By JASMIN HOWELL
My afternoon nap ended abruptly as I awoke to a constriction in my chest, difficulty breathing, and a general sense of panic flooding through my body. “Something’s wrong…” was all I could say to my husband before I began to weep uncontrollably. I sat on the edge of the bed trying to calm down. I tried taking deep breaths to still my swirling mind … but my chest just felt tighter and tighter. I couldn’t stop crying. My husband took my hand and prayed with me, and as I listened, I suddenly knew that the physical constriction I felt was the result of unchecked anxiety in my life – the accumulation of worrisome thoughts regarding different stressful situations over the past few weeks. I hadn’t been dealing with them properly – turning them over to the Lord in prayer – but instead had allowed them to accumulate in my heart and mind, pushing out both joy and peace. And as a result, the worry and anxiety had grown and taken over.
When my husband finished praying, we called my parents and talked with them as well. They also prayed for me and we all began to talk together about what had transpired in life the past few weeks and months to bring me to this point. As I laid out all that was burdening me, and expressed each thought and care, the constriction in my chest lessened a little more, and the tears started to dry up. In the course of our conversation, it was pointed out to me that many of the concerns, burdens and stresses I named were mostly – if not completely – out of my control. The concerns ranged from financial stresses in our businesses, to discipline issues with my son, to unclear future plans in our living arrangements, to whether or not someone would buy my clients’ houses that were for sale, to why my friends all suddenly seemed too busy to talk or get together.
In each case, my concern and stress centered around ME being the solution. Could I have done something better? Was there something I should be doing and didn’t realize? Or, had I done something that I shouldn’t have? I was so caught in the swirl of the questions of guilt, stuck in a black-hole of hypotheticals … I had completely neglected to take each item to the Lord in prayer. I had been so caught up in trying to deal with the problems, and to solve each one in my limited strength, that my heart and mind simply couldn’t deal with that pressure. Gladly, I was never designed by the Lord to deal with that kind of pressure. Instead, His Word says that He can fill our lives with all joy and peace as we place trust in Him. (See Romans 15:13.)
With the help of my parents and husband, I finally unpacked my heart. I laid it all out and asked the Lord for His comfort and peace. I asked for the ability to trust Him with every unanswered question, each unsolved problem. As the stress of the past few weeks unraveled, so did it’s grip on me! And I discovered, along with the Psalmist, that “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Ps. 94:19 NIV). By turning each need over to the Lord, and placing my trust in His ability, I found rest. And, best of all, joy began to replace my anxiety. It was a joy that came from having my trust placed squarely in Christ, not simply in having a solution to all my problems.
If you are struggling to find a joy that lasts when the circumstances of your life begin to pale and disappoint, then consider joining us in person (or via simulcast) to hear Leslie share about True Joy: How To Have a Heavenly Perspective in any Circumstance. God has given us amazing tools to live with unfading joy, and Leslie will beautifully unpack some of these for us in this session. I hope you’ll join us!