When I was eight years old I remember laying in my bed at night and crying over all the possible things that could go wrong. I cried for every person I knew that smoked because what if they died of emphysema? I’d stay up worrying about if my baby brother would grow up to like me, and I’d fret about mosquitos giving me AIDS (no joke, I was terrified!). I was never a risk taker in my teen years, too many things could go wrong. My biggest risky behavior was to drive
a tad over the speed limit… and I got busted for it WAY too many times!
Fast forward to becoming a mother, and this anxiety hits in the deepest depths of my mind. I’ll never forget that moment that I first had the overwhelmingly panicky, fearful moment. My oldest child (only child at the time) was only about 7mo old and we were driving along Mammoth Mountain in California. The snow had piled so high along the sides of the road that the road was narrow and the cliff was right there! It was beautiful… to some… to me it was our death trap! The higher we drove on the mountain, the more I glanced back at my baby, and the more scared I became until finally I blurted out, “TAKE ME HOME!!! I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE, NOW!” I shocked my husband and myself.
I do not have anxiety at a clinical level. But I have moments of complete fear, to the point of tears, and I begin to lose sleep over all of the what ifs. Last night was one of those nights. In about 3 weeks we’re returning to one of my kids’ favorite places, and one of my biggest fears. Wisconsin Dells. You see, for people like me, large crowds and 4 kids spark anxiety. Swimming pools spark anxiety. Add those things together and you’ve got it, I’m up at night with anxiety filled dreams, and a list of what ifs a mile long.
But, this isn’t our first time to Wisconsin Dells’ crowd filled, death traps upon death traps of water slides and pools (sorry… ), and it most likely won’t be my last. I made a decision a long time ago, as I’ve been dealing with this for 13 years now, not to allow this issue of mine to rob me of the wonderful fun my family has. It isn’t easy. My dreams are vivid, life-like, and scare me to the point of tears almost every single night leading up to this trip… but they won’t overcome me.
Anxiety and trust cannot coexist. If I want to honor God by trusting him with the things most valuable to me, my kids, I have to take captive every single anxious thought. Trusting God is not as easy as typing that out. It takes practice, discipline, and constant attention to the destructive thoughts that come in order to push anxiety like mine aside and choose to trust God.
Many people do not like this idea. They don’t believe they have control over the thoughts that come in their minds. They take the motto of “It’s too hard” instead of “Be anxious for nothing”. And to be honest, it offends them to read something like what I am typing. When we struggle to overcome something, the last thing we want to hear is that our trust in God is wavering. But there is the truth, and that’s what we have to look at. Anxiety and Trust cannot coexist. And in the midst of a late night battle with anxiety I have to make the choice to either dwell there, give into the thoughts, and feed the anxiety or to trust God to care for and protect my mind, and ultimately me and my children.
“But it’s so hard! The thoughts are so strong, and constant. HOW can I possibly drive them out!?”
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5
So, First, read the Word of God and BELIEVE it when it says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-8 MSG)
You have to replace the anxious thoughts with God trusting thoughts. Believe me there may be days where this is ALL you do in your mind. It’s gruelling, but SO worth it. In the NLT it says, ” Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Part of this process is to remember ways God has protected you, cared for you, and met your needs.
When my 2nd daughter was born I had a hard time laying her in her bed and leaving the room for the night. I was going through a really rough time, we had moved from CA to WI and had no jobs to support us. I was having some trust issues with God and one night when I simply could not pull myself away from her bedside I sat on the floor and cried. I said, “God! How can I trust you when we have no car, we have no jobs, and now two kids, what are you doing here!?” and right there on the floor of my infants room I hashed it out with God. He won of course reminding me of every time he’s met my needs. He reminded me that when I don’t trust, I pull away. And when I pull away, I put an unsafe distance between me and God. God never moved, but I took steps away. And once I began to thank Him for all He’s done, that peace surrounded me and I could trust my daughter in His hands.
I prayed that if something truly warranted my attention that I’d know the difference between anxiety and a call to action. That has proven itself many times over now and I know the difference in the feelings.
After two miscarriages and finally a very difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult birth of our 3rd child, I found out I was pregnant with my 4th. Fear began to creep in. And I chose to not live in fear. So I took this verse in Philippians and put it to practice. Every fear that came up, every what if that tried to steal my joy, I turned into prayer. For example: When I did not feel sick one morning after having severe morning sickness the day before, instead of freaking out because my experience told me that meant miscarriage, I prayed, “I’m so thankful that I feel so good today, Lord. Thank you for the reprieve, but I’m scared. I’m scared that this is a sign of miscarriage, please take care of my baby. I give this baby to you for you hold his future in your hands. I TRUST you and will choose to trust instead of fret.” I did this many times a day. My delivery was so horrible with baby #3 and I’d fret the delivery of # 4 almost every day of the pregnancy, but I turned them into prayer EVERY.SINGLE.TIME until that peace came over me… and that delivery was the easiest of all 4. It was so good!
So I think of those times and I remind myself that God has taken care of our family from the very beginning and he will not stop now. When I wake up at 4am riddled with dream after dream of my children drowning or getting lost, or kidnapped while at the Dells, I get myself up and pray myself through immediately, even if that means missed sleep tonight… tomorrow will be better.
I also pray the scriptures. I believe the Word of God is true. And so I pull out a few scriptures and I pray out loud the TRUTH over my fear. I put my kids’ names in the spots where it makes sense…
- Matthew 6:25-34
- 1 Peter 5:7-11
- Philippians 4:4-7
- Proverbs 3:5-8
- Psalm 46
- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
And if you think about me during the week of June 17th-20th, lift me up in prayer. I would never want to ruin this week of fun for my family because of my lack of trust. I have always enjoyed myself in years past, and I plan to do it again this time.