Guilt & Shame For Being an Anxious Christian
I sat on the couch. I was alone.
That is, I was alone with God.
I was at the end of my rope. I was tired, confused, and overwhelmed to say the least.
I was ashamed and felt condemnation for the anxiety that had been taking over my daily life. I didn’t know at the time that I felt condemned. I just knew that I felt misunderstood and judged. Which, I was. But those were indicators that there was something deeper going on in my heart. Something really ugly. Maybe the most debilitating thing of all…… Condemnation.
I had suffered from a severe panic attack randomly one day while on a trip in Montana with my husband. And since then, panic attacks had continued to be relentless to me. Ranging from minor anxiety attacks, to debilitating “I’m-going-to-die-I need-to-go-to-the-hospital” panic attacks. Waking me up in the middle of the night. Attacking at random during the day.
Causing me to be afraid to be left alone, in case IT might happen again…. To not look forward to going to bed… And ultimately, afraid that something else was seriously wrong with me.
I know there are so many who can relate to me in this. Maybe even you, reader?
It didn’t help that I had a plethora of other symptoms in my body at the same time. And I found out years later that all these things were coming from a genetic syndrome that led to POTS. But more on that in a different post….
At this point in my life, I had no idea why this was happening to me. I had never had these things before. I was a 29-year-old woman at this point. I had a history of good health, physically and mentally. I handled stress well, in my opinion. So why, all the sudden, could I just not handle normal stresses the same way I always had before?
A Conversation With God
I slumped in the couch, staring out the windows of my living room, whining to my friend, Jesus.
By this time, I was desperate. I had finally been to a few different doctors who had concluded that I was indeed having panic attacks. This made me feel a little bit better at least. They didn’t seem concerned that I was going to die…..
(This may sound silly or overdramatic, but I know there are people suffering with the same things. And it is beyond scary. I want THOSE people to read these words and know that you are not alone, you are not crazy. It DOES feel like you’re going to die, but trust God… you will be okay. This is just a season).
But now I was being urged by many people to get onto anxiety meds.
For some people, this would be a no brainer. “Please!” they would say. “Anything to make this stop and to feel normal again.”
But for me, this was a HUGE deal. I was coming from the position of not trusting doctors. (Praise the Lord I had never been put in many positions where I was forced to do that at this point). I was coming from the position of doing things the natural and holistic way…..
Medications were bad for you…..they caused side-effects……they could be addicting….. they could alter your personality…..etc. All truths.
“Lord….. so many people take medication for anxiety. It is very normal. Tons of people that I know even. I want relief so bad, I don’t want to keep living this way. Why is it so hard for me to make this decision, and just take meds for a time?”
“Because of the judgement that you have made against it,” He replied.
That caused me to really pause.
Revealing The Condemnation
You see, to add to all of these “natural” reasons to be hesitant against meds, religious and legalistic reasons had somehow twisted their way in there over time as well….
“If you take medicine then you’re not having faith.”
“If you can’t get past this anxiety without meds then you are weak and have a weak mind. You need to control your thoughts better. The Bible says to take every thought captive.”
“The REASON you have the anxiety is because you are not trusting God.”
“You are allowing the enemy into your life because anxiety=fear, and fear is the opposite of faith.”
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
If you grew up in a church, or around religion at all, I would be very surprised if you had never heard or felt these things before now.
While there may be parts of truth in theses statements…..they are ultimately rooted in condemnation, legalism, and self-effort.
They encourage beliefs like….
“I NEED TO be strong enough to make my anxiety go away.”
“I NEED TO have enough faith so that all my fear will poof away.”
“I HAVE TO suffer through the pain until God takes it away, to show that I have faith.”
“I AM NOT ALLOWED to be human and have human emotions. I NEED TO be perfect and have it altogether, or something is wrong with me. I SHOULD BE ASHAMED of myself. God is not pleased with me.”
Have you ever thought these thoughts, or felt any of these ways?
Maybe you didn’t even realize it until you were reading some of them?
Notice that all these statements start with “I”. And then proceed with an action that “I” need to do in order for me to receive from the Lord. Whether that is health, peace, joy, faith, or even His love and acceptance. These thought patterns and beliefs don’t point to Jesus at all. They don’t point to His grace, His strength in us, the Holy Spirit’s work in us, or God loving us where we are.
God showed me that I had made my own judgement against anxiety, against meds. A judgement against getting help. That I had made a law unto myself. A law that He had not put on me, but that I had put on myself.
I had bound myself to this “rule” and become loyal to it. So that even the thought of breaking it gave me anxiety! It gave me guilt and shame, because I believed that I was going against God by taking meds, even though this was not true. And I felt ashamed when I had anxiety becuse I believed that I was sinning against God.
No wonder I was having such a hard time just taking some stinking meds. I knew I would not be on them forever. THAT WAS WHERE MY FAITH WAS. I needed to be humble and get help. But ultimately I had faith that God would work it all out and that the meds would be temporary and I would be able to go back to normal again without them.
But the enemy wanted to disregard THAT step of faith and try to condemn me for not having a different faith that I had made a rule unto myself about. Faith is in levels and steps. That’s why the Bible says that we live “from faith to faith”. One level of faith to the next, as we see success, grow closer to God, and trust Him more and more.
The enemy can be so deceptive in weaving these lies into our lives, our thoughts, and ultimately our belief systems. That’s why reading God’s word and knowing what it says, and having a daily relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is so important.
Where The True Healing Began
“It is because of the judgement that you have made against it.”
When God spoke those words to me, it was like a deep knowing in my heart. I knew they were true. And I knew I had judged others in the past who struggled with anxiety and taken meds for it. And if I admitted my struggle and took anxiety meds, in my mind it meant that “I would be one of THOSE people”.
That is the sad truth about my heart, and the self-righteousness that God has brought me out of. And He still is bringing me out of deeper and deeper levels of it, even now.
God didn’t want me to suffer with anixety and panic. But even more so, he didn’t want me to be stuck in self-righteousness and self-effort.
SO…. If it makes you feel any better…..I did not immediately jump up and say, “You’re right! OK, I’ll go take those meds now!”
It was a small PROCESS of me admitting the truths that God was showing me….. Humbling myself and repenting of my past mistakes and judgements….. Renouncing the false law that I had placed myself under….. And slowly letting God reshape my mind and perspective on medications.
(Which was perfect in His timing, because when I was diagnosed with POTS two years later…. medication would become my very good friend for a time. And by that time, I was willing to take what was necessary. But IN FAITH, that it would help me, not harm me. And that it would all be temporary).
Praise the Lord for His grace and His timing. Even when we are not giving ourself grace.
Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you feel guilty and ashamed for it?
What areas of your life may you have false “laws” or rules that you have placed yourself under. Things that are not in God’s word. Things He did not tell you personally to do, or not to do? What lies could you be believing that are keeping you bound to that condemnation, and ultimately….. stuck in that fear or anxiety?
Ask God to help you identify some of them. And here’s a hint…. What are some areas where you feel the most hesitation, or the most amount of anxiety when it comes to doing them or making decisions about them? That might be a good place to start.
I would love to hear about your journey in the comments section, or send me a private message. Even if you are smack dab in the middle of it.
Until next time, Take each day one day at a time.
Her Life In Season