I have experienced anxiety since I was a child, though my case did not take its full constricting form until I was a teenager. During one particular stage in my life, my anxiety prevented me from functioning properly. As I was developing into a young woman, I went through a long period of immense darkness. I was dealing with multiple health concerns, grieving for two family members who had passed away, and I worried constantly about a close family member who was lost in the midst of poor choices.
I was tired, I was confused and I was still adapting to my life as a teenager in my seemingly chaotic life. On Sunday nights I would have terrifying thoughts about the new week and would stare endlessly at the ceiling, begging for sleep that would not come. I would be sick to my stomach as I wandered the halls of my school with my peers. I would come home and silently cry in my bedroom from the irrational thoughts that endlessly tormented my mind each day.
Of course, I told no one other than my immediate family about my daily struggle.
Like many others who suffer from anxiety, I put on a brave face each day. I did not want to burden others with my constant worries. I tried the "fake it 'til you make it" approach in life, and it backfired. Not being able to open up to people was even more crippling during this time of intense anxiety. None of my friends knew how hard it was for me to cope with each passing day. They only saw me as a smiling jokester. Anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses are easily misunderstood. You do not fully understand them until you experience them. But still, I was ashamed of myself for not being able to control my emotions and thoughts. Behind my forced smiles, I felt weak and completely inadequate.
I felt as if God had abandoned me during this troubling time. I could not hear Him among all of the devastating thoughts that shouted in my mind every minute of every day. I could not fathom why He would give me anxiety. There did not seem to be any purpose to why I had to go through such inner turmoil. I would ask Him for strength and for Him to lift my awful burden from me, and I received no such answer. At one point, I gave up and was ready to throw it all away. I was treading in deep water and I could not reach land.
Suddenly, in my most desperate moment, it was as if someone had turned on a light switch in my mind. I finally recognized the answer to my prayers. When I was constantly asking and begging God to take my relentless anxiety away, I did not realize that He had been helping me bear my burden all along. I had been so focused on giving up and finding an easy way out that I had not been listening to God's words of comfort. I did not hear His voice telling me that He was right there.
Why then, did God give me anxiety? This same question can be asked for all afflictions in life. Why did God give him diabetes? Why did He give her a bad liver? Why did He give anyone asthma, cancer or depression? The answer is this: We were all aware of the many trials and tests awaiting us on the earth, and in that knowledge, we were promised we could overcome them with God's help. Trials are apparent in every life, and we encounter them for very specific reasons.
To strengthen others
In my time of deep, anxious thoughts, I was once under the impression that no one understood why I was so worried about things that were out of my control. Out of shame, I tried to keep it a secret. As I have matured, I have come to realize that many others suffer from anxiety as well, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Illnesses should all be treated equally, regardless if they are visible or not. Over the years I have learned to keep my anxiety in check, but by experiencing those times when I walked in darkness, I am now able to understand and strengthen others who have to cope with anxiety as well. Because of my experiences, I am now able to have empathy for others who bear a similar burden and share my journey with them. Sometimes your trials are given to you so that you will one day act as a guiding light for those who feel they are alone.
We are imperfect beings. Unlike God, we have sickness and afflictions to overcome. They are meant to test and strengthen us. But God does not give any of His children more than we are able to bear. Whether you are struggling with mental or physical illness, never forget how much you are capable of and whose hands you are in. You are given trials to face in order to grow and be molded into the divine person you were always meant to become. If you allow them to, your times of weakness and turmoil give you experience, wisdom and deep, unshakeable faith in God.
To come unto Him
Just like any parent, His heart aches for you in your times of trial. He does all in His power to save you. He is your lifeguard when you are struggling to stay afloat. He literally guards your life and does not let you drown in sorrow and fear. He does not give you trials only to watch you fail — He bears the burden with you as any father would. He brings you close to Him and places half of the load on His own shoulders. In that act, you strengthen your relationship with Him. Handing off your fears and ailments to God brings you closer to Him. He is right there next to you. You depend on Him, you humble yourself before Him and you become more like Him.
God has promised to walk with us every step of the way as we strive to overcome the trials we face. Although my anxiety is nothing compared to how it used to be, it will always be my tagalong companion. I still have moments of doubt and fear of the unknown, but my faith in God constantly carries me. I am never fighting my battles alone. He gives me courage. He is right there — at all times, no matter what. He will not abandon me, and He will not — and cannot — abandon you. You are not alone. With God, you will find strength with each trial. With God, the most impossible task becomes possible. If you continue to remind yourself of those truths, there will never be an enemy you cannot conquer.
Chakell Wardleigh has a Bachelor of Arts in English. She spends her days silently (mostly) correcting others' grammar. She adores all things nerd, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare, and anything else that whisks her away from reality. She currently works as an editor for the FamilyShare team. You can usually find her with her nose in a book, laughing too loudly, or belting out songs from Hamilton.