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My Struggle, Not My Story

Welcome Maddy Rose to the blog this week. Read below as she shares with us her struggle with anxiety and the rock she learned to lean on.

To the Christian Battling Anxiety,

I see you. I know what it feels like to have a brain that can never seem to find the do not disturb button, thought patterns that look reminiscent to the tornado that swept Dorthy and Toto away in the Wizard of Oz, and physical mannerisms that occasionally mirror that of a baby chihuahua. I know what it feels like to walk into a party, cafeteria, or coffee shop and immediately be filled with anxiety. I know what it feels like to stand at the front of a lecture hall before an important presentation and become paralyzed by fear. I know what it’s like to have a brain whose peace has been kicked to the curb and been evicted by worry. I know the war within all too well. 

I have battled anxiety for as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl, I would have sleepless nights, worrying about everything from my family’s safety to whether or not I would pass my spelling test in Mrs. Carpenter’s class the following day. From a young age, I accepted anxiety as my story, that it would always be this way. As I entered into middle school (*cue ominous music*), my anxiety really took a Tony Hawk style kickflip for the worse. My body became so ransacked by worry that my health was in danger and my ability to function (much less survive middle school) became hijacked. It was here, between a rock and a hard place, that I experienced desperation like never before. The good news? I have learned the hard way that nothing forces us to recognize our dependence on God quite like desperation. I began to realize that funny enough, rock bottom is one of the best places we can find ourselves because Jesus quite literally is the rock (and yeah, He coined that name far before Dwayne Johnson). And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to find myself between a rock and a hard place, I want the rock to be the rock that cannot be shaken

It was at this rock bottom moment in my life that I realized that even with the best YouTube meditation videos, deep breathing exercises, and community, I could not climb this mountain alone. I’ll never forget the night my parents walked into my 13-year-old bedroom (that was ironically peace sign themed), sat on my bed, and told me that they wanted me to see a mental health counselor. Being the ripe age of 13 and hyper-aware of how literally anything and anyone might perceive me, I was reluctant to this suggestion, to say the least, but I loved my parents, so nonetheless I went to therapy, feet dragging. It was in these sessions with my Christian therapist where I began to see Jesus as someone different from the historical figure I learned about in my Sunday School classes. For the first time in my life, I saw Him as a Friend, as a Comforter, as a Healer, as a Welcomer of my pain. I began confronting the lie from the enemy that I had to fight this battle alone and began recognizing that I had the NBA All-Star Team of spiritual armies on my side. 

Several months after my first therapy session, I gave my life to Jesus for the first time ever, making Him the Lord of my life. Now, I will say, as your friend (because for the record: we are friends now), I have to keep it a hundred with you. You see, while this moment was and always will be marked as the best day of my life, part of me assumed that this decision meant I wouldn’t battle sin or fear ever again. Boy, was I wrong. The refining years that followed revealed to me that while I was a new creation in Jesus, sanctification is a daily process. The reality is: His Word says, “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) This means that life with Jesus does not give us a get out of jail card for sin, but what it does promise is that we will never again have to walk through that trouble alone. Life with Jesus does not mean everything will be easy, (in fact, His Word says we will be challenged because of our faith) but it does mean that everything will be possible. And I do not know about you, but I love being on the winning team. This to me is my Super Bowl. 

Fast forward to now, I am a graduate student at Samford University’s Master’s of Social Work program, studying so I can hopefully make half the difference my therapist made in my life ten years ago. And while the Lord has redeemed and healed me in supernatural ways, I would be a big fat liar if I said I never have anxious days. You see, my battle with anxiety is a daily sanctification and my growth is not linear. In my present life, one of my biggest obstacles is not falling susceptible to the lie from the enemy that “Christians can’t struggle” or that I’m a “second-class” Christian for struggling with anxiety. I have had to learn that anxiety might be my struggle, but it doesn’t have to be my story. In other words, I’m a person who battles anxiety, but I am not my anxiety. I’m a child of God before I am anything else. I have also had to learn that regardless of the stigma that society (or even the Church) has placed around mental health, I serve a Father that welcomes the cries of my heart and grants us an invitation to cast our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). We serve a supernatural God who still performs supernatural miracles and answers supernatural prayers. I have also had to learn, however, that the Lord places people and resources on your path for a reason. For me, in addition to diving into God’s Word and prayer, counseling has provided me with the space and freedom to voice and make sense of my anxieties. I truly believe that the Lord has planted unique gifts and talents in individuals to help those like you and me, who are battling anxiety. And there should be no shame in asking for help. Just think about it: if your friend is struggling with vision problems, you wouldn’t label them as a “second-class” Christian for going to an eye doctor, right? In the same way, why would we not utilize the blessings and gifts that God has given us? 

Throughout my anxiety journey I have come to realize that there is no place on the face of the earth more peaceful than the Father’s presence (not even my peace sign themed middle school bedroom, believe it or not). I have come to realize that my fear doesn’t scare God, but rather He welcomes it. And I have come to realize that anxiety might be my struggle, but it doesn’t have to be the final chapter of my story. So, to the Christian Battling Anxiety, you are not alone. You are not your anxiety. And you are not a “second-class” Christian. You are a child of God. 

Your friend, 

Maddy

Become Maddy’s real life friend by following her @Maddyrosenau

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