By ANNIE WESCHE
My heart should have been soaring with excitement over the adventure unfolding before me, but instead I was sinking under the oppressive weight of anxiety and fear.
I was on my way to London, England with my mum and auntie, for a few days of proper touristing before we’d make our way north to the beautiful Lake District. There, I would be attending a spring semester at Capernwray Bible School. And with such a significant life-chapter taking me so far out of my comfort zone, my mum and aunt had traveled with me to ease the transition and make some memories on the way. After a few days of sightseeing, they would drop me off at school and head back “across the pond” — leaving me on my own and an ocean away from everything familiar.
I’d been planning to attend this Bible school for over a year, and although I knew it would be a big step for me to travel so far from home, I had underestimated the hold that fear and anxiety had over me.
The battle only intensified on the plane. Flying through the night, crippling doubts and fears harassed me in the darkness. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. What if something happens to me so far from home? What if I get hurt or sick? I can’t do this. I’m not adventurous. What was I thinking? I don’t even stay over at a friend’s house, so what made me think I could attend school in a different country? My stomach churned and tightened, and I became physically sick with worry.
I was able to share all I was feeling with my mum. She knew me well, and that alone was a great comfort … to be safe and loved by someone who really knows you. She reminded me of all the prayer behind this decision, shared truth with me, and spoke of the exciting things that undoubtedly lay ahead. I so badly wanted to receive what she was saying and walk in joyful excitement, but my fears lingered.
We landed in London, took a taxi to our hotel, checked in, and went to our room where we were greeted by the unpleasant smell of settled-in smoke. We all returned to the front desk to inquire about being moved to a non-smoking room. Apologetically, they quickly handed us another key and we moved our things to the new room. But within moments, we discovered something else amiss — I can’t recall if it was the heater, air conditioning, or water but it was enough to require changing rooms yet again.
As we moved from one room to the next it only fed the fires of my anxiety. Nothing is going right, I thought to myself. This whole thing is a disaster. I was seeing everything through a lens of fear, which turned any small inconvenience into a major challenge.
Once settled into our third room, Mum remarked that I should lay down for a rest while she and my aunt went downstairs to arrange some plans for the following day. As they left me alone, I curled up on the bed and began to cry, Oh God, why is this all so hard? I can’t do it, I just can’t. Was it a mistake to come here? What’s wrong with me? Oh, help me, please … I need You to help me.
I was on the edge of 18 and, for most young adults, going off to school was a normal and welcomed part of growing up — but I’d struggled with fear and anxiety for as long as I could remember. While I truly did long to be courageous and chase new experiences, those things simply felt impossible for me.
And yet, God had brought me this far. I had prayerfully applied to school, purchased airline tickets, packed my bags, and boarded the plane. And now I was in England embarking on what held marvelous potential for God’s good plans for my life — if only I could walk in faith over fear.
As my tears slowed, I rolled over and looked up, my eyes landing on the artwork directly above my bed. At first glance it was just an ordinary painting of a countryside castle. However, as I studied it further, there was something familiar about it. Lifting myself up from the bed, I moved closer to read the small inscription underneath — and as I read the words, I was left in awe. It read “Capernwray.” Of all the many castles and estates in England, it was a painting of the very place I was going for Bible school!
I sat back against the wall as a welcome peace began to still my anxious heart. I closed my eyes and thanked God for this reminder of His presence with me. God had moved us from room, to room, to room, and set me down directly under a picture of the very place I was heading. It was as if He was saying, “Don’t fear, dear one, I am with you. I am leading you to this place. Trust Me.”
When my mum and aunt returned to the room, I greeted them with a renewed countenance, “Mum, you won’t believe this. This painting above my bed … do you see what it is? It’s where I’m going to school!”
No further explanation was needed — my mum saw the beauty of God’s tender comfort in this simple evidence of His presence with me in my struggle.
As we went downstairs to go to dinner, Mum stopped at the front desk and asked, “Do all the rooms have the same artwork?”
“No ma’am, they’re all different.”
Mum turned around at looked at me, her eyes sparkling and her smile full. I smiled back.
I still had much to learn about the deliverance from fear and anxiety that God had purchased for me through the death of His Son, Jesus. Yet God had given me grace for that moment — strengthening me to take one step of faith at a time. He had reminded me that I was seen, known, understood, and loved. He saw me. He saw my tears and heard my cries for help. And He was helping me to move forward, by grace, into the freedom that was awaiting me.
I did make it to Capernwray, and that spring semester of Bible school became one of the most pivotal seasons in my walk with Christ! He set me free from the crippling hold of fear and anxiety as I began to really look to His Word, believe Him, and walk in faith.
During my semester, on one of the weekend outings to a small English village, I found myself in the cluttered attic of a quaint antique store. There, amid boxes and boxes of prints, I found a copy of the very painting that had hung above my bed in that London hotel room. It came home with me, and, to this day, it continues to be a beautiful reminder that God saw me in my suffering and lovingly poured out His grace. How thankful I am for His merciful lovingkindness!
In Genesis 16, a woman named Hagar cries out to God in her distressing situation. The Angel of the Lord appears, directing her in what to do and assuring her that the Lord was aware of her suffering. She responds in worship, calling the Lord “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees,” which in Hebrew is El Roi. I am struck by the profound intimacy in this revealed name of God: The God Who Sees.
In Psalm 139, we are assured of God’s perfect knowledge of us. It says that He has known us from the very moment He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knows our sitting down, our rising up, our thoughts, our lying down … He is familiar with all our ways. He has gone before us and behind us, and has laid His hand upon us. And as it says in verse six, “such knowledge is too wonderful” for us to fully comprehend!
Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” These tender, yet mighty assurances are astounding! Really meditate on the words and their meaning. God Almighty speaks to us in our fears, telling us we don’t need to be dismayed because HE is with us. He comforts us, reassures us, and reminds us that He is ours — His strength and help are available to us. And with this knowledge, He gives us a loving and clear command: fear not.
Perhaps you too are battling fear or anxiety — or maybe your struggle is different: unforgiveness, doubt, grief, sickness, loneliness, or something else. Whatever we battle in this fallen world and whatever we encounter in our fleshly nature as He is sanctifying us, we are assured from His Word that we are seen, known, loved, and helped. Throughout all of life’s trials and challenges, may we draw near and become intimately familiar with The God Who Sees. And live in light of this amazing reality.
No matter the struggle we may be facing, God’s Word, His love, and His promises meet us in our need and lead us up from the bonds of sadness, confusion, discontentment, disappointment, fear, anxiety, or whatever our struggle may be.
May we be women who are intimately acquainted with the glorious hope God has revealed to us in Psalm 139, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 56:3–4, Nahum 1:7, Psalm 46:1, 2 Timothy 1:7, and so many, many others throughout His most precious Word.
This article was originally published in Issue 39.
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