But there is beauty in the unraveling. In loose ends hanging on by threads, just waiting to break free. Because there is beauty in the breaking, and Jesus knows all about broken things. After all, He become one so we could be whole.
I'd be lying if I said 2021 has been easy for me.
I've distanced myself from friends, family, and work situations. My interactions on social media have become non-existent. And because of an obsession with productivity, I've lost the ability to be present. I've forsaken the art of rest, fun, and quiet for the noise of my mind that seems to work overtime with no pay.
But it results from something I have little control over, and I wish people understood that. I wish that people could see Generalized Anxiety Disorder and panic and anxiety attacks are not chosen conditions lacking faith in God, but diagnosed mental disorders plaguing 46.6 million people worldwide.
Yes, anxiety is a mental disorder. And it is not merely worrying about unnecessary details or being scared of the dark, but a real, living, breathing, feeling of uneasiness.
We all have demons we battle, and for me, anxiety is one of the monsters.
Jesus knew what anxiety was like. As fully God and fully man, He knew those emotions well. But if we are honest, most of us act like God is the God of joy and not sorrow. We pretend like He does not understand the temptation, loss, heartbreak, or fear because He is God after all. But just because He is God, does not mean He did not feel our pain. Just because He is God does not mean He does not understand and sit with us in our struggles today.
Hebrews 4:15 of the New International Version reminds us, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin" (Hebrews 4:15, NIV).
I wish that people could come to terms that Jesus experienced anxiety, too. I wish that people could come to understand anxiety is not always sinful.
Maybe then they'd be willing to hear my story.
Maybe then they'd stop calling anxiety a choice or a sin.
Maybe then they'd seek to hear me and understand rather than slap on a label that I don't trust God and need to stop worrying.
Shortly after I graduated college in 2019, I got diagnosed with IBS-C, a tortured colon, and suspected endometriosis. The scans for these diagnoses revealed the culprit: an inherited disposition to anxiety and depression.
While I know that I am not these conditions and they do not define me, they do help me understand what is going on with my body.
Over the past two years, I have sought to heal holistically, spiritually, and clinically. I still have good and bad days, but my journey is improving.
When it comes to anxiety, however, my battle has been much more tricky.
Outside of my stomach and reproductive areas, I have never had something as difficult to bear as anxiety.
As a child, I had typical anxiety. I was nervous about tests, cried when I had to go to school, and got sick to my stomach often. In college, the same applied, and matched my raging stress levels. After graduation, however, I realized I didn't even know half of it.
It wasn't until I found myself rocking between the toilet in my bathroom and the bathtub trying to stop hyperventilating that I knew what a panic attack was.
It wasn't until I almost blacked out driving from anxiety that I realized how powerful the mind can be.
Perhaps I didn't realize how much I would need to rely on Jesus when He told me "my grace is sufficient is for you," and "my power is made perfect in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Maybe I didn't know how much I needed Him until I received a Thorn in the Flesh that I've prayed more than three times to be freed of, yet still fight daily.
I'm not sure I've ever felt more broken. More confused. Scared. Alone. Tired. Overwhelmed. Frustrated. Crazy. Unraveled.
But there is beauty in the unraveling. In loose ends hanging on by threads, just waiting to break free.
Because there is beauty in the breaking, and Jesus knows all about broken things. After all, He became one so we could be whole.
Jesus, perhaps more than any other person, knows, sees, and has felt my anxiety.
It was anxiety that caused drops of blood to fall from His head in the Garden.
It was in pleas that He asked the Father to remove this cup of wrath.
It was in surrender that He died for my every anxious thought, tempting seduction, and erroneous behaviors.
It was in submission to the Father that He placed everything I would ever feel upon Him so that someday I might choose to walk in Him and walk free.
In Matthew 26:36-46 of the New American Standard Bible, Scripture tells the story of Jesus' painful encounter in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here that we learn Jesus experienced grief to the point of death, but His Disciples were unable to stay awake with Him in prayer.
For the first time, I am sure that Jesus felt broken, confused, scared, alone, and tired. He was not immune to pain or emotions. In fact, He probably felt them far greater than we ever can because of his omnipotence.
Jesus was so overwhelmed by grief, emotion, and despair, Luke 22:40-44 tells us that He began to sweat drops of blood:
"Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you do not come into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground]" (Luke 22:40-44, NASB).
According to the NCBI, Jesus Christ experienced hematohidrosis while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion. As a medical doctor, Luke recorded this very rare condition of sweating blood in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture. When the rupturing occurs, this causes the glands to exude blood due to conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress.
Not only did Jesus go on to endure crucifixion, but He felt the Father's face turn away from Him as the sins of the world were laid on His shoulders. Certainly, that did not feel good. Certainly, He felt real, raw emotions of pain, torture, grief, and dread. There is a reason Jesus prayed three times for God to take the cup from His hands.
Jesus was fully God and fully man, so He knew the full extent of all our raging emotions. He did not pick and choose which He felt when. His joy was not based on His circumstances. And no, even when he felt anger (turning over tables in the temple), sadness (as the disciples betrayed Him), and fear (asking God for another way), He did not sin. It was not a sin for Him to feel and experience these things, and neither is it for us.
As Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition writes, there are four types of anxiety, but not all are sinful. Although anxiety can lead to or produce sin, that is, it is a natural consequence of sin or a sinful response to God’s providential care. Scripture blatantly tells us to not be anxious or fear tomorrow, (Matthew 6:34, Phillipians 4:6), yet many good Christians still battle anxiety.
Let me be clear, anxiety can be sinful, but not every person with anxiety is sinning. Anxiety can also be a God-given emotional response for our benefit, and a disordered physiological response that stems from fear to keep us safe.
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or social anxiety, for example, have uncontrollable anxiety that has manifested as a disordered and debilitating physiological malfunction. And as Carter notes, these individuals should seek help from a counselor and physician in addition to the Ultimate Physician of Christ. Their behavior is not sinful.
If you are struggling mentally today, I want you to know that Jesus sees you where you are and He gets us. He gets your rejection, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. He knows what it is like to feel and experience everything you feel.
We are human.
We are allowed to feel.
We need not be ashamed of the things we experience.
Because Jesus felt them too, and He is with us.
He knows all about our anxiety.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/globalmoments
Amber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk,