2017: that was the year I dealt with a type of anxiety I had never experienced before. An unrelenting, paralyzing, devastating kind of fear that gripped me every single night. The routine was the same: every day around 5 p.m., anxiety would hit me out of nowhere. Nausea would consume me. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I just had to ride it out, hoping and praying it would go away. I tried everything I could to manage it and get it under control. I tried praying, but I felt like God wasn't listening. I tried things like essential oils and breathing exercises, but nothing would settle my raging mind. I was convinced that I would always be stuck exactly where I was--broken and hurt. Anxious and afraid. Until I met Jesus, and my entire life began to change.
I discovered a book called Goliath Must Fall by author/pastor Louie Giglio. I began watching his sermons from Passion City Church nearly every night. Once I heard about his struggles with anxiety, I thought that healing might be possible for me after all. Pastor Louie introduced me to a Jesus I hadn't met before--a Jesus who understands me and is closer to me than my own breath.
I began reading the Bible daily for the first time. Slowly, as I encountered Jesus, the chains of anxiety began to break. Finally, I was coming alive, breaking free.
I know that my journey with anxiety is something a lot of people can relate to. But perhaps the freedom aspect is something you have yet to experience. Or maybe you're struggling with other areas of mental health, such as depression or suicidal thoughts. I want you to know that you are not alone in your fight. For so long, I thought I was the only one battling anxiety. But it turns out one in five adults in America battle mental health struggles, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many, many people are fighting the same battle.
Although your story might look different from mine, one thing is true about our journeys: Jesus knows exactly what you are going through. And the wonderful thing is He isn't scared of your fears and doubts. His heart isn't racing, even if yours is. When He was on this earth, He dealt with anxiety and depression. He can relate to what you're going through and isn't afraid of your struggles.
In John 13:21-30, we see Jesus and His disciples reclining at a dinner table for the last supper. Although this story has been retold thousands of times, I'm afraid we've lost the significance of one detail in it. In this scene, Jesus tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him. That's when Simon Peter motions to "the disciple Jesus loved" (John, most likely) and asks him to question Jesus. The thing is, this disciple doesn't have to yell across the table to talk to Jesus. No, he's close enough to lean on Jesus' chest.
John 13:23 (NASB) says this disciple "was reclining on Jesus' bosom." The word "bosom" isn't commonly used today, but in Greek, it's "kolpos," which can be translated as "chest." This disciple was close enough to Jesus to lean on His chest. And what do you hear with your ear resting on someone's chest?
Back to my journey with anxiety--during that season, if you had heard the rhythm of my heart, it would have been racing--constantly sounding like it was going to pound out of my chest. But if you could've heard Jesus' heartbeat in that upper room? It would've been steady. Secure. Pumping the blood that would soon spill out on the cross. All because of the immense love and affection he has for you.
Mental health is no joke. I've walked through the valley, and if you're reading this, I'm going to imagine you have, too. But whether you're dealing with anxiety like I did, depression, suicidal thoughts, OCD, eating disorders, ADHD, or whatever other struggles come to mind, I want you to know that you don't have to fight alone. You may feel alone, but you are never, ever alone. You can lean back "in the loving arms of a beautiful Father," in the words of Capital City Music. Lean against His chest, so to speak, close your eyes, and breathe deeply because He is constantly with you. His heart isn't racing, even if yours is.
While all of this may be encouraging to some people, I know others are deeply devoted to Jesus and still struggling with their mental health. If that's you, please hear me out: you can ask for help. The Christian life wasn't meant to be lived alone. Sometimes, the body of Christ looks like a church, but other times, it seems like you and a therapist. Sometimes, Jesus works a miracle, but other times, He uses trusted friends, therapists, and doctors to demonstrate His power. So, if you're struggling, please don't feel ashamed to ask for help.
And most importantly, remember how valuable you are.
You are not "anxiety." You are not "depression." You are not "suicidal thoughts."
You are a beloved child of God. You are His son or daughter, deeply and fully loved by Him. He isn't mad at you because you struggle. No, He walked this broken earth to know what it's like to face what you do. And He's offering you a place to lay your head. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 (NIV), "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Lean on His chest and listen to His heartbeat. Let the rhythm of His beating heart establish the pace of your own.
Jesus infinitely loves you. You are never, ever alone, my friend.
For immediate mental health help, you can text or call 988 and speak directly to a team of counselors who will provide the assistance you need to grow and thrive. For additional resources, visit https://twloha.com/.
Grace Chaves is NRT's News Editor and one of our youngest writers. She's been part of NewReleaseToday since 2019 and is continuing her journey by majoring in Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.
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