I have been on anxiety medication for ten years (even though anxiety has been a part of my life for thirty).
A few days ago, before I left for work, I opened my bottle of chill pills and took one. It was the first one I’d needed in a long while, but I was nearly paralyzed. Picked on. Put out. Put down.
But I wasn’t panicked to realize I was almost out of medication. I was relieved. I was proud at the sight of this small, personal victory. Because this bottle was prescribed by my family doctor when we left Alaska after our life falling apart. He gave me a one month’s supply. Here we are seven months later, and I still have three left.
Eighteen months ago, I was taking three of these little gems a day. I could hardly deal with the ups and downs of daily living. I had panic attacks often and my emotions – my life – were constantly on edge.
Now, a one month’s supply is lasting seven. I breathed deep that reality.
My anxiety is better.
So often I’m aware of when it has gotten worse. But sometimes, it also gets better.
Anxiety says, “What goes up, must come down.” Hope calls back, “But what goes down must come up.”
When hard times come again, because they will, I have this tangible reminder that all of life is an ebb and flow. Nothing is constant, except for the grace and peace of God.
“My peace, I give to you,” is what Jesus said.
But when he promised us peace, it wasn’t to replace difficulties, but in response to them. It was the assurance that He would be with us – Emmanuel – through every experience. Jesus was very clear in His foreshadowing. Most of our guesswork was taken away as the Author of the whole thing guaranteed our hard times. The world is groaning under the pressure of its own brokenness, and even though the peace of God doesn’t always make sense, it remains constant and pulls me through.
Peace is an assurance that in the midst of hell breaking loose: shootings in Paris and Colorado Springs, war in Syria and acts of terrorism each time we turn on the television, God remains. God is not being terrorized. Heartbroken, definitely. But not uncertain or afraid. I think Heaven weeps, but God knows the beginning from the end. Peace says that things will get better one day. Our waiting will be worth it.
And for me, tonight, writing a blog because I need a place to put words to my stress, the peace of God becomes tangible as I watch my four-year-old shake his booty like a wild man at bedtime. Carefree. Laughter, the best medicine of all.
I pray he never knows the depths of depression or the constriction of anxiety like his Mama and I do. But even if he does one day meet the shadows, I am now able to backpack through the valley with him. I have been there. The shadows loom, the wind howls, the rains come, but we keep on walking. One step at a time. Crawl if you have to. Because just around the bend, the air is clear and crisp.
This Advent season, if you’re in the looking-back phase of peace, seeing that things have gotten better, praise be to God. If you’re in the midst of the mess, wondering when things will get better, peace to you. They will.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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