I have been fighting, writing what I am about to tell you. Not out of shame, embarrassment, or fear. But to say I know, or understand in its entirety the subject, would be a lie. However, the more and more I fight it, the more and more I come to realize this is a true issue for people, and not only people who aren't in ministry. But, (gasp) people who are in ministry too. So, here it goes from the other side. From the perspective of someone who hasn't struggled, but has seen first hand someone who is/has.
Anxiety. Fear. Depression. Do I understand it, no. Have I seen it, yes. My husband, you know, the one who is a pastor. Yes, him. He had anxiety. Don't get hung up on the had. I know many of you are probably thinking, had? How did he get rid of it. Well he didn't get rid of it, but let me not ruin the end of this blog for you. A year and a half ago we stepped down from the church we planted back in 2009. Anxiety had come like a thief in the night to steal, kill, and destroy. One day, something just wasn't right. For those of you who struggle with anxiety, you probably know what I am talking about when I say something just wasn't right.
We decided to step down from pastoring, and go into a self induced season of rest, for a time of healing. I looked forward to it, because to me it looked like a mini vacation. Well what turned out to be a mini vacation turned into a whole lot more. The season went from healing, to growth, to healing, growth, healing, and healing, and more healing. I didn't understand what was happening. The growth was tough for me, but it was worth it. The healing, another story. I thought it would happen in a week, a month, a year, but it wasn't a method, or a "ah ha" moment. It was and is a process.
For people who struggle with anxiety, the fear is very real to them. And for those of us who have a spouse with it, it is very confusing to us. If you have anxiety, you feel alone, like no one understands you. However, when you don't have anxiety, you feel like, why can't this person just get things together. It can be very frustrating on both ends. It is taxing on the person's health, marriage, family, and just about every other area of their life. It can also be taxing on those around the person. It is frightening to see someone who has been a solid rock, and leader, suddenly fearful and burdened with anxiety.
If you are like me, around someone with anxiety, the best thing you can do is encourage and pray for them. I don't know how many times I have told my husband, "I feel like I am preaching your sermons back to you." It was frustrating. I would question a lot of things over the the next year after stepping down. Questions like, "Do you believe God is who he says He is? Do you believe the sermons you preached? Do you believe He can heal you?" All very honest questions, for someone who just doesn't understand what is happening. But, when I asked my husband what helped him, because I honestly never felt like I ever could do anything to help. He said, encouragement, and prayer. I was always encouraging him, and preaching all his sermons right back to him. Even when it felt like nothing was working. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of "I give up" moments. Goodness, probably more giving up, than I had anything else. But the power of prayer and encouragement can shift one's perspective from fear to faith.
On the way to church the other morning my husband and I were discussing, what do you think the root of anxiety is? I said, lack of faith. Like him, those of you with anxiety are probably just a tad offensive to that answer. But hear me out, anxiety is fear. Fear is lack of faith. When Peter walked on water, He had faith, but then something happened. Fear hit him, anxiety came in when he looked around at those waves. He began to sink because of his fear and anxiety. What happens next is key. What did Jesus say when He picked Peter back up? "You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?"
I do wish there was a 1-2-3 step I can give you to get over anxiety. And there well possibly could be one. But, I will leave that to someone smarter. If you find it, let me know. And for you super religious ones, don't say they need Jesus. We all need Jesus, amen? We all have our "stuff" whether it is anxiety or something else. But, I will say there are some things that have helped my husband tremendously. Going gluten free is one. In our bodies, you will find that when something is wrong, most is caused and started in our gut. So fixing the issue in our guts, can resolve a multitude of issues. Second, praising and worshipping God when anxiety comes on. We heard a sermon recently by Pastor Louie Giglio about his anxiety he had a few years back, and what he did when anxiety would come. Third, bringing the anxiety that is hidden to the light. Confessing, and talking about it can be a major game changer in healing. It can also make you more aware that you are not alone. Because, it is in the light, you will now have the voice to speak into and encourage others who are walking through what you are walking through, ultimately giving God the glory.
So when I say my husband" had" anxiety, its true. He had it. Does he have in now, no. Will he have it tomorrow, I don't know. I would love to say with certainty no. But, I will say through eating differently, bringing things to the light, and praising Jesus through the storm, anxiety is less and less. I can't remember the last time he had anxiety and a panic attack. Praise God for His grace, and love that when we fall like Peter, He is right there to pull us back up and remind us, He is enough for us. Jesus is enough.
Here are a couple resources we found handy while walking this journey.
1. Louie Giglio- Anxiety & Depression Sermon (skip to 10:50 when he begins sermon)
2. Dr Axe Blogs (Health & Wellness)
xo a girl who sleeps with the pastor