I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. In a way I’m inured to it; I can go long periods of time simply accepting that it is a part of who I am and just coping. Sometimes this is necessary – I have to realize that I’m not wired in the same way my extremely laid-back husband is, and if I was, I would be someone else entirely. However, at other times my anxiety interferes with the life God has put before me. When this happens, I usually start to do things I know help ease my anxiety. I go to the gym a little bit more and do yoga at night. I meditate on particular scriptures. I try to get more sleep and do things that get my mind off whatever is making me incessantly worry. Most of the time, this only helps a little bit. Then, if I’m listening to the Spirit, He reminds me to pray.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” ~ James 1:5-6 (Message)
I’ll share a recent example. We moved to San Antonio about five years ago, in the middle of a serious drought. I had lived for over a decade in central Austin where, with the exception of a few streets along Shoal Creek, it never flooded. There were no low water crossings in my daily commute and I never gave a second thought to driving in a hard rain. Then, a few years ago, the drought ended with torrential rains. One night I was driving late, by myself with all three of my kids. I wasn’t nervous, but they were uncomfortable with how loud the thunder was and how heavy the rain fell. Once we got off the highway and I was near our neighborhood, a street light wire fell behind us and I saw a good deal of sparks fly. The rain was also coming down so strong I couldn’t see and I wanted to get off the main road. I didn’t realize I was turning onto a street that didn’t drain well – that many streets in our neighborhood didn’t drain well! I was able to get through the water and pull into a church parking lot to wait. The thought of getting stuck in the water, with all the kids, by myself at 9:30 at night in the pouring rain made me terribly anxious. Then the tragic flooding in Wimberley happened just months later. I began to feel anxious any time it rained and I had to drive, or the kids were going to be out in the rain. Over the next year it got worse – if I knew it would be storming on my way to work the next day, I would worry all night. Perhaps somehow we would get swept away in a flash flood, or my littlest would get stuck at daycare and I wouldn’t be able to pick her up. It was an irrational worry, but I couldn’t stop it. I finally decided to pray specifically about this.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” ~ James 5:13-16 (NIV)
The day after I started praying about my rain worries, the weather forecast showed a week of thunderstorms. At first this really upset me. I just wanted a break. I didn’t want to feel sick to my stomach and imagine frightening scenarios; I hoped God would just keep the thunderstorms at bay for a bit. But each time I would start to think irrationally, I would pray and meditate. I really didn’t expect much (another lovely aspect of my personality) but I believed if God didn’t want me to struggle with this, He would change it. I couldn’t. I could only ask Him. Immediately, God began replacing my irrational fears with truth and helping me believe it.
One of the definitions of miracle is “such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.” I’ve driven in the rain and in thunderstorms the past few weeks without anxiety and it truly is miraculous. It seems so sudden and strange (and WONDERFUL) to be relieved of this burden. I know my prayers about anxiety (or anything) won’t always end with God immediately removing an obstacle, but the act of praying itself does something miraculous in us – something gets well as we are pulled into His purposes and reassurances. James is a book rich in instruction about living in faith, and it begins and ends with him exhorting us to pray. Praise God who listens and answers when we speak!