“Testimony” is a word that I grew up hearing all the time. “What is your testimony? Would you share your testimony?”
It’s always been a hard concept for me to define, because it seems to me that a testimony is almost a living thing. It is supposed to summarize what God has done in your life and your faith walk, and that’s something that changes over time. And so I’ve been struggling with the concept that my testimony has definitely changed throughout my life. How can I accurately portray my testimony one year, if it might not be the same the next?
With that thought in mind, I would like to share the testimony that I have held in my heart for the past few years. It isn’t the same one that I stuttered out when someone asked me when I was younger, but I think its shows where God has been leading me throughout my entire life and it can be summed up with one sentence.
I am a strong Christian woman who has suffered from anxiety for most of my life.
I grew up in a family of four, the youngest by seven years. I was a die-hard introvert and bookworm growing up. I found that as soon as I could read, I preferred the characters in books to all other people. That’s evident in everything I do today, including my work. I am an editor for TouchPoint Press. My love of writing came out of my love for reading. It was always fun and relaxing and, in a way, very cathartic.
Aside from the books that were glued permanently to my hands, I had two other distinguishing features: my red hair and my anxiety. My whole life has been like one giant emotional roller coaster for me. I grew up in the Christian faith since birth, and even that was tainted with my anxiety. Growing up, I always thought that there was something seriously wrong with me. I must be tainted or broken somehow. I knew that I could still grow and God could still use me, but, obviously, I just wasn’t right.
This mindset often left me losing the tug of war with anxiety in my mind. I found myself stuck in a pattern through middle school, high school, and my first two years of college. Every time I seemed to make some amount of progress in my life – mental, emotional, phyiscal, social, or spiritual – it wouldn’t be long before I was knocked back two steps in the other direction.
I’m sorry to say that if I had to name one thing that was controlling my life, it was anxiety. Anxiety of the future. Anxiety of the past. Anxiety of others. Anxiety of myself.
By the time I was preparing for college, anxiety had taken root in every aspect of my life. My health was beginning to be affected. I would go through periods of time where I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t be around people. Stretches of time were fuzzy in my mind, everything warped or blank. I was seriously hurting, but I didn’t feel like there was much I could do about it. There is no denying now that it was becoming more and more of a problem.
I have found out in recent years that my struggle with chronic anxiety is one that many of the other female members of my family had to go through, but we each had to do it in our own ways. For me, I had to learn how to be stronger in my life and my faith out of necessity. When I hit junior year in college, I had been faltering under the weight of my anxiety for years, and then I had to add anxiety about moving four hours away from my family to attend SFASU.
Then something strange happened. As I settled into my new life living alone, I began to grow in ways that I hadn’t before. I had to build a support system of people around me, despite my social anxiety. I had to take control of my life, despite all of the mental and physical problems that I faced and the anxiety that I felt about my current actions. My anxiety of the future had to be pushed back so that I could grow in my faith. I kept bible verses taped up around my apartment and on my notebooks for the two years that I lived there. The change in me was palpitable when I visited home. Suddenly, I had opinions, I had my own church family, I had made decisions on my own. I even had a strong, unique personality—if that tells you how far removed I was from everything in my life.
Until my last few semesters in college, I would have said that this was the moment that my testimony hinged on. I had grown up in a Christian household all my life, but it was when I went out into the world that I grew strong in my faith. But the truth is that I hadn’t confronted my greatest enemy – my anxiety, or rather, I hadn’t trusted in God enough to let Him deal with it. It was still in the corner of my mind, constantly turning the wheels.
It was still a relatively equal tug of war match between my chronic anxiety and my faith in the Lord.
Yes, I had stepped forward and addressed other things in my life, growing into someone new, someone stronger, but I hadn’t faced my anxiety head on. It wasn’t this transition period of my anxiety into the light, it wasn’t the strains that anxiety put on my health, my relationships, or my faith walk, and it certainly wasn’t anything that happened in the background over time.
All it took was one plan for the future to take root in my heart and warp the plan that God had, and, I believe, still has for my life. I hope to share this story at a later time. It is hard for me to talk about, because it was a dark period in my life. However, I think I’m really lucky to have such a strong moment that I am able to point to and say there, right there, is when I took a step off the right path and there is where the Lord picked me up and dropped me back down in the midst of His glorious light.
I don’t mean to be vague, but this is something that I hope to share with you over time. Needless to say, my anxiety weighed down on me until I was wading through a pitch dark semester and after the Lord opened my eyes to the truth, I came out, once again, changed. Anxiety still plagues me – chronic anxiety about everything – but I am hitting it head on with Faith, Truth, and Community. I made the decision the summer before my final semester in college, that, with the Lord’s mighty power, I would follow through on my promise to Him, I would not allow anxiety to drag me down into a pit of lies again, and that I would not let this weakness rule my life any longer.
Anxiety is a weakness that all humans have to face on this earth in unequal measures. Anxiety is something that I will have to shoulder my entire life, I am sure of that, but it will not be the master of my life. And I believe that everyone can claim this in their lives.
This is truly the cry of my heart for all of us:
Philippians 4: 4-9 (NIV)— Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Finally, if you would allow me just one more minute of your time here, I would like to end by referencing a post that I put on Facebook at the beginning of this year. I think that it sums up where I am right now. Through my experience in my last semester at school and everything that has happened since graduating – moving twice, getting married, finding my dream job – the Lord has been molding me and growing me. In all the opportunities I have to write – this blog, articles for other websites, books that I’m working on now – I pour myself into the pages for others to read while feeling God working in my own heart. I want to share my heart with everyone. This post sums up where I am now now:
2016 JAR EXPIREMENT
I decided to participate in a little experiment this year. I took two jars – one labeled positive things/praises/blessings and the second one labeled negative things/worries/prayer requests – and placed them on my bedside table along with a pile of note cards.
A few people told me that it was a bad idea to keep a record of my worries, but I had a purpose!
Apparently, I didn’t get big enough jars. They were crammed full of paper by September and I had to limit the number of notes that I added for the rest of the year. However, I’m rather pleased with the results. I’m a little too organized when it comes to things like this. I divided the notes into nine categories over both jars. Here are the results based on the overall percent:
1. Pure Praise – 5.37%
2. Answered Prayers (from both jars) – 48.62%
3. Currently Unanswered Prayers – 5.32%
4. Long-Term Blessings/Lasting Happiness – 11.17%
5. Short-Term Blessing/Little Bursts of Sunshine – 3.72%
6. Long-Term Worries/Lasting Pain – 8.51%
7. Intense/Reasonable but Short-Lived Worries – 14.89%
8. Silly Worries – 10.11%
9. Anonymous/Unanswered Prayer Requests (from both jars) – 8.18%
A lot of emotions washed over me as I poured over my memories of this year, but one thing that’s abundantly clear is that HALF of those jars are filled with the answered prayers requests. HALF! The list of worries that came and went are three times longer than the ones that are still on my mind.
It’s just what I expected to happen. There were about thirty extra slips of paper in the worries jar, but they are like dust in the wind compared to the blessings I have bottled up. A tangible reminder that God is with me, God hears me, and He is more powerful than any worry or trouble. I think I’m going to keep both jars, and I’m definitely going to keep the pile of #3 and #9 notes. I want the satisfaction of dropping them into my praises jar when the right time, the Lord’s time, occurs.
P.S. This has been a wonderful experiment that I would suggest to everyone. Just remember to buy extra jars.