- Patricia Holbrook For the AJC
Hi. My name is Patricia and I am a recovering anxious Christian.
I hid behind the smile and said everything was great, even though my world was falling apart.
I lied to myself that I could handle one more item on my to-do list, even though I knew I was about to hit a wall and crash.
And I believed that my anxious days were behind me, only to find out that anxiety may be my thorn in the flesh. ‘Til Kingdom come.
I was sitting in my church’s choir rehearsal this week, skimming through the crowd of familiar faces, wondering how many of them struggle with similar issues.
Anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disease — there’s no question that the tentacles of these ominous conditions reach past our church walls to afflict even God’s most faithful servants.
In my case, stress and celiac disease are a deadly combination that mess up my brain chemistry. If I am not careful, I can easily get back into a familiar down-spiraling cycle. It doesn’t help at all that God has given me a Type-A personality, making me someone who has a hard time turning down commitments and activities. I’m my own worst enemy. We usually are.
I don’t know how other religions deal with these “unmentionable” diseases, but I do know that, among Christians, there seems to be a dooming cloud lingering above the subject.
People do not talk about it.
Many Christians secretively believe that they are supposed to always rise above anxiety and depression. Because the Bible is the only remedy we need.
Don’t get me wrong — I believe these words. Oh, how I know these words to be true!
Countless have been the days when God’s word was my only solace. Its soothing truths, piercing through the darkness, brought a smile to my face. The joy of the Lord became my strength in many a valley.
I know it too well.
But the truth of the matter is — we live in a fallen world. And our souls abide in a fallen body. And sometimes, even though our faith is still strong … even though we still trust God with all our heart, our circumstances become too stressful to bear.
That’s when the stress of our environment (whether self-imposed or not) impact our brain’s chemistry, sending signals that are translated into feelings of anxiety or lingering sadness.
So, today I would like to take a moment to stand up for those of us who have suffered or are suffering from the impact of stressful circumstances, and just say it:
You are not alone.
There are thousands of people who love God — including pastors, priests, rabbis, award-winning religious writers and counselors — who have struggled or struggle with these ailments.
It’s important that we know that anxiety, depression, or any of these terrible conditions do not define who we are. Rather, they can become tools to bring us closer to God.
The apostle Paul — the man whose ministry propelled Christianity to explode throughout Europe and beyond in the first century — confessed to the Corinthian believers that he struggled with his own “thorn in the flesh.” Something he begged God to remove from his life. Instead, God helped him realize that this thorn, this weakness, whatever it was, was used to keep the apostle humble, struggling in his flesh, and ultimately dependent on his god.
“For when I am weak, I am strong” was his conclusion. Because it was when his weakness exposed the world to his humanness, that God’s grace and power was revealed in his life, carrying him through.
Indeed, to believe that your faith is not strong enough because of a weakness, is to fall for a lie. A lie that may prevent you from reaching out, seeking help, and finding the healing and peace that your body and soul desperately need.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and international speaker. Her book, “Twelve Inches,” is on sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and retailers worldwide. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com.