This is another post in a series of reflections on anxiety, which I offer candidly as one who has struggled with an anxiety disorder for over a decade.
In the other posts, I talked about how having an anxiety disorder is like being crushed. To be crushed by God is not to be destroyed by him, but to be broken and thus attentive to his voice, which we hear in Scripture. In Scripture, God addresses his people directly. Those who struggle with an anxiety disorder are in a perfect place to listen and hear God’s voice, because every illusion of independence and self-sufficiency has been wiped away.
When you’ve been crushed, the posture of your spirit is bent before the God who speaks. Anxiety puts you in a praying position. So . . . pray. That’s a simple directive, but I promise that it has unparalleled implications. Let me suggest why it’s so important for us.
Communing with God through Language
We are creatures built for communion with the Trinity. That is why I call language communion behavior. We are meant to have a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through language. This involves two sides, much like every conversation does: God speaking to us and our speaking back to him (for more on this, see the ebook In Divine Company). Whenever we speak to God, we are praying. Prayer is an earnest and honest conversation with the triune God. It is how we develop in our relationship with him. Apart from prayer, the divine-human dialogue becomes a monologue. Prayer, in other words, is not just an addendum to spiritual life; it is our spiritual life.
Keeping the Conversation Open
When we develop a habit of praying, we simultaneously develop an ability to interpret the world and our experience in light of our prayers (I highly recommend Paul Miller’s The Praying Life). I can’t overstate the importance of this: We are always interpreting what happens around us and within us. If we’re not using prayer (in conjunction with meditating on Scripture) as a means of directing or shaping our interpretation, then that means something else is doing the shaping. There’s no such thing as uninterpreted life. We need the supplications, thanksgivings, and requests of our prayers to have some role in helping us understand what’s going on each day. When we don’t do this, life begins to seem detached from God’s personal purposes. It feels more like a series of events and experiences rather than a context for our relationship with God. And make no mistake, that’s what life is: a context for our relationship with God. When we forget that context, we risk forgetting why we are breathing in the first place.
So, keep the conversation going. Keep speaking to God. When you have an anxiety disorder, this is all the more critical because you need that divine-human conversation to wage war against the constant pressure that the world seems to put on you throughout the day, for a host of reasons.
I’ll expand on this more in the book I’m still working on, Shaken but Not Destroyed: Living Faithfully with an Anxiety Disorder. I recently met with Mike Emlet from CCEF and received some great feedback from him as I continue in the drafting stage. God willing, the book will be finished within the next 6 months. Until then, you can check out a short article I wrote on panic attacks for the Journal of Biblical Counseling: “Panic and the Personal God.”