” Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV) –
It is around the time of year when people get really retrospective on their lives and start looking at all that changed in their lives before we bring in the new year. I’m no exception. As a chronic over-thinker, the end of the year spells out major self and life evaluation for me. 2017 has been a roller coaster in a lot of ways, but God has done a lot over this past year, and I’ve learned so much.
So lets recap real quick.
Most of the year was pretty basic. Life was good, and pretty uneventful. There were good days and bad ones, just like anyone else. But it was around the end of May that things began to change for me. My health began to back slide even though I had been doing well for over a year. I did everything I could, but my anxiety continued to get worse and my body more and more distressed. I couldn’t get to work, or stay there when I managed to get into my office. Social things were becoming impossible, and I wasn’t able to leave my house. I eventually reached a point were it was hard to eat or drink anything, and I was in fairly consistent pain. Nothing was helping, and I was miserable. I felt like a failure at my job, at life, and as a person. Amidst my best efforts to help take care of my health, I just couldn’t seem to manage to rid myself of some of these health issues. I felt so broken.
During this time, I spent a lot of time alone, so I had a lot of time to think. My health failing again gave me a lot of things to think about and gave me an opportunity to face some things about my life. First off, it’s hard being sick and not knowing if and when it’s going to end. It’s scary not being in control of your own body, and how that might affect your future. It can make you wonder what kind of future you really have, and it makes you doubt things. Is this forever? Am I ever really going to be able to move on from all of this? And so many other doubts like this that I can’t even begin to list them all. You’re desperate to move on with your life, yet you’re stuck and feel terrified to move all at once. It’s a mental olympics I never seem to be properly trained for.
I had more than one mental breakdown during that time. I had several in fact, sometimes even more than one a day. It’s hard when pain and suffering just keeps dragging on with no defined end. I tried to be strong, but I just couldn’t handle it. Not by myself.
But being sick and having a lot of time to be still gives God a lot of time to speak very clearly and directly to you, especially when you find yourself doing a lot of praying in a state of weakness. He made it pretty clear to me that I was not depending on him for my health, my future, my life, my protection…..anything in my daily life. I was trying to take care of myself, and I was failing horribly at it. Many of my efforts to cure and control my anxiety had actually been enabling it by trying to control things that I had no real control over. My anxiety was brought about not by my loss of control, but in my realization of my lack of control in my life and in everything around me and my constant efforts to change that, even though it’s impossible. I wanted to be fixed so badly, that I was desperately chasing perfect health because I thought a good God owed me that. I had been through enough. But I was wrong.
What if part of God’s plan for me was to take place within a “broken body” and that it was exactly where I was supposed to be. That I needed to be humbled through this experience to realize that I was just functioning out of my own pride and self-sufficiency. That I needed to be broken to be able to be put back together again and made new, because unfortunately that’s what it takes to get through to someone as stubborn and prideful as me.
I had some choices to make about how I was going to move forward with my life, and by God’s grace, I was able to start making some changes. More trusting and dependence on God, and less on me. Less fear of what I can’t control, more trusting the one who does control it. Trust me, it’s hard at first, but it’s so worth it.
The next few months started a long recovery of trying to deal with what’s really causing anxiety in my life. A process that I’m still walking through now, but have made a lot of progress in. But I’m grateful for all of it, because the suffering helped me get to know God better. He was there the whole time, even when I was too proud to look or admit it. So now I’m a recovering control freak who’s learning that things are much better off in God’s hands than in my own. And God spent the rest of my 2017 giving me many opportunities to hand things I wanted to control over to Him. It’s been a process, and I’m sure I’ll continue to be working on this in many ways for the rest of my life. But there is change, and it’s been great and freeing.
My life is more free than it’s ever been, and I can actually feel it in my body that I’m not carrying around as much stress anymore. It’s crazy to think of all the stress I was putting my body through trying to control my life when freedom was an option the whole time. God used 2017 to break me for His good and He was with me the whole way, even though it was really hard to walk through. It was worth it, and I’m glad it happened. I’m glad He broke me. And I’m grateful for 2017 and all that it brought my way, pain and all. Who knows what 2018 will bring, but I’m no longer anxious about it. I know Gods got it covered, and whatever is best for me in His sovereignty is what will come my way. My 2018 will be great because no matter what happens, God is the one leading it, and He is far better equipped to handle the job than I am.