The Truth Will Set You Free
1 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 NKJV
The battle against fear and anxiety is tough and it has many facets. As discussed previously, the antidote to fear is knowing, trusting and resting in the fact that God loves you. However, the “key” to breaking the grip fear and anxiety have on you is knowing truth, certainly knowing God’s truth, but also truth in general. Remember, fear is a God-given emotion that prompts us to protect ourselves from potential harm. When fear ramps up to anxiety, it no longer is as much about our safety as it is discerning what is truth and what is not. The longer we allow anxiety to remain a stronghold, the more skewed our lines of truth become until we are in the grips of a major stronghold of anxiety. Let me explain by sharing my personal experience.
You may or may not know, our son Nathan died of a heart attack due to complications following his kidney transplant. There were lots of things that came together to create that perfect storm, but a heart attack is the official cause of death. I don’t begin to understand and, at times, it all seems a bit crazy to me, but years after Nathan’s death, I began to have concerns about my health. I was having chest pains and minor, yet noticeable, issues with heart racing and breathing. It became an even bigger issue and those concerns turned into more of a fear. I saw my doctor who, over the course of time, ordered a series of tests: bloodwork, EKG, stress test, heart monitor, etc. With each test, it was only reinforcing and increasing my level of fear that something was wrong with my heart and I “knew” it was only a matter of time before I was going to have a heart attack and most likely die, just like Nathan had. I was on hyper-alert for even the faintest hint of a flutter or twinge of discomfort (notice I did not say “pain”) and then I would descend into a panic. This panic only caused my heart rate to shoot up and then my breathing to become more shallow to the point I would feel like I couldn’t breathe and as if I might faint, which only caused my heart to race even more…well, you get my point, especially if you have ever experienced a panic attack. The fact that each of the test results was showing my heart was absolutely fine did nothing to curb my growing anxiety or the frequency of my panic attacks. If anything, they were only getting worse. I had convinced myself something was wrong with my heart and they just were not able to find the problem, which meant they couldn’t fix it, which had me even more convinced I was going to die. I was an anxious mess!
Now, let me share how the “key” (truth) began to turn the tide on my stronghold of anxiety. I was on the treadmill one evening, on the advice of my doctor to exercise daily to help combat what he said was “anxiety.” I was not at all convinced what I was experiencing was simply “anxiety” and, quite honestly, was even fearful of walking on the treadmill thinking it could trigger a heart attack. But there I was. As I was walking, my anxiety was over the top! The tears began to flow. I was just done! Done! That’s when out of the blue a thought hit me. I truly believe it was God. The question was simple yet profound: “So what exactly are you afraid of?” It wasn’t audible but “loud” enough it demanded an answer.
Silently, I responded with lots of tears, “I’m afraid of dying.”
Then came what felt like a harsh response, “So what? So, what if you do die? Then what?”
Almost offended, I muttered, “Well…if I die, I’ll go to Heaven.”
Then I began to think, “This is it! God is telling me I’m gonna die!” More tears.
Tearfully, “I’ll go to Heaven and live with You forever.”
Then, almost as if knowing my heart, “And what about Dave? Ashley?”
Sadly, at the thought of not being there for them, “Well, Dave will be ok. It will be hard to figure out some things without me but he will be fine.”
Now Ashley was a bit different. Having lost my mom at an early age, I had prayed for God to let me live long enough to raise her into adulthood. At this point, she was almost there, but I was very sad at the thought of not seeing her live her life out. However, I found myself replying, “She will be fine too. She will miss me but just as I went on to live a full life without my mom, she will too.”
And before anything else was said, I added, “And one day we will all be together in Heaven forever. This life is not all there is.”
Somehow, in those brief moments of facing my worst fear, something “broke” with me and my anxiety. Even my worst fear, that of dying, wasn’t as big, bad and ugly as it was only moments earlier. This life is NOT all there is! Thankfully, for the believer in Christ, the best is truly yet to come! So even if…even IF I were to die, all will be ok in the end because God loves me and can be trusted with my very life itself.
After that walk on the treadmill that evening, things with my anxiety made a major shift. Oh, I still had work to do, but I was now beginning to take charge over my anxiety. Truth: it was normal for me to be concerned with my health and the things I was experiencing around my heart. Truth: it was okay, when it persisted, for me to become fearful and eventually contact my doctor. Truth: maybe even okay for me to still have fear when the initial test came back “normal.” Somewhere in there though, my fear began dictating my “truth” until I was convinced I was going to have a heart attack and die. This fear-driven “truth” drove me straight into a stronghold of anxiety that was so strong I couldn’t even believe the real truth from all the tests saying my heart was perfectly normal. My anxiety was running roughshod over me! That is, until God began to confront me with His truth. His truth that promises my life really is in His hands, here and now until one day when I leave this life to live with Him in Heaven.
“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:16b NKJV