Growing up, there was always a sense of urgency to everything I did. I was jumpy, always on edge, much like constantly being attached to a live wire. Things that could have happened swimmingly were tackled with an insistence reserved for emergencies. I was always in a hurry to meet deadlines that didn’t exist. I would arrive places and occasions hours before it began just to wait for the time to begin and then wait some more with everybody else that would show up much later.
If there was a slight problem, although calm on the outside, I was turbulent inside, thinking up all kinds of scenarios that would never happen and exhaust myself mentally, psychologically and even physically. I was suffering from anxiety. And I hated it.
I often wondered how I had found myself in this draining state of mind. I think back to my childhood and I realize that even then, I was a jumpy mess. I grew up with a sense of panic urgency especially where my father was concerned. I am not sure if it had anything to do with his military profession but he didn’t really respect anybody’s time but his own. He would make plans and you were expected to fall in whether or not it was convenient. If we were going out as a family and he was ready to move, we were all expected to be ready to move as well. It didn’t matter that we had chores, needed to eat breakfast, take a shower…none of that mattered.
The person I often felt most sorry for was my mother. As primary caregiver she had to take care of all three of us first before attending to herself. The most prominent memory that comes to mind was Sundays which in most households meant church. It soon became my worst day of the week. It didn’t matter how early we would wake up, we would always run late…according to my father’s timing of course. We would dash out off the house only to get to the church and meet no one there. After so many years of endurance, my mum finally had enough. The moment we got a second car, that mad rush was over. My father would leave before us and we would follow behind a little later. We were the family of five that went to the same places in different vehicles. You would think this would be the end of my mental fidgeting, Far from it. My mind had been conditioned to beat time, to worry situations to perfection.
Young adulthood was no different as all of this translated into my university days as well. In fact it only got worse. You could always pick me out of the crowd. I would be the one speed walking at 10 am to a class that wouldn’t start till noon. I was capable of rational, creative and productive thought, make no mistake, but I would second guess myself, I would over think situations, looking for errors where there were none. I had subconsciously created a standard for every possible situation that no one, not even I could attain. I was never satisfied. I would always think of the future with dread. I was extremely time conscious.
But the older I got, the more I realized I needed to change. I needed to address certain irrational fears in me. I had to confront the fact that certain truths of life were missing from my mind, that I had imbibed a wrong notion into my subconscious which was why I was such an anxious mess. But I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed help. I needed someone to show me a way out to teach me a truth I couldn’t have known otherwise.
The one consistent and most comforting thing in my life has always been my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. There truly is no problem I have ever encountered that I haven’t found either a solution or a management system in the Word. And so I asked God to help me and He answered me fabulously. The Holy Spirit began to disabuse my mind of all the errors It had absorbed by asking me several questions:
- What are you truly afraid of?
- Does worrying address that fear and make it go away?
- Do all the things you worry about ever happen?
- What can you do to make that situation better?
- You will not always be in control of certain situations. How does that make you feel?
After ruminating on these questions honestly and objectively, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle that didn’t exist in the first place. Yes there were problems that needed my attention but at the same time, I could only do so much to handle them.
My deepest fear was to run out of time. I was afraid that I would wake up one day, old and grey, out of time, unfulfilled and unaccomplished. So I raced against time, achieving nothing only to be caught up in time which moved at its same old steady pace. My worrying never made the problem go away. It didn’t make it any better. It only made me sick. There would always be situations outside of my control and worrying myself half to death, none of my negative projections ever happened…okay some did but only a fraction of a fraction.
On the basis of these realizations, the Holy Spirit then led me to the scriptures and revealed to me His word:
Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV)
4. Rejoice in the lord always and I say it again rejoice!
5. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The lord is near.
6. Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
1Peter 5:7 (NIV)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.
Matthew 6:25-27, 34 (NIV)
25. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
34. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow wil worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
28. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.
30. for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John 14:27 (NIV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.”
These were all variations of a single truth, that anxiety is a crippling state of mind that offers no hope of resolution or productivity. I realized how foolish I had been. I had carried a weight I had no business even attempting to lift. All my life I had assumed a position only Jesus Christ was suitable and capable of occupying, a mere man trying to do what only God could do. It wasn’t my fault. Society and life had conditioned me to be that way but it was my responsibility to change my mind set.
It was an epiphany, the moment when I finally understood that there are only so many things you can actually control. Life became a whole lot easier when I started to let things go. I shed dead weight and became lighter. I still have my moments of fear, real or irrational but I always consciously resist the temptation to project them. Sometimes, you just have to let things take their natural course. Your worst expectations often don’t come true. Even when they do, you need to just breathe and let go. Even when you’re not in control, you should not worry. God is always in control.