I lay my head down on my pillow, looking forward to a night of sleep, but instead, my body seemed to turn on me. My heart began racing, and my mind obsessed on a certain train of thought. After fruitless attempts to turn off my mind and quiet my heart, I sat up in bed.
I knew the cause—my extended family was in the midst of quite an upset, and that day I had been part of a difficult phone conversation. In the quietness of trying to go to sleep, my body remembered the stress of the call, my mind reviewed what was said (as well as what I should have said, could have said, what might be said later, and the possible consequences to relationships…), and—no surprise—my heart began to worry.
In times like this, I have not found it effective to simply quote a verse on anxiety. I needed to go to battle with myself.
I reached for one of my tools that sits next to my Bible—a little booklet called, “Questions on the Heart Level” by Julie Ganschow. A friend and I jokingly refer to it as the “soul piercing questions book.” It’s not the kind of book you read straight through; it’s more of one that you skip around in. Filled with topics, you jump to the one that fits and then read the questions. I love it because it helps me sort through my thoughts and get to the root of the matter.
I jumped straight to the worry category.
“Is God aware of your problem?” Yes.
“Do you believe God is sovereign?” I do.
“Is what you are thinking about real or imagined?” Some of each.
“Are you living in the land of ‘what-ifs’?” Gulp, yes.
“Is worry stopping you from accomplishing your daily responsibilities?” Yes, if sleep counts!
Okay, that helped me realize how I was wrongly handling things. Next step—I grabbed my Bible and hit the Psalms to fill my heart and mind with right thinking. Don’t you love it when God’s Word washes over you, resonating, correcting, assuring, and encouraging?
Psalm 73:26 stood out.
“My heart and my flesh may fail… (that was for sure. I was feeling that tonight.)
… but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ah—not my relationships, not what others think of me, not how well I come up with the right thing to say under pressure, but GOD.)
Anxiety often shows us what is most important to us. When we feel like we may lose those precious things, we fret, stew, worry, and stress. Few things get me as anxious as relational troubles. I needed to analyze that a bit.
Was I worrying more about what others thought about me than what God thought about me?
Was I worrying about making mistakes or saying the wrong things?
Did I remember that if I do mess up, God gives me recourse through confession, His forgiveness, and repentance?
Was I forgetting what God might be teaching me through all of this?
I prayed and asked for forgiveness and help.
I felt ready to try to sleep again. Anticipating the return of the troublesome thoughts, I thoughtfully and purposefully recited Psalm 73:26 over and over while taking slow, deep breaths to tell my body I was doing fine. The repetitive thoughts did return, but each time I breathed deeply and slowly and rehearsed those beautiful truths from that psalm. And you know what? I fell asleep.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with such things. I hope this is an encouragement to take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Use the tools God has given us. Struggle against those sins that so easily beset us. Let God be the strength of your heart and your portion forever. And then rest in the knowledge of His love and care for you.