I never considered myself to have an interesting testimony. I have listened in awe and wonder to the stories of those who the Lord has led out of lives of crime, addiction or abuse. I can’t speak of struggles with any of those things. That being said my struggles were internal ones that began long after I became a Christian.
By the grace of God I was born to a precious Christian mother who guided me spiritually from the day I was born. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 12 years old and became very active in my youth group at church. During those years I was told over and over how polite, dependable and responsible I was. I began to put tremendous pressure on myself to live up to those expectations.
Days turned into weeks, months then years. In the blink of an eye I was married to my high school sweetheart and we were raising two children in our little bubble of a world. I continued to carry the burden of the high standards I set for myself--and now for my husband and children.
We were very involved in our wonderful church. I taught classes and helped out wherever I could. My husband served as a Deacon and on several committees, and the children had their activities as well. I longed to put God first in my life, and I somehow correlated church busyness with love for God.
I put the same pressure on myself at work. My job had no definitive boundaries. I was a hopeless people pleaser there and I burdened myself with work related issues at home--issues that I should have just given to God. The old tapes began replaying in my mind; you are the responsible one; people are counting on you; if you don’t do it yourself it won’t get done. I began having sleepless nights and chronic headaches. When the heart palpitations and dizziness started I reluctantly made an appointment with a doctor. Several tests later I was found to be completely healthy. Now I was convinced I was losing my mind--which caused a further downward spiral.
Everyday tasks were becoming more difficult to complete, but I kept going about my normal routine. I would go to work, run my errands, pick the kids up from school and go to our various after school or church activities. When homework, dinner and baths were done I would collapse into a heap--usually in tears with a pounding headache. My husband had to bear the brunt of it all. He desperately tried to be understanding, but I knew he was sick and tired of it . . . I was sick and tired of myself.
The more I attempted to pray about the situation the more miserable I became. In my mind I had lost the ability to communicate with God. I couldn’t read my Bible anymore. Scriptures that had once meant so much to me seemed foreign and inapplicable. The enemy had me right where he wanted me--paralyzed. I realized this was something I couldn’t deal with anymore when I could no longer manage to go grocery shopping. I walked into the store one afternoon and my throat began to close. My senses were so heightened I felt as if I were going to jump out of my skin. I felt hot tears begin to well up in my eyes so I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and grabbed just the essentials so I could get out quickly.
The world felt unreal; I was completely disconnected from my surroundings. I knew I needed to talk to someone. I walked into my pastor’s office, and with my heart pounding, began to spill the whole story. He let me cry it out until I came to my senses and realized what I had just done. I was mortified that he had seen me fall completely apart. I told him I couldn’t pray anymore and asked him to pray on my behalf. That was all the counseling I needed that day.
Once again I found myself in a doctor’s office but this time I had researched my symptoms and I was pretty sure I knew what I was about to hear – anxiety. Anxiety begins with unreasonable doubts and fears which in turn cause more anxious feelings. This unrelenting cycle snowballs until one is trapped in the midst of it unable to break free. It was not an easy diagnosis for me to accept. After all Philippians 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything” . . .* I felt immensely guilty and embarrassed.
I finally told a couple of close friends what was going on and asked them to pray for me. Slowly, relief began to replace my guilt. I knew what the problem was, and it was time to ask God to deliver me from it. I asked Him to give me clarity of mind--to stop the seemingly endless and sporadic thoughts that raced through my head with the speed and deafening roar of a freight train.
Anxiety can absolutely stem from physical illness; however this was not the case with me. God showed me that the sins of pride and arrogance had resulted in my struggle. It was not an outward or intentional display but an internal war. I was under the illusion that I could control things if I obsessed over them enough.
Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (NIV) That doesn’t say to me that my life is going perfect. I’m going to be gravely disappointed if that is my belief. It does tell me however that God is in control. That phrase almost seems cliché we throw it around so often. I had never really absorbed the fullness of the meaning of those words. God had to breathe them into my very soul in order for me to let go. I claimed his promise of the renewing of my mind.
I am not now, nor can I ever be complacent and think I am cured of this stronghold. I have a mental picture of God physically binding that evil, restless bundle of lies that used to inhabit my mind. He keeps it bound under lock and key as long as I do my part. Jesus did not suffer and die on Calvary’s cross for me to remain in bondage. I don’t have to prove anything or be perfect . . . all I have to do is live in freedom.
*Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Mandy, thank you for honestly sharing your story. I can relate to it in some ways. What really touches my heart with your testimony was when you wrote, "Jesus did not suffer and die on Calvary’s cross for me to remain in bondage. I don’t have to prove anything or be perfect . . . all I have to do is live in freedom." Amen, Sister! Amen! Keep on writing for HIS glory. Gloria
Thank you for sharing this testimony. It is a great testimony. Those that have been set free from abuse, addiction, crimes, etc...it is rather obvious and we thank God for that deliverance. The bondage you describe is more difficult to identify until it becomes so heavy we cannot ignore it any longer. I pray others will read this and examine their own lives, so they,too, can be set free. GOD BLESS YOU