Three Days in the Belly of Anxiety
"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah 1:17
It was happening. I could feel all of the physical symptoms surge through my body. It had been quite some time since the last time this had happened. Probably six months or so ago. But it was definitely happening.
My chest tightened, my head pounded, my thoughts were like a whirlwind taking over my mind, swirling so quickly I couldn't gain control of them. Anxiety was building, brick by brick. I was smothering. I prayed just enough to keep from completely feeling like I was losing it.
I was in the eye of the storm, the very center of a panic attack. I was in the very center of making myself and my abilities bigger than God's.
Like fuel to the fire, I poured on guilt. "I shouldn't be feeling this way. I know God. I know His plans for me are good."
I still felt like I was sinking in an abyss of problems. Problems that had nothing to do with eternity, so why was I allowing myself to get so worked up?
Where had my brave heart gone?
I repeated scriptures in my head to try and talk myself off the monstrous ledge.
I called my husband who was out of town, "I am struggling today. I'm praying, I'm quoting Bible verses, but I am still struggling." I explained to him the pile of problems I had been dealing with the entire of week. One by one, I named the culprits of this anxiety attack. I unleashed my feelings like a million arrows.
He spoke to me, "It's going to be okay, I promise. God is in control. We just have to trust Him."
I felt my body slightly loosen from its gripping knot, but a bit of adrenaline remained in my veins.
I replayed the week's problems in my mind hoping to find some resolve, to figure out why and when and where and how.
And I continued to pray sending words floating through the air like blinking fire flies throughout my day.
I was till trying to regain some form of control.
The week leading up to this day had been a wild horse. Problem after problem. Drama. Issues beyond our control. Feelings of helplessness. Exhaustion from long days. I felt beaten and stomped. The pressure was almost more than I could bear.
Why was I trying to bear it all? Knowing God told me to cast my burdens on Him while still trying to maintain a little control.
When you profess to believe in God and His goodness and glory, any doubt and uncertainty can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. The shame and guilt add to the anxiety.
It took me three days to let go and let God as the old saying goes.
Remember the story of Jonah?
He was not obeying God, so "the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah 1:17
He was there for three days before he cried out to God like he needed to in order to receive his deliverance.
Wow! Isn't it funny how we can be a lot like Jonah? We have to be swallowed up by a giant problem for days and days before we completely surrender to the Lord.
We sit in the dark belly of our problem surrounded by an unsavory mess. We shut down. We stop being grateful. We hold fast to stubborn ideas and thoughts that we are capable of getting ourselves out of what we have gotten ourselves into.
The slime and the muck clings to our skin. We are busy, exhausted, overwhelmed, weary. Little things become big things. Things we could have normally wiped off with a quick prayer begin to stick to us. The hardness and the grit of the world grasps at our throats cutting off our oxygen.
And we panic.
Before we know it, we find ourselves sitting in the belly of the big fish called anxiety, scared, hopeless, alone, anxious.
One fire fly prayer leads to the next and the next until there is enough light. We breath a little deeper. We finally fully surrender to the Lord.
And, just like, Jonah, we are able to say,
"When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple." Jonah 2-7
Sweet deliverance arrives.
"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah on to dry land." Jonah 2:10
The Bible doesn't say Jonah was "blown through the blow hole of the giant fish." Or "the giant fish returned Jonah to dry land." It says, "it vomited Jonah on to dry land."
Vomit is ugly, messy, foul, and repulsive.
Our deliverance can be ugly, messy, foul, and repulsive.
God is our deliverer. We have to cry out to Him sooner. We have to immerse ourselves in His Word. We have to trust Him. We have to know He is bigger than our anxiety, our guilt and our shame.
Seems like so many people are seeking "a word" from someone with a prophetic gifting,(which I don't see as wrong) instead of reading God's Holy Word--the Word of all Words. The book of answers. The book of hope. The book containing the greatest love story ever written.
Want to know the root of my panic attack? The week leading up to death by anxiety strangulation, I was not taking my every need to the Lord. Nope. I was shouldering as much of the responsibility as I could. I was not carving out quiet time. Every moment was filled with external stimuli. I got swallowed up in five days.
God is inviting us to sit with Him, spend time with Him, and talk to Him. Not just open our Bible app for two minutes a day and post the verse of the day or a cute quote on Instagram--which I love, by the way.
But He is calling us to give Him every care, every anxiety, every worry. He wants us to turn our pockets inside out and give Him everything we are trying to carry. Every thing.
Only, with open hands, can true deliverance surface. Only then can we find our feet back on the dry land, breathing steady, heart lighter.
Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for knowing my heart. Thank you for continuing to hold me, even when I try to walk on my own. Thank you for forgiving me when I don't trust you like I should. Thank you for building my faith and strengthening me. Thank you for delivering me from the snares of panic and anxiety and reminding me that You are always there. I love you, Lord. I praise your name. In your son's precious name I pray. Amen.