Is Anxiety Circling Your Marriage?
Anxiety affects us all to some degree. Typically, I am the most anxious sitting in the examination chair at the dentist 😊. But the week before Jody, my husband, deployed to Iraq for the Enduring Freedom campaign I was overwhelmed. Our three children were 17, 16 and 14. I had lived through other deployments. I am a true Army wife. But at that time in our life, we really needed two adults to “keep our ship afloat.” In January, the Army notified Jody that his Reserve unit would deploy in April. So, for three long months I felt a sense of dread.
It was exactly one week before Jody’s deployment. I was sitting at my desk in my office at the Rehabilitation Hospital where I served as the Director of Therapy. I was crunching numbers in the front half of my brain while the steady stream of worry that had been percolating since January’s news of deployment reached a boiling point in the back half of my brain. The waves of those emotions started to break over the barrier. I could no longer hold back the tide of fear, loneliness, and grief. I had been continuously pushing all this to the back corner of my brain, not wanting to recognize it or admit that I felt that way. Weak. Afraid. I wasn’t sure I could continue to breathe. I began to cry. I kept trying to “get it together” and “ask God for help” - things I had said when I witnessed a panic attack in a friend, patient or colleague. All had been well-meaning, but was now, I realized impossible for me to do. I couldn’t do anything but ride the waves as they poured out. I was sobbing. Then all of a sudden, I became aware that I was not seeing clearly. I was missing part of my vision – the center portion. It was like a flying saucer was hovering right in front of my face. A huge shiny disc! I could see around it but not through it. Being a therapist, I rationalized that I must be having a brain stem stroke. I needed help! I felt my way to one of the charting offices and found Kim, a dear friend. Through tears I told her that I was having a stroke. She promptly called the code and I was assessed by a hospital doctor.
Someone called Jody while someone else took me across the street to the ER. The doctor at the ER diagnosed me with a visual migraine. Today, I am certain that it was an anxiety attack.
By the time Jody joined me in the hospital, the rush of emotions had subsided. His holding me in his big strong arms and praying out loud for “the peace that passeth all understanding” to engulf me did the trick. In his last week at home, I shared honestly with Jody about my fears. We worked through many potentially uncomfortable situations. I gained more understanding of some of the jobs that Jody did for our family, and I enjoyed the training process. Jody praised my parenting skills and spoke confidently about my abilities. Then, the day came for my kids and I to see him off. We cried, but the sense of panic that had only a week prior become so debilitating was replaced with a supernatural peace!
Sidebar: When I returned to work the next day, I found that my beautiful employees had decorated my office with hundreds of cut-out paper hearts with kind words of affirmation, love and support. It was like I was being wrapped in a huge hug. I was not alone. Discovering this treat in my office is one of my favorite memories! This is always what I think of when I try to describe what real friendship feels like. .
Today, I am thankful for that “blinding experience.” It has given me a peek into the world of anxiety. So many friends and sisters in Christ that I have spoken with and have prayed for battle daily with anxious thoughts. Anxiety encircles their marriages like hungry sharks, causing one or the other to question, worry, fret, and sometimes surrender needlessly. It causes small problems to seem like major problems and big problems to appear unmanageable or even faith defying. If you have frequent battles with anxiety, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Anxiety disorders effect 40 million adults in the US today. And, more than twice as many women as men are affected. Take comfort that God can see you through each and every battle!
Here are six verses I’d like to share with you to help you battle anxiety. They are some of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. I even have one of them stenciled on a wall in my home office. If anxiety is a battle in your heart and mind, I would advise you to read carefully and commit these verses to memory!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:4-9).”
Paul penned these words to the church of Phillipa. He didn’t make a mistake when he wrote, “don’t be anxious about anything.” Paul was not an idealist or insincere. Instead, I believe that Paul was speaking from his experiences as he walked out life filled with God’s spirit. He didn’t live a comfortable life. In the natural, he had every reason to be anxious – he wrote this letter from inside a prison cell after he had first been beaten by rods, whipped and left for dead. Paul did not have a list of potential things that could go wrong dancing around in his head – he had a long list of awful memories of things that had already happened to him. If he had had a panic attack, I’m sure that even the guard of the jail would have said, “It’s only natural, dude, you’ve been through some tough days.” But instead, Paul gave us some keys for combatting anxiety. Keep reading. God’s word is always good (2 Timothy 3:16) and I believe that it can speak to the frightened places in your heart.
“REJOICE!” Give worries a rest and spend more time each day thanking God and reveling in His mercy and grace! Make it a practice to rejoice each and every morning. And then, “rejoice again.” Cross stitch the word REJOICE and hang it by your bedside. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Make this your normal every day routine. It is impossible to be anxious with a mouth filled with praise.
“God is near.” Remember that you are never alone, my sister. This is the beautiful reality of a Christian’s life - you are never alone! God has promised to never leave us (Isaiah 31:10-13; Deuteronomy 31:6). Ask your spouse to speak to your fears and anxieties and promise to never leave you. In this connection, your marriage will reflect God’s truth. In my situation, it was Jody’s comfort and my caring friends that reassured me that I would not be alone. These people became the arms of God in my life – they held me tight so that I would not fall. Open up and let the children of God around you know of your struggles. Satan would love to separate you from the flock and pick you apart. Don’t let this happen! Stay in community and stay in continuous communion with God.
“Think about these things.” Calm your imaginations and take your thoughts captive. When doubt or fear starts to spill over and flood your thoughts, begin to think on God’s promises. Those things that are pure, lovely, honest, and admirable. Quote Paul’s verses and quiet the inner voice of doubt. For the married person, your spouse can help you. Sit down with your spouse and have a transparent conversation about the seas raging in your mind. You do not have to be brave and try “to get it together.” Let your spouse speak truth from the Word of God into your heart. For the single person, find a trusted friend. Let them know when the waves are cresting and let them remind you of God’s promises. Write God’s promises concerning your fear on a notecard and post them on the fridge. Read them every time you go to the kitchen. Fill your thoughts with His thoughts.
“God is a God of peace.” Change brings anxiety, but God does not change! God is never surprised. Instead, He calls your name so that you will depend on Him. You will survive today’s storm, and if you depend on God, your faith will be strengthened through the trial. Rest in this truth.
I do not believe it surprises God that women are more sensitive to anxiety. I believe this is why God commands our husbands to wash us daily in the word of God (Ephesians 5:26). God knew our very nature. He created us to see and feel in ways that would help us nurture the next generation of believers. He gave women big hearts that would feel every slight, fear, neglect, and loneliness. The plan for the help for your anxiety was put into place over 2,000 years ago through Jesus’s redemptive work on the cross. Do not despair, my sister, instead continue to strive for a completely Word washed life!
Keep reading and peace out y’all!
2 Corinthians 10:3-7
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.