The heart can be full of anxiety from a young age. But there is hope when we are feeling helpless and vulnerable. Kandace Rather tells us how God’s love healed her heart.
I remember the first time I felt panic.
I was in third grade, and my mom had just told me that my dad would not be coming home from work (Even typing that sentence just made my heart rate increase).
My dad was my safe place.
My parents were divorcing, and my little girl world was about to be shattered.
A few weeks later, I came home from school and walked into seeing my dad on his knees, begging my mom not to divorce him.
I felt helpless and vulnerable.
Are kids resilient?
I prayed for a miracle as a little girl who was exposed to deep grief that was never acknowledged.
“You know, kids are resilient. They will be okay. They will get through it.”
Though there is truth to this statement, it’s naïve at best to think kids are immune from the effects of loss, because sometimes, they don’t get through it.
Shortly after my parents divorced, my drunk grandfather sexually abused me.
I felt helpless and vulnerable.
My childhood was filled with wanted and unwanted sexual exploration. And unless you’ve been there, you might have a hard time understanding what that even means.
The thing that violates you can sometimes morph into the thing you find comfort in. It becomes twisted into a form of feeling wanted, loved, noticed.
To have a form of perverted love is better
than feeling alone.
My go-to’s when feeling helpless and vulnerable as a teenager were sex and alcohol.
Not only did these temporary escapes never deliver, they only added to the mountain of shame that would eventually seek to snuff out my life.
The confusing part of my story, mostly to onlookers, was that I was a church girl.
I encountered the Living God as a ten-year-old girl, and though I continually wandered away from Him, He never left me. From the outside looking in, I didn’t know God.
More than me knowing God, God knew me and pursued my healing until I surrendered.
My world came crashing down once again as an adult. This time I was 42 and had no defenses or excuses that were good enough to hide behind.
I had a personal crisis, and for the first time in my life, I named my increased heart rate, racing mind, and compulsiveness by the name of ANXIETY.
The feelings of helplessness and vulnerability went to another level, and apart from looking deeply at my story through the lens of God’s love and desire to heal me, I’m certain shame would have won.
Here’s what happened when I could no longer deny having a heart filled with anxiety-
What Naming My Anxiety Allowed Me To Do:
- Search God’s Word from a place of need
- Lose the fear of pain and stop turning to temporary false-comforts
- Know God’s tender heart towards those who’ve been violated
- Know God’s tenacious heart to heal those who’ve been violated
- Experience the joy and hope of a repentant heart
We’ve heard it said over and over. Hurt people, hurt people, and apart from healing, the cycle continues.
Henri Nouwen’s words have helped me immensely on my journey to heal from hurt that was not my fault and find sweet repentance in the hurt I’ve caused:
The dance of life finds its beginnings in grief
Here a completely new way of living is revealed.
It is the way in which pain can be embraced,
not out of a desire to suffer,
but in the knowledge that something new will be born in pain.
The beauty of being able to embrace pain, as opposed to denying or numbing it, is the revealing of God’s love being greater than the harm done to us or the harm we’ve caused others.
The harm done to us finds healing in God and community, AND the harm we’ve repented of also finds healing in God and community.
Feeling helpless and vulnerable can still sneak up on me in certain situations or conversations. However, I know where to go now.
In these very real feelings, I have a very real God and tenacious friends who will not leave me alone. I have a husband who has chosen to sit with me and be a very good listener.
The hope of God taking pain and anticipating something new to be born by facing it head on has been the game-changer in my ability to be still and know God.
Silence has become my friend and anxiety is no longer controlling my decisions.
Quotes to consider
- “You have to dare to live through the pain and struggle. Acknowledge your anguish but do not let it pull you out of yourself. Hold on to your chosen direction, your discipline, your prayer, your work, your guides, and trust that one day love will have conquered enough of you that even the most fearful part will allow love to cast out all fear.” Henri Nouwen
- “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” C. S. Lewis
- “Peace does not dwell in the outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of bitterest pain, if our will remains firm and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence to, not in exemption from, suffering.” Francois Fenelon
Questions to answer
- What do you see is the value of naming your struggle or sickness? – (If I broke my arm and went in for surgery, but they operated on my leg, it wouldn’t help my arm)
- Have you experienced a time of great comfort through the presence of a friend who couldn’t fix it but refused to let you be alone in it?
- Are you being a friend to someone struggling with mental illness but feel helpless to help them?