Article by: Marianne Ennis, Director of Communications
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
I have struggled with anxiety and depression on and off for most of my life. Over the past two years, the anxiety has been a monkey on my back that I can’t seem to shake. It whispers in my ear constantly things like, “What if,“ “If only,” “You aren’t good enough.” It is so heavy; I feel the weight with every step and sometimes, with every breath.
I have discovered a few things that it doesn’t seem to like, and it seems to loosen its grip and so becomes easier to shake off.
1. An oldie, but a goodie – I count my blessings. It brings me to the here and now. I start with the basics. I thank God for where I am in that moment. I thank Him that my husband and I have a roof over our heads. Not only that, but we both have jobs – that we love! Our vehicle is still reliable, our furnace hasn’t broken down, we can pay our bills, and we have food in our cupboard. I thank God that we have both been blessed with good health!
2. I stop my brain from worrying about tomorrow or the following weeks, months or years. My prayers become desperate when I spiral in worry, pleading with God. So, I heave myself out of the pit, and change it from begging to praising! It’s not easy, and it takes work amid the panic. I thank Him for what He is doing right now, in that very moment, in that situation. I thank Him for His work in the spiritual realm that I cannot see. I acknowledge that although the circumstances I see in the physical realm are causing me angst, He is in control, and I can trust Him. I thank God that He hears my prayers, and I thank Him for answered prayer in advance.
3. I visualize myself taking the particular person or circumstance to the foot of the cross. I envision Jesus taking them/it from my hands and filling my hands with His peace, comfort and hope. If it’s a person I am worried about, I picture Jesus lovingly holding them.
4. A colleague at work told me about a vision she had – of Jesus talking to the Father about her concerns – interceding for her. That is a new strategy that I have been using! Envisioning Jesus interceding for me. So powerful!
5. When I lose myself in worship to a favourite song, I feel the walls that I erected all around me melt away. There is something so healing about letting go and weeping in His presence.
6. Scripture – I have favourite scripture verses on sticky notes at my desk and index cards on my nightstand at home. I cling to them, and when I am too upset to pray, reading them seems to help.
It’s hard work to shake anxiety off, but when I do these things, it’s easier to fling it off of me. Then, even if it’s only for a few minutes, or an hour, or a day – I see more clearly, and I can breathe. I know that God will give me the grace I need to get through the next few minutes, the next hour, or the next day.
I became a Christian and started attending Living Stones Church when I was 25 years old. I remember reading “Transforming Grace” by Jerry Bridges and marvelling at God’s grace. My 25-year-old self had no idea, at that time, the things life would throw at me in the future. I wouldn’t have dreamed that my 55-year-old self would be on staff at Living Stones Church, where I found Jesus, sharing about God’s marvellous grace. I recently read an online devotional from “Girlfriends in God” on grace. She had a dog named Grace, and during hard times Grace would walk with her as she tried to clear her head. It gave me such a beautiful picture of God’s Grace, and I can now visualize grace as a sweet, golden retriever, lovingly following me and comforting me through the years. Putting her head on my lap and nuzzling me when I’m sad or anxious, and bringing me the leash to drag me out for a walk when I am feeling hopeless. She has quietly and faithfully walked with me through many years of chaos, trauma and grief. God has always given me the perfect portion of grace when I needed it, and that grace has even extended to family members who don’t understand the fierce and tender love that the Creator of the Universe has for them.
Even through the anxiety and division of Covid, I have learned to look for the daily Manna of God’s grace, and I still marvel at it, just like my 25-year-old self did back in 1992. Even though the path ahead isn’t always clear and has unexpected twists and turns, grace will lovingly guide me.
I am blessed to be a part of Grace Groups at Living Stones Church. These mental health support groups are for adults living with mental health issues, High School Youth living with mental health issues, and for supporting loved ones who are walking with someone through their mental health journey. To learn more about Grace Groups, click here: https://www.livingstones.ab.ca/grace/