I had a fairly epic failure recently. But the positive changes it has brought about in my life are significant enough that I want to share it with y’all, in the hopes that it may help you, too. You see, through my failure I learned an effective method for dealing with anxiety — or at least for reducing it quite a bit. Let me explain.
I’ve shared already that my husband recently lost his job. What I didn’t do is give any details about what went down and how I reacted. Because they’re not very pretty.
The fact is, we have been financially challenged for so many years now that I have gotten very tired and weary of the budget roller coaster. So when this new job possibility cropped up in September, with a payscale that we had only dreamed about, I was all over it. The dollar signs were in my eyes as I planned how we would have room to breathe and pay off debt and go out to eat (which is probably my absolute favorite thing to do, second only to… well, you know… ;-) ). And when those paychecks started rolling in, I was little Miss 10-key as I crunched numbers and forecasted and allocated here and then there…
By the end of January I had laid a foundation from which we could really start to sock the money onto the debt. The emergency fund was in place and many smaller financial annoyances had been taken care of. Now it was time to tackle the credit cards with a vengeance. My goal was to obliterate them within a year — but I had hopes of being able to accomplish it in even less time.
Unfortunately, all was not well for my husband at work, and it hadn’t been almost from the very start of the new job. Things that had been promised were not appearing. Key relationships were not panning out. He was under more stress than he’d ever experienced on a job before.
But I was so wrapped up in the money numbers that I poo-pooed his stress level and his second thoughts. I wanted him to suck it up and endure; I was sure it was mostly in his head and if he just hung on, it would all get better. And while that may or may not have been true, the fact is that I was a less than encouraging wife. I liked the money. I liked the security. And I didn’t want to listen to anything that threatened my little castle in the air.
When the you-know-what finally hit the fan, and it became obvious that the financially wonderful but far from ideal job situation was just not going to work out — despite fairly Herculean efforts on the part of my husband, I must add — I failed at handling the situation in a godly manner. More specifically, I failed at being a good wife. Instead of building up my husband in his hour of need, I figuratively hit him when he was down. The details are not necessary. Sigh. Just know that I selfishly gave into my own emotions and considered his basically not at all.
I could give menopausal hormones as an excuse, or a midlife crisis, or whatever other convenient explanation, but the fact is that I failed miserably at being the wife my husband needed in the hour that he needed me. For like, a week. I look back on it now and cringe.
My husband took it like a champ. He was patient and kind and gentle. I wish I could have remembered that kindness is always the best option…
It took a pastor friend to wake me up. While he understood my frustration, he did not let me get away with it for long. He realized that the reason I failed at supporting my husband was that I was placing too much importance on earthly circumstances and not enough on spiritual realities. THIS IS THE KEY, Y’ALL. I was basing my emotional security on whether or not the bills were paid. When things were going well in that department, I was a happy camper, and my anxiety was under control. When it looked like the financial castle I had built was falling apart, I lost it — in a big way.
This, incidentally, is a good clue to determining your own errors in thinking. What is it in your life, that when it is running smoothly, so are you? And when it is not, you become emotionally compromised?
But back to my pastor friend. He said (my paraphrase), “Ann, do not trust God to fix the circumstances. He might not do that the way you want Him to. He doesn’t always cure the cancer. Instead, trust Him to bless you SPIRITUALLY within the circumstances. Your job is to obey Him by supporting your husband every way you can, and then to believe that God wants to bless your socks off with SPIRITUAL blessings that you can’t even imagine, even in the midst of the financial difficulties.”
Wow, I needed to hear that. Talk about a one-two punch! I had been placing so much importance on whether the situation was going the way I wanted it to that I forgot that God has a higher agenda than mine. I failed at being a good wife during a trying time because I was striving for my own emotional security rather than for God’s glory.
I think our fixation on the material world is a common cause for anxiety. We work and plan and strive and compete for EARTHLY blessings. We have a plan for our physical circumstances, and we become anxious because we aren’t sure that God will have the same plan.
The fact is He often doesn’t.
And that hard truth can be a catalyst for anxiety-produced emotional meltdowns, or it can be a doorway to a fuller, richer reality. It all depends on how we look at it.
The key to dealing with anxiety is to place more importance on obeying God and working, planning, and striving for His spiritual blessings than on making sure our own little world is spinning just the way we think it should.
What we find when we take your eyes off of the material world is that spiritual blessings abound. We discover that difficult situations provide the opportunity for our Heavenly Father to show us Himself in ways that we might not see otherwise. We learn that when the roller coaster of circumstances is taking another downward plunge, the weightless feeling of being blessed spiritually can make the drop thrilling rather than terrifying.
I still find myself dealing with anxiety from time to time. As with most other spiritual lessons in my life, it’s a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kinda thing, you know? But the anxiety is not as frequent or as intense as it used to be. That’s a spiritual blessing that has come out of this trial. :-)
There are others — like a renewed and stronger unity with my husband (repentance and forgiveness are wonderful things!), a greater reliance on the Word and its comfort, and a better understanding of God’s grace and mercy. I am so thankful for these.
Are you trusting God to bless your plan? Or are you looking beyond your earthly situation to what God wants to do spiritually in your life? It took a colossal failure for me to see how wrong my mindset was. Seeking after spiritual blessings — of which a thriving relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Savior is the most important — will help in dealing with anxiety about temporal circumstances. What spiritual blessings can you see in your life right now?