The Anxiety War

June 18, 2016

Those who know me will tell you that I'm quite a reserved and quiet person when it comes to the public. I dread any activity that requires me to stand in front of people, and loathe even more those that include talking to them. I will be the last person to speak up in a group setting, even if the subject is something that I'm passionate about. I'm lousy at small talk and often find my conversations stagnating in awkward silence. Why? To be honest, I don't know. It's just the way that I've been for as long as I can remember.

I've battled with social anxiety for years now and it's been a constant thorn in my side. It leeches onto my back, sucking out any inkling of confidence that I might have scrounged up. It's a terrible inconvenience; it prevents me from being able to really let loose in a public setting and enjoy myself without having the crippling fear that everyone is watching and judging. It keeps me from developing my relationships past the "acquaintance stage". I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

I think the reason why I despise it so much is because it stops me from speaking to others about God. It bottles me up before I can talk to people about what I'm most passionate about. It keeps me from going out and doing what God has called me to do. There are many occasions where I've had the opportunity to tell others about how truly amazing our Father is; I stay silent because I'm afraid. I'm afraid of being judged, afraid of being rejected, afraid of being offensive. There are many occasions where I've had the chance to do amazing, exciting things or talk to fascinating people but withdraw into myself because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I'll say the wrong thing or do something embarrassing that make me cringe just thinking about it for years to come. 

But I guess, if I'm being brutally honest with myself, these anxieties and fears stem from not fully trusting God. I'm relying on and trying to find the right things to say and do within myself rather than asking Him for wisdom and guidance. Instead of leaning on Him, I'm standing on my own wobbly legs which will always give out. 

There's nothing wrong or sinful about being anxious; Psalm 56:3 says, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You" not "I never struggle with fears and anxieties". I know something that I used to worry about was that having social anxiety meant that I wasn't truly a Christian because I still had so many fears. But we aren't perfect; there will always be moments where we have to grapple with our inner demons but the Bible throws us a lifeline: God.

A passage that has really encouraged and empowered me, in cases where anxiety has me tongue-tied, is Exodus 4: 10-11. Moses is trying to push away the leadership role God put him in by saying that he isn't a good speaker and he doesn't have words to say. But God tells him that "who gave human beings their mouths?...Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say". Although I knew the story of Moses well, I had never seen these particular verses before ever. It felt like God had reached down and gently nudged me like "Hey. Stop being silly. I'm here to help."

 Like driving in a heavy rainstorm with no windshield wipers, anxiety and fear blur our vision. They prevent us from seeing that God is right there beside us, never once looking away. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to hand our anxieties over to God because He cares for us. Just like how windshield wipers get rid of the rain blocking our view, when we go to God with our fears, His love and promises wipe them all away. 

Defeating anxiety is an uphill battle, and for me, one that I can't see the end to just yet. But, when we are plagued by fear and anxiety, remember God's promises; remember His promise to give you the words to say, remember His promise to take care of you, remember His promise to always be with you forever, even until the end of the age. We are fighting a tough war my friends, but with our Father's help, we will overcome. That's a promise.

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