How to Fight Anxiety and Frustration with Powerful Prayer
I had tried my best. I was going to be all heroic, self-sacrificing and understanding.
I’d seen single moms do it, I’d seen some of my neighbors do it, and I’d even heard tell of a legendary pastor’s wife from our neighborhood who drove her children for 9 hours straight, making only one gas stop and making her children pee in a bucket so that they could make their destination in time.
Hey, if she could do it, I could do it. I was going to take my kids camping, alone, without my husband.
Please don’t cringe. Resist throwing your laptop/tablet/smartphone halfway across the room in frustration at my stereotypical female dependence. But truly, all my life, I had always had the safety of a husband, father or brother to happily take care of things like oil changes and camping plans. I simply never had to do it myself.
And now I found myself sitting behind the driver seat, my head on the steering wheel, swear words parading through my head like a terrible little cascade of gremlins. I was seriously on the brink of tears.
My husband was out of town on a long-distance bike ride, leaving me with our two kids. I had been packing the car for our camping trip. We were going to meet my husband on the road for one night, and then camp by ourselves for a few more nights after that.
There were so many firsts for me: First camping vacation alone with the kids, first drive to that particular state park, first time packing the car alone, first long distance drive in our new car...
And as I loaded the car, going back and forth from car to house, car to house, I suddenly heard a terrific crash.
I ran into the yard. Our shed wall was shattered. Broken glass everywhere. No perpetrator in sight. My heart leapt into my throat and my mind leapt to the worst possible outcome. Was there a criminal in our backyard? Vandals throwing rocks? But no. Silence.
After a few moments, the realization sunk in and my sense of violation dissipated. The shed wall had likely just collapsed from age. But there were so many unknowns! What do I do now???
I snatched up my phone and called my husband. No answer. His teammates. No answer. Next, I tried my mother-in-law. Then my brother-in-law. They would know what to do. But no. No answer. I was going to have to deal with this myself.
I didn’t know what to do.
We were scheduled to go away for a week and I was already late— but I couldn’t just leave the broken shed exposed, with all my husband’s valuable tools inside. Grudgingly, I postponed packing and started on the shed. Inside the smashed shed, I found some jerry cans full of gasoline. ‘Perfect’, I thought. ‘I need to fill up the car anyway. I’ll use these jerry cans.’
Did I ever regret that decision.
I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to open the gas flap on our new car. I meticulously combed every inch of the dashboard, looking for a push button to open the flap...to no avail. Of all things, the gas flap!?!?!?!
I felt utterly helpless, useless, and alone. Cars and mechanics are not my forte. Neither is camping. Or driving. Or sheds. Or tools.
The list of things that I had to do kept piling on. I started cursing myself for being so incompetent. I felt so ashamed. When I compared myself to other moms, they all had so much more common sense!
My pride heartily bruised, my mind whirring, I silently cursed my husband for going on his long distance bike ride for charity. ‘Charity-Shmarity!’ I thought. ‘He just wants to leave me behind and shirk all his responsibilities! How dare he abandon me and the kids! Leaving me with his stupid tools and his stupid new car!!!’
Mentally strained and emotionally crippled, my self-loathing turned into husband-loathing...but that was not going to turn into God loathing. At the brink of a horrible whirlpool, buzzing with destructive thought patterns and feelings, I sat behind that steering wheel, paralyzed and angry. And the Holy Spirit began to move. I began to cry out to God in desperation.
And then to thank Him.
He was with me. God is always with me. He hems me in behind, and before. He knows my steps before I take them. Did I really believe it? In the midst of the shattered shed, the stubborn gas flap, my own incompetency, the late schedule, all the unknowns, I began to thank God for the simplest things.
Thank you God, for life. Thank you for health. Thank you for the good weather. Thank you for the resources and the time to be able to go camping. Thank you for this new car. Thank you that even though my husband is not here right now, he is alive and healthy and he is a loving dad.
As I prayed, the anxiety began to ebb away. My heartbeat slowed back down. The Holy Spirit began to comfort.
It’s okay if you’re a few hours late, I heard. God will guide you. If worse comes to worse, you simply won’t be able to leave today and you will have to leave tomorrow. Trust God. It’s okay. Just take one step at a time.
I pulled out the 200 page driver’s manual for our new car. With time still ticking, I pored through that hefty tome, looking for the simplest of instructions, “How to gas up”. My mind was still foggy. I couldn’t even think of the technical term for “gas” as I thumbed through one very cryptic, technical index...but I kept slogging forward.
3 hours later, I and my two kids were safely on the road, late, but intact. The secured shed was behind us, a full gas tank finally under us, and more unknowns before us.
This adventure in bad timing had been physical, yes. But mostly, it had been an adventure in my soul.
It was an adventure to show me that I was never alone. It was an adventure to teach me the power of gratitude. And an adventure that built both my competency and my character—by the grace of God. My own foolishness can look so petty and so ugly, but Christ is with me, even in the pettiest of storms.
I do not want to face another pressure test like that anytime soon.
But if I do, 2 Timothy 1:7 will prove true: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children. She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales, a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.