On a late October or early November evening in a dorm room at North Carolina State University (I can’t really put my finger on an exact date), I stepped into relationship with Jesus Christ. I was 18 years old, and in hindsight, I see the days leading up to my moment of salvation marked by awe and wonder that the God in the Bible was exactly who He said He was. In the first months after deciding to follow Jesus, I began learning so much about what it meant to be a Christian. Having grown up in the Bible Belt, I was somewhat familiar with a few themes and popular stories from the Bible, but I knew nothing about transferring those ideas into my own heart and life.
I began living in community among other believers. I watched their lives and took notice of what it looked like to learn more about God and myself and then to apply those things practically to my everyday. Surrendering control to God was easy in some areas of my life - like my taste in music and clothing and boys - but not as easy in other areas. Around the same time that I began following Jesus, I started noticing symptoms that pointed to an almost crippling anxiety disorder. Right before returning to school for my second semester of freshman year, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. In other words, I was a hot mess express who couldn’t handle being in crowds, couldn’t concentrate on anything without having an emotional breakdown, and quit eating for a good two months. Even more crippling were symptoms of clinical depression and bipolar disorder that began appearing in the following year. As a new believer, I was fighting to give God control over those areas. I didn’t want to believe my health issues could be attributed to anything spiritual, because then I didn’t feel like I was being a “good enough Christian.”
For almost four years, this battle raged on inside of me. Last December, I finally decided I had had enough. I did not sign up for classes for what should have been my final semester of college. I left my college town and moved back to the part of North Carolina where I grew up. I believed it was time to have a season of just breathing. And I was hopeful it would turn into a season of healing. By February of this year, I could tell that my wish was coming true. Some switch was turned on inside of me, and I began seeing Jesus as a Provider of peace. I began seeing myself as an adopted daughter of God. I began seeing the Holy Spirit as Someone that I could hold on to every moment of every day. I might have known these things before, but something finally clicked and things were different. Prayers were answered and and my days were no longer spent in the shadows of anxiety and depression. I had walked in the valley of the shadow of death for such a long time and Jesus didn’t leave me.
The devil is always going to try to rip every little bit of glory away from God. As a Christian, I wasn’t going through struggle or in a fight because I was lost in my own sin. I was going through a battle because there was a spiritual war within my heart. I wasn’t attacked until I could fight back. Or rather until Someone could fight for me. So I began to learn that God, who is my Father, is my Protector. He is Almighty, El Shaddai, a Warrior. When I finally hid that truth in my heart, when I released control over my anxiety and depression, I experienced liberation like never before.
For four years, my heart and mind were seemingly kept captive in a cage composed entirely of lies and anxieties. I had been handed truth, and chose to believe and place my faith in that truth as a freshmen in college. But the enemy wouldn’t stop desperately pining for all of my attention. He was shooting arrows at my weakest spots.
But, I have met the Prince of Peace. I have walked through seasons of doubt, disappointment, anxiety, and panic. And all the while, the Prince of Peace extended His hole-pierced hand and beckoned me to believe the new name I had been given as a daughter of God. The Prince of Peace tells me I am not a slave to my past. He tells me I have freedom from the sin that entangles my thoughts. He opens the cage of anxiety that kept my heart captive.