Years ago I was really struggling with circumstantial anxiety. At the time we were going through staff changes at our church that were soul crushing. My husband asked me to lead worship every Sunday during that season. This was when our church was hurting and I had to be the one to usher people into the presence of God when just two hours beforehand I was throwing up in the bathroom. Not pretty and definitely not powerful.
One Sunday I had this moment with God where I said, “God, if you have called me to do this, then I need you to help me overcome this. I cannot continue to do ministry like this.” On my face before God, I decided that I had to change the way that I prayed and learn how to harness that nervousness. This prayer has completely changed the way I approach ministry and life.
Take my anxiety and turn it into your anointing.
And, He does every single time. My focus is no longer on how I feel, but on the God that I worship.
Several months ago I went to a conference to listen to a close friend of mine speak. The entire theme was on anxiety. How to deal with it. How to overcome it. How to fight it. I have a hard time sitting still for over three hours and, of course, my friend was the last speaker for the evening. I literally had anxiety worrying about her having anxiety.
But, when Holley Gerth stepped onto the platform and began to speak, she set an entire room filled with women free. With all of the really great teaching from a counseling perspective on how to get rid of or treat anxiety, and the medical perspective covered, my friend unleashed the power of a woman who cares a little too much about everything.
Holley spoke about her friend’s son and his anxiety and how they began to ask him different questions about his day. They told him that his struggle was also his gift, his special superpower. And what little boy or girl doesn’t dream of being a superhero? With the help of his mother he saw ways to turn his sensitivity into the gift of seeing what others are too busy to notice, like the crying kid on the playground.
What I am learning about anxiety is this: I was meant to feel something but not be debilitated by it. I knew decades ago that having an upfront ministry would only increase in pressure, but I refused to let fear become my quick “no.”
In this world we will have trouble. We will have those things that cause us anxiety, but we also have some pretty incredible gifts attached to that uncomfortable feeling that we get from time to time. We have a sensitivity that causes us to respond to others differently. Throughout the New Testament, we see God as the compassionate one through His Son Jesus. When Jesus saw the hungry people, sick people, blind men, and even the wayward son in Luke 15:20, Jesus was moved with compassion.
The Greek word for compassion is splanchnisomai which has a few translations according to certain verses. It can mean, “To be loved by.” “To be tenderhearted towards.” Yet, in one particular scripture the word splanchnisomai meant that Jesus was literally moved internally, specifically in His gut. He felt the ache and His great compassion led to action: healing, feeding, and welcoming home the wayward. Jesus felt something within.
We were fashioned in His likeness and created to feel things deeply. Not so that we could just have all the feels but, to be moved to respond. Would I be who I am today without the battle I’ve had with anxiety? Probably not. Would I know the power of taking my thoughts captive? Nope.
I want to do crazy, messy ministry that stretches me beyond myself. Sometimes how I know that I am in the center of God’s will for my life is by how afraid I am. Our dreams might be limited by what we feel like we can do, or what we can measure or see in the natural. But when I stand on the promises of God, believing that they are for me, I am seeking the supernatural. If "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty", I have to be brave enough to walk in that freedom, not stifle it. (2 Cor 3:17)
If we are brave we will walk through every scary door and never let fear and anxiety be the reason why we shrink back. Right now you might feel like your anxiety is limiting your ability to do great things for God, but I want to tell you that those things that drive you to your knees will be the very thing that God uses the most in your life.
Jennifer Watson is a self-professed girly-girl who is convinced that coloring your hair is addictive. With an undying affection for refined sugar and red lipstick, she is a mother of two miracle babies and an out-of-the-box minister’s wife. "Sometimes I’m a total wreck and over-share, but I’ve learned how to unpack my emotional baggage in the spotlight of leadership." Her ministry to broken girls took on a different shape when, in a place of leadership, Jennifer stopped hiding her own brokenness and decided to be brave and see what God wanted to do with it. Jennifer and her husband, Jonathan, pastor in Bella Vista, AR. Follow her at www.jenniferreneewatson.com