Y’all, this girl is such an inspiration to me. I have listened to her share her lows, highs, and do it joyfully either way. To some degree, we are all marked by some kind of emotion that captures our hearts and beckons us away from Jesus. Catherine’s (and my own) story deals with anxiety. Read and relate to the way the enemy deceived her and the way God’s grace overflows even in the scariest of moments.
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DISCLAIMER: Although this narrative may be marked by strife, hard days, long months, desperate moments, incomprehensible despair, my hope and prayer is that you’re able to see God’s metanarrative through it all. Only by His Son and through His Spirit at work within me, am I able to sit here today, (currently) anxiety-free and share with you the story of the last year.
Since I can remember, my life was marked by anxiety. Growing up in a household with an abusive father allowed me to master the art of emotional suppression and grow comfortable in a state of unease. When I was in middle school, my biggest worry was Mrs. Karen’s weekly spelling tests. High school was marked by achieving in volleyball and impressing the “popular” crowd.
Yet February 2016 changed everything. These minor “worries” took a turn for the worse and brought me down a path I never intended to travel.
I’ll never forget the place I was standing, the text message I received, the aftermath of it all.
Just a few days prior, my then boyfriend, Taylor Leigh, and I had our first serious talk about the future, a.k.a. marriage. Up until this point, it was no question in my mind that he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He was (and still is) everything I had prayed for, plus so, so much more. But after we had this marriage talk, something stirred inside of me and had me second-guessing the story that I was previously so certain was God-sent.
For the next few months, I wrestled internally with my anxiety, doubt and fear, letting very few people in.
There were countless numbers of sleepless nights marked by back-to-back panic attacks.
There were countless numbers of physically uncomfortable days marked by muscle strain.
There were countless numbers of days stayed home from work marked by the Enemy’s deceitful whispers on loop.
Soon enough, I far surpassed my breaking point.
Have you ever experienced a time like this? Where there’s nothing else to do but hit your knees, sobbing uncontrollably and ask why, why me?
Through some raw encouragement from my mentor, mother and close friends, I started going to biblical counseling. Although this was encouraging and God was definitely working through it, physically, my body was caught in what felt like a monster-sized, never seizing hamster wheel.
I. Was. Exhausted.
A couple months into my struggle, I stumbled across a Matt Chandler sermon titled Recovering Redemption: Examining Fear and Anxiety. At this point in the valley, I was wrestling with the question, if Taylor was the person God intended me to marry, then why was I experiencing all these anxious emotions?
If you’ve ever read one of his books or listened to his sermons, you know how Matt Chandler rolls. He prefers bluntness over fluff and basic gospel truths over complicated theories. Essentially, this sermon centered-around one verse:
Spoiler alert! In this sermon, Matt says that as believers, we can expect to experience anxiety when we start assigning too much value to things that we shouldn’t. Simply put, when we elevate good things to God-level things, we begin living outside of God’s design. And when we live outside of God’s design for our lives, we can expect nothing less than brokenness.
Does this sound familiar? Yeah it did to me to (see Genesis 3).
It wasn’t until God used the following comment from my mother in mid-June, over some solid Mellow Mushroom pizza, to finally place a warm blanket on my soul and assure me that everything was going to be alright:
“Catherine, don’t ever not trust something that God designed.”
Over the next few days, God revealed to me that my anxiety was a direct result of my lack of trust in His design of marriage.
Since I hadn’t grown up with a gentle, loving and trustworthy earthly father, Satan saw this as a great opportunity to swoop in and lead me to doubt the Heavenly Father I entrusted my eternity in. Just like the serpent worked in the Garden, the Enemy got me to second-guess and doubt a very obvious gift from God.
After-all, scripture says that everything good is a gift from above, and Taylor was and still to this day is so good.
Today, Taylor and I are celebrating two weeks of engagement and less than six months until MARRIAGE! His pursuit was persistent, His love resilient, and His grace unending. The valley of this last year magnified His faithfulness like never before. For the first time, by His grace, God showed me that no matter how good something is in this life, it will always, and I mean always pale in comparison to the future glory as believers He’s promised that we will receive.
So, sweet sister, I want to encourage you today. If you’re struggling with anxiety, God will see you through it. I may not be in your timing or even on this side of heaven, but take heart because He has overcome the world — anxiety included. Thank goodness our hope is not found through vain reliance in our own abilities. And honestly, I’m thankful that by His grace, He revealed to me my need for grace.
Father, please continue to humble the church and sanctify it until the day of Your return. Now more than ever I pray that as believers, we look different than the rest of the world. Where there is turmoil, I pray you bring peace. Where there is heartache, I pray you bring comfort. Where there is strife, I pray you bring rest. Where there is loneliness, I pray you bring community. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to live the perfect life we never could, to be crucified on the cross to bare our sins, only for you to raise Him from the dead three days later. Thank you for your tireless pursuit of our hearts, even when we exhaustively run in the other direction. May we fix our eyes on You and You alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.