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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Treatment 2/18 today and no problems. Same staff, minimal delay, fish more relaxed.

Retail therapy on the way home.

I could get used to this. I could congratulate myself on coping well with the outer journey. And you might look on and say “Isn’t she strong!”

Well of course I am . . . until I am not.

Now that the physical suffering of chemotherapy is fading, the inner journey takes my attention. And the main driver is fear.

Who would’nt be fearful when you are told you have cancer?

C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 119 when King David pleaded with God for deliverance from his troubles, wrote:

He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace

If we expect to recognise God’s presence with us when we are in trouble, we need to have spent time getting to know him when things are going well. In fact, we need to set aside time to make sure we know HIM and not some teddy-bear God we construct to suit our needs.

I am learning a lot about anxiety and fear – what they mean to me and how to manage them.

My radiotherapy treatment is all about adding years to my life. With this in mind, what Jesus says about worry hits home

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . .  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

Clearly worry is not a constructive part of my treatment plan.

Jeremiah spoke of God’s compassion and faithfulness, in the midst of his severe suffering. He had a very mature knowledge and experience of God. I can learn a lot from him.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Both passages refer to God’s love and provision being given one day at a time, fresh for the day’s needs and not to be stored in advance.

Now we do need to plan ahead for business, for agriculture, for education etc.

This challenge is about the stuff we construct and then worry about – the what if’ scenarios. You can reflect on your own what if’ scenarios, or you can imagine what mine might be in relation to cancer.

We want tomorrow’s blessings today. We want to store up certainty today so that we do not need to worry tomorrow. And yet chances are we will worry again tomorrow about the next day.

God says trust me for today’s resources today and tomorrow’s resources tomorrow.

Maybe your worry is not about the length of your life – but there is a principle here that covers worry in general.

I can see the benefit of going to bed ’empty’ and yet free from worry, knowing that in the morning God will fill me up again. To do this I need to spend time in the closet getting to know the God that Jesus shows me and learning to trust him.

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This is a tough one.

Trustworthy in what . . ?

I can easily sit in comfort and theorise about an all-powerful, all-knowing, good, loving God when I am warm, safe and have food in my cupboard. But what about when my health or safety are under threat? And worse than that, how much can I rely on God for the health or safety of those I love?

Trust is earned, not given. And so to experience God as trustworthy I need some experience of having to trust him. And if I am to trust him I need to be absolutely sure that I have understood his nature and what sort of relationship with him is possible.

Now that takes some learning.

When James Bryan Smith‘s baby daughter died people asked him how he could still trust God after all he had been through. To explain he described the healing power of the prayer that their pastor read out as Madeline was dying.

The prayer took our story, our own personal narratives (a mother, a father and a sick child), and put it in the context of a larger story, a meta-narrative, which is the story that God is writing. It gave words to our anguish as well as our hopes. The prayer is honest; we cannot see God’s “divine hand”, and we want to see that there is purpose to it all. It is only when our suffering seems meaningless that our spirits are finally broken. But the prayer goes on. It placed our suffering in the proper setting: God’s “own saving plan, established before the creation of the world”.

When we join our story to God’s . . . then everything begins to make sense. The pain is still real, but it becomes bearable . . we can begin to see beyond the suffering and look towards the widespread mercy that surrounds us.

I often feel waves of fear and anguish wash over me as I travel through this breast cancer journey. They challenge the narratives I hold about life, death and my relationship with God. And they push me to explore the bigger picture, the meta-narrative.

In the final chapter of Knowing God, J.I. Packer speaks at length about the Adequacy of God. He quotes Paul’s challenge in Romans 8  to think of what you know of God through the gospel and apply it. Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished; take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let evangelical thinking replace emotional thinking (p295) . . .

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The big lesson in this is that trusting is not a passive state. It takes a lot of strong self talk and self management.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure

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Yeah – but it would be much easier to be happy if I won the lottery!

We can all list the things that stop us being happy – the mortgage, the family, health, work, other people, myself!

I will be happy when . . . Or I will not be happy until . . .

The latest UK statistics show that one in six adults suffers from anxiety or depression – usually a mixture of both. 24% receive medication for this.

Stark statistics to put beside a set of smiley faces.

Most of us do not enjoy being worried and miserable – it does not get us what we want. We want to be able to rise above our circumstances and be happy but we don’t know what to do to change.

Happiness is a Habit is one of my father’s books – written in 1954 by Gordon Powell, minister of St Stephen’s church in Sydney, and long since out of print. My father was a doctor and always concerned by the sadness he witnessed in the hearts of his patients.

Gordon Powell recognised that how we think, affects how we feel and how we behave – long before cognitive behaviour therapy appeared on the popular psychology horizon.

The book is about how he helped his congregation to change the way they thought and is full of stories of how this changed their lives.

He set up tonic cards based on Jesus’ principles for happiness, mainly focussed on the sermon on the mount, covering principles like secret giving, big-mindedness, trusting God daily, tension-dissolving prayer, Christ-like peacemaking. He encouraged his congregation to reflect on the verse as much as they could, and he based his teaching on them.

The card that had the most spectacular influence in many lives was from Psalm 118 v 24:

This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

The power of this verse is that it takes our thinking away from ourselves and towards God. It moves us away from passively ruminating on our problems towards taking control of our own thoughts.

It opens us to take hold of the power that is available to us through the Holy Spirit, our comforter, counsellor, helper, intercessor, advocate, strengthener and standby.

And we notice that, while the cards were focussed on changing our thinking, the principles show this leads to changing our behaviour, and the feeling of happiness follows.

A sobering post script to this is that one person in seven who suffers from anxiety and depression has considered suicide at some point in their lives – those most at risk are the ones who are facing socio-economic disadvantage or who are living alone, including those who are separated or divorced.

And so as we search for happiness for ourselves, lets keep our eyes and hearts open to those who are truly struggling and especially who are struggling alone.

If you have a tension-dissolving verse that moves you from worry to worship do share it with us 🙂  . . .  we can make it into a tonic card and share it with others.

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'Love Me Tender' by Julie Jalil

. . because so much around me is uncertain.

What do you do when you receive news that all is not well with your family and you have to drive over a hundred miles to be with them? That makes for one long anxious journey – and risky!

How can I not be anxious? My pounding heart responds to the adrenaline surge while my head scans the babble of information and thoughts that fill my mind. Like the drowning man who fell into the river, this is not the time to plan swimming lessons. I have to rely on what I already know.

So, Lord, how are we going to do this? The journey will take over 2 hours. I am hurting and anxious; I want and need to pray, but I cannot concentrate; and I must give my attention to driving safely.

First thing in the morning I opened a card from a friend who has given me a verse a week to span my chemotherapy (such an incredibly loving and helpful thing to do) – the verse is Hebrews chapter 4 verse 16

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Okay, Lord. Let’s go with this. This gives me one simple prayer to repeat as I drive – ‘Lord, have mercy on us‘. As I repeat this I rest on what I already know of God’s mercy, his loving heart towards us; and the peace that Jesus showed us – peace in the midst of the storm.

And I fill the car with Eric Whitacre’s music; the final track is Lux Aurumque. As I listen I picture what I already know about God’s messengers, the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven – and I know that I am not alone, and neither is my family.

The situation with my family gets worse – we glimpse the unthinkable and the pain goes deep. And then comes reassurance and hope.

This will take time. We call for mercy, God’s loving heart towards us. And we are learning what it means to ‘Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us’ – a profound lesson for living.

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