The Wolf Man. One of the classic Universal Pictures monsters, a man with a curse, every full moon, he transforms into a werewolf. Howling at the moon and out for blood, a battle he fights to regain control of his poor mind. This is a trope in horror fiction, the Jekyll and Hyde concept, normal person fighting a raging monster inside. This month I’ve been looking at old tropes from horror and looking at how God has used them to teach me, and in turn, teach you. This week, I wanted to talk about something very personal to me, something that I’ve alluded to in the past and on this blog, but never fully talked about. Today I want to talk about it. I want to talk about the creature that tries to control me. One that has tried to hold me back. It’s not a wolf bite; I want to talk about my battle with anxiety.
I’ve failed a lot in my life. School was really tough, I had teachers say words of death over me, and I never felt like I was enough. Every test grade felt like my worth was being defined. In friendships, I always felt like I had to be the best I could be so they would have a reason to stay friends with me. I wanted to fit in and not be labeled as the weird or awkward kid. I felt safe with my parents, because I felt like I could be myself, but even then, I had a temper and hadn’t learned to have self-control. I had (and still have moments) of intense worry and often come off as irritable when faced in a situation of the unknown. In large crowds I can feel lumps in my throat, constant checking of exits, and nervousness about small talk. In college these feelings got worse. Failing to get into my choice schools, having the desire to work in ministry and having no one give me a chance, thinking the worst of every interaction. The panic attacks would come at night; believing that no one liked me for who I am and that I would never amount to anything.
Then loneliness crept in and depression quickly behind it. It was too much. I even worried if God didn’t want me. The enemy was using this anxiety to control me, to get my thoughts away from what my creator says about me. I was in a tough spot, but God shone through the lies, God always cuts through the darkness.
Your mental battle is not a sin.
For a long time in the church, people have been wearing masks saying everything must be perfect in order to follow Christ. This has created a toxic culture when it comes to mental health. Mental illness is not a sin. You may disagree with me, but you are wrong. A sin is anything that comes before God; anything that you choose over God and refuse to make him first. What this means is that even when you struggle with addiction, have anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness; they only become sin if you allow it to come in the way of your relationship with Christ. For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t be open or share this because I had a secret sin, but in reality, the enemy was making me fear rejection and keeping me in darkness. Satan will stop at nothing to break you down. The scripture of “stealing, killing, and destroying” is not a joke. Fight it. Fight the words of death spoken over you and the ones you speak to yourself. My battle came to a head during the season where a friend committed suicide, my brother in law was caught in an addiction, and both of my grandmothers passed away in a span of two weeks. I didn’t understand it, I worried that the darkness would consume me. I had a choice, and I decided to talk about it. I talked with my parents, I was more open than ever before. I didn’t want to let Satan get in my thoughts and lead me into an unhealthy addiction or take my own life. Even in my darkness I knew that there was more. There is always more.
The devil is a damned liar.
We need to realize this. The devil is a truly damned being, and he will lie no matter what to try and bring you down on his level. What I remembered and what we must all remember, is the truth that scripture brings. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” You see God has defeated Satan; in doing so, God has won the war. When I look at this blog, I titled it my “battle,” but the truth is, it isn’t my battle. When I battle, I am weak, I am the man transforming at the sight of moonlight, with no way to stop this blood thirsty demon from attacking. But when I realize there truly is no battle I face, it is God’s battle, a battle in which he has already won. So, I trust in God. I read scripture that gives me a commandment, not that my anxiety is a sin, but that I don’t have to give my anxiety power because God is fighting off the demons. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I am not ashamed of my battles with anxiety, I rejoice in them because God has set me free. He wants to set you free too. Take his hand, make the best choice you could ever make, and be set free.
You are made in God’s image. God loves you so much that he sent his son to die for you and me, to then defeat death itself and set captives free. My battles with anxiety still happen. I still have panic attacks, still think that people don’t want me, and worry that I am a failure that won’t make it. But I have trust. Overwhelming trust in a God that loves me. I remember being in a small group designed to break chains. In my head I always pictured myself wrapped in chains, in a burning cave, screaming out for God to take me. It was a mental embodiment of my anxiety controlling me. Mike Stewart prayed with me and an odd sensation happened. Mike was someone I met in a past small group and told me he saw a powerful future for me. The sensation was my mind. I lost that mindset of the flames and saw myself in a cave, a cool blueish green light around me, and I was floating in water with broken chains at the bottom of this pool. That is what I see now. It wasn’t positive will power, it was the chain-breaking healing power that God gives. My battle isn’t really a battle, because my God has set me free. When episodes flare up, I come to God and seek council from safe people (see last week’s post on that topic in particular).
All battles you face fall at the feet of Christ, who reaches out his hand with love, ready to set you free.
Live in freedom.
Author’s note: When I write on topics like anxiety and depression, I know how dark life can seem. I know that you feel alone and hurt, but there is hope. There is always someone there for you and I never want you to feel like you have no other option. If you are feeling suicidal thoughts, I want you to call this number (844) 359-6685
There is always hope, and your life has value. You are so worth loving.