Rachel McMillan is the author of Murder at the Flamingo, a Jazz Age novel in which the hero has anxiety. Hamish’s struggles with anxiety were birthed directly from McMillan’s own experience. Today she is sharing with us about (not) overcoming anxiety.
When I was asked to write an article on Overcoming in regards to anxiety, I was of course happy to continue an open dialogue about an illness I have suffered from since childhood. But, I was also a bit apprehensive. I haven’t overcome anxiety. While I have an incredible doctor, a supportive family and access to the cognitive therapy and medicine I need, I have only learned to control it and live with it. I may never overcome it this side of eternity. And what a gift that is.
Yesterday, an advertisement for a diet and recipe book for coping with Anxiety popped up on Netgalley. On Facebook, I see memes advising sufferers to turn to prayer and scripture for overcoming. A comment chain recently on a friend’s Facebook admonished anxiety as an illness plaguing those who had merely not submitted enough.
I believe in Jesus’ power of healing. I believe in miracles. I believe that many sufferers of mental illness find many different ways of coping, controlling and even overcoming; but I do not believe that those who may not overcome in their earthly bodies have done something wrong or are undeserving of prayer and church support. Jesus is not Robin Williams popping out of a lamp in Aladdin and dancing and singing His way through many wishes granted. He allows us to suffer. There is beauty, I believe, in overcoming doubt and clinging to faith, in recognizing His grace. But also, I believe, in acceptance that during our time on earth, we may not wholly overcome in a way that meshes with our ideal earthly plan.
Everyone is going to find a different path to controlling their anxiety. Or, to broaden this, any other physical or [cognitive] ailment you suffer from in your earthly body. You may be able to prevent it or anticipate it and find a way to minimalize it, but you may not overcome it.
Friend, you do not have to overcome it. Someone higher than you overcame it all: sickness, disease, sin and iniquity. He overcame every last human frailty and limitation with his interception of our earthly paths with his sacrifice on the Cross.
What you can overcome is your idea that your worth is somehow connected to human frailty. Your belief that you are designed with a great flaw or weakness. That not overcoming is a sign of your own weak faith or sin or disfavour in God’s eyes.
Anxiety can lead to incredible empathy toward other sufferers. Anxiety can allow you a sensitivity to the person on the subway hunched over and breathing irregularly, to the exam taker whose pencil is barely held in a shaking hand.
We are advised to remember to cast our cares upon Him and we are encouraged to recognize that He sees the sparrow and He holds our tomorrows. I confess, in the middle of a panic attack, I cannot always remember my middle name let alone these words of comfort. In my soul and in my core, I believe them; but often I am in such a dark, drowning place, merely focusing on a corner in the wall is all I can accomplish. God is in that corner: even when I don’t see him. In the midst of my not overcoming. And when, eventually, the darkness subsides and the shakes and tremors and stabs at my chest give way to streams of relief, I turn to Romans. Where I am reminded: “Therefore there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation, whether we have overcome or not. And where I learn that “All things work together for good to them that love God.”
To me, overcoming is the blessed recognition that God gives us our supposed weaknesses as a gift from Him for His greater good. We may not see how our suffering sews into the tapestry of His plan as a whole but I guarantee when we meet Him, the entire picture will be revealed and every last thread of our pain, our suffering, our feelings of inadequacy will help display a picture of ineffable beauty.
Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music and theater. Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Pinterest // Website