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The Struggle

"Struggling to rest" is a paradox. Yet that paradox unlocks the door marked EXIT when we’re searching for the way out… when we’ve come to the end of our resources. Learning is always a process of experience and there were many times when I thought I could never learn the art of resting, but God was faithful. He allowed me to struggle and to keep on struggling until I came to the utter end of myself, until I would follow facts instead of feelings, until I learned to lean entirely upon Him.

Satan first trapped me through the fear that I had cancer. I had two small boys, five and seven, who needed me, and Satan used that love for my children to snare me. I could not put their welfare into God’s hands. After about nine months of steady worry the mental battle spilled over into physical symptoms. My heart began "skipping beats," and that gave me something new to worry about. When I finally completed tests that convinced me there was no cancer, I thought I could go back to my serene life. But my problems had just begun.

I had done deep damage to my subconscious mind and to my emotions through those long months of obsession with what I imagined was my impending death. "Grand Canyons" of fear had eroded into my thinking processes, and even though I knew I was healthy, that logic was not enough to convince my emotions. So a discrepancy between my mind and feelings developed that led me to other problems and other worries. When my heart raced for two weeks and no logical reasoning could stop it, I began to fear I had a mental or an emotional problem.

One thing led to another until the original fear of cancer had nothing to do with all the other fears I was living with. Everyone considered me a confident, capable, outgoing, "in control" kind of person. And that’s the way I saw myself. I had never been depressed, and anxiety had always been someone else’s problem. This was all so new and foreign to me that, as a result, my frustration and fears intensified greatly. I learned to live with panic just below the surface and that led to fear of panic attacks. I would steel myself to avoid them… especially in public. How do I know when it might happen? What might happen? Wat would I do? Pass out? Go berserk? Start screaming? Lose complete control? Lose control of myself? Even the thought caused me to close my eyes, shake my head in disbelief, and have my face flush with embarrassment.

The road I traveled took five long years from start to finish. The proverbial straw that broke the poor camel’s back came one day when my darling little five-year old was babbling on and on and I wanted a little peace. I meant to think, I wish you would be quiet for just a little while, but instead the thought came, I wish you were dead. I was appalled! Where had that come from? I was so terrified that I began trying to control my thoughts, watching, waiting for a thought to come that shouldn’t be there; concentrating on the depressing, frightening thoughts that would flood my thinking. Satan, seeing the opening, accelerated the mind games he was playing with me, and for a year I wasn’t able to look at my little boy without experiencing terrible compulsive thoughts. The horror that I lived with is indescribable. Suicidal thoughts began plaguing me and there was no one I could talk to. There was no one in whom I could confide. Who would understand a mother–especially a Christian mother–with thoughts like mine, even if the thoughts were abhorrent to her?

I was convinced that I was losing my mind and descending into mental illness… that it was only a matter of time until I would have to leave my wonderful husband and precious boys and be placed in an institution. Every morning I awoke with that heavy all-is-hopeless feeling. Oh, there were some days when it would gradually get better, but those days were sparse, few and far between, and every morning there it was… back on my chest again. Meanwhile, my life went on and no one suspected there was a problem. I took the boys swimming, I went to church, I went through the motions of being a wife and a mother. I wore a mask to preserve my dignity…to hide my fear…to protect the image I had built so carefully.

But I finally gave up. I told God I would accept a mental breakdown if it were truly His will–if something good could come of it. The deciding turnaround came when I first encountered your teaching. It was then I began to understand that I was not losing my mind but rather that my poor mind was exhausted from fighting battles on so many fronts… battles that were not mine to fight. I began to understand that those mind-battles were from my enemy, Satan. (I never dreamed that he was serving up those defeating, horrible, suggestive thoughts to me with first person singular pronouns. I believed they were my own thoughts.) It was only when I reached the point of complete defeat that I began to comprehend what God had been wanting me to understand through those traumatic years–the secret of living each day: My victory in life and over my enemy lies only in resting in Christ’s ability to fight the battles for me… through me. But resting in Him meant relinquishing MY hold, and that’s a frightening thing for a person who has always been in control.

Moment by moment I began to practice setting my mind on the truth, even though my emotions told me the opposite. Day by day, a thousand times at first, I would say–as those feelings of despair would sweep over me–"It’s not my problem." That became my battle cry…over and over again. "It’s not my problem. It’s not my problem." Often it did nothing for my surging emotions, but I said it anyway. I saturated my mind with God’s Word… and guess what? The truth of those words began to seep down into my sick, tired, hopeless inner being. Very gradually I realized that I had begun to walk up the long road to health and healing.

On one of my many "backset" days I said to God, "You could lift me out of this valley and up on the mountain top in a moment. Why don’t You do it?" He answered into my thoughts, "Yes, but the next wind would blow you off into another valley, and you wouldn’t have any idea how to get out again. Just stay with Me, and we will walk out together, slowly, to the top." I protested, "But Satan will be hidden at every corner." Then God answered, "Yes, but I’ll be there with you, holding your hand. Remember, the battle is not yours. It’s mine."

So we walk together, day after day, with me doing nothing but focusing my mind on Him, on His truths, and saying each time Satan tried to attack, "This new trick you’re trying–or the same old thing–is not MY problem. God will handle it." Then I would go on with the day’s business that God had truly given me to do. The anxious moments got further and further apart, the bad days less frequent, the panic attacks less potent (I actually became unafraid of them), the obsessive thoughts mere memories that held no emotion.

I imagined myself in a small boat with God, riding an ocean of emotional turmoil. I accepted the waves and storms for as long as God would allow them, all the while resting in my little boat of safety, letting Him do it all for me. Struggling to rest in Him…isn’t that the answer for all of us? The key for the door marked EXIT….

This is the first time I have written these things down, and they have brought tears of gratitude to God because I have been TOTALLY free of anything I’ve described for NINE years. Life has had its ups and downs, of course, and stress in my days causes me to remember the lessons I learned. I know that Satan was lying to me all along. I have lived a healthy life and been allowed to "mother" my sons, who are now nineteen and twenty-two and don’t want much "mothering" anymore.

Scripture References: Isaiah 30:15; II Corinthians 12:9; I Thessalonians 5:24; II Chronicles 20:15;Jeremiah 32:27; Isaiah 26:3-4; Proverbs 4:20-22; Isaiah 41:10; II Chronicles 20:17; Psalms 46:10; Philippians 4:6-9.

We gratefully acknowledge the author of this letter and her willingness to allow us to adapt the contents for use in this article.

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.