“Dear God,” I would begin as I cozied up in the bed of my college dorm room, “Can you work one of your miracles and allow me to wake up weighing 30 pounds less?”
My freshman year of college is when my struggles with body image really surfaced, and this was a very real prayer I would pray in response to my anxious disapproval of my appearance and the added weight I was carrying as a college newbie. Deep down, I knew my request was beyond ridiculous, but I believe in the miracles of God and hoped my overnight transformation would testify to those miracles.
Spoiler alert: I woke up weighing just the same as I had the night before. Eventually, I did lose the weight I had gained as a freshman—through exercise, healthier eating, and self-care. I do not believe God abandoned me in my anxious thoughts and desires, but I did have to take responsibility and work for the outcome I wanted.
God is great, God is good, and God is not Santa Claus.
It is painful and frustrating when God does not simply take away our struggles, illnesses, or conflicts. He, being God, has the power to do so, doesn’t He? Through the years, my anxiety has looked very different and has seen various triggers, from body image to finances and so on. What do we do when God does not just remove our anxiety?
In the Old Testament, God instructed Moses to lead the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land; it was a gigantic task rich with struggles and triumphs. In the end, Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years before they either passed away or were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Forty years!
God certainly could have whisked Moses and the Israelites from Egypt and into the Promised Land without hesitation or adversity, but that is not how the story unfolded. Moses was not rescued from wandering the desert, but the desert is where Moses learned about God.
It is in the desert where he learned of God’s desires, love, and commitment to His people. Without the wandering, the questions, or the hardship, Moses and the Israelites would not have been able to see how God shows up for them; their dependence on Him would have never been realized.
As a college freshman, God’s seemingly unanswered prayer eventually led me to take ownership of my lifestyle and better care for the body I ‘ve been given. The lessons I learned and changes I made ended up being a better answer to prayer than the overnight miracle I had requested.
If God is not going to permanently remove our anxiety in 8 hours, how can we take ownership and better care of ourselves when we are in an anxiety-laden desert? Here are three pieces of advice:
Believe in the Promised Land
Know that God has something more in store for us. Our wandering—be it through a literal desert or through the muddied waters of our anxiety—may seem endless and futile to us, but we are headed somewhere. Through each step in the desert or bout of anxiety, we can grow in our faith and character and learn something of ourselves and of God. Our lives will not be without trials, but our trials will not be without end.
Ask For Help
We were not meant to go about life alone. Even in the desert, which often brings to mind the image of empty and wide-open spaces, Moses was not alone. We need God and we need one another; whom can you call on when your anxiety is loud or debilitating? Ask for God to show He is near; this doesn’t mean He will remove the anxiety, but knowing He is close may do just that. As well, identify a trusted friend you can call when you are feeling overwhelmed, or meet with a therapist who can use his or her education and gifts to help you identify, interrupt, and soothe your anxiety. The desert is a hard place to be when you’re by yourself—thankfully, we do not have to be alone!
Notice the Good
Oftentimes when our anxiety is loud, it can drown out the goodness happening in and around us. Interrupting anxiety with proof of the hope and blessings we have can help to ground us. Moses and the Israelites may never have expected to be so thankful to have manna to eat, but when their food supply was running out and they didn’t know how they would survive, God gave them manna to sustain them and, furthermore, eyes to see what a good, good gift this was.
In the midst of all that is hard and painful—what is the manna in your life? If we notice new manna each day, we may remove some of the power of our anxiety. Look for the manna!
God may not take away our anxiety after a prayer and a night of sleep, but He also will not take Himself away from us. Going forward, let us find hope, growth, and the presence of God in the midst of our desert moments.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.