Do you ever find yourself desperately praying for anxiety to just go away?
“I think I’m going to die.”
That’s exactly what I thought to myself numerous sleepless nights last year. I would try to fall asleep, only to be woken up in terror for no particular reason. My chest was tight. I felt like I was choking, and I couldn’t breathe at times. The cycle would repeat, and eventually I resigned myself to sleep on the couch so I’d stop waking up my wife.
One day, I went to a doctor and explained my symptoms—the chest pain, the trouble falling asleep, and the panic attacks. After a couple of tests over a few visits, he diagnosed me with anxiety. Can I be honest? It made me feel like a failure as a Christian. Hadn’t I been praying against this the right way? I’m not supposed to deal with this, I would think to myself, I’m supposed to have peace and not worry—that’s what Jesus said to do!
After following the doctor’s instructions and starting to take a small dose of medication, I continued praying for anxiety to just go away. I didn’t want to have to deal with it anymore.
In 2 Corinthians 12, in the NIV translation, Paul described his “thorn in the flesh.” While we never know for sure what Paul’s “thorn” was, anxiety can certainly feel like one for a lot of people, including myself. Paul said that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away, but instead, Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (emphasis added)
The grace of Jesus is sufficient, no matter the circumstances. As I began praying for healing, I began to draw closer to Jesus. Like Paul, God hasn’t taken away my “thorn.” However, I’ve found myself more passionate about reading His Word, and I’ve prayed more than I ever have before.
I thought what I needed was healing for my anxiety. In reality, I needed more of Jesus. I’m not saying if I had been closer to Jesus that I wouldn’t have had anxiety. I’m not going to stop praying for anxiety to leave. I do pray I’ll understand His miraculous protection better so I can push out fears. I do pray to be delivered from this thorn just like Paul did. But something even better is happening to me than being instantly healed from anxiety: I’m developing a deeper understanding of God and a richer relationship with Him. Instead of just praying for peace, I found myself drawing closer to the Prince of Peace. When I began to worry about my future, I reminded myself that He is the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
I prayed for my anxiety to go away, but I found something much better: the overwhelming, loving presence of Jesus in my life—even in the midst of anxiety.