When Weakness Becomes Strength

By Dylan St. Clair

I have made it no secret that I struggle with my mental health, specifically with anxiety. I worry about the silliest things, from how I am performing in school to how my friends feel about me. At the end of the day, I often feel completely drained of energy, yet I’m wired enough to stay awake later than I want to. When I’m at school, there are times I have stepped out of the classroom for a few minutes to walk down the halls, get a drink of water, and take a few deep breaths. Worst of all (at least in my eyes), almost every time we have a Bible study in my college group, I have a panic attack; I leave the room until I feel comfortable going back inside. During those times when I’m sitting in the hallway collecting myself, I pray for God to give me the courage and strength to go back inside and enjoy the rest of the study.

Sometimes that strength comes to me after I weep for a few minutes. I cry because the anxiety hurts my body, makes it hard for me to enjoy time with my friends, causes doubt in my relationships, and destroys my concentration. Even when I know things are fine, I feel myself getting nervous because I’m so used to being in that fight-or-flight mentality. I do not know where this battle began–frankly, I have stopped trying to pinpoint its origins–but all I know is I want it to be over. I have even sat and wondered how much better my life would be if I never had to deal with anxiety, how much more at peace I would be in both my friendships and my walk with God if I never worried excessively. I likely would have avoided unintentionally attempting to push away some of the people I love. Maybe if I start taking a medication, I would be easier to be around….

However, I express those thoughts to God and give Him thanks for all the ways He has blessed me and those around me. After I wipe me eyes and take a couple of deep breaths, I go back inside. Even though I feel myself blushing as I return to my seat, I’m happy to be back with my brothers and sisters.

It has taken a long time to convince myself to believe this, but I am not ashamed of the fact that I struggle so much with anxiety. Does it make my day-to-day life difficult sometimes? Yes, but I feel encouraged know ing God wants me to cast all my anxieties on Him because he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). In other words, He doesn’t want us to live life like we have the entire world on our shoulders, but to trust in Him that He will care for us. Even when we do feel overwhelmed, God wants us not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving present our requests to God so that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). If you start to feel anxious, do not let it weigh you down, but confess to God that you’re feeling anxious and need help while also thanking Him for all that He has done and for who He is. That does not mean that we will live a life free from worry or that we don’t need to confide in a brother or sister. However, addressing our problem in prayer is the crucial first step we should take to face those problems.

Admittedly, this is still something I’m learning to do in my walk. While I’m known for being pretty transparent, I do struggle to admit right away that something is bothering me, whether I need to confess it to God or a friend. Sometimes my focus is completely centered on the problem at hand instead of pausing to tell God what’s bothering me and that I need His help. I know He’s aware of what I need before I even ask Him (Matthew 6:8), but I know God wants us to speak to Him and confess the things on our mind so they may be brought into the light. On the other side of the coin, when I do stop to pray, there are times when I skip straight to asking for help instead of praising God first. Now I know that a mature prayer is a combination of both praise and requests, just as Philippians 4:6 states.

I am also unashamed of my struggles because they humble me; they remind me that I am completely reliant on God. Some people may look at me as a weak man–I cry at least once a week, I can hardly get through Bible study or church service without having a panic attack, and I am quite temperamental. While I know those are areas I need to work on (particularly that last one), I also know I have a loving Father in Heaven who is willing to give me the strength to be a better version of myself as long as I ask Him in faith (James 1:5-6). Many people are afraid of asking for help or depending on others because they believe it makes them look weak. However, it is only through admitting that we are fragile people and dependent on God that we find strength. Most, if not all, of us drew near to God when we were at our weakest; we were depressed, broke, addicted to drugs or alcohol, sexually immoral, ill, in a toxic relationship, etc. We are weak without God, and when we turned to Him during those low points, we also found the source of strength to overcome those trials. We stopped being depressed. We stopped drinking. We got out of that terrible relationship. We became strong through God; His power was made complete in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I came to Christ when I was scared that my family was going to be torn apart, and I drew even closer to Him when I came to college and realized how anxious I am about performing well in school and making and keeping friends. The Lord only knows where I would be if I never encountered those anxieties. Maybe I would have still found my way to God, but it’s also possible I could have become arrogant and decided that I did not need God. All that matter is I am following Him today and taking the actions necessary to become more like Christ each and every day. It is also a joy to know that God can use my story and my actions to encourage those with similar struggles. By taking the time to let God know that I am overwhelmed while also giving thanks, that could encourage someone to stop torturing themselves with anxious thoughts and talk to God. By confessing my burdens to my brothers and sisters at the end of a Bible study, maybe someone will feel compelled to share their struggles rather than keep them myself. Maybe someone who has a hard time making friends will hear my testimony and start trusting in God to help them find loving friends. There is no telling what God can do with our stories!

To close out this post, I want to share list of things I do to help me cope with anxiety. I have already discussed some of these in the body of this post, but it’s good to elaborate.

  1. Pray. Pray. Pray. A close friend of mine told me don’t distract yourself from your anxieties, but confront them. What better way to confront them than to tell yourself, “Okay, I’m anxious, so I am going to pray.” Try opening the prayer by praising God for what He has done and for who He is (mighty, powerful, consistent, faithful, etc.), then confess what is bothering you and ask for His help. If you stop and face the problem as it starts, that helps prevent the problem from having time to fester and become worse. If you need help forming a habit of prayer, try setting a reminder on your phone for certain times to devote to prayer.
  2. Think about someone other than yourself. When I went to the library one day last week, I found myself starting to worry about how a friend viewed me. Then I remembered that one of my friends was sick the day before and sent him a message asking if he felt better. I could have chosen to sit there for a few hours ruminating on the problem, but I acknowledged that it was getting to me and decided to think about what someone else needed. When we focus on our own problems, we often overlook the needs of those around us. By redirecting our focus to the needs of others, we use our energy to help them instead of wasting it on our own needs. You may find yourself a lot less anxious after you help someone in need.
  3. Read a comforting passage in the Bible. Something I do is write some of my favorite Bible passages on that blank piece of paper at the back of my Bible or dog-ear the pages. Some of my go-to passages when I feel anxious include Philippians 4:4-9, Matthew 6:25-34, James 1, and Colossians 3:1-11. All these passages remind me to trust in God and focus on doing His will. If you have passages or verses or even whole books or chapters that ease your mind, mark them in some way–bookmarks, dogearing pages, highlighter, flags, etc.
  4. Take a walk. I love to take walks in the morning. If I am feeling tense, it helps me release all that energy, and it also gives me quiet time to pray and meditate on God’s Word. Many therapists actually encourage anxious and / or depressed individuals to walk anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour every day to alleviate some of the symptoms. Getting some space can help you confront your stressors with a clearer and calmer mind than if you had stayed in your room for hours trying to deal with the problem.
  5. Cry or laugh it out. Both crying and laughing are cathartic. As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes cry when the anxiety weighs heavily on me so I can express the sadness instead of repressing it. Crying is not inherently sinful, but Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” If you have been crying a lot lately, look for things that make you laugh, like a funny friends, a quirk one of your friends has, or one of God’s creations. Something that makes me laugh is Acts 20:7-13, which is about how Eutychus falls asleep during Paul’s sermon in Troas and falls to his death, then being resurrected by Paul (for the record, I have some friends who should probably take that as a cautionary tale, lol).
  6. Write it out. You could write a paragraph, a page, or two pages. Writing about the things that are stressing you out gets them out of your mind and into a physical form (in this case, ink or graphite on paper). This can really help you better evaluate the problem at hand rather than think about it over and over again. Like prayer, this is something I am trying to be better about. Try carrying a notebook around with you or starting a diary in the notes on your phone to confront any thoughts or worries that come to you. I often carry a composition notebook in my backpack so I can jot down my thoughts.

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