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Allison Althoff
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Natalie Lederhouse
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June 1, 2010

When I Was in a Besieged City

We are not alone in our fears.

Hopefully you’ve tasted the blessedness of bringing sin into the light of Christ’s love and the fellowship of gracious believers. The step of coming out of the shadows is a challenging one to take—to show we are empty, crooked, and dark. And sometimes even seeing this darkness in us takes a long time; sin desensitizes us as it often subtly invades. And for different reasons, sin causes us to lose some connection to the life outside of our broken selves. This, I believe, is the scariest part.

In the same way that sin curls us inward and slowly silences us, so does fear and anxiety. The places in us that are governed by worry and panic take control of our minds and suck our attentions and demeanors into that darkness. And as with sin, the more we invest in our fears, the more we nourish them.

For the last four years, I’ve been struggling with the darkness of anxiety. Where I once relegated those consumed-with thoughts about death to the fringe Goth kids in my high school, I’ve come to wonder at anyone who doesn’t interpret day-to-day goings on through a sharp awareness of mortality. I am constantly expecting the next tragedy that will turn my life upside-down—the news or the accident that will change my course completely and break my heart.

Strangely enough, but consistent with the nature of fear, these haven’t seemed like thoughts worth sharing: they come in and out of my mind so regularly and so unbidden. I sit with them, mull over them, follow their channels as if hungry for what is worst. I am often afraid, but what is there to say or do about it?

As hidden sin has a way of manifesting itself—even against my own will—so, too, my anxiety has recently begun to take its very physical toll on me; perhaps my body has simply grown weary under the weight of it. The thought patterns that have become so normal to me are in reality such a strenuous game—one that drains my thoughts, my spirit, and my body. Several times now I’ve been driving on the interstate and have found myself unable to breathe well. I’ve had to pull onto the shoulder, feeling I would black out. And this has begun to transfer to more mundane contexts: sitting at my desk at work, taking my dog for a walk, lying down to sleep at night.

This experience became so prevalent so quickly that in the midst of it, I didn’t know if I could ever have my life back. King David suffered attack and abandonment in a besieged city. I felt utterly invaded and taken over, and with him cried out, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight’” (Psalm 31:21–22).

But “blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously show his steadfast love.” Though we be invaded and dwell in a darkened cell, we are welcome elsewhere. We are actually invited and waited-for in the light and life of true fellowship.

After recently confessing a sin I had committed against someone I respect very much, this friend didn’t sentence me to more jail time but offered me a welcome—a welcome into a new place of life with the community of those washed in the blood of our gracious Savior. And when I finally broke under my panic, and sat shaking in the doctor’s office, I wasn’t met with blank and isolating expression. The nurse’s nurturing voice and compassionate eyes let me know I did not have to bear my fear alone: “You came to the right place.”

Please share your own experiences of breaking out of the bondage of isolation, and let’s mutually encourage one another.

Related Tags: Loneliness

Comments

Thank you for your authenticity and sincerity. You have put on paper what so many godly women struggle with. Since God created us in a multi-faceted design, our panic, fear, and anxiety are best seen through that lens ... there's not just 1 reason why I am anxious, it's usually a combination of reasons ... often stemming from our genetic makeup and what we've seen modeled for us as children.

Yes, there is a spiritual component to all this ... and a physical one, too. As we make use of what the medical field can offer to us, we are better able to be in the place where we can examine what our fear is truly about and begin to make choices that bring us health and wellness.

Thank you for opening this dialogue. If most of us are honest, we'll admit that we've been there, too.

Sarah, thanks for your beautiful post and for your transparency. I think anxiety is often not talked about, but is far more common than we realize. I applaud you for opening yourself up to others and seeking help. I think the more we bring these thoughts out of the darnkness and into the light, the quicker we can grab control of our thoughts and work towards peace of mind.

Dear Sarah.. I can empathize with you as I spent a year of my life living with much of symptoms that you have described. To this day I do not know what brought on these feelings of constant anxiety – I only know that extremely difficult as the experience was, I would not exchange that time for anything. I learned to lean totally on the Lord, no one was there to help me. I had to depend entirely on God’s grace. To this day, I do not know how I could have gotten through such a dark period of my life without God’s presence. By going through that time, I discovered how God is faithful, and I learned that if He could take me through that, He could take me through anything. I pray for you, dear sister. I know He holds you in the palm of His hand.. and “this too shall pass.”

Sarah,
The Holy Spirit works in ways that may seem strange to us...I say that because I have been doing some journaling along the lines of living in fearful times...And for those of us who are senior citizens and are faced with monumental choices, fear can be a very real factor in making those choices..Not only is there the factor of the downward spiral of the economy--the stock market fell another 300+ points yesterday---but the physical infirmities that come with advanced age and having to face the facts of not being able to tackle all the things that we used to do physically--all lead to an atmosphere of fear and lots of "what if's". As I've been looking at some major decisions, I've been almost paralyzed by fear...and have resorted to procrastination, and have had to face the facts that my faith may not be as strong as I thought that it was...
In many ways I see myself as the children of Israel were, living in the wilderness. When Joshua and Caleb were willing to tromp on into the Promised Land, the rest of the people weren't...because of fear...even though God had specifically promised them everything...and they had a daily, physical presence of Him in their midst...yet their fear made them more willing to return to a life of slavery in Egypt, rather than step out in faith to a land of promise...
Similarly, I see this time in our National life as being the wilderness, and certainly this time in my spiritual life is tied up in the slavery that I know, vs. the freedom that truly living by faith would provide...Why is that? The demons that we've adjusted to---albeit with poor health and lots of emotional ramifications--seem more harmless than the fear of the unknown...even when that unknown is a promise of God's presence, His provision, and blessings...
For me, at this point, the human condition makes no sense, especially when compared with the spiritual condition that God is offering. Yet, here I sit...
You and I may have different methods of dealing with our fears, and both may lead us to the help that we need, but ultimately, the help--whether medical or spiritual--comes from God as He always sends us what we need---just as He did for the children of Israel in the wilderness...It's just up to both of us to face our fears and accept the help..Your working on it is an encouragement to me..
Thanks, and Blessings...

Yes, I also have struggled with anxiety and God in His grace delivered me. I memorized bible verses that spoke about not being anxious and as these truths penetrated my mind God removed my anxiety and fear. Every so often the devil tries to bring fear into my life and I cling to the truth in God's word...through Jesus we are more than conquerors...He does set us free and after being through the tough times it makes us more compassionate towards others...

After being on anti-depressants for 11 years, I am trying to lower my dosage. After a childhood including severe abuse and then the raising of a son with autism, mental retardation, and OCD, there have been many opportunities for anxiety despite knowing Christ for 33 years. Our flesh does not die easily and being aware of our thought life is a big factor in overcoming fear. I have also found that there are just as many reasons for thankfulness, if we can turn our eyes there....continuing the walk of faith is always the same. Childlike dependence, sitting still at Christ's feet instead of running, and realizing when our thoughts are straying from His truth are all key in our growth. There is nothing that gets our attention more quickly than a panic attack.....God bless you in your journey!

Sarah,

Thanks. I know of no more powerful word than that to express what is in my heart after reading your article. I have struggled with anxiety and panic for seven precious years...years I cannot get back. What is normal one day is overwhelming the next. My best advice is advice you have already followed, which is to get some help. Without attacking this condition, it will worsen. Believe me, I know. My life is constantly reduced by my fears, and I find myself in the position of never knowing what will bring the anxiety on. The best advice I was given was to feel the fear and do it anyway. Do it afraid! The worst thing you can do is to shrink away from that which scares you, because in doing that, you feed the fear. It reinforces the belief that there is something to be afraid of! Personally, I am in counseling and working on addressing my fears and phobias. Scary stuff! And I have chosen to do it without medication. Personal decision, everyone must do what's best for themselves.

Being transparent is such an important lesson, and one I wish I had learned years ago. I was so ashamed and embarrassed! It was humiliating to admit I couldn't stay home alone anymore, or that I couldn't drive anymore. It's still embarrassing, but I've told everyone now. Thanks for the timely reminder, as I sometimes revert back to my old habits of "hiding" the bad days from those who could support and encourage me.

Although this condition has been frustrating, I am grateful for what God has used it for. Through the terror and thick fog of anxiety, I found Him in a way I never would have before. He is revealing Himself to me as the greatest strength, a strength I cannot hope to have apart from Him. His peace is like no other. And so, in the end, I cling to Him and His promises, and I know I will see the day when this is but a distant memory.

I pray for you and for all the women suffering from this condition. I pray that we will all find a way out through God. I wish you a calm and peaceful heart and spirit, and I do for us all.

Thank you for sharing! I think that as women, we are especially good at hiding things and appearing strong, so sometimes it feels like we're the only ones that deal with anxiety or other issues. I agree and know what you mean about anxiety slowly sneaking in and taking control of our lives until we can't handle it anymore. I have been going through a season where God has been revealing to me how fear of failure and rejection and lies Satan has planted in my head regarding those things, has controlled so much of me. It's made me this crazy perfectionist who never gives myself a break! And I'm never good enough to please myself. And it seems like all the sudden my body, mind, and emotions have had enough. I'v never been more drained in my life and I'm realizing I need to change and start believing God's truth over Satan's lies. As the Word says, "The truth will set you free."

I sat as if stunned after reading your words. I often wonder what my family would say if i shared what I have experienced in terms of fears and anxiety. Fear and anxiety have vied for my very being. But I have been determined to fight back and take what is rightfully mine through our Lord Jesus christ. Peace. Peace is my gift of God and I refuse to turn it over to satan or allow him to hold me hostage in my own home and in plain view of my precious family. It is so good to read the many comments of women just like me who have struggled with this. My encouragement for all who read this is-don't give up! pray, talk, read God's promises, speak them and stand your ground. Love and prayers...

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