The following is a guest post by our daughter, Rebecca Schnabel. We pray that it brings new hope to those who find themselves in a battle with anxiety, fear, and depression, especially during this season of the year. Please feel free to forward this article to family or friends who are in need of a word of encouragement. You can contact Rebecca at her website – Black Beak Photography.
“An Essay on Fear and Anxiety” by Rebecca Schnabel
Fear and anxiety became close friends of mine many years ago, friends that I held close and hidden in a secret club of just the three of us. We did not tell people about our club; we made a pact, walked secret routes to our meetings, and left distracting mis-directions so nobody could find us when we chose to convene.
This partnership of ours started many long years ago, somewhere along the trails of adolescence that lead me weaving into my early adulthood. Over the course of a few short years of that adolescent journey, as a vulnerable young girl who thought she was invincible, I experienced a catalogue of losses: small in scale compared to those some people suffer, but consistent and meaningful enough to generate a habitual expectation that things would continue to not work out for my good. I adopted a life philosophy that went precisely like this: “Expect the worse; then if something good happens, you’ll be surprised!”
This mantra did not exist as merely a subconscious philosophy. I verbalized this phrase frequently to others, laughing, of course, in order to take the sting out of the hurt and distrust it carried. But deep inside, I believed every word, and I lived the majority of my days according to that expectation.
By the time I reached my college years, I had developed such an aversion to vulnerability that I shielded myself from any truthful reflection of my negative emotions and my heart’s wounds, with the exception of fierce anger. Anger was safe because it kept people and fear at bay. But apart from anger, I rejected all forms of transparency and kept hidden only in my deepest of places the smoldering feelings of desperation, fear, and wild panic that raged without ceasing.
I came to a breaking point, however, when finally the losses were piling up so quickly that I could not keep track of how many relationships I had destroyed in my effort to protect myself. For, you see, what had begun as a life of loss due to the nature of life and hardships themselves had become a life of created loss at the course of my own hand. In an effort to ward off the pain that resulted from loss, I closed my heart off to the tenderness that makes one able to experience and process pain: grief. And it is with this same part of one’s heart that one can experience the balancers of pain and suffering, which are joy and blessing. I closed my heart to pain, which means I closed my heart to the joy which God brings to those who mourn and find His healing.
It took me a very long time to recognize what reality I had created for myself. Once I had recognized this reality, it took a long journey of confession, repentance, and reconciliation before my relationship before God could be fully restored; and along the way there were many relationships in which God required of me a very humbling process of confession and repentance.
This was not a simple process. When I initially looked at the destruction that lay before me, I found in the wake of everything that had transpired over the years a lot of debris, with fear and anxiety being the primary components. What began as fear of loss became a fear of being found out. Later, when finally I gave God permission to unveil the refuse that lay within my heart, there returned the fear of loss, only this time in the form of a fear of unforgiveness and abandonment. By God’s grace, His forgiveness was sufficient until such point in time when my human relationships could forgive and heal enough for true restoration to occur.
The process did not look pretty. It was messy. It carried with it distinct pain and suffering, but this time I chose the pain, and I accepted it with open arms, knowing – and this time believing – that His joy comes in the morning, through mourning. (*2 Cor. 4:16-18)
I have been on the journey of healing for nine years now. The first four were the hardest and all but destroyed me. The next two were difficult and consistently a challenge. The last three have actually been pictures of beauty. It has been in these last three years that I have finally discovered the joy that can come in the moments of our greatest suffering. The anxiety that haunted me at night in vague, indistinct dreams of panic, waking me in cold sweats, has transformed into a peace that has many times brought me dreams of healing where God has walked me through conversations and experiences in my sleep that wake me to a pure and complete closure of wounds – some of those wounds being ones that had tormented me for years. (**2 Cor. 4:7-12)
I am sure I will always find areas where my fear and anxiety still threaten my faith and trust in God. As far as I walk away from those old friends, as rusty as the lock on our old clubhouse door gets, I know there will always be times when their voices fill my head and I feel tempted to invite them in to reminisce. The beautiful thing about the new relationships I have now, though – with faith and trust and joy and grief – is that anytime I do decide to take a walk with my old friends I very quickly realize that nostalgia has been deceptive, and I find myself looking almost immediately for a quick exit so I can spend the rest of my time with the friends whom I now hold most dear. And these are friends I can take out in the daylight; friends with whom I can walk proudly, hand-in-hand; and the kind of friends that keep pointing me back, day after day, to my greatest and dearest and closest Friend, my Healer.
*2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
**2 Corinthians 4:7-12 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”