If Not, Then What?
Written by: Rachel Carroll
My Story with Jesus and Anxiety
Hi, my name is Rachel and I have clinical anxiety.
Some say admitting you have a problem is the first step towards healing. That part’s not hard for me. The next part is: telling my story in light of Jesus.
Unfortunately we’ve been fed this lie in privileged American culture that everything is supposed to be as close to struggle free as possible. Convenience is king. How fast, how finished, how polished can our lives get. If you’re struggling, there’s an app for that. And then there’s social media—everyone’s best. Or even some honest people’s “worst”...but it’s still the worst that we’re curating and choosing to share, unfiltered or otherwise.
What’s even more, I feel like in western Christian culture, this lie is somehow perpetuated. We struggle, but Jesus. We went through that thing, but then Jesus. We offer our stories to the world with the best homemade Pinterest wrapping paper and a nice finished bow on top. The Bible says not to worry for anything... isn’t anxiety just being really worried all the time?
I have anxiety. Crippling at times. I have panic attacks. I am on medication. And because of this, sometimes I feel like my soul is separate from my body. The way I feel and am experiencing the world is different than the way my body feels.
But then Jesus can just heal me right? I need to pray harder, trust more, worship longer and he’ll calm my spirit and take away my anxiety. He promises us “peace that surpasses all understanding” right? Well yeah. But that’s not the whole thing. You wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to just pray away their insulin problem, would you? Maybe they can make some personal choices to heal their body—you know: diet, exercise, tracking sugar levels, engaging with their body more. But at the end of the day it’s a chronic disease that in almost all cases demands medical attention. And yes, there are those rare cases where natural recipes and excellent self care lead to healing. And that’s amazing. But not usually.
So what about this whole mental illness thing? Can’t I just engage with my God and my faith more and he’ll bring me healing? Well, maybe. But my guess for this current season of my life is no. I believe He can heal me. I believe in miracles, divine intervention, the power of prayer—God’s promises to protect us, work all His plans for our good.
But if not, then what? If He doesn’t bring relief, where does that leave my faith? I’m a “missionary” for goodness sakes—living in a different home than my first culture and doing life in vocational ministry... I deserve healing right? But if not, then what?
And then there’s the lies. Well if living abroad is what’s triggered these symptoms, I must not be cut out for what God’s called me to my whole life. If I can’t handle the daily stresses of life here, maybe I’m not meant to stay. Somehow the poverty is too much. I wasn’t truly built to last in the developing context that I’ve dreamed of engaging in my whole life. Maybe I should just give up, go back to my first culture. You know, for the sake of my weak brain.
Here I take my cues from the Bible. Look at the story of Joseph, Moses, Naomi, Job. Holy cow, look at Paul. Never have David’s pleas in Psalms felt so real to me—the evil pressing in, the faithfulness of the Lord still present. Then most of the disciples. Then the early church. Oh, and Jesus: "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." ...And God said no, Jesus had to suffer for the sake of the whole world and Eternity. He knows ultimate pain and suffering.
This struggle with mental health doesn’t somehow quantify my faith. And because I’m in “vocational ministry” “in the field” that doesn’t make me immune. In fact, we are all vulnerable.
Understanding our sisters and brothers struggling in this way is essential to their, my, healing.
Yes, I trust the Lord to take away my pain. Yes, more time in the Word and in prayer and worship does calm my spirit and bring momentary relief. But if not, then what? For my body to fully heal, I personally need medication to find chemical balance again (y’all physical clinical anxiety and hormones are fascinating... google it). And Jesus. Lots of time with Jesus.
So there’s my story. No Pinterest worthy kraft paper wrapping or washi tape. No beautifully crafted burlap bow. Just my heart. And my desire for the nations. And oh yeah, my broken body poured out...and still hurting. But trusting in God’s sovereignty, his Will, and his ability to use my weaknesses, my story for His purposes. So that if not, then this: I will continue the race set before me, and trust all the more that He hears me and I am Loved.