Battling with Prayer and Scripture

Sometimes we find ourselves caught in the perfect storm. It’s a precarious position when one of your own vulnerabilities collides with a weighty situation that pushes that weak spot to its limits. Your feet are on the edge of the rock and it’s only getting more slippery.

On any given day, I am aware of my tendency to give into anxiety. Prayer, deep breaths, and keeping my thoughts in check (no catastrophizing! remember who is in control!) help me keep it at a level that doesn’t interfere with my day-to-day life. But then, there are those storms–those situations that push me beyond the point where I can control the anxiety with my autopilot techniques. The intensity rises, the fear increases, the sense of helplessness shoots up.

There’s a lot about having a baby that makes everyone anxious. There’s the impending life change and lifelong responsibility. There’s the physically having the baby. There’s the unsolicited advice (so much unsolicited advice!) and the deciding how to organize all those tiny, unfamiliar clothes. Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that you are HAVING A BABY.

The anxiety is normal, I know. What I also know is my own weakness, namely the tendency to fall face first into a pit of such worries that I feel physically suffocated. So, I’m not letting myself off the hook; I’m battling.

How do we do battle as Christians? There are a number of ways, but the two I find most helpful at this point in my life are prayer and Scripture.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19 NKJV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV

When I’m nearly overwhelmed, I find myself begging God to just take care of it, to take the weight of the burden from my mind and work for His glory and our good in that situation. I often ask for the intercession of the Holy Spirit (“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26 NKJV). Then, when the worries wallop my mind again or the panic squeezes my chest, I remember the prayers and the promises from Scripture.

In the most acute moments, though, it can still be frightening. Compared to the seriousness of raising a child, spending a couple of days with needles and IVs probably shouldn’t be registering so highly on my radar right now, but I am utterly terrified of the prep for my c-section. Needles everywhere. Big needle in my back. I’m afraid I’ll be sobbing so hard they won’t be able to do the spinal right. The thing is, though, I can’t escape it. I can’t get around it. I’m going to have to take it, so I’m preparing the best I can with Scriptures to recite and prayers for peace that will guard my mind and my heart.

Construction Zone Heart

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NKJV)

For two years now, God has made a construction zone of my heart–chiseling away my stone and creating a new, cleaner, more Christ-like one in its place. I can almost see the yellow hazard tape wrapped around my spirit, the blazing orange cones set around the boundaries of my life. He, God Almighty, is taking the time and effort to create true change in my innermost parts that I might make progress in becoming the daughter He knows I can be. That’s breathtaking, isn’t it? That God’s love for each of His children is that grand blows me away.

There is so much I feel compelled to tell about all this heart and spirit and life construction, but I need to tell a story first of how it all began. Maybe it’s this way for everyone–or maybe I was especially prideful and comfortable in my faith–but God had to bring me to the end of much of myself before I was open to such change-from-within. It’s not that I didn’t want to grow spiritually before (I truly did), but I was often oblivious to my own self-dependence and pride (let’s be honest, I still am).

I couldn’t change overcome these obstacles, but I found He could.

He brought me to a point in my life where nothing made sense, and I like things to make sense. It was terrifyingly uncomfortable to my flesh. I felt Him leading me in a certain direction, and I was trying to follow because everything else was only leading to misery, but I could only make out the tiniest sliver of the path. I had just earned a Master’s degree and started my first professional, career job. It was a job my husband and I had been waiting two years for me to attain. There was to be no more measly grad student income; we could afford to own a house and breathe easy. Soon, though, I could barely breathe at all. I was drowning in discontent and the knowledge that something was very wrong in my life. It became clear to me that I had to quit my job. But how? Wasn’t I being a responsible adult? Wasn’t I finally working to earn my way through life? Wasn’t I being a good wife by relieving some of the pressure on my husband? This was the right path–wasn’t it?

I quit, and I don’t know that I can choose words accurately enough to really tell you how that felt. Complete relief, yes, but also as if I had thrown a bucketful of grenades into the central room of my life. You see, achievement was important to me; I had worn the “smart” label long enough that I become an overachiever, unaware of my deep need to impress others. Quitting was humbling. I felt like the golden child who suddenly turned brass. I had stepped off the path to success, and I was terrified of the judgment that would be passed on me for it. But there was that sweet, sweet relief of taking a step of faith in the right direction. I found–time and again–that God provides a peace and comfort far greater than earthly security or validation from others can touch if we will trust Him.

It was only when I was in this place, having taken a step in God’s direction but feeling mostly like I had stepped off into a murky forest with no discernible path, that God began to work on me in a way I don’t remember experiencing before. I learned over and over that I had to rest in and wait on Him because every effort I made outside of Him quickly crumbled. My solutions, while mostly reasonable and sensible, were not needed. He had all the solutions; I just needed to trust Him.