Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Struggles & the Gospel's Remedies (Part II)

Yesterday I talked about my struggles with anxiety and how the gospel helps me to get through it. I want to follow-up that post by talking more specifically about my struggles and how I have learned to deal it with it along the way.

One of the things I have learned about when my anxiety begins to intensify is that I am usually tired, stressed, not exercising properly, or dealing with a specific situation that is causing me to worry. I can go months without the least bit of a problem and then find my heart-rate rising in some weird random situation, and I immediately begin to examine my life to see where I am out-of-balance. An example of this is my plane ride home last week from Kansas City. Leading up to the flight home I found myself getting anxious about the flight. One of the things that often triggers my anxiety is the feeling of claustrophobia. The thought of being on a cramped airplane and unable to get off it for at least two hours started my mind and heart to racing. The interesting thing about this is that I had been on three flights in the previous two weeks that did not create this anxiety at all. My family and I flew to Orlando and back home. Then I flew to Kansas City to speak at a Youth Camp for two weeks. None of these flights created anxiety in me. But as I found myself heading to the airport to fly home, I already sensed the anxiety beginning. After two weeks of preaching, I was physically exhausted. I was tired. This was a trigger. As I boarded the plane my heart started pounding through my chest as I realized it was a jam-packed flight. I sat by the window with two other guys on the row with me. It was the definition of being trapped in a tight space.

As I sat in the seat of the airplane and watched person after person continue to board the flight, I had thoughts of getting off. I had thoughts of ordering some wine to knock the edge off. I had thoughts of going into a full board panic-attack. But as I sat in the seat, thinking all these thoughts, to the ignorance of everyone else on the flight, I started to pray. I started by telling God that I did not want to look to any other source of strength than Him. I shared honestly with God my fears, however irrational, and that I needed Him. I began reminding myself that even this struggle was part of my sanctification process. By being in a position where I could not control how I was feeling, I was forced to recognize my deep dependence on God. I was forced to remind myself of my lack of strength. It was a hard lesson to grasp, but I had to learn that God had me right where He wanted me, turning to Him, when I was tempted to turn toward something or someone else.

We need to understand something: our struggles and challenges, whether physical or emotional, can be used by God to teach us dependence and submission to Him. They teach us that we are still in process, we have not arrived. They teach us to look toward the day when these struggles will be no more. But while they still exists, they teach us that God works through them to work on us. I am going to say something that some of you may not agree with, but I am learning first hand to be true: the anxiety that I struggle with is a gift from God. It is a thorn in my flesh that I have prayed be removed and taken from me, but God continues to remind me that His grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. So I boast all the more in my weakness, for when I am weak, He shows Himself to be strong. My flight home became a moment of worship and communion with God, as He showed me that He is indeed enough.

Questions: What types of worries, struggles, or situations in your life are you trying to learn to apply the gospel to? Why is it that we often try to fix things ourselves or with methods other than applying the gospel?

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