Guest post by Cecil Kestner
It’s probably true to say that anxiety has been my close companion for much of my life. While that has obviously been an area of struggle, it has also been the vehicle of great blessing. My natural bent is to be anxious—my Achilles heel if you will. I do anxiety really well. At least I used to. In days gone by I could have taught a course on crossing bridges or living in next week before I got there.
However, I have learned to be grateful for it because God has taught me so much about His faithfulness and His care through it.
When my kids were little I came close to actually having an anxiety breakdown. I had decided to go back to church and was making new and precious friends there. Satan doesn’t really approve of that sort of activity so all of a sudden, I found myself embroiled in some serious spiritual warfare. Of course the attack came through anxiety, my Achilles heel. I remember one afternoon sitting in my own living room, in the safety of my own home, and being terrified to move. My husband and my friends and my pastor all rallied round and walked me through some very difficult weeks. More importantly, God came to my rescue. Driving home one day I started feeling warmth, on my head, my hands, my stomach. My first reaction was, “now what’s the matter with me?” It was a cloudy day, so the warmth I was feeling was not coming from the sun. Because of the anxiety I had not been able to eat much, so had lost quite a lot of weight in a very short time; but after this experience of healing and the comfort of God’s presence, I could eat again, and actually began to recover emotionally and spiritually as well.
Through it all God was faithful to provide His Word to hang on to. Jeremiah 29:11 assured me that He knew the plans He had for me, plans to give me hope and a future. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me. That came at a time of struggle in my marriage, and carried me from NJ to VA and to another run-in with anxiety. I had always tended to be a somewhat nervous driver, especially on interstates, so retrieving my daughter from Radford University often presented a bit of a challenge. However, one time I found myself behind one of those big, orange Schneider trucks—Schneider trucks actually obey the speed limit. I tucked in behind it and it mother-henned me over to the Radford exit on I-81. My daughter had volunteered me to help with the huge Youth for Christ event in DC in 1994, which involved driving on my own into Washington. I didn’t sleep much the night before I left as I was so nervous, but as I merged onto I-81N, what should be slap bang in front of me but a Schneider truck in all its orange glory. Now obviously there is nothing magic in and of itself about a Schneider truck, but that day it spoke volumes to me of God’s presence with me and His care and protection.
Those are rather extreme examples, but God has been my ever-present help on a daily basis. He has walked with me through times of trouble in my marriage and my kids leaving for college and the resulting empty nest. He has walked with me through the lingering loss of my husband from Alzheimer’s and his rather sudden death in the early mid stage of that horrible disease. He has walked with me through the times and seasons that followed Bill’s death, including the move from Roanoke to Richmond, and the one from my daughter’s house to my own apartment.
Along with Jeremiah 29:11, some other Scriptures have been key. Proverbs 3:5-6 assures me that if I trust in the Lord with all my heart and don’t lean on my own understanding then He will direct my paths. The snag is that I like understanding what’s going on and don’t always find it easy to blindly trust. Another one that I clung to when anxiety was raging was Roman 8:15--- "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (or daughters) by whom we cry 'Abba Father.'"
You would think that with all this practice of dealing with fear and anxiety that I would have gotten a handle on it by now, but it is often a daily struggle. For example, this morning I woke up feeling anxious. I often journal on the computer, so this time I wised up and chose to remember that “My God will supply all my need according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). And the words to the wonderful old hymn—"All I have needed Your hand has provided, Great is Your faithfulness, Lord unto me"—popped into my mind. And I wasn’t anxious anymore.
While anxiety is one of satan’s most effective tools to distract us from our relationship with God, He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). And in that I can rest and be truly grateful, knowing that however many fears and anxieties I might have about the present or the future, He really does have my back.