asked two people to start praying that God will prepare me to be a good mother someday, and I am also in training to be a CCO campus leader, and I do think this affliction is related.

Elliott thinks (and I agree) that my source of anxiety is coming from my need for escape. I panic when I think there is no way out. For most of my life, having an escape has been my crutch. God wants to be my refuge, no matter the situation. I am thankful that this is being brought to light and that he is answering prayer, but I am confused as to how to handle it. I pray, but every day I am still waking up gripped by uncontrollable fear -- a fear that makes my whole body shake. It's interfering with my studies and fellowship here at training.

Today it hits me: I have not trusted God. For years.

I tell myself I trust Him, and I try so-so-so hard. But I don't.
(Although there is an identifiable reason behind my distrust, it's rather sensitive (and involves people other than myself), so I must refrain from those details. Instead, I will focus on the current work happening in the present.)

I was thinking about how timely all this started happening: God is using this trial to mold me into a more complete person. At the same time, the Holy Spirit has been pouring into me abundantly over the last couple of weeks.

No WONDER Satan flipped out.

All the work that Satan had been doing in my life the last ten years or so have slowly faded away. The addictions to vanity, partying, guys, etc. -- all of these things have slipped from his grip and instead are being tossed away into the fire by the Father. It just dawned on me this afternoon that certain sins -- like partying and guys -- are but faded memories now. I do not struggle with those temptations any more at all. This gives me so much hope, because the things I am currently struggling with will someday also be vague memories. God will continue to root stuff out of me until He finally restores me on the Last Beautiful Day. He is doing His work and even though I may not understand it, I will let Him. He is so, so Good.

I also need to add that this season of suffering is unlike any other I have ever experienced. When I wrestled with deep depression throughout high school and most of college, and suffered through my weird, Rachel-specific eating disorder (lots of non-eating in the guise of "spiritual fasting," as well as lots and lots and lots of laxatives), I always felt despairing. I just wanted to die. I never saw the hope. This time, the Lord has sustained me with abundant hope. I know He is working in me. I know this season will end, and afterwards, I will be more complete than when I started.

It will be very good.
I look forward with anticipation to that time.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

15 comments:

  1. I love you.

    Praise God for hope! It's funny, every time I realize, "hey, I'm not sinking into despair [as far] as I did last time I was here! That's progress! God's working in me!" something in me feels completely absurd for thinking that way. I feel like it's grasping at straws. But I'm so, so glad you recognize the growth in yourself, and you have hope for the future. I pray that hope is transformed into total confidence in God's transformation of your life. One of the first sermons Kathy preached at UMBC was about prayer, and she talked about how, before we even begin to pray, God has already answered our prayers. How amazing is that?!

    Sorry, I'm totally hijacking your post. I just identify so strongly with a lot of what you've said. I'm praying for you, especially that God will give you the courage to persevere through this season and teach you to fully trust and rest in him.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jessi! Please, by all means - hijack it! This is what blogging is about! What's the point of me just writing if there's no one to write to or write back? I love you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Amen Sister! You are so beautiful. I really love how you shared all this with everyone so openly. You are exposing yourself and that is a way you can heal!!
    Sounds like you also have a little bit of agoraphobia in that too. . which I've had for years which is why I avoid going to NYC as much as possible. I get sick every time I go because of the fear I get of the crowd. . . but at the same time I am very into socializing and being around people so it is weird!!

    Anyway back on to you with your God situation. . .I really am glad thatThe Lord is working on you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Agoraphobia... Elliott keeps saying I have that, but I always thought that had to do with open spaces. I LOVE open spaces, but not if those spaces are filled with people...because then they are closed again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a very similar anxiety problem. I think it's one of the reasons why mega-churches freak me out. There's way too many people.

    And I have major anxiety whenever I have to make a phone call, especially to someone I don't know (calling Verizon or for a pizza delivery). If I've ever called you on the phone, know that I had to spend a good 10 minutes trying to stay calm before dialing the number, even though I know you (and then feel completely ridiculous once whoever I'm calling answers and everything is fine). Oddly enough, answering the phone isn't as strenuous for me...

    I've been trying to delve more into learning what God's idea of and plan for "community" is. I think it's been helping because, as I'm sure you know, God wants his people to interact with one another. Life is relational, with people and with God. So, I guess if I want to please God, I probably need to be a tad bit more social. And it seems to be getting easier with practice... That is a blessing at least.

    I'll add your anxiety to my prayer list. I'm sure it'll be easy to remember when I'm praying for my own. =)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anna, thank you for your prayers! I will pray for you as well.

    I have major trouble with the phone, which is so ironic because most of my jobs have been phone-related (administrative, sales, customer service). I don't even like answering my own phone when it's someone I know because I always worry I won't know what to say. It's so awkward. Somehow, I muster through. But you can imagine how difficult those support-raising calls are! ;-/ God must have a funny sense of humor, or he just reeeeeeally wants me to know what it's like to rely solely on him.

    I'm learning.
    Slowly.

    Thank you for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love you.

    Praying for a better day for you today.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I'm Kasia and I'm from Poland, I think we don't know each other. Yet;)But anyway... I think it might be claustrophobia what you have(?). I suffer from this and I hate crowds or going to caves. I just can't, because I have the impression I'm going to suffocate (have no idea if this is correct English, sorry ;) ).

    And have you spoken to some priest from your church about this? I have read your post on Ruby-Eyed-Okapi and I think your condidtion today has a lot to do with your past. I had problems and I landed at exorcist (I'm Roman Catholic and here only a priest who is chosen by the bishop is allowed to be an exorcist - there are many people who claim to be "exorcist" but they aren't and they can damage our spirits even more) and this helped. Sometimes we can do nothing by ourselves...

    I'll also pray for you and thank you for your blog! ox

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've read what I've written and I think I need to correct something - exorcist do not heal the claustrophobia nad that's no the point ;) But the thing is somebody has to recognise what it is - is it human (claustrophobia is human) or spiritual nature.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello Kasia - I'm so happy you joined in on the conversation! Thank you for your kind words and investment in this story. Please come back often and join the conversations!

    I have spoken to many, many, many people about it. I am currently in a Christian community and have received much prayer. I have also asked my many close Christian women and family members to pray for me.

    I think it's agoraphobia. Wikipedia has a good description of agoraphobia. I also think it is a spiritual attack ... or could be taken as a spiritual attack. God can use it for his glory, but I am also in a place of great weakness.

    You have a good point though. When we go home to our home church, perhaps I should go right to the pastor for prayers of healing.

    I tried to read your blog but alas, I don't speak Polish! Thanks for coming!

    ReplyDelete
  11. :)

    Thank you for your visit and sorry it's only in Plish. I speak fluently German (which I studied at the university) and I think my English is too poor to write my blog also in English :( Maybe I'll try (again)...

    P.S. You can use google translator,it's often very very funny ;)
    P.S.2. My last post is about my trip to Italy.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Amen Sister! You are so beautiful. I really love how you shared all this with everyone so openly. You are exposing yourself and that is a way you can heal!!
    Sounds like you also have a little bit of agoraphobia in that too. . which I've had for years which is why I avoid going to NYC as much as possible. I get sick every time I go because of the fear I get of the crowd. . . but at the same time I am very into socializing and being around people so it is weird!!

    Anyway back on to you with your God situation. . .I really am glad thatThe Lord is working on you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have a very similar anxiety problem. I think it's one of the reasons why mega-churches freak me out. There's way too many people.

    And I have major anxiety whenever I have to make a phone call, especially to someone I don't know (calling Verizon or for a pizza delivery). If I've ever called you on the phone, know that I had to spend a good 10 minutes trying to stay calm before dialing the number, even though I know you (and then feel completely ridiculous once whoever I'm calling answers and everything is fine). Oddly enough, answering the phone isn't as strenuous for me...

    I've been trying to delve more into learning what God's idea of and plan for "community" is. I think it's been helping because, as I'm sure you know, God wants his people to interact with one another. Life is relational, with people and with God. So, I guess if I want to please God, I probably need to be a tad bit more social. And it seems to be getting easier with practice... That is a blessing at least.

    I'll add your anxiety to my prayer list. I'm sure it'll be easy to remember when I'm praying for my own. =)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi, I'm Kasia and I'm from Poland, I think we don't know each other. Yet;)But anyway... I think it might be claustrophobia what you have(?). I suffer from this and I hate crowds or going to caves. I just can't, because I have the impression I'm going to suffocate (have no idea if this is correct English, sorry ;) ).

    And have you spoken to some priest from your church about this? I have read your post on Ruby-Eyed-Okapi and I think your condidtion today has a lot to do with your past. I had problems and I landed at exorcist (I'm Roman Catholic and here only a priest who is chosen by the bishop is allowed to be an exorcist - there are many people who claim to be "exorcist" but they aren't and they can damage our spirits even more) and this helped. Sometimes we can do nothing by ourselves...

    I'll also pray for you and thank you for your blog! ox

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello Kasia - I'm so happy you joined in on the conversation! Thank you for your kind words and investment in this story. Please come back often and join the conversations!

    I have spoken to many, many, many people about it. I am currently in a Christian community and have received much prayer. I have also asked my many close Christian women and family members to pray for me.

    I think it's agoraphobia. Wikipedia has a good description of agoraphobia. I also think it is a spiritual attack ... or could be taken as a spiritual attack. God can use it for his glory, but I am also in a place of great weakness.

    You have a good point though. When we go home to our home church, perhaps I should go right to the pastor for prayers of healing.

    I tried to read your blog but alas, I don't speak Polish! Thanks for coming!

    ReplyDelete