It was time to sleep. The following day’s tasks loomed in the back of my mind, nagging, reminding me that I needed to rest; instead, I sat on the floor, head to toe in sweats, my back resting against the bedpost, desperately typing on the laptop resting in my criss-crossed legs. The annoying tickle of fresh salty tears trickled down my cheeks as I wiped my eyes with my gray hoodie’s sleeve. Writing out my thoughts - the bottled up feelings of stress, annoyance, jitteriness, and downright “craziness” - would make them disappear.
In fact, they still haven’t, not completely anyways.
That night was a little over a year ago. It was the first time I realized I was letting anxiety consume me.
Ironically, I’ve been described as a “free bird” and someone who “goes where the wind blows,” yet I really don’t do well with the looming unknowns of the future. I’m capable of going with the flow, but my head is the clearest and my emotions the calmest when there’s a plan in front of me. It’s part of why I become antsy when I don’t have my next travel adventure planned or irritable if I don’t have an idea of what the weekend will look like. In college, daily checklists became my source of comfort, a concrete format for what was coming next. Now, it’s an unrealistic sense of certainty that I know exactly where I will finally settle down, how my career will unfold, and which special people will be a part of my life until it ends.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Do you see how naive it is for me to have such confidence in my own plans, to find peace in worldly arrangements?
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet I am left anxious when I feel that I am not the one controlling where my life is headed. As if fear of the unknown did not already show a lack of faith, it also produces sinful feelings of bitterness, sadness, and anger. My anxiety about the future ultimately is a distrust in my Father’s will for my life.
I’m describing myself, but tell me, dear sister, is this not also you?
I’m not sharing this personal struggle because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’m not bringing it up because a large proportion (nearly 20%) of the U.S. population is affected by it, though that is reason enough for us to desire to be somewhat educated on the matter. I’m not asking that by the time you’re done reading this you become an active advocate for mental health.
However, I’m sharing this raw truth of my life because it ultimately shows our God’s great love for us. As with all of life’s hardships, anxiety is a struggle for which the Great Physician provides a cure. It’s a mental distress that can be lessened with spiritual medicine.
Sin makes us confident in ourselves, in our plans, in our “wisdom.” Yet, this selfish confidence fails over and over again. Then what? What are you left with when your plans fail you? When the world deceives you? When loved ones disappoint you? When life doesn’t turn out like it was “supposed to”?
James writes of people who planned to “carry on business and make money.'' These people were making plans to earn wealth and prosperity. They were seeking happiness and contentment in worldly riches. Yet, even if they found joy in those things, they never knew how long they would keep them; the final outcomes remained a mystery.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God knows each and every one of our outcomes. What’s more, he has better outcomes planned for us than we could have ever conceived on our own. His plans for each believers’ life is to eternally hold them in His tender arms in heaven. He promises peace and joy unending once we are united with Him in the afterlife. And, on this side of heaven, He promises to walk with us all the way, to wipe the salty tears from our cheeks in moments of heartache and to guide us as we navigate unknown paths. He comforts us with the simple truth we hear children sing: “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Anxiety is something I struggle with in this corrupt world. Sometimes it feels as if it is controlling my life, and sometimes it feels as if it will never bother me again but simply be a piece of my past. However, when it does rise up and I feel as if my mind will never quiet again, that’s when God is calling me to Him. That’s when my Bible should be cracked open and my hands folded. That’s when my sinful flesh must let go of human reason and trust in a better, holy plan. That’s when I should humbly proclaim, “If it is the Lord’s will, I will do this.”
Sisters, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and thank goodness for that! As if our sinful hearts could handle all that the future holds! Rejoice in knowing that our God, one so much greater, wiser, and bigger than us, holds in His hands tomorrow and all of the days to come.
Be at peace in the unknown so that God may teach us to have joy in the waiting.