“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
– Isaiah 48:10
When I was in the thick of it, when my anxiety was at it’s very worst, when I felt tortured by my own thoughts, I could not see the light. I could not see the purpose in the pain. I was upset that God was allowing me to struggle so intensely. I wasn’t necessarily angry with Him, but I wrestled with Him. I pleaded with Him to heal me, to take away this monster that seemed to have taken over my mind.
And He didn’t. For a long time, He allowed me to struggle. For years.
I couldn’t look past the pain. At times, I felt completely hopeless and, let me tell you, that is a scary place to be.
I would often say to my Therapist, “I just want to feel like I used to, like my old self.” Or, “I just want to feel normal again.”
I wanted to be free of anxiety more than anything. I couldn’t see any silver lining in my suffering. I tried, but I just resented it. I hated it. I felt ashamed and embarrassed and so frustrated that I couldn’t seem to overcome my own thoughts.
Over time, I started to heal. Slowly, I started to get on top of these frightening episodes of anxiety, but it still persisted sometimes. It was two steps forward, one step back, for years.
Now, as I sit here typing this, I can’t say I’m completely anxiety-free but then again, who is? I don’t know if being completely anxiety-free is possible this side of heaven but I can say, right now, I feel really good. My anxiety is not a day to day thing. Sure, it flares up sometimes and I have to manage it, but it’s not all consuming, it’s not a daily or weekly struggle. And, I can manage it. I feel better and freer and more confident than I have in a long time.
When I look back at the years I struggled, now I can see a silver lining. It’s scary to think about how bad it was, but I’m finally at a place where I can say, “yeah, I learned a thing or two.”
I don’t know if I would go as far as to say I’m happy I went through it all, but I am grateful for the lessons and the learning and the stretching that took place. I’m grateful that I’m not the same person I used to be, “my old self”. I’ve grown and I’ve changed for the better.
Here’s just a few changes I’ve noticed within myself and some lessons learned:
- Contentment/acceptance. Things don’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable and that’s ok. I’ve learned to sit with it.
- Patience. Man, if anxiety has taught me anything, it’s the virtue of patience. A panic attack or a strange symptom can feel unbearable, but if you patiently wait it out, it will go. Impatience actually just fuels the anxiety fire.
- Empathy. I’ve always been an empathetic person, but when you go through something hard, I think it helps you to relate to people in a new way.
- Strength and confidence. Believing that I can do something and that I’m stronger than I feel or think.
- But I also can’t do it all on my own. I have to let go of control and trust God. When you are at your lowest, and you don’t know where to turn, you throw yourself at the feet of God. He did bring me through it. Maybe it didn’t happen on my timetable but He did bring me through it.
- Gratitude. I’m ten times more thankful and aware of my blessings than I was before.
- I’ve grown in my knowledge about anxiety as a disorder. I didn’t know a whole lot about it before, but I sure do now. I no longer hit the panic button as easily because I know what anxiety is.
- I rest and meditate.
- I challenge what I think. I don’t just believe a thought simply because it pops into my head.
- I’m more open and I allow myself to be vulnerable. I mean I’m writing this blog, right? I am no longer hiding/avoiding talking about my struggle. I’m not ashamed the way I once was.
I have been refined, so to speak. And, I can see it now. I couldn’t back then, but I can now. I was refined in the fiery furnace of my affliction.
I am far from perfect. There is still work to be done and thank God, He’s doing it.
For me, anxiety was a nightmare that I just wanted to wake up from. I didn’t want to go through the fire. Who does? It’s painful. The process of change is painful.
Fire changes gold so that it can be molded into something beautiful, like a ring or a delicate necklace. But in order to make that beautiful piece of jewelry, you have to actually melt the gold in order to remove impurities and to re-shape it.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, “Beautiful people do not just happen.” And she’s right, they go through things that change them, that make them beautiful. The process of change, of growth is painful but I’m so grateful that it leads to beauty on the other side.
“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”