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Peace, what is this peace? Christians talk about it but I’ve only ever had little flashes of it. How does someone who struggles with chronic anxiety find peace? There are certain things that set me off. Often people-related, as my last two posts attest to. But I know what’s triggering it all right now. It’s a nasty word. Are you prepared? You might want to sit down for this. EXAM. It’s okay, take a minute to recover. I can recommend a hot bath or a soothing chamomile tea. No? Deep breathing then. Really? That doesn’t work either? Yeah, same here.

Nothing works. When I’ve woken up sweating over the last few nights I’ve even resorted to prayer. It’s supposed to be the first thing a Christian turns to, but I always seem to forget about it until I’m really desperate. I pray for God to just wipe my mind blank and let me sleep. Something happens in the night. I completely lose my ability to rationalise anything. Everything I’m scared about crashes in on me. Everything I’ve ever done wrong haunts me. It’s like I’m tangled in the sheets, feverishly trying to free myself and only trapping myself more. So I ask God to just wipe the slate.

He’s not answering.

This song says that it is in weakness that I find that God is strong, it is when I am lonely that God’s everlasting arms surround me. Is this true? The bible says it is:

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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I am weak. I have never been able to cope with exams. Last year I was a right mess. But as I think back I remember something that I had forgotten until I started writing this post. Last year, on the day of the exam itself I got up early and tried to cram more stuff into my head, and the only thing I succeeded in doing was winding myself up. I stopped, put some music on and fixed my eyes back on God. And I was calm.

Going back a bit further, I remember I had a slightly manic laugh that popped out when I got particularly freaked out. My speech was rapid and I tripped up over my words. None of what I was revising stuck in my head, which is reminiscent of my current predicament. So I put music on. Here’s another song:

Lift up your voice. I’m still nervous. More than nervous, I feel like curling up and crying. How is God’s strength being made perfect in my weakness? How has God’s strength ever been made perfect in my weakness? I fight him all the time.

As I was writing this I decided to have a look at the words of one of my favourite people. It’s from a book called My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers that contains a some thoughts each day on a verse or passage from the Bible. Here’s today’s:

Death no longer has dominion over Him … the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God. (Romans 6:9-11)

Even the weakest saint can experience the power of the deity of the Son of God, when he is willing to “let go.” But any effort to “hang on” to the least bit of our own power will only diminish the life of Jesus in us. We have to keep letting go, and slowly, but surely, the great full life of God will invade us, penetrating every part. Then Jesus will have complete and effective dominion in us, and people will take notice that we have been with Him.

This is exactly the lesson God drummed into me last year, even though I did forget it as time went on. It’s not about if I pass or fail. That is not the purpose of my life. The purpose of my life is to let God’s life invade me. I don’t know how it works, I really don’t, and I question it daily. Last year my panic fuelled me to work more and more desperately. This year I just want to throw my books away and give up. I have had it with this MA.

But I suppose I should keep going, even though I don’t understand any of the notes I took in class and the Arabic is beyond me and the books go over my head. Just keep going and hope that God will answer my prayers. That is all I have. I can’t rely on Diazepam from my GP after all, because it turns out that the only appointment she has left this month clashes with my last class of the year.

Last year God did answer my prayers. I freaked out for months before the exam, but on the day itself I did know peace. One of the few times in my life I’ve ever known it. I have to thank God for helping me then and decide to trust him now even though I don’t have any peace at all. It’s like trying to grasp a wisp of smoke. It’s hard trying to love an invisible friend. But I do want to love him the most.

I wish I had a good ending for this post. But I don’t because I’m not writing it after God has given me peace, I can’t say that he answered my prayers. Because he hasn’t. I hope he will though. My heart hopes he will because it is sick of beating too fast. My stomach hopes he will because it is sick of cramping. Through gritted teeth I remember the words from another song and I sing even if he never answers my prayers:

And Lord, we want to lift Your name on high
And Lord, we want to thank You
For the works You’ve done in our lives
And Lord, we trust in Your unfailing love
For You alone are God eternal
Throughout earth and heaven above